Thursday, March 14

another serious post

I went over to the local booksellers' last night for the release of a new book on memoir. It's called Find Your Story, Write Your Memoir, based on the assertion that we all have a story, it's a matter of making it interesting on paper...or Kindle if you prefer.

I really didn't want to go. "I'm not ready," I said--the same protest I generally employ whenever I'm trying to motivate myself to begin a new project. "I haven't even worked on my manuscript lately...I don't like wine and cheese...and I don't like mingling," I argued further, to no one except myself.

It turned out that I needn't have worried about the wine and cheese (which I do like passionately) because there was none. And the mingling was kept to a minimum. The set up tickled my proclivity for structure, with rows of folding chairs and a carefully planned (if not always followed) outlined presentation.

After running next door for iced coffee, I settled down in one of the little remaining spots left in the room. I looked around. Most of the attendees were older than I, perhaps looking to record some great love affair or lifetime of alpaca farming. But there was no one else with a Finneas.

The authors talked about memoir, how it is different from autobiography, how it benefits from structural narrative like the novel, how emotional truth stands in for factual...but what I liked best was how they said writing memoir is a process of forgiving.

Ok, for those of you who just zoned out in the above paragraph, please forgive my literary lapse in consideration. Just take this: writing is about forgiveness. Generally when you sit down to write about your life, something has happened, and it's usually not a nice something. If it were a nice something, you'd be too busy enjoying yourself to sit down and write. Believe me, I rediscover this every week when something more exciting inevitably pushes me up against, and often over, my deadline. Fortunately, my boss is very understanding.

In my case, the thing that happened is that I was born with one arm. That incident, the very first in my life, changed everything that would follow. I suppose that's why I had the chutzpah to even attempt a memoir at the budding age of twenty-five.

Though I knew that writing was healing, I hadn't considered that it's also about forgiveness. So I asked myself, who or what am I forgiving? Two answers came. First, I needed to forgive God, since he was the only one who knew, and the only one responsible for my handicap.

I attended a catholic mass of mercy recently [another potential wine party]. Father Daniel spoke of God's inexhaustible mercy; how we experience it most keenly in our weakness. It seems to me that this mercy is what enables us to forgive in the first place.

The much harder task was forgiving myself, even acknowledging that I needed forgiveness. I write to forgive years of self-inflicted bullying. I write to embrace the whole of me now, and that heals me every day.

That is what this blog is about, really. In some ways, it is an entirely selfish endeavor. This is my healing. But I do hope in the process, as you look over my shoulder, you find the courage to forgive as well.

If that doesn't work, you might need to write a memoir.