A funny thing happened on my way BACK to The Forum.
After leaving a mumble-mumble-year career in journalism, I realized how much I missed the creative outlet of column-writing. I read Parker J. Palmer's incredible book, "Letting Your Life Speak," which encourages us to honor our true callings. And over the course of a year, my life changed in ways I wouldn't have predicted a year ago.
First, of course, I changed jobs - switching from the familiar-but-often-too-public world of journalism to a marketing/writing/social media job in "the civilian sector." It was a good and necessary change, although I still found myself missing the ultra-creative - and admittedly self-indulgent - world of personal expression.
Then 2013 blew in with all the icy heartlessness one would expect from such an unlucky number. My mother-in-law - a sweet and kindly woman - died. The depression that has dogged me since my teen years grew so black that I loudly renamed the year's shortest month Feb-BLOW-ary. And I learned that, after 12 years of struggle, my marriage was officially over. (That's right, folks. Irwin has left the building.)
With my life in complete chaos, I realized some profound truths about myself. Life was fragile and short, and I needed to do what made me feel whole. Hackneyed as it may sound, I wanted to make a difference in some small way. If that difference meant I could help people briefly forget their worries and chuckle at their own imperfect humanity right alongside me, so be it.
So here I am, in all my stubborn, unsinkable, bad-penny glory. I am lucky that The Forum was not like a vengeful boyfriend, refusing to take me back and leaving me sobbing in the A&W parking lot. But I should point out that our love match is strictly a part-time gig: I am continuing in my "civilian job" while providing columns to the paper on a freelance basis.
You'll likely notice a few differences this time around. The past year has made me a bit more bruised and philosophical. Even so, I will try my North Dakota-farm-girl darnedest to not be bitter, dagnabbit. (One friend joked that my post-marriage column be titled "The Sour Cougar" - an idea I vetoed immediately.) I will not be like that weird "Carol Burnett" show that popped up a few years after the comedy classic and immediately confused everyone. I will still write about my tiny dog's big attitude, make fun of "Amish Mafia" and pray that Heidi Klum will someday break down and grow a muffin top.
Readers have followed me through all other chapters of my life, and hopefully they'll stay on the bandwagon (Tamwagon?) for another loop. After all, I'm still here - picking Cheetos off the front of my bathrobe and yelling at Don Draper through the TV.
So sit right down here beside me. There's always room for one more.
And don't mind the Cheetos dust.
Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org