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?

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: A Bit of Panic

Panic set in Friday night. I knew I needed to write a post for Saturday and Sunday reviewing the week but it hit me that I hadn’t been paying attention to what was going on this week. I had no idea, well I had a couple of things that I had learned, but I needed more than that. They seemed so lame.

Perhaps not paying attention is why I didn’t feel excited this week. Not once did I want to take out the wine bottle and celebrate. Sure my little girl and I were out two days due to the flu but still… usually I feel excited even after just a couple of days of writing.

So I felt afraid come Friday that I had nothing to write about this weekend. Then Saturday morning came and I felt panic in my chest. So I ran away and spent the day in the city.

On my return I’m faced with guilt. I have company here so I stress over how I’m going to find time to write a post, cook supper and visit. My writing will take last place.


I have missed so many days of writing. How will I make this up? Is it even realistic to set a goal for writing a memoir? Can I squeeze all my memories in a six-week writing period?

See what I am doing now? I’m starting to bash myself for any goal setting I have done. I tell myself  ‘I have no idea what I am doing.’  (After all shame and guilt go together well.  Like wine and dark chocolate.)

Language and Communication = Sisters

One of the biggest things I learned this week was why my sisters and I have an unspoken language. It is because we played together when we were young.

Sound so simple but I believe it is true. When I wrote the story about my running away and when I returned home I made up an adventure in the backyard and my two sisters slid right into my story. We shared an imagination. It’s like our own language. No one will be able to take that away from us.

This led me to realize that this could be the reason why I have a hard time communicating with other people. It is because I’m used to speaking this other language.

I really hope I can portray my relationship with my sisters well in my memoir. It is a significant part of my life.

I am the one in the blue top and a pony tail on my head:)

Reflecting Is A Bigger Deal Than I Thought

I realized this week how important reflecting is. Reflecting not just on what I’m writing, the whole process – the thoughts, emotions and behaviors that are happening behind the scenes. I have always stated that being aware and reflecting is important.  I have understated it.  It is bigger than I thought.  There is gold in reflecting and I hope to find it.

Learning about my emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is my real reward in all of this writing. Learning what they mean and say about me is the picture I want to see at the end.

In Closing

Goal setting, I will do my darndest with this project taking it to the end of December if necessary to complete its first draft. But once January 1st comes I want to begin a new project. Well this project isn’t really new. It has been brewing for a couple of months. Actually a decade. My sister and I have always wanted to write a cook book over the years but in the last two months it has grown into something.  It desires a birth.

It will have recipes but it will also be about growth, about being a vegetarian, about battling with procrastination and our damn minds telling us it would be better to watch an episode of Murder, She Wrote than do yoga. The book will be about our journeys to living better and healthier. So I want to focus on that in the new year.  Don’t misunderstand, I will still be editing this book and Sunlight and I begin working at a nursing home running memoir workshops for the residents on December 9th.  Yay!!!!

I gotta stay focused and keep my routine.  Write! Write! Write!  Reflect! Reflect! Reflect! Be aware. Be aware. Be aware. Don’t let doubt, shame and guilt creep into this project.  They are not good supportive friends.  Not at all!

The Hardest Part

Walking up and having thoughts in my head, not really sure what they are but I know I want to write about my childhood.  Yet I can’t pull myself out of bed.  I don’t want to get up and remember.  It feels so hard.  It feels so challenging.  Yet I can’t shake this pressure, like so many memoiries trying to get out at once.  A mob.  I can’t distinquish one from the other.

I find my note book and pen.  The trick is to write it all out as fast as I can as soon as I get out of bed.  I don’t even go to the washroom unless it is immenent.  This is what I did.  I got up and let my memory flow from my mind through my pen.  After

Listening to this energy within me I pull myself from my warm bed into the chilly morning.  It is 2:30 in the morning.  I must write.  I find my note book and pen.  The trick is to write it all out as fast as I can as soon as I get out of bed.  I don’t even go to the washroom unless it is immenent.

This is what I did.  I got up and let my memory flow from my mind through my pen.  What falls out of me is one of my worst memories.  The memory of my mom, two of my sisters and myself driving away from my Dad as he stands in our drive way.  What was the heart breaking moment in this scene of my lfe?  Well, I didn’t understand why he didn’t wave good bye to me, us.  I sat in the backseat with two of my sisters.  I really didn’t know what was going on but I knew my Dad looked different.  He wasn’t acting the way he normally does.

April 1993
Dad is 69 years old and I am 17 years.

I felt that I was going to the city for an adventure.  I was excited.  We were coming back to visit.  Why would Dad find this trip different than the others?  Oh the mind of a naive twelve year old.  When I think back on myself I imagine me as a little girl but I was twelve.  Surely I should have had more comprehension than to think this was a holiday!

“My brother came to pick us up.  The car was loaded with our stuff.  Mom and David in the front seat and Eleanor, Melinda and I in the back.

“We backed out of the driveway and sat on the road for a moment. which was customary when someone leaves.  Whenever someone left there was a fit of waving and horn honking only this time was different.  I sat in the backseat, by the window closest to my dad standing on the driveway.  I wave but he just stands there.  I am not even sure he was watching us.  He was hunched over.  I couldn’t see his face.  He was looking down or away maybe?  I waited for him to wave back but he didn’t.  He always waved.  Why not now?

“Mom yells in the front seat, waving her hands like she is holding the reins of a horse carriage, “Go!  Go! Go!”  David stops waving and drives away.”

Excerpt from my writing