Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Memoir is a nag!

It's a bit like the ironing. Piled up in the laundry basket of my mind, beckoning with attitude, ever more wrinkled as it sits, waiting for me to sort it. For some reason, the memoir wants to be written in the wee hours of the morning. I don't want to be a night writer. The memoir doesn't care. Daylight hours are occupied by the cleanup of the spilling memoir of the night hours. You see my problem. Living my life again through memoir is at once cathartic and constipating. There is the outpouring of revelation of feelings I didn't know I had or didn't understand. There is the accompanying restrictive fear of releasing it to the page even though once done, I feel liberated. My husband has asked pointedly, "are you sure you want people you know well to know these intimate things about you?" something in me says it is way to late to worry about that. The story is what it is. Sorry for the ugly parts, but those are the major contributors to the tale. I read them to myself and whisper, "how did I ever survive that emotional battering?" it is the survival that matters.

Memoir is about self discovery. Taking a straight on look at where I began, who I became and how I got that way. The major players in that shaping are alive and textured and understood, however late, for their contribution. I so wish I had been distant enough emotionally to really see them in action. And to have recognized their enormous contribution when they made it. To my credit, looking back, I can now see. I owe them everything.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Where the memoir takes me

Sometimes I can hardly wait to make the trip! Other times I really don't want to go there. Imbedded in the memoir, material living hidden in it's words, I find fragments of myself long forgotten. Memories long dormant whisper up their secrets to overlay the newer truths with which I've labeled them. Dealing with the true story lying restlessly beneath the one I've concocted requires straight-on viewing sometimes through the prism of a quality bourbon.

Writing memoir requires a deep desire to look even if looking through tightly woven fingers, holding one's breath, grinding one's teeth, attempting to not see the thing that must be seen.the peeling back of layers of wrapping to get to the box that holds my truths is not done willy-nilly, not with careless ripping, like at Christmas. with light fingers gently pulling off tightly wrapped leaves laid down over all the decades of my life, I reach the core of that which powers the way I think of life. My life. How I deal with triumph and tragedy. How I feel or refuse joy. How I overcome denial.how I finally discard the fictions that permitted living with pain. And come to welcome the "who" I really am, casting aside my armor, laying down my guns.Coming to terms and finally free to be.

Such a journey, all too often placed on hold,back and forthing across the same worn paths, demands a better plan than wandering. Writing memoir builds it, not allowing rambling, dithering, lying, laziness of words, words which, laid out on the page, the truth, ready or

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Time flies!

And before you know it, the end of the month sneaks up on you and that blog you were growing withers....not that I see anyone is reading.

In the time I've been absent I've found a new writing friend, attended a writing group who meets once a month for a few hours, and Mother has made her appearance on the river of my mind. She poles along in the mist like some vaperous being shrouded and aloof as she determines how she will speak. Not if. How. As a discipline, I agreed with my writers group that I would make every attempt to complete her chapter, for she is the antagonist of my whole world and writing to forgive her requires coming to understand her. She is many faceted and impossibly complex. She is enough for her own book, with her own huge story. Until I complete her, the memoir won't move on. She peers from her longboat, asking with her demeanor if I can dare to confront my demon. Bring it on, Mama. I 'm finally ready for you.

With a little bravado and some whistling in the dark, I sent off essays to two contests, with plans for a third one. Contests are really a challenge, but worth doing. Not quite like trying to win the lottery, but similar. Who will judge my essay and in what condition. Did the judge have a root canal this morning? Or facing divorce? Have a hangover? What? Writing and reading are so subjective. Sometimes it is okay to toss the rules, but when? To be edgy, but when? Serious or hysterically funny, but when? And trust me, dear reader, on some days nothing will be worth reading if it isn't about vampires.

And winning contests is not equivalent to being published. Ditto an award. Yek. Meaningless. In the end, it's more about the gut need to write this thing, to wrestle it to the ground. To get it said. And Mother, creeping along in her boat, gliding to my dock, seems to have agreed to come clean and tell me those things I have not been able to dope out myself.

Come in off the water, woman. Meet me here on dry land. Let's talk. Not to put too fine a point on it, we have something to say to the world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

When the Memoir Speaks

Memoir writing is a process with a rhythm of it own, without a time schedule, and with its own mind, like some living thing inside of me finding its way out. Well, that's because it is exactly that.

Removing the many layers that buried all those things that were insufferable, painful, shameful, embarrassingly mortifying and all based on untruths imposed by forfeiting my own power to others. I am discovering who I really am and find I'm not much like I thought I was. "Free to be me" is real. Can be dumbfounding. Revealing. Exhilarating. Sad, though, to recognize the theft of spirit, the robbery of soul.

In the writing of the events of my life, with intense recall, reeling them out without hesitation, even the worst of them, I see how it is possible to so throttle a child to protect the family secret that I am astounded that I never figured that out. So conditioned to being negated, erased and silenced as a general rule, I never once linked that to some kind of power I might have to do any damage at all to the grownups I lived with. I always thought these efforts were about rubbing me out for some terrible infraction no one would describe.

When at last I recognized someone else's explanation in an essay of her own, I had a real "duh" moment, like, "Of course!" How did I not know it? Can a child make those deductions? No. If I had written this memoir earlier, would I have discovered this answer earllier? No. I am totally influenced by the response of my parents to a particular event in my young life. Blinders on. Consumed by the one thing. Not linking everything else about my parents to that thing.  To discover there was absolutely nothing wrong with me that motivated their ostracism, and to recognize it was an effective way to keep me sillent was not just a revelation, but the wide open door to freedom, allowing me to walk through that door into light. I feel pounds lighter!

Into draft#2, and reviewing what I have already said and how I said it, with this revelation I will approach it differently, with a freedom that did not exist before this new knowledge. And writing Mother will now be so much easier. Now that I see her more clearly.....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mama is the memoir

It is a real trick as an orphan to count the number of complex but fascinating people who comprise my family. It is remarkable to recognize how many places they filled in where my mother did not. In a challenging time in history and with difficulties of intense degree my mother picked up her several crosses and carried them forward without complaint and with terrifying fortitude. This woman could and did move mountains.

The fallout from her circumstances and her choices were not about fault. In a cauldron of depression, war, and widowhood, without the government provided cushions of today, she shouldered her load and soldiered on. Writing her troubles and triumphs I came tO see her beyond the person who was my mother, a strong and capable woman with her own disappointments, bad choices, unrealized dreams.

Seeing her from a child's point of view is very different than evaluating her as a woman looking at the woman who happened to be my mother. When I think upon the mountains she had to climb, the burdens she had to carry, I cannot see any comparison of strength in myself. I am not over-awed by her, but I am impressed by her sheer determination of will. It is possible she did the impossible.

From an early age I could perceive we did not like each other. That persisted to the end of her life and certainly colored my own. Were she alive today and even with better understanding, we'd never be friends. That does not diminish my admiration for her spine, for her bravery and daring. I still can see and grieve for the traps she laid for herself, for destructive choices that left her with even worse choices.

We are shaped by the people who parent us. Mama had a Mama. Her Mama was a world away from the same person who was my grandmother. Here, I have serious sympathy for my mother. Kids, though, don't know this stuff. Is it always the conclusion of retrospect. Hindsight is indeed twenty twenty.

And so with so much stuff dealt with and out of the way, she appears on the page like some phantom I suspect I knew was there but couldn't ever find alive. It is a very interesting process to meet the stranger who was my mother, that person who, though long gone, still influences me.