Cleaning Up Loose Ends

Early on in my journey of self discovery, which is one of the main elements of Sunlight (so far), I realized that my husband played a big part in my burn out. He was a good chunk of the reason I was laying on the floor, struggling for each breath and having an emotional meltdown. Only it was suppressed because I didn’t know who I was or what I was supposed to do in this life.

It has been three and a half years and I have just clued into the fact that I need to deal with this part of the “story”, this part of my life, my journey. I don’t know how this will all fit together in Sunlight but I do feel both issues need to be addressed.

How is it that you can know something and not know it? This has happened to me before where it took longer than I am proud to admit for the knowledge of a situation to impact me.

My counselling has begun and I am now going to dive into this issue on why I let my husband hold me back. It isn’t really him. It is me. What do I need to heal or protect or assert to advance, to move forward in my life? My will is trapped in this space. It wants out. I want it out. I just need to find the key. Have I given it to my husband?

Here is an excerpt from Sunlight. It was written in September of 2010. Clearly I have an issue that I ‘realize’ at the end of the chapter but it has taken me more than three years to realize it. This part of my life, my journey, could be what has always been missing from my story. It could be why I have so much trouble trying to edit it or find a flow. We will see in time if I am right.


Backgrounder: Michelle is my therapist and Melinda is my sister.

Michelle assigned me two books to read. The first book I read is The Joy of Burnout by Dina Glouberman.1 I read it steady for four days. That is all I do. I am feeling so good to be doing something useful. I feel in charge and that I have a purpose – to fix me. I am awake. I am alert. Well as alert as I can be. I can not stay focused on the words in the book for the life of me. I reread paragraphs many times to try to get the message but my attention span is so short I am continually losing focus. I decide to keep reading and if I lose focus I will keep on until I bring myself back to the present. What I get from the book is what I get. I was not going to put any extra effort into it. I couldn’t. I would be here for years trying to read this book if I tried to absorb everything with my non-existent attention span.

The book is draining me of my energy. It is not my intention to be mean. I am weak. The book asks more of me than I can give at this time. It wakes me up. It opens a door a crack for me so I can see some light. It gets me off the floor and onto the couch reading. I absorb new words instead of listening to the broken record in my head. I notice I am breathing more normally, not struggling for each breath.

The book asks questions at the end of each chapter that allow me to reflect on my life, heart and mind. I am journalling regularly. I jot down my answers to the questions asked. But as I reflect and write I am experiencing a real physical pain. It is my left side, lower ribs. It is intense and I often have to put the book down. I only seem to experience it when I am reading and writing answers to the questions at the end of the chapter.

 I am glad to have a purpose each day, a goal. My mind is moving in a different direction and it feels refreshing. I feel a bit like a kid who had never seen colour and I have just walked into a candy store and am overwhelmed with colour. It is good but too much for me to take in all at once. Perhaps I am rushing. Trying to take it all in quickly so I can get better and move on with my life.

By Friday I am worse than I have ever been. I can not move. I am in physical pain. I don’t understand how I can feel worse. Wasn’t any of this helping me? I felt so much better yesterday. This is crazy. I reach out to Melinda. I have no idea what we are talking about but when we hang up I find myself laying on the floor in the sun porch. I do not know how I got here but I physically can’t move. It is not just the mental pain or the pain in my chest, but my whole upper body is stiff and sore. I ache.

It takes me a week of moping, laying on the floor deep in my burn-out again, but I manage to slowly pull myself back up to the point where I can read again. As I read and do the exercises at the end of each chapter I find, through reflection, that my husband is equally at the core of my problems as work was. He may actually be the leading cause. He is part of every answer to every question at the back of the book.



Heart of the Story

I step onto the trail. The snow has blown in and erased my path with drifts.  I know the path well.  Looking ahead of me I can tell which tree branch I usually duck under and which one always hits my arm.  I will recreate my trail.

As I leave the treed in area and head into the open prairie my foot steps hit resistance.  The snow is like creme brulee – a hard crusty surface with soft snow underneath.  I know this snow.  This is snow-fort snow.

It is a perfect day.  A warm wind, blue sky and the sun delights to see its reflection in the million glistening stars it creates in the snow around me. I plop down and begin cutting out blocks for a snow fort.

I am in a bit of a trance.  When I realize what I instinctively just did I feel a little silly. But hey, I cut some more blocks anyway remembering all the snow forts my friends and I use to make. I should include them in my story somewhere but wonder how to write about them.  Then I remember something else…

I turn the corner from the back alley to the street. I feel like I am gliding home.  Lynn is with me.  It is daylight and most likely afterschool.  As we turn the corner I see my house and then dad, with his snow scoop, shoveling snow.  He walks along the drive way filling his scoop with snow and then piles it up against the house.

I can remember the first time I asked dad why he piled snow up against the house.  I was small, maybe five years old.  He told me he did it to help insulate the house.  The snow piled up against the walls would keep us warmer.

“Like an igloo?” I asked.

“Yes, kind of like that.”  he said.

I remember thinking my dad was really smart for knowing that.  But now, in this second, as I turn the corner I don’t know if I feel proud or embarrassed about my uniqueness. None of my friends pile snow up along the outside walls of their houses.

I see Lynn’s expression and I wish we could be like everyone else. I don’t know what the small smile she wears means.  I don’t ask.  All I know is this is not the first time we have done something weird around her.  We are forever doing something my friends have never seen before.  She will still be my friend in the morning. Somehow this knowledge feels only half full, incomplete, not enough.

I stop cutting blocks of snow and just sit there.  My chest feels full.  Feelings of pride mixed in with shame surround me.  I gotta get back to the house and write this one down before I forget it or lose its passion.

In search for a meaning or plot to my story I wonder if my antagonist is my community, society in general, that tells me what I have isn’t enough.  I had no idea as a child that I was poor and without until society told me I was poor.  It was like I had no idea what that word even meant.

I may have found my theme:)

The Day Is Mine!

Here is something I wrote strictly from the point of view of me as a child.  It is funny how some memories come to me this way and others are so matter of fact as an adult’s perspective.

I’m the first one up. It is a sunny day. My sisters are laying so still. I crawl out of the double bed I share with Melinda gently and quietly.  Gladys doesn’t budge on the top bunk and Eleanor still lies on the cot by the window with her arm hanging out of bed.

I tiptoed to the kitchen where I hear dishes and pots moving and clanging. Mom is busy.

“Good morning”, I say. Dad has already gone to work. We don’t see him much during the summer. He’s gone before we ever get up and when he comes home we are often in bed.

Sometimes when we know he’s coming home for supper we hang out on the road watching and waiting to see his car. When we do see it turn the corner at the end of our crescent we run down the road as fast as we can and pretend we are hitchhikers for dad to pick us up.

Maybe we can do that tonight.  Right now I eat cornflakes and mom tells me my clothes are out on the line. I’ll be the first one outside!

As soon as I finish eating I head outside.  I open the door and then cower to protect my eyes.  Our house is so dark compared to the bright sun. Once adjusted I dash to towards the clothes line in my nightgown. The close line is at the back of the yard. I crossover the gravel driveway to get to the grassy path.

I am so tough that I can walk on these rocks and I am only six years old! They don’t hurt my feet at all.  I am going to be even tougher when I am bigger!

I think I am the first one up in the whole neighbourhood!  The first to breathe in this morning air.  I don’t hear a sound anywhere around me.

I dance, playing with the dew. It wants to make me as wet as possible so I try tiptoeing and jumping to get to my clothes. I’m giggling because the dew is winning.

It is tickling me with its cold wet fingers.  As I jump and dance not only are my feet wet so are my legs. I grab my sundress off the line careful not to break the clothes pins. Then I run back to the house. Hopefully the dew won’t catch me if I run fast.

I get inside and change in the kitchen so I won’t wake my sisters. I slip on my sundress ignoring my wet legs. Throwing my nightdress on a chair I dash outside barefoot. The newness of the day is mine.

4 Lessons Learned: Week Two

Welcome to my new website.  I had to change it because no one could see my links.  Also, I was needing a change.  So enjoy and if anything isn’t working or you would like to see something please let me know.
Also, I have two new tabs above.  I thought I would include some of my favourite writing resources and a section for my speeches that I write regarding memoir writing.  Can you tell I love this topic!
  1. Point of view.  I know I have talked about this before on my blog but I really think it is beneficial.  I wrote this week about an episode of my running away when I was five.  I wrote it first as an adult looking back and then instinctively I wondered what that five-year old girl was thinking.  Then I just wrote.  I wrote from my little voice in the past.  I got way more out of the memory that way.  I will share it with you tomorrow.
  2. There were times when I was writing that I wondered why have I kept this memory?  What is it’s significance?  What lesson does it hold or message?  We need to reflect on our past to make sense of it.  Tie memories together to see the bigger picture.  I am still working on this in regards to this project.  Some memories I can make peace with as I write them, finding an understanding.  Other memories lay like loose pieces of a puzzle on the table.  I haven’t found how they connect to the larger picture yet.
  3. I have noticed that I have almost no pictures of us the year we left my dad, our first year in Saskatoon.  However, that year my memories are strong.  I wonder why this is?
  4. Yesterday I laughed uncontrollably in the kitchen.  My whole family was up there and I did something quirky as I am known to do.  My eldest caught it and I broke out in laughter.  You know, the kind of laughter where you can’t stop laughing even though you know the amount you are laughing really outweighs how funny the situation really is.  I just laughed and laughed and laughed.  Afterwards, as I moved away from my teenagers in the dining room to the kitchen I realized my belly had quite a workout.  Then I heard the muffled sound of my daughters saying in astonishment, “We never see mom do that.”  It hit me.  I don’t laugh.  I chuckle in bits and pieces but I actually think it has been years, five or more, since I have actually laughed so hard that I have wanted to pee my pants.  I use to laugh all the time as a child.  What happened? Life?  Writing these memories out has made me so happy.  These last two weeks have left me feeling a deep sense of joy and contentment.  It feels so good to actually feel happy.  I didn’t realize that I wasn’t feeling this way until now that I am.  I don’t understand the cause exactly but I sure do hope it brings about more laughter!  I want more deep belly laughs.  My abs could use the workout.

PS:  My sister owns Sunstone Creations.  You will see her label on many of my pictures. I am so lucky to have a professional photographer in my back pocket …  well, she lives on the other side of the country but what is space in our digital age.

What is the Point?

“Seeing yourself as the protagonist of your life, you look for your responsibility in the story your life makes, rather than seeing it as having “happened to you.”  For women, especially, this can be a radical shift in perception.”

Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer

I can’t lie.  After writing full steam last week I thought I would have a glimpse of what my memoir’s deeper meaning would be.  I was hopeful and looking for a clue or two.  Nothing.  So far it is just writing.  Rambling writing.  Or free-writing.  That sounds more positive doesn’t it.

I remember something Anne Lamott wrote in her book Bird by Bird, something about hoping you don’t die before you get to re-write the draft.  That is where I am at.  It is awful.  Although we are always our own worst critic but it is suppose to be awful.  I know I want the finish product to have more meaning.  Like Sunlight, this book, is just a bunch of random memories and thoughts.  I didn’t know what Sunlight would be until two months after I had written it.  I guess I need to get in a little deeper to find out what treasure is here.  I am standing on the shore hoping to see Atlantis deep underwater.

This lack of seeing the end picture stunts my writing.  I wonder where it is all going.  I lay in bed and think about my past to see what sort of memory comes up or maybe I reflect on a writing prompt I read the night before to get me going.  I lay there and as soon as a memory pops up I write it.  About a half hour in my brain starts to wake up and be aware of what I am doing.  It starts to get critical, wondering what the point is to me remembering about childhood toys in the big scheme of things.  Then my writing slows down until I am just done.  My writing-self has been silently discouraged by my brain that it has walked off the stage.

I feel lost and the fact that I don’t just trust the process of remembering bugs the shit out of me.  “Just relax,” I tell myself.  “Things will work out.  They always do.”  My brain does not listen.  It says nasty things to me. Then I can feel that writer leaving.  This voice must be tamed.

That is my task this week.  To take control of that voice that discourages the writer.  The one that closes the door on my memories with nasty comments.  …..

Actually I don’t  like what I just said about taking control of that voice.  Both voices have benefits.  There is just a time and place for each.  They need to learn to mind their manners.  Sometimes the writer voice comes up when I just can’t deal with all its chattering too.  I need my logical mind at the moment and then it decides to start talking to me when we had our special time that morning.

Now, I must get writing.  I must not let the brain discourage the writer.  I will keep writing and see where the stories lead.  Like bread crumbs.  Write and then see if I can see the picture when I am done.  Or maybe I will see it along the way.  I don’t know.  I need to trust the process.  The point of the story will come.  It is in there.  My message will reveal itself.