The other day while doing a bit of writing, I suddenly felt like my 7 year old self again. For a good minute or so I felt as if I were in my body, but as a young child. I relived that first taste of joy when my thick pencil made contact with a lined tablet for the purpose of writing a story.
From primitive cave drawings all the way until the present day, females have been telling their stories in one form or another. (I’m assuming it wasn’t just the cave men who expressed themselves in that fashion.) We write about what ails us emotionally, tentatively at first, hardly daring to give form to words our careful mouths are often incapable of (or forbidden) to voice. We write about dreams and how they intersect with daily realities, reality all too often leeching our dreams of color and passion. We write about the slights and hurts and devastation of being human (Shakespeare called them the ‘slings and arrows of misfortunes.’)
Often we write around the one subject which needs most to be recorded: innocence stolen for all time by violence of a physical and/or sexual nature. I don’t believe any of us want to tell such stories–we’d much rather stick to the writing of fiction, or at least have a much tamer story to tell. For instance, one in which the protagonist grows up loved and nurtured and protected.
I’ve been thinking about this after my discussion with Sissyface about the book she wants us to write. I asked if she was concerned about how our siblings would react (to the publication of such a book), and her response was, “It is what it is.” As with all families running on pure dysfunction, ours has a lifetime habit of sweeping unpleasant things under the rug. No one calls things by their proper names, it wouldn’t be ‘nice’ to use words like incest, rape or pedophilia. So for her to be willing to write our truth– regardless of reactions from the family– is both surprising and empowering.
In the aftermath of my all too brief sense of being present in my body while writing, I can’t help but feel sad for that little girl who loved to write more than anything. She’s had a hard time of it, seldom being allowed the freedom her creativity needs to blossom and expand. I hope that she will push hard to be heard. Maybe it would be a good thing if she pushes me to write truth rather than my watered down, sappy version of things. This, I realize, is what bothered me about my memoir when I recently read it: the avoidance of calling things by their proper names to the extent that I’ve barely expressed any emotion.
My brother is taking me to a casino today (no worries there, he’s financing the adventure!) We usually end up talking about our mother in a way which is both helpful to me, and depressing. Helpful because often I learn new things about her, or my early childhood. (Look at me: 55 and still searching for missing puzzle pieces!) Depressing because of what could have been, and wasn’t. Beyond that, I have my mother’s visit (to my sister’s) to contend with. I think she arrives next Tuesday. I’m still in the wavering mode, the should I stay or should I disappear mode. Thinking of my initial thrill at discovering myself to be a writer inevitably brings Mom to the forefront of my thinking. So does thinking of my brother. It’s all interwoven from the fiber of my earliest griefs and keen disappointments.
Sissyface made mention in our conversation of how I’d been so obviously treated differently from the other kids in our family. No one’s ever acknowledged this before. Hearing someone else say it (as opposed to me thinking it) assures me that I haven’t made up, or exaggerated, those feelings of being a red headed step-child in a family where everyone else but me belonged.
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Reader Comments (5)
To hear someone else say, “this is what happened” is so validating. We often blame ourselves or lean on hope that we’ve taking things too personally. We do this as a protection but when someone validates what we feel it helps relieve the idea that we’re making too much of things. It also slaps us with a reality our mind attempted to protect us from. We saw it the way it was and it really was that ugly. Validation is bittersweet.
Puzzles – I never liked them.
I’ve heard you say many times that you were a redheaded step child. That phrase is a strong one and says so much. Redheaded step child “jokes” are told often. Fairytales are made with the little redheaded one being neglected, made fun of at school, etc. There’s a whole world of literature, film and visuals centered around a redheaded child left behind, separated and used as a scapegoat. I think of these when I hear you refer to your childhood in these terms. It is unfortunately not a fairy tale for you or an opera and most certainly not a joke. This phrase redheaded step child lets me grasp only part of what you experienced then and experience now with your mother years into adulthood. Yours is not a fairy tale, but it is a story that I think must be written for you and all in you.
Austin May 27, 2009 |
I totally agree with Austin. You need to write it. I know it’s scary to think of your kids, siblings, aunts/uncles, etc reading it, but what about you, who had to live it? They may not like it, but it only hurts you more to know they believe lies about your parents because it makes you and every one like you [me] hide in shame as we protect THEM from the truth.
I believe so much in putting it writing, that I have written a book about what happened to me. In print, it is horrific; sometimes, I can barely edit it. In one of the chapters, I quote my daughter, “Mom, this
is the white elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Get it out there, let the public know that this happens to our children.”
‘Nuff said. Beauty, get it out there. If you write it, I will buy it. May 27, 2009 |
I think the key is to write it, at first, as if no one else will ever see it, especially family members. Write frankly — tell all the truth. Don’t think about the people who might see it until you get to the revision stage. May 28, 2009 |
Exactly as Marcy said, write it as if no one will ever see it. This will give you the freedom to express yourself honestly during the processing stages.
I think this is the same as dance like no one is watching. Write like no one is watching then open the curtains for the world to see. Like with Ivory it won’t be pretty but it is an ugliness that absolutely must be shown.
Austin May 28, 2009 |
I think my entire life has been leading me to the writing of this book. At this point in time it feels as if I will explode if it doesn’t get written. I like the idea of writing it as if no one else will ever read it.
Ivory: I want to read your book! May 28, 2009 |