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?

Running Away

I woke up this morning and realized that I had mentioned in a weekend post that I would post a bit of me switching between an adult point of view and my child’s voice and here it is, Friday, and I still have not done it.

I feel I really got to more out of my child’s voice, revisiting the memory as a child.  It isn’t always easy to do but I believe it is well worth it if you can.

Adult Perspective

Once I ran away. I don’t know why I was so angry. I do remember I was wearing a white shirt, rain boots and was marching down the road. I don’t think I had any pants on – only panties.  Something about me being in panties was part of what made me mad and leave.

I looked back once and saw my family laughing at me from the doorway. I was about five years old. I was heartbroken and very upset.  Seeing them still laughing at me as I was running away, not caring about me leaving at all, still wrapped up in their humour, only upset me more.

Oh, they knew I wouldn’t get far. And I didn’t. I only went to Mike’s. That was as far as we were permitted to go at that age. Which is just halfway down the block.

I sat on the sidewalk.  I sat there for a while wondering in my five-year-old mind what I was going to do. Probably worrying about my toys and other things I left behind more than food and shelter.

I eventually went back home. Probably after five minutes which felt longer in my youth. I went to the yard not the house.  The plan was to play until someone came out and stumble upon me, and start playing with me. Easing my way back into the family.

Child’s Perspective

I am mad. They won’t listen to me. They just laugh at me. I am leaving. I don’t have time to pack up anything. I just have to go now. I grab my rubber boots and head out the door. I yelled to them “I am running away!” They laugh more.

They don’t even care that I’m leaving. Once on the road I look back, I want to see their faces now that they see I am actually doing it. I am leaving.When I look back they are still laughing. They stand at the door and laugh hysterically at me.

I walk and walk and walk. I sit down on the sidewalk in front of Mike’s house. I don’t know what to do. So many thoughts come into my mind. I know I would miss my toys. Who would feed Trixie. They need me for things around the house. Who would sweep the floor? I better go back.

I can’t believe they laughed at me.

I walk over to the swings. I swing a time or two then walked behind the house and started digging in the garden starting a fairytale story. One with adventure.  Then I head down the path to the trailer using the clothesline as some line to help me rescue someone.

Melinda and Eleanor come out. I tell them what I am playing and we run off into the bushes to continue the game.

Memoir Writing: 5 Thoughts About Truth In Memoir

Now my last post has possibly left you wondering about truth in writing down a memory if they are dependant on your emotions and ever changing point of view through time.

1.  To put it simply, as long as it is close enough, keep it plausible, you will be fine.  For example the colour of someone’s hair is less significant in most cases than the individual and the role they played in your life or memory.

2.  Capturing the true emotion, the heart of the story, is more important than all the details.  They help support the story – add colour.

3.  Keep writing. If you can get yourself into relaxed state, re-experiencing the moment, you will automatically fill in the spots you don’t remember with plausible details. Don’t stress if you place yourself in your grandma’s kitchen even though it may not have been. If it isn’t really important to the story than it is okay. Get the important bits down.  You may find yourself feeling like it is fiction after you write it but then come to sense that it was a part of your life.  Memories are tricky tricky things.

4.  If you have mixed emotions on an event you may be surprised at how it comes out on paper. It may take the point of view of good, bad, both, or indifferent. Extracting a memory from your head occasionally lets you see it’s true qualities and are able to let go of any attachment you have to it.  Kind of like wondering about an object laying on the floor only to realize it was your broach.

5.  Trust yourself. Be aware of free-floating thoughts as you remember the moment. Most importantly write. The truth of the memory will come out, or as closes to the truth as you need and want.

Memoir Writing: Discover Your Life – Emotions and Point of View

Thank you Sunstone Creation for use of your photo! This will be my image for these blog posts.

Memory, our tricky friend. How it dances about and plays games on us. Confusing us at times. Irritating us to remember name, place, or thing. The emotion attached to a memory, or the emotion that sparks the memory, as well as what we remember are reflections of who we are.

In the present moment our emotions will shape our point of view of a memory. A good mood may spark good memories and melancholy moods may spark gloomy memories.  In past jobs and relationships I have often wavered in them, swinging back and forth between “I need to leave” to “there are a lot of good things here for me”.   Depending on the day or my mood, I would have a certain perspective of the relationship or job.

Sutra 1.3 from the book Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translates Sutra 1.3 in this way:

“Volition being the mode of behavior of the mind, it is liable to change our perception of the state and condition of this year from moment to moment.”

Often writing about a memory more than once will reawaken things, shift perspectives and maybe even alter your memory.  Memories often come when we are unprepared for them.  If at all possible try to jot them down.  It is challenging to get those memories back.  After a period of time, a week, a few days, months or years go by and it crosses your mind again.  Perhaps you reflected on the memory, consciously or unconsciously, from your first encounter with it and something has changed.  Perhaps a perception or more details have come to light of that day or event.  Every time you dance with it something new evolves with it.
In her book Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer she gives the example of writing about your first kiss when you are a young woman and how it will look differently when you write about it at age thirty and age then again at age fifty.  Time and emotion, as well as understanding and knowledge, can reshape and give new meaning to memories.
By examining a memory and writing about it from different perspectives and over periods of time you will remember more of it and grow from it.

Redo this exercise from a previous post.  Reexamine it.  See if anything new comes from it.

A Bit of Sunlight – The Armour

In elementary school I was picked on occasionally.  Hence, I wasn’t too popular.  I can not say that their name calling or mean actions didn’t affect me. They did, but the effects didn’t last. I knew there was something greater even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it.

When my parents separated after my Grade Six year I learned that I was right. My sisters and I moved with my mom to Saskatoon. I was one of the more popular people in my new school in the city.  Moving to the city was a new beginning so I made great attempts to hide our level of poverty. 

I returned to Rose Valley for my Grade Nine year. Coming from the city where I had friends I knew that the opinion of my country class mates didn’t mean much.  There is a big world out there – a place where I can be liked.  I felt sure of myself. 

All of my friends were picked on at some level. Maybe everyone is in public school. I found myself standing up for others and really enjoying it. I didn’t care what these people thought of me and it made me feel like my veins pumped iron. I was a force.

When I graduated I received The Home and School Congeniality Award. I was quiet like a mouse but if you upset me I stood up. My year book said “Even bombs are quiet before they are ignited.”

I first became consciously aware of this force, this something more, in me when I was in high school. I was part of Venturers, a division of Scouts. We were leaving the home of a fellow Venturer, Marc, one night and delighted in the snow fall as we piled into my dad’s green station wagon. I was young in my driving experience and as we turned onto the main grid in front of  Marc’s house that delightful snow fall seemed more blizzard-like with headlights on. If my Dad were here I would have gladly let him drive. One boy, Matthew, sat in the back seat screaming, “We are going to die! We are going to die!” I recall realizing that I knew we were going to be fine. I just knew. I didn’t have a doubt about it.

I specifically knew that I would be fine because there was something for me to do and I hadn’t done it yet. This made me aware that while I could not die that doesn’t mean I could not be maimed or injured in some way. My body was not invincible, nor were the other people in the vehicle, it was simply my life that was – for now.

While I felt strong and with purpose I also felt afraid. I felt afraid to look into this purpose because I wasn’t sure what would happen after I did it. I became afraid. Now, reflecting on this I believe this seed, as my yoga sutras refer to it, this beginning of this idea that I would die when I lived my life purpose came from a film.

I can not remember much about the film. Not an actor nor a name. So I apologize for not being able to reference it. In the film there was a lot of fortune telling. A lady was told that she would be rich or famous. Well, what happened is that these things didn’t happen to her until she died.  I can not recall if she died by accident or if she was murdered but this movie left a message in me that would shape much of my life for the years to come.  It got me thinking that you don’t know how the cards are laid out for you. I may be destined for something but perhaps it is scary to chase that dream. Who knows where it will lead.  I could die chasing it.

Now I wonder why I decide to view the movie this way when it was probably interpreted many different ways from many other people?  Why do we see things in our own way and not the same?

I don’t have those answers yet but I so feel through my entire body that I have some unique gift to offer the world. From the moment I felt purposeful that day on the road in front of my childhood home, I developed a coat of armour around me.

Many things didn’t bother me. I trusted. I believed. I felt I had time. I felt I could play for now, like it wasn’t my time to be purposeful yet. Well, I think now it is my time. Now I have to be. Perhaps I never got on the wrong path at all and this was meant to be my journey. I was intended to run this course so I could learn things and help others with my teachings. I believe anything is possible.