I think I’ll be away from here for a bit. My recent posts of addiction and Mr. Hoffman have stirred in me an unrelenting nag or nudge to write about my life and how I’ve overcome some realities. I’ve hinted at it before, writing a memoir — it sounds so lofty, doesn’t it?
Don’t worry — it is.
My challenge thus has been about the “where” in all of this.
Where does one begin a memoir? Do you start at the beginning of the central life? What if circumstances which preceded the beginning of that life coalesced to create the reason for the memoir?
These are the things I get caught up in. These are the moments that keep me from writing it. The nagging distractions and details.
So instead of dicking around and wondering where I’m supposed to start, I’m just going to begin where I can. Just get it done, right? It’s the one thing that simply won’t go away. I can stop thinking about chocolate, I can stop thinking about a glass of wine to have with that chocolate; I just can’t stop thinking about writing my memoir.
Every time I write something else, I feel as though I’m cheating on it; as though I am being unfaithful. But unfaithful to whom? To my ego? No… I figured this much, and it will sound so affected: I am cheating on the truth and telling people that change is possible, that the old story about Ebenezer Scrooge can happen to all of us any time of the year.
Dickens wrote an entire story about it, forgiveness and kindness and truth; Vonnegut just said this, as my yoga teacher read in class yesterday, and it made such sense. Were I not already seated, it would have knocked me over:
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.
Then there’s this: WHO THE WHO AM I THAT SHOULD BE READ? I dunno. That’s a distraction from a negative side. Both of you have told me to get on the stick, life is about living and I really love writing, so…
The other aspect, which is critical, is that writing any of this can’t be about exposing or hurting. It must be about moving forward with some semblance of an end point. I’ve read some memoirs by the adult children of famous writers; Saul Bellow’s son’s memoir comes to mind and I hated it. It’s all yucky and bitter. That’s not how this should go. It’s about healing, forgiveness and that all-too bruised word which means so much and creates anxiety in all of us: “growth.” I just gulped.
After months and months of wrestling with the concept of a memoir, and my predisposed notion that memoirs really ought to be written by people who are near death or famous, or famously near death, I have determind that the best “memoir” construct I can emulate is that of Joan Didion, per her Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking, which are amazing books if you’re unfamiliar with them. She is self-indulgent in them, absolutely, but aren’t we all?
In those books, Didion collected thoughts, observations and wrote essays about her experiences in the wake of her husband’s death and in the midst of her daughter’s. I don’t think her books “helped” me with anything, other than showing for me, the other side of the world my parents inhabited: the side I didn’t see, the 1970s and 1980s double-knit, sweaty-longneck, chunky-bangled, high-ball, leisure suit lifestyle and parenting style that has caused so many of my peers a form of adult unrest and unease which can only be described as “fucked up.”
Ahhh… that was funny.
Didion was already famous. But that didn’t matter, she wrote these things because she simply had to get them out; that she did it brilliantly and in a way that didn’t necessarily require you to jump in on page one “AT THE BEGINNING” caused me ease. It helped me to understand that life needn’t be linear, and our recollections of it are OK — life is a tapestry. Not everyone remembers everything the same way. Isn’t that the point?
In some way, the memoir I’m writing does reflect a death: the death of my comparisons of myself with others; the death of my crusade to be everything unlike my mother, the death of my hardness against my mother (which was ultimately a hardness against myself; we all get there in our own way, hopefully), and the death of a way of life, codependency and enabling, which stole years from me despite my fervent interest in seeking and speaking truth.
So if I’m not here, that’s where I’ll be. Working on that. Charlie and Murphy tell me they have some posts planned. Charlie got a new collar, a “Gentle Leader” which is based on a horse’s halter, a “head collar,” and which is supposed to evoke feelings of his mother gently and firmly coaxing him to do what she wants, but Murphy tells me that Charlie just thinks it’s a mother-something. It certainly reminds me of a horse halter because that little 20-pound microBear does some serious bucking when it’s first on.
Wish me luck; I’ll be appealing to the angels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael to keep me clear, honest, healthy and protected from negativity during this experience.