Vulnerability on Steroids

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

Henry David Thoreau

Uffda! (Norwegian for “Yikes!”) This business of writing memoir is even more audacious than I thought it would be! My emotions from one day’s writings to the next are all over the map. This has been a calling of the spirit, and I should not have assumed that that meant it would be easy-peasy.

I have to be in training, in turns out, because this is a marathon, and I am no athlete!

I signed up for a 12-week online course called “Memoir Writing, Ink.” I plunked down some convincing cash to learn about this challenge that I thought I knew. Of course, I’m finding out, after three weeks, that I knew so little! Who knew?! The course is pure gold!

Memories of eighty years of life are so massive that even finding some organizing principle is well beyond my capabilities right now. So I am being taught to think in small chunks for starters.

“I grew up with nearly perfect parents. Really, they were models of all the best that humans can be. My intention was to be like them. I also grew up with my nose in movie star magazines, dreaming of being almost as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor and becoming June Cleaver, complete with heels and pearls. I was writing the story of my future as if I would have control over it and live it out perfectly. And be happy.” A 90-word Chapter 1.

The memories that are showing up now are coming at me faster than I can absorb their contours into my aging mind. Every day I am faced with the next challenge of writing even a sentence, let alone a paragraph, let alone a page or two! How do I write the truths of any one of these? These 80 long years of memories? How is every sentence not mundane and boring and convoluted when looking back over so much time? Let alone, speaking the truth of the past as I can see it now?

How do I write about how my life did not turn out to be endlessly happy and unflawed?

Those young, dreamy scripts, of course, failed all of us. The good news was that we were still the writers of our lives. We were the only ones who could draw from the well of our own imagination to find who we were yet to be. And that was both good news and bad news. The bad news was that each new script was hard to find, let alone write. It took grit and longing and the deep, deep well of courage to see ourselves both in hindsight and as we were now – as incomplete and unfinished, but with the promise of becoming real. The good news was that although it was hard, we did it anyway.

So that’s where I am now. Reviewing and reliving all the old scripts and finding threads both common and new. Finding what mattered and what didn’t in the long run. Where my vulnerabilities got in the way and where they led me. It’s fascinating and painful; it demands honesty and integrity. It’s ultimately worthwhile.

Re-finding the past and seeing all the scripts – every word – with 80-year-old eyes and heart is already planting new seeds of understanding- and forgiveness – and compassion that might not have come any other way.

Elizabeth Taylor gorgeous I am not. Perfect mom, June Cleaver, I was not. But the new scripts that I have had to write over decades past have brought me closer each time to who I am and who I might yet be. And most importantly, to a real and more lasting peace of spirit.

And so it continues. On paper this time.

And I’m very okay with that.