Virginia Goodall is a control freak.
And she’s miserable. Fresh off the stinging defeat of a divorce, her career as an attorney in transition, and an impending empty nest that looms large with her children’s departure from home, she’s dubious about life without her familiar roles. If she is not the long-suffering wife, the devoted mother, or the benevolent boss—who is she?
Faced with the realization that control may not actually be on the true path to authentic happiness, she’s at a crossroads. If she can’t control everyone and everything around her, what’s to keep her life from spiraling into chaos? What’s the point?
Virginia has too many questions and not enough answers. Somewhere on her path from human doing to human being, an epiphany awaits—but can she let go long enough to find it?
Ultimately, Saving Virginia is a love story about learning to love yourself, others, and the world.
Virginia scrutinised her cappuccino with mild irritation. The heart shape on top was slightly lop-sided. She dipped the handle of her spoon into the foam to try to correct it. Too far, now it looked like a peach. Virginia deftly turned the spoon around, plunged it deep into the cup and stirred thoroughly until the last trace of the uneven pattern had disappeared. Much tidier. She looked up to see that her friend Renee had been waylaid in her return to their table by a woman with a double pram which was blocking the route to their corner of the cosy Melbourne café. Thank goodness those days were finally over, Virginia mused as she sipped the hot sweet coffee and searched for the right place to resume her story once her listener had returned. What must Renee think of all this, Virginia pondered. If the entire disaster hadn’t actually happened to her she would have had difficulty believing it herself. If someone had told her two years ago how her life would be today, she would definitely have run from the room with her head in her hands, screaming. But this was it. The separation, the counselling, the psychologists, the psychiatrists, and the long difficult conversations trying to find a way to keep her family together; it was all finally over. Her marriage, which she had entered solemnly as a devoted virgin bride twenty years earlier had gradually become a façade despite her frantic efforts. She felt the blood rise in her cheeks as she again faced the gnawing question: How could she have tried so hard, for so long and still got it all so wrong? Having to accept her failure as a wife had hit at her deepest beliefs about who she should have been, and what constituted a virtuous life according to her Anglican, middle class upbringing. It had been torture to watch someone she had once so deeply loved lose himself. But that paled when compared with the sense of failure she had felt as she watched her daughter start to walk the same path. It was her daughter Abbey’s self-destructive behaviours that had ultimately brought Virginia face to face with the realisation that no matter how much love she had to give, and earnestly wanted to give—if the love was not able to be received—then the gift simply could not be given. Her talented daughter’s inability to love herself had confounded and frustrated Virginia’s rational, evidence-based approach to life. Virginia referred to both of her teenagers as free-radicals in honour of their highly reactive natures. It was a nickname they had both cheerfully adopted and liked to use in their own defence should she ever accuse them of untidiness or disorganisation. In return, Abbey had taken to calling her parents Fungus and Mungus, inspired by her father’s recalcitrant beard. Free-radical B, her eldest child Ben, actually wasn’t too bad as teenagers go. Conscientious, clever, and a pleaser by nature, Virginia had grown to realize that she and Ben had a lot in common, including the tendency to catastrophize. Free-radical A, her youngest child Abbey, was also highly intelligent, but not motivated by the conventional goals offered by mainstream education. From the age of thirteen Abbey had escaped from her elite private high school as often as possible, preferring instead risk-taking people and circumstances. When concealment of her situation had finally become impossible, and the physical injuries that Abbey was inflicting upon herself needed hospital treatment, the happy-family veneer finally crumbled, publically revealing a multitude of issues that demanded attention. As a result, Virginia had temporarily stepped down as an associate partner in her legal firm, negotiated her contract to part-time hours and had taken on the more flexible position of legal education coordinator, to enable her to support Abbey throughout her hospitalisation and then the appointments with various therapists following her release. Virginia shifted in her wicker chair and saw that Renee was making progress. As she watched her struggle it occurred to Virginia that whilst the story she was recounting was still utterly incredible to her personally, it didn’t seem to be surprising Renee at all. In fact her close friend and colleague looked more concerned about the fact that she was unable to reach her coffee whilst it was hot, than she had been about Virginia’s tale so far. Perhaps the veneer of the perfect family that she had worked so hard to maintain for so long hadn’t actually been as convincing as she had imagined. Her thoughts were finally interrupted. “Hoo-bloody-ray!” Renee exclaimed as she sank into her chair blowing a red curl out of her eyes. “Remember when we used to take Abbey and Alexandra to coffee with us and we would always choose an outside table? Because we were concerned to ensure that the prams didn’t obstruct the wait staff, the children’s noise didn’t disturb other customers and any mess would fall on the street instead of their floor? We were soooo considerate weren’t we? Apparently the rules of the game changed at some point in the last ten years and nobody told me!” she complained. “It’s the same at work,” Renee continued. “When I was a student we didn’t dare approach a lecturer or whinge about a mark as the balance of power was definitely all one way—theirs. Now that I am a lecturer the tables have turned completely, and students are entitled to harass us at all times of the day and night expecting full marks unless we can justify every mark that has been deducted. Sheesh! Were we born in the wrong decade or what?” Virginia continued to gaze into her cup distractedly, which prompted, “Oh I’m sorry my lovely, where were we? You were past the decision to finally divorce and you were taking Abbey and Ben with you to that legal conference while you worked out what came next. Where was that again?” “Val Thorens, in the French Alps”. “Mmmm I’ve seen pictures of that and it’s on my wish list when I finally have something more interesting than constitutional law research to talk about. Bloody PhD! But please go on Virginia, back to your story; it must have been weird to introduce yourself as a single woman. Some of those conference wives are ruthless aren’t they?” “It was surreal. Inside I felt so much turmoil, yet outside the silent blanket of snow was completely serene. It was a wonderful place to think and as my paper was scheduled for the first afternoon of the conference I could retreat from the limelight for the remainder of the week.” “I would normally ask you about your paper,” Renee returned, “but our time is short and I really want to hear about the spirit doctor, or whatever she was. The one who helped Abbey?” “Ariel.” “Yes, Ariel—how deliciously ethereal.” “I guess so, it suits her though. I can’t really explain why, but I felt as if I wanted to get to know her as soon as I saw her in the restaurant the second night. It was just something about how confident and positive she seemed to be about the world. As if she had it all figured out and the rest of us were wearing blinkers.” “The whole story please my lovely. From the beginning.” “Okay,” Virginia agreed drawing a deep breath. “We had travelled by chairlift to a gorgeous restaurant on the outskirts of the ski fields. All rustic and French—you would have adored it girlfriend. All the free-radicals were seated together, you know how they attract each other, and I was at a table with a group of Australian lawyers, they ended up being a Godsend for me actually. As soon as we recognised each other from our university days they invited me to join them at meals for the rest of the week. It was a huge relief not to have to do the single-woman thing.” Renee nodded knowingly.
Melinda Edwards is managing director of MeWise Pty Ltd, an international, conflict-resolution skills training company. After twenty years writing legal textbooks, she realized her dream and wrote Saving Virginia. Melinda and her husband live on the Gold Coast, Queensl
Really enjoyed this book...in Bali...perfect environment to take it all in.
Professor Melinda, i really loved your story and enjoyed your story too. So keep on writing ........