An Actual Query For Assistance…


So I’ve been on this “fictionalized memoir” stance for a bit; thinking that it would be easier and cleaner within my family to go with a sanitized quasi-fake version of the story of my parents, my family and my life.

Then I realized that while I can do that, sort of, I’m really struggling with the aspect of falsity. I grew up in a world where duplicity seemingly flowed like water (and shaped my world and appreciation of truth); where obfuscation and deflection were abundant; and where gaslighting was the norm.

“How can I write my truths while filtering in fiction? How do I reconcile this?”

So I stopped. I had to. The content I’d created was good; I have no doubt it’s quality writing and is entertaining. That sounds arrogant — but you have to trust me: my source material is SO GOOD that I had an easy task: tell someone else’s story and let it go from there.

So I took a few weeks off — COVID19 and other issues — and then sat down last week and started again. Instead, though, this time: I was tearing off the band-aid. I was going to tell my version of my stories and that was that.

That in the beginning, I’d have to tell what were shared stories (those of my parents and I want to be careful with this because I am not an only child), and I was going to be very clear about how I am re-telling these stories as they were told to me and how I observed them as I aged.

Then, as I grew up, I’d naturally depart into my own stories of my own life and the family tree I’d planted with my husband. Then I’d have to be careful so as to not disturb and not betray the stories of my children. I have this strange ethos that makes writing a memoir almost impossible.

So I share these issues and conflicts and challenges with my therapist who has become part-time cheerleader and part-time head-clearer. I’ve gotten back into EMDR for some of the memories that are coming up because of the writing. She assures me this is natural and normal.

She tells me: keep going. Remember: you have the option of not releasing ANY of this for publication, ever. That said, she continues, your story is rich, and I know you will tell it brilliantly. (I gush.)

So I continue from my left turn at Albuquerque (I hope there are some Bugs Bunny fans amongst you) and decide to let what I’ve started sit idly by.

I go back to my new idea of starting a whole new book. This time from my perspective. No longer any “3rd person” narrative and trying to thread out who said what and where it went and the details of names, places, fake cities and whatnot. I was just going to start with my story. But my story has to begin with my parents otherwise, there is just me — and I didn’t spring from a flower in a garden or meadow, despite what you all might think. ;o)

So we go from there… and I’m humming along, really writing some heartfelt and authentic stuff. I am fair, but real. I am kind, but sincere.

A couple days go by and I decide to go through a box in my office. I have COVID19 to thank for this, I suppose: if I weren’t teaching yoga from home via Zoom, then I wouldn’t feel self-conscious about my “studio” and I wouldn’t have decided to take down a big yellow box emblazoned with my initials from my shelves. In that box were some keepsakes from my parents’ home that I’d sold just over a year ago.

In that box you guys, are love letters to my mom from the beau immediately preceding my father. So many letters — maybe 30. And we are talking marriage-level conversations. The phrase “when we marry” or “in our marriage” are actually stated. Also in that box were letters Mom wrote to me, that I’d never seen. Letters about growing up, being a good woman, being true to myself. Things that I never heard her say to me in person. Things that — who knows? — might’ve made the difference between a shitty choice and a safe choice in my behavior.

I never felt she was “there” for me, so I behaved as though I didn’t really have anyone cheering for me. My mother was an alcoholic and addicted to Xanax and other prescription pills. Way back when, I thought she was weak but what I know about Xanax now — holy cow, that is some awful stuff. Don’t take it regularly if you can avoid it. Truly limit your use to occasional and not more than three days in a row if you must.

Also included in that box was a journal of hers from 1987 when she suffered a gran mal seizure. At the time, my father told me that she was trying to self-detox from alcohol. The diary tells me it’s a lie: that she had overdosed on Xanax. Her doctor, Dr. Moon (my mom had such a great sense of humor — she called him Dr. Half Moon — lol) said to her, and she wrote it twice in the journal: “I am not surprised you overdosed. Your husband is an irrational man.”

None of that surprised me — other than that it was Xanax and not booze — my father was a highly irrational man. He died an irrational man. Hospice did NOT quiet or soothe his inner savage. What I’m realizing and remembering now is that Mom never said it was booze; she never really referred to it as a withdrawal from anything. Only my father did that — he was the master of spin for the family because any negative spin about Mom’s health made him look bad as a spouse — that whole “in sickness and in health” thing. Dad ALWAYS depicted Mom’s seizure as stemming from self-administered alcohol withdrawal. But he knew better. Mom overdosed on Xanax.

Now I can wonder and speculate all I want. I can play Colombo all I want. But I will never know. My gut is telling me that Mom was so sad that she wanted to end her life. She had threatened it many times when I was a child and a young adult. Often I would come home from school wondering if she was ok. That’s not ok.

And later, in 2009: she tried again. That is what spawned my first book, that is so far, unpublished. It was a known that Mom had overdosed on Xanax in 2009 — that shit is HARD to get off of; it messes with your brain, your senses, your intellect and your metabolism,

So I have all these letters now. I have her proof that her young man in law school loved her and planned to marry her. And that these letters explain SO MUCH of her continued mooning over him and wondering and when she was intoxicated why she asked — the ether — so much about him …

What do I, her daughter with a story to tell about my own life but that demands the backstory, do… ?

She’s not really a villain anymore. These letters are like gifts from the grave. I sympathize with her. My father was NOT her ideal match. But she was an adult. She chose to basically destroy my childhood. I’m not kidding. I could get hammered every day and ignore my kids, but that’s not my style.

The work I’ve done to get a sense of normalcy was hard and it continues to be hard. It’s ok though — because I’m breaking cycles. But what do I do? I want to be fair — and I want so much to write and get this off my chest and share how beautiful she was and how smart they both were… but I also don’t want to turn this into another Bridges of Madison County (despite the similarities).

I feel strongly that my mother died with (not of) a broken heart.

Any help would be really appreciated.

Thanks for reading. Xo

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

4 responses »

  1. I am not sure how long I’ve been aware of your blog, but somewhere near 2014 I imagine. I am in the yoga/mindfulness camp and came across your stuff. Your writing is brilliant. I have thought on and off over the years of reaching out to tell you such. One time in particular I considered asking if you had ever had anyone mention that although brilliant, your expression seems to have so much
    anger within, and since you were traveling the 8 fold path, you would of course, welcome the observation. Ha… anyway, when I would read you, I’d just feel this edginess, jumpiness, irritation yet continue, because it’s brilliant. And that is called “unfictionalized”. That is what makes it superb, although not for those still living in “quasi-fake”. The realness must have been my trigger.

    Since 2014, I have lived a shit show. Well actually much prior to then, I just didn’t recognize or have the ability to name the shit. In fact, prior to beginning this response, I looked briefly at a couple other recent posts. Of your parents- ” in time I began to realize that their catastrophes could be out catastrophied”. I began to notice this within the family I created with my former husband. We have 2 sons who are in their 20’s and a daughter graduating high school in the year of COVD19. Put it this way, a lack of graduation doesn’t even make the list of catastrophes. The last decade has been so painful and although my introduction to yoga in 2011, truly saved me AND gave me the strength and vision to make changes, these changes have brought about immeasurable pain to my children (not children anymore). I can now see a VERY CLEAR PICTURE of what happened throughout my marriage and why and although the true sickness did not belong to me, I helped feed it out of my own weakness and that is for me to own.

    I went to bed last night so heavy with the weight of my kids and a brother who has decided to stop communicating with me as of yesterday. It’s like I can see beyond all the drama. I can see the root cause of why people do what they do- including myself of course. I have great communication issues with people I love. I keep trying to explain personal “lenses” and perspectives and my favorite word, INTENTION, and what I see right now is so many people in such pain especially now as we all have oodles of time to face ourselves. I say this not in arrogance please hear. It is just that I have been in self-reflect mode for years so the discomfort doesn’t set me off as greatly. A close friend told me yesterday that I am shining a light in places where no one wants to go. I completely understand this and it is the very reason that my children’s dad has caused his own family immeasurable pain by deflecting anything unpleasant onto his family to save himself. The anger that lives within me now is from being completely powerless over anything other than my own reactions and its too much suffering for me to witness for my kids.

    I have a bad habit of checking my emails upon waking. This morning I woke up to your query. I sobbed. The story of your childhood and your new “lens” in which to reflect… it’s wrenching, and real and I swear to God, if people are not able to read something like this NOW, post pandemic imposed time of extreme facing the mirror, then they’re ostriches! I can feel on a visceral level your angst over your own children and how it will affect them. I know you have consulted them. Could they be your pilots? In my case, my sons have thanked me for divorcing their dad ( who is your dad) . And yet, I know that you need to do what serves you best. If I didn’t feel caught in the trap of protecting my kids’, I would write something myself. Maybe that is why I want you to move forward.

    Write the effing book. I agree with your therapist. You always have the authority to keep it tucked away in a yellow box with your sons’ initials. They need to understand and be able to reflect on their mother fully, unfiltered, unfictionalized.

    • Diane — you are like a voice from the mountains in the dark. Or a song from the caves in the twilight. Your bare reply and your trust in truth and words is so important for me right now.

      You’re right — there is an edge, an anger and a rawness in my voice and my writing. I try to soften it, sometimes it’s balanced and sometimes I pull it off, but there’s a simmering in my heart that I can’t quiet. Your acknowledgement and non-judgement and then support of this tone of mine reassures and comforts me. My mother used to say, “You’re so angry. You have such a crust on you…” like she couldn’t understand why… and yet, I saw the same in her. I would say to her, “Mom, you’ve only observed. You’ve never participated. I don’t know who you are and it’s a miracle I’m not in prison or dead.” Seeing those letters from her beau showed me though, that it wasn’t *ME* … that she had this stiff arm for everyone. I’ll explain more in the book, but she kept just about everyone guessing. Maybe because she herself didn’t want to know the answers.

      I also check my email when I wake, but I didn’t get the chance to this morning as I was leading a gentle yoga class via Zoom. Then I saw your comment and it was so refreshing to hear from a total stranger who *HEARS* me. I am as buoyed by you as you were by my “lens” this morning. We are not alone, Diane.

      COVID19 is the “correction” I have been wondering about … I remember literally a few months ago saying to myself, “I’m overdrawn. I am tired but it’s not physical. It’s mental. When will I get a break…” and then >poof< halfway around the world it came, like on the wind. It is a massive correction in everything: environment, financial, perspective, population, compassion, awareness, velocity… and it will come back again and again when we continue to fuck up.

      I appreciate that you as a mother can sense my hesitation and concern of this story and how it affects my children and I ADORE your advice. Yes, I should ask them. I haven’t… I will. They are 21, 19 and 16. They are smart and resilient and as self-aware as they can be I suppose. I sense they’d support me. There is little about my parents they don’t know and I’ve tried to be candid (appropriately) with them about my personal story.

      Your relationship with your brother — it’s hard isn’t it? My issues with communicating with people I love usually stem from my need to bare all at the expense of their vulnerability. I’ve seen that in my communication with my own kids at times; I need to dial back; take a pause. I have come to a place where I try to give everyone the space to be a fuck-up… and then extend the hope of resolution on to them. Sometimes they are not ready and that’s where I get trapped. I get mad… I feel: “But we all fuck up and can’t you see it and … can you see I’m trying to be better about it…” sometimes they are ready and sometimes they aren’t. Keeping the “window” (not the door) open has helped me feel safer when I feel a need to connect but not get hurt.

      We are being forced to look in the mirror. To sit with ourselves: our over consumption, our walls, our biases… I have, as your friend described you, been a light of truth. Almost all my life. It has gotten me into trouble at times, and I have taken the fall for weaker people, but my quest for justice is almost instinctual. I believe we are all here as souls and that our souls have taken on a contract with our parents souls to be here — long ago — and that we have work to do. If we accomplish it, then we move on to other contracts, but if not, then we come back … it’s that fatigue I think that I feel… I’m not “done” yet.

      I think you might like “Trinity Esoterics” — it’s guided / channeled messages from Archangel Gabriel to a medium in Ireland(?). Check it out. The daily messages — of late — have been SUPER motivating for me.

      There are places and people for us, Diane. Those who want to stay in the shadows will not be our fans. That’s ok. We have Work to do. Thank you for your kindness. I will indeed get on with that effing book. 🙂 -M

      Thank you, Diane.

      • Would you consider sharing an email? I feel like there is a lot more to “bounce” that may help you leap with abandon into this effing book! 😉 I will send you a message via FB if you are willing to share.


  2. Molly, You write beautifully and with a level of kind reflection that takes the edge off of anything that feels visceral. I’m glad you’re writing your story. It will be your best story and your family will benefit from your journey whether or not they ever get to read it. [And who knows, you may pop out of this rabbit hole and find yourself in Pismo Beach.]

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