“We receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” Marcel Proust
“We should not think of our past as definitely settled, for we are not a stone or a tree,” wrote poet Czeslaw Milosz. “My past changes every minute according to the meaning given it now, in this moment.”
This is a page I wrote in November 2009, while in the early stages of writing what is now Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance. I added the quotes today.
I’m relatively new to writing, never, before last spring, having considered writing a whole thing, like a book or even an article, that might be published and read by other people. There are too many books in the world right now–everyone’s writing a book–everyone’s especially writing a book about his or her life–so who cares? Yes, I have a story to tell and it is somewhat different from most others–still I protested until I took the first class last winter/spring, then joined a writing group in the summer and took another class this fall. I’m hooked and struggling.
My main focus has been a memoir–begun with ‘ten minute memory’ blurbs written in 2006. This year I’ve written ten or more five-page essays–different scenes from my life from 1951-1980. Most have gotten rave reviews as compelling snippets of a life my fellow writers say they’d like to hear more about. All good, and reason enough to keep going.
This last month, out of the blue, I’m feeling blue–like the reality of the past is expressing itself in the present. It’s something about showing my then self to my now self–in the way I write the scenes, and what I show about me and the people who were close to me. It’s something about really seeing how I struggled with different things–the terror and shame–and my courage, resilience and strengths, which I’ve yet to really embrace. And maybe because of that, the hardest thing is seeing the joy of childhood reduced to a kind of happy to be alive and coping. This damped down good enough feeling persists today, which may be the real reason for the blues.
The blues are the real reason to celebrate and keep on writing. Feeling stuff, even the hard stuff, is the joy–especially to this girl, who spent so many years not feeling stuff. Now’s the time to let go of any pre-existing notions of what, when, why or how and let what’s brewing take shape–see it as it really was. It’s a time to listen–maybe go back to ‘ten minute memories’–and sit still, with the clear intention of continuing to write the story. It’s time to tell people (if they ask) how it’s going–slowly, a bump in the road–some sadness and struggle. All good–just not so easy.