5 Lessons Learned: Week 5

Quill and Ink

  1. My memory is releasing so much detail but am unable to write in the right voice, or from the right point of view. Often I start remembering with my adult perspective and it seems empty. Without personality. This may lead to me switching automatically to my child’s voice but not always. If I do switch automatically I feel much better about what I have written. If I don’t I can’t seem to ignore it. My writing stops. I basically slam my pen to paper and drop my book on the floor. I can’t seem to force the voice. Do I keep trying? Get a cup of tea and see if that little girl will come back if I am not so insistent with her?
  2. I can’t seem to capture the essence that surrounds me as a child. Perhaps this is due at least in part to my struggle with voice. I write and the words still feel empty. There was a feeling around me as a child and I can’t seem to get that feeling on paper. I do not know what words to use to describe it.
  3. Memory has been a great gift. Now that I am up and running I am remembering more and more detail rather than memories of events. I am remembering everyday situations: my sisters and I washing dishes, the ritual of arguing with dad to go have a nap while we took care of clean up; Dad hauling water and the way the cellar door would rest against the annex stove and how we always called out to every one that the cellar door was open so no one would fall in. What are these memories without the senses? Well they have kicked in too.  I recall the sound the fan made when you hit the light switch in the bathroom. It roared so loud drowning out the noisy kitchen in the mornings. I remember the feel of the oily tea towels that we could never clean no matter how hard we tried. (I still don’t know what was wrong there. Must have been the water.) The smell of raw earth from the cellar and the cool, thick, heavy metal ring that served as the cellar door handle. I am rambling but in many ways I can go right back there. Yet a feeling is missing. The essence of a story is missing.
  4. An idea that my identity may rest in these everyday acts and things.
  5. I have cooked my brain. There is steam coming out of my ears and smoke through my nose. I gotta take a break. Let it power down and return. Maybe work on something else for a spell?
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Dreams Drift Away

Recently I read a writing prompt asking to remember a moment that seemed like a mystery.  My mind drew a complete blank. I was certain that there must be a million mysterious moments through my eyes of a child but I could not recover one. Or maybe that question was too broad and my mind didn’t know what to choose. Well, I got one now.

The sand came in. I know how but I see it laying before me. Three mounds of it. Dad says in his stern, don’t disobey me voice that we are not to play in it.  We listen.  I sense something very special is going on here.

There’s been a lot of talk about us building a house. I’m excited to have a new home. I will be like my friends.

I hear dad has made something called blueprints. I guess we need blueprints. One evening I see dad hovering over a large sheet of paper on the table. He explains to us that this is the blueprints of the house. A bunch of faint lines. It takes a moment for my eyes to register a picture within all these lines. He shows us where the bedrooms would be. Us girls would have to bunk up but that is okay. I see a kitchen, laundry room, and an actual living room. A real one.

These are the actual blueprints.

We are going to have a new house! The sand is in for concrete dad says. He has blueprints made. This is going to happen!

I go to bed dreaming of my new room. I imagine what it will look like when it is done, smooth walls and shiny windows. Maybe we can even have our own dresser and I won’t have to share. Right now I only have a drawer. One single drawer and my friends have whole dressers.

The next day us girls surface with excitement. Mom on the other hand is tense. Angry maybe? She’s been wanting this I’m sure of it. It seems as though she starts the fight’s with my dad about it. I don’t understand.

Us girls decide to stay away from mom. She could snap any second and that means screaming. We go outside to play.

The sand mounds sit there. We don’t touch them. Us kids do nothing but nothing happens. The sand sits day after day untouched. Soon the wind takes away the lines that separated the sand mounds. Nothing is said and we don’t dare ask. We sense the tension. We know our new home is not coming. I told all my friends and now I don’t know what to tell them. I feel like I lied.

I’m not sure when we started playing in sandhill. The next year perhaps? It became our sand hill and quite frankly we had a lot of fun in it. I don’t know how we survived so long without it.

Years later my friends would ask what happened. They have faint memories of us going to build a house. My memory of it is vague, like an event that blew past me that I was unable to catch. I hum trying to remember for I know this memory of their’s is true.

“Hmm … All I can remember are the three mounds of sand for concrete and blueprints laying on the kitchen table. I don’t know what happened.”

If you can find one moment that left you baffled, please share. It may take some thinking. Thinking is the easy part. Being aware of your thoughts is tricky. The mind has a way of getting carried away and keeping you out. Remember it is your mind. You are boss.

Thank you Sunstone Creations for the photos!

4 Lessons Learned: Week 4

Memory is also fickle.  She must be wooed and courted if she is to succumb to our charms.

Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach

  1. Maybe it is important to know that it remains a challenge to recover memories.  They do not want to surface easily. Most days I pull on them, pull and pull until they smash through some hard barrier.  Often I get to exhausted with all my pulling. How challenging it must be for those with memories that want to be forgotten.
  2. My journey through memoir writing is affecting me in some amazing areas. One night this past week I was really upset. The kind of upset that would cause me to run to the city to blow off steam. Instead I grabbed my journal, out of the ordinary for me to sit still to write when I am so upset, and went to my room. Instinctively I knew just how to write out my frustrations. I wrote a letter to the culprit that knew what buttons to push. I was very happy that my body and heart just took over and left my mind/ego behind to catch up with what is going on.
  3. It is up to me to calm down the stresses I put on myself that prevent me from meeting my goals. I remain my enemy and it interferes with my writing.
  4. It feels like an awesome responsiblity to hold someone else’s story.  I asked some of my friends this week if I could post a few stories about them on the internet cause I didn’t want to use pseudo names. The ones I asked said yes.  Now I feel stress.  Wow.  They have put my version of their past in my trust. Now I am nervous.

Diary of a Memoir Writer: Week Four

I love my orange pen. Can you see it?

Here I am. Finally sitting down to write. I feel like a sham. Like a fake. My tummy feels nervous at the thought of hitting the publish button cause I have been gone all week.  I have a mug of hot water and some bengal spice tea brewing beside me to help calm my jitters.

Have you ever not called someone back when you knew you should and then you see them on the street or mall or whatever and there is this awkward moment where you have to face them?  That is how I feel now.  Gone all week and now I have to face the music and return.  It could be just me putting this stress on myself.  I know I don’t care when the bloggers I follow post.  I will be there when they are ready and frankly, I am an irregular follower.  I follow and read mostly on weekends or a day or two during the week where I try to catch up on the weekly posts.  I digress…

This week homeschooling took a priority.  I sense I am alternating weeks.  One week it is all about writing and then the next is about homeschooling.  I miss writing when I am in my off week but homeschooling is always present.  It trumps everything else.  Darn kids:)

This week I have realized, and I think I have realized this before but forgot, that writing is not my first love.  My first love is helping people in a face-to-face manner.  That is my meat or protein.  It is the heart of my day.  When I can sit down with someone and hear their thoughts and help them.  Even if helping them is simply listening.  I am not ready to make that a full-time business though so I write.  Writing is my water in life.  Or perhaps it works well as my veggies in this analogy.  I don’t know.  I haven’t thought this anaology through.  I need writing like I need to speak.  But I need face-to-face helping as much. Homeschooling, well that is my rice, my bread, my corn.  It is a staple.

Knowing that writing is not champion in my life can that release some of the guilt I feel in not hitting the internet at all this week?  Does it relieve me?  Probably not.  I hear constant pressure out there about how you need to be consistent in your posting.  Ahh… consistency is my enemy.  I rebel against consistency.

I am participating in Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  On one of the days he talks about not judging any moment, or anything for that matter, as good or bad.  Just be.  Let things be.  He also talks about how you are where you need to be.

Now I realize that is what this post has been about – me judging me.  Time to end.

I will enjoy writing.  I will post as often as I can but I have kids and I do love them so.  They are a priority over everything else.  I will continue to learn how to manage my time and until then … well this erratic posting is just me.  Just know that I love reading many of your blogs and I love hearing your comments and support.  Thank you for sticking around:)

PS: I invite you to join me on Facebook for a bit more intimacy:)

11 Lessons Learned: Week 3

  1. There is only one space now after the period?  Damn!  When did that change?  Who changed it and why? Was a bill passed through parliament about this?
  2. The passive voice is strong in me.  I am forever writing with it and thanks to wordpress spell/writing checker it is catching it every time.  I am learning to make stronger sentences.  In On Writing Stephen King explains the verbs well for me.  I learn grammar the best in the most abstract random ways.  Don’t sit me down with a grammar book cause my brain will freeze.  I need someone to sneak it in like Mr. King, or Grammar Girl, for it to stick.  Well the passive and active verbs haven’t stuck yet but I am learning.
  3. That the only right and wrong way to publish a memoir is with your conscience.  What you are willing to live with and what you can’t live without. It is challenging to write a story about yourself, putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, but to do that with others in your life is not something easily weighed on ones conscious.
  4. I have gained great appreciation for how I was raised (see, passive voice.  I will leave this one in).  Unintentionally my parents gave me more gifts than I was aware of.  I knew I had a fabulous childhood and that is why I wanted to write This Old House but I am now seeing more and more gifts.
  5. The fear of saying what I want to say is still present.  I often type something and then think ‘Shit.  I can’t say that.  What will people think of me.’  Not saying it is weighing on me though.  I am going to have to get it off my chest soon and release that inhibition.
  6.   I have started writing things in my memoir writing book called JIFFs.  Short abrupt memories that plop into the middle of a main memory that I am writing.  I write the word JIFF in the margin and I am going to come back to them and investigate them more thoroughly at the end of my journey.  They are so short and random but I hold on to them for a reason.
  7. Now that I have a theme I have started a sheet where I brain-stormed memories that tie to the theme of my embarrassments, fears and feelings of inadequacies but also the light side of it the joys and the quirky moments and simple life that was so fulfilling and we had no idea.  I hope to put it in a timeline soon and post it on my website as a living document that I will add to as memories come.
  8. This process is connecting dots for me.  I love connecting dots.  That is my biggest passion of all – solving mysteries!  For example, I discovered where my fear of talking came from, being corrected by my peers in the grade three classroom for using the word ‘worser’.  Wow!  How long we hold onto some little-big things!
  9. While the memoir writing process is amazing and healing it can also be dangerous … is that the word I want to say?  Some memories don’t want to resurfaced, or they don’t want to come to the surface yet.  Write gently when you hit a moment that slows down your pen quickens your heart but stops your breath.  If a memory doesn’t want to come don’t rush it.  How to know if you need to push yourself or not?  Trust yourself.  If you choose not to push the memory see how you feel afterward.  Do you regret it or feel relieved?
  10. Uffda!  Can I make it so that I have learned 10 lessons this week?! I will combine it.  Tone of voice and point of view.  When I write about the memory of being picked on in Grade Three for using the word ‘worser’ I write it from the POV of me as a girl with the tone of voice of confusion.  The confusion I felt as a little girl still lingers.  I will re-write that scene a few more times to get the meat out. (Horrible analogy for a vegetarian).
  11. I have issues using the word ‘onto’.  Gotta stop.