Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wading in chest-deep

I think some of our most profound decisions in life are often made without a lot of forethought. At least, that's the conclusion I've come to now that I'm writing about my life. I'm a bit amazed at some of the decisions I made early on, often spontaneously, that changed the trajectory of my life. Mostly in a good way, though not always.

As you may know, I'm using the month of November to write the bulk of my memoir. It's been exhilarating, exhausting, grueling and satisfying. And we're only on Day 4.

Writing this book was another one of those things I entered into without much thought. I decided on the last day of October that, hey, what the hell, I'd go ahead and give this NaNoWriMo a go. I honestly didn't think I'd keep up with it. And yes, I know Day 4 is hardly the point at which to be claiming victory, but I'm fairly deep into the project now and hungry to continue.

In fact, if I keep writing at the pace I have been, I'll have 75,000 words at the end of the month (the NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000).

Last night I hit a rough patch. One of the reasons I've put off writing this memoir is that I knew that in order to write about events with immediacy and honesty, I would have to re-enter them emotionally. Not something I was looking forward to. Writing about the painful bits can be cathartic. It can bring clarity and healing. But still, there's just no way to make something like that fun.

Last night I was writing about something that happened over twenty years ago. It was an event that had a lot of emotional energy around it that I hadn't re-visited in a long, long time. I was surprised by the intensity of the emotion. I had to stop writing at one point. Then I had to force myself to go back and just finish that chapter, so I could get it over with and exhale.

When I was done my head hurt and I felt physically sick. I've spoken with a couple of other women also writing memoirs and they've had similar experiences.

Sometimes, you just have to immerse yourself in it, so you can get out of it. Baptism by writing.

I decided to try to re-ground myself in the present, so I took most of the day off from writing and just hung out with the kids. I made homemade bread and corn chowder. Dan and I colored a picture together. He wanted a beach scene with a cat and a volcano. Drawing always relaxes me. I keep a sketch book and colored pencils by my bed. I also love watching my kids draw because the creativity of children is just brilliant. They haven't yet learned to fence in their imagination.

Tonight I lit some candles and drew a hot bath. I sat in the tub and watched Buster circle the perimeter again and again and worried myself that he would fall in. And then he fell in.

Today the beautiful Sarah (who is also doing NaNoWriMo) is holding a linky over at her blog, That Space In Between, and the topic is "Remembering". You can link up a current or old post, either one, that deals with the topic. I linked up a post I wrote earlier this year, What I Remember, because I didn't think I had it in me to write a post today. And then I sat down and wrote this post (on remembering, no less).

So there you go. You just never know what you've got in you.



{insert witty baptism comment}



23 comments:

  1. I think we need to be very ready to write about our past, particularly the painful experiences. As you say, you need to revisit the emotions which can be gut wrenching. I am not ready to write mine yet. I can revisit it briefly in my head, but to get it down, not just yet. One day I will. Wishing you all the best getting through the worst x

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    1. I wasn't ready, either, for a long time. I think if I had thought about it too much, the resistance might have crept up and I would have put it off longer. Probably best I dove into it without much forethought. I'm sure when you're ready, your story will be there, waiting for you. Stories are patient that way.

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  2. We just don't know what's in there, do we...

    Poor kitty looks so sad.

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    1. He was pretty unhappy about the whole incident. My daughter was still awake so I put her on 'warm up Buster' duty, at which she did a most excellent job.

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  3. Keep breathing, girl. And get across that bridge one step at a time.

    Remember, I'm here beside you.... I've got your hand (you CAN type one-handed, can't you?).

    M

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    1. Michelle, I'm so glad we reconnected through this event. Really glad. Thanks for your support. I can type with two thumbs so I'll give the one-handed thing a go. x

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  4. You don't know, do you? You just never do. And that is sometimes all I have left to be grateful for.

    Excellent post, K xxx Thank you.

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    1. I can't imagine what it was like for you to write your memoir. It's impossible to just tell a story like that without immersing yourself in all the emotional nuance. When I feel dragged down by the enormity of the task I look at you, who has come out the other side with a beautiful book. x

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  5. "Sometimes, you just have to immerse yourself in it, so you can get out of it."

    Such wise and true words. Aaargh, I think we are going to feel very cleansed by the end of November!

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    1. I think we should all do some ritual at the end of the month. I have no idea what that might be, but some kind of group acknowledgement of what we've taken on and surmounted.

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  6. Me again!

    This is quite possibly my favourite song ever in the whole history of amazing songs, and as I was listening to it today, I thought of you.... do you know it?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6Xr67cTzwE

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    1. No, I'm not familiar with that song, but it's beautiful. I love her voice. I have 'The Story' on my mp3 player and it's one of my favorites. Thanks x

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  7. Like Buster, you can circle the perimeter, but sometimes you just have to fall in and get wet.

    What you're doing is brave and inspiring xx

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    1. What a great analogy! I totally missed that, but yes, it's very apt! x

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  8. The requirement to reenter the memories emotionally is the only thing putting me off writing a memoir. It's taken so long to exit them! I'm terrified of what might happen if I relived them.

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    1. As hard as it is to re-enter that emotional space, I think the writing also provides an exit valve to defuse the emotional charge. For me it's part of the healing process.

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  9. K...I got to travel to the states a few years back to visit with a woman who wrote about the loss I was studying. I needed her help to write what Id learnt but in a way that the families I worked with would 'get' it too. We had this idea that to cope with trauma and loss people need to learn how to visit it but in the same sense how to leave it. It was like building a fence and then making sure the fence had a gate so that some days you could visit, relish in the awfulness and then find the gate and work out how to be part of the world. Until the next time. Maybe writing memoir needs to use the same strategy - work out how to get in but mainly how to get out.
    Thanks for linking up x

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    1. What an interesting analogy. I think of it in terms of energy. When writing about trauma or anything emotional, you're re-entering that energetic space. And yes, you need to have strategies to leave it again. I've seen people who get stuck in the trauma. I think to a large degree, that is what happens with PTSD. The mind gets stuck in a loop and doesn't know how to exit that energy of trauma. Very non-scientific I know, but that's how I would describe my experience.

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  10. A great writing tutor once told me that the act of writing is always, always physical. Such wise words. Some times it's a workout that leaves us feeling pumped; other times it's a marathon that leaves us exhuasted. R&R post writing is essential.

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    1. What an interesting way to look at it. It is physical, isn't it? As well as emotional. I suppose it many ways it's an act of giving birth.

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