MORE THAN ONE WAY -
I didnít start out expecting to roam the world as a
nomad. I thought I was going to spend my life with my husband. It was a good
life and a glamorous one. We ate in the best restaurants, went to the Academy
Awards and the Grammies, and had a high profile list of friends (most of them
writer-friends whom he had acquired through work). We didnít do a lot of
traveling because he was phobic about planes.
Then, in 1986, he asked for a divorce. Once I accepted the fact that it was
inevitable, I looked around and tried to picture my life as a single woman in
L.A. My kids, ages 22 and 23, were in Vail, Colorado and Singapore at the
time. I knew I wasnít going to be the kind of mom who moved in down the
street and saw them every day. I was too independent for that. And so were
they. I also knew that I didnít want to hold my husband hostage for the rest
of his life by accepting alimony. Weíd had too many years of happiness
together to do that. I also hated the idea of being dependent on that check. I
wasnít going to give that kind of power to anyone, even if it benefited me.
No. I resolved to create a life that would work for me.
I looked around at the possibilities. I would have rent an apartment and
get a job. My career as a childrenís book writer didnít bring in enough
money to live on and I had resolved to invest the money from the sale of our
house so I wouldnít have to worry about the future. Royalties from my books
brought in around ten thousand dollars a year and if I wrote one or two new
ones every year, I could add from three to six thousand dollars. Not enough
for an apartment, a health insurance policy, and a life.
I also thought about the women I knew who were living life-after-divorce.
They were mostly looking for men and living through their children. Some of
them were perpetually angry at their ex's for having done this to them.
Others were still in court, years after the split. I wanted to go on. I
especially hated the thought of a job and an apartment. There had to be other
At the time of my divorce, I was in school at UCLA, studying anthropology.
I loved reading about other cultures and I dreamed about visiting them. I had
no trouble seeing myself in the place of the ethnographers, interacting with
total strangers and becoming a part of their lives. As a child I dreamed of
visiting mountain tribes and sitting around a fire with tribal people. When I
got married, I tried to convince my husband that we ought to honeymoon on a
trip down the Amazon. He was having none of it. We honeymooned in Miami.
But now I was on my own. I didnít have to compromise or ask permission.
Why not take off and wander the world? I could write kidsí books wherever I
was. Iíd never done anything like it, but why not?
"Things" had never been important to me. Partly because "things" had to be
cared for and organized and worried about. I was a lousy organizer and not a
very good worrier. And now that my kids and husband were gone, I was free to
do it my way. I just had to figure out what that was.
I decided to sell or give away everything I owned and take offÖÖwith
what I could carry on my back and a vague plan that was totally loose to allow
for serendipity. (Iím no better a planner than I am an organizer). I was
excited when I realized I didnít have to do it the way they thought I
should. I could design my own life, one that fit my dreams.
There is more than one way to do life and I was going to discover
one that worked for me.
TALES OF A FEMALE NOMAD is all about fifteen years of that life. Iíve been living it
now for more twenty-five years.