For those who are considering writing their memoirs and those who are already in the roller-coaster process, I want to share a gorgeous, encouraging quote from Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer:
“In autobiographic writing as in journal writing, there seems to be an internal wisdom at work that guides us to write what we are ready to understand. Different memories will ask to be written at different times, and this is an instinct we generally can trust. For the most part, people’s natural defenses protect them from memories they are not ready to face.”
When I read this just now, I caught my breath and slammed the book shut for a moment to absorb it. As I work through this fabulous guide, the truth of her statement is becoming clearer by the exercise.
What a relief to know I don’t have to be the one totally in charge of this situation. My brain keeps deflecting what it isn’t ready to explore, thus proving it’s a lot smarter than I am.
I’ve developed a new psychiatric disorder: Dysfunction Envy.
The other day I started reading The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr. In her introduction, Karr relates an anecdote about bullet holes in her mother’s kitchen walls. This is on the first page, and she hasn’t even started the memoir portion yet. What a hook.
Although I’m enjoying the book, I’ve fallen into a funklet (not bad enough to be depression, but I’m not giddy either). I’ve recently written a few things I’m not happy with, which is okay. I don’t mind trashing or savagely editing stuff. But for some reason, Karr’s book has me worried.
Have I run out of dysfunctional material to mine for my memoir? Is my nine-month class this fall going to consist of me sitting there, doing nothing, while my classmates turn their trauma into gold? Where’s the gunplay in my story?
Then I remembered that time when I was twelve, and I found the .22 pistol that Mom kept under her pillow, loaded, with the safety off. For my protection.
As you know, I’m not able to offer much defense for my parents’ exciting decisions, but there was an incident that caused her to believe that a loaded firearm in our house was the best choice for her daughter. I’ll talk about that situation another time.
So I’m standing in the living room with the pistol aimed at my piano. My finger’s on the trigger. The whole room’s in soft focus except for the piano, and everything gets quiet like our house is made out of a giant pillow fort.
When I decide to pull the trigger, it occurs to me that if I shoot the piano, I might not be able to practice my lessons, and my teacher will be disappointed in me.
As the rest of the room becomes visible again and the sounds of the world return, I switch the safety on the pistol so that at least it won’t blow Mom’s head off while she’s sleeping, and I tuck it under her pillow.
I never told her how close I came to shooting the piano, mostly because she was busy with Glen, the womanizing truck driver she pretended to marry in Tahoe, who later left her for a gum-smackin’ poodle groomer with a platinum up-do, frosted nails and lipstick, and leopard print miniskirts. Her reason for the sham marriage is part of yet another story.
I also believe Glen was Mom’s last-ditch effort to be heterosexual, and that leads to another story for another time.
The tales I’m telling now are reminding me of so many I’ve forgotten, and there’s no evidence that this twisted river will run dry in the near future. What a relief. It seems I’ve got what it takes to compete in Dysfunctiondome.
There. I’ve revealed my sin in the title, and I feel reborn. Life is new again!
Or I’m just sleepy and grumpy because I haven’t finished my morning coffee, and I should work instead of blog.
I do write for my own gratification, but as you’re reading this (she says with uncharacteristic confidence that anyone is interested), you know that’s not completely true. Otherwise why would I inflict share my thoughts with the universe?
On that first day of blogging, lo those many weeks ago, I announced with deceptive confidence, “I’m writing for me!”
“Good for you, Sweetie,” Paul said, checking the horizon for shark fins.
“I don’t care if I ever become popular. Or publish my memoirs. Or Oprah interviews me because she’s fascinated by my life.”
Paul tossed “That’s the spirit!” over his shoulder as he checked his watch and bolted from the house.
And ever since that day, I’ve written and posted without worrying about whether or not anyone’s reading my stuff.
Or I’ve checked my blog stats every. single. day. How many views? How many visitors? How many views per visitor? I’ve had visitors from Ireland, Australia, and the United Kingdom today! There’s been drool.
I stunned Paul out of his office chair by blurting “I got another visitor from India again! It’s probably the same person, right?!”
As he ponders the laws of probability coupled with the population of India, he’s still kind enough not to cast doubt on my hopes.
Paul does try to find this as thrilling as I do, and I appreciate that. Although I would like my popularity to rise with him just a bit.
Yesterday I chirped, “Did you see I posted a haiku today?”
He smiled through his exhaustion and whimpered, “I sure did.”
“What did you think?” Big eyes, wagging tail, piddle on the floor.
“I don’t know yet. I haven’t had time to read it.”
Maybe I need to get into pornographic limericks. Or politics. Wait. Maybe I can combine the general concepts:
Jenny Lawson’s husband enjoys pun wars, and I’m a tad envious.
When I pun, Paul looks at me as though he’d like to time-travel back to our wedding day and stuff a sock in the officiant’s mouth so she can’t say a word. Many would say this is reasonable, and I suppose there’s some valid argument there.
The post below encourages me to write one I’ve been thinking of this week. When I mentioned the topic, Paul started digging through his sock drawer.
I think I would’ve made a good copywriter for ads. Not that my writing’s so great (I mean, come on), but if I could use my sense of humor however I wanted, I’d go for it.
Recently there was a news article about a notorious madam near Seattle, self-named Rainbow Love. When I read that name, I feel as though I’ve been wearing a ball gag for three days. Not that I know what a ball gag feels like. In fact, I don’t know where I got that term. I don’t think I’m going to find my way out of this paragraph except to start a new one.
In the middle of the piece about Madam Rainbow, there was an ad banner I wish I could link you to, but I can’t find it now. Trust me, it was there:
Work from Home! $97 an hour!
Notwithstanding the cut-rate pricing, if I can do whatever I want, I should check into Craigslist for a position. A copywriter position, you filthy creature. I’m worth more than $97 an hour at home. $98.50 at least. Maybe with a $50 rebate. And I’ll buy dinner.
"I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position." – Susan Lowenstein, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy