By Arlene Appelrouth | aappelrouth@atljewishtimes.com

Recently I went to a 12-step Al-Anon meeting. Most people attend those meetings to learn how to cope with a family member who is an alcoholic or a substance abuser. I don’t. I go because I, like everyone else, have to deal with someone whose dysfunctional behavior affects me.

Usually, there is a reading that deals with the principles that all 12-step programs recommend as guides for living. People usually share their experiences that deal with the reading.

One of the treasures inherent in these meetings is that they provide the opportunity to share what’s true, and this invites others to provide genuine support.

I have a burning desire to tell the truth. One friend told me recently that what’s unique about me is how emotionally transparent I am.

Arlene Appelrouth

Arlene Appelrouth

My mother, however, always criticized me for my emotional transparency, which she defined as “wearing your heart on your sleeve.”

Things can be seen as a blessing or a curse. It’s all in how you choose to perceive reality.

Since my husband Dan’s death April 7, words are oozing out of me.

In the past, I would write the words I needed to say in my journal. Over the years, I’ve kept many different types of journals. Some are like diaries; others have been based on Ira Progoff’s methods, which are designed to make the unconscious conscious. Then there were morning pages as advocated by Julia Cameron.

For eight years I went to writers workshops led by the excellent teacher Natalie Goldberg. She taught me how to write quickly, without planning or thinking. She named that process writing practice, and I’ve been teaching it, in my home and for seniors at Emory’s OLLI program, ever since I found out about it.

More recently, I write almost everything on Facebook.

The more I write, the more I want to write.

I’m hearing songs I can envision onstage and writing words I can visualize being performed by actors. Poems and essays and memoirs and novels are aching to be expressed.

I’ve always longed to be a serious writer. When I was an investigative reporter, even though it was satisfying to know that what I wrote often had an impact, I always knew that newspaper stories ended up in the trash. I fantasized about writing something with more permanence. I used to imagine walking by a Barnes & Noble bookstore and seeing piles of books with my name on the cover.

Once I said to someone that when my time came, and my body was in a coffin being lowered into the ground, I didn’t want to be banging on the wooden box, screaming, “Wait, don’t give me back to the earth. I haven’t written my books yet.”

Will I write the columns, poems, books and plays that are now emerging like popping popcorn in my consciousness? I don’t know because, since Dan’s death, I am busy managing what must be handled when someone dies.

When he first fell off the bike and landed in the hospital first and on a rehab floor at the Jewish Home two weeks later, I knew it was going to be a challenging time. I wanted to be there for Dan, in his room, saying yes to his requests, because he was not able to do anything for himself.

I knew that to stay mentally healthy and not fall into despair I had to take care of myself by exercising every day and doing other activities that are stress-relieving. I’ve been taking care of myself as best as I know how.

Expressing myself is another thing I do for self-care. Knowing I am heard or read is important because it makes me feel validated and affirmed. I remember something I learned in high school, as a student of Latin, taught by a former priest named Mr. Hatrel.

Cogito, ergo sum” were the words: “I think; therefore, I am.”

For me, it’s “I write; therefore, I am.”

I’m grateful for any opportunity I have that puts my words and thoughts before the eyes of readers.

“You read me; therefore, I am”: El legit, ergo sum.