Essay for Woman Sleeping in an Attic

DSCN9920Procrastination is not my friend. Yet, the only work I have done on my second memoir that reflects on living in between homes (several times), comes out as essays. So, why not just write a series of blog essays and then transform them into a book later? 

And lately, memories of the first time I left Bellingham during the summer of 1986 mingles with the second time I left Bellingham three weeks ago. The first time, I left I felt hopeful as I packed up my Datsun and headed to Seattle to break into the music business. The second time, I loaded up a U-Haul truck and I only felt dread as I hauled my meager belongings to a storage unit just outside of Port Townsend. And then settled into my family’s home (not in Port Townsend).

When I was 22-years-old, I considered myself hopeful but still one of the walking wounded latch-key kids trying to make sense of my life. I had my entire life to map out and I mapped it out. I had plans for every area of my life and I had a schedule to keep. When I was in my twenties, I paid no attention to people over 30 and I certainly never expected to reach my menopause years or my fifties.

Like every young adult pursuing a career in the arts, I expected to live in a bohemian-style for several years until I got my big break. Only the bohemian lifestyle continued without the big break and the older I got I just seemed like a loser. I did not achieve what I expected to achieve. I did not marry or live in a formidable home. In fact, many times I found myself without a home at all.

I didn’t do everything right but I also didn’t do anything truly wrong. I made some bad choices, but I never took up the worst kind of habits. And yet, who was I to think that I wasn’t as wounded or dysfunctional as the alcoholics and addicts living down the hall from me in Seattle’s apartment buildings? The good news for the addict is that they get help a lot earlier as their addictions humbled them. While I stayed longer in denial and even acted smugly towards addicts or people suffering from mental illnesses.

And as many addicts I knew got their lives together and experienced redemption, my life kept spiraling downward despite the number of spiritual workshops I took or self-help books I absorbed into my subconscious mind. I experienced many ah-hah moments but I never experienced salvation. I had many people warn me about my defences but my ego shut them out. I thought despite the outward signs of my life crumbling into oblivion that I had it together or I would at least fake it until I made it.

So, as our U-Haul truck made its way to a storage unit in the middle of a cow pasture, I wondered with despair how I ended up in this transition. And my eyes opened wider when I met women from my childhood also going through transition. And then on FaceBook, a few of my friends also find themselves relocating to other parts of the country, getting divorced, or going through a complete overhaul of their lives.

And the Marvin Gaye’s words, “What’s Going On” swim in my thoughts as do water moccasins swim through the flood waters in the southern United States. And the land shifts in Mexico and enormous winds and rain plummel the Caribbean islands. Indeed, I ask why are their so many displaced people? And I think for many, this represents a humbling experience that breaks open our hearts.

In one of my channel sessions, my guides told me that at this time the weak are made strong and the strong are made weak. We are here to learn from each other. Those who suffered before us learned survival skills and now share those with us. We will emerge from coping to thriving. And my wish for everyone is to survive the transition that will lead us to the promised land.

 

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Write it–Tips to Writing a Powerful Memoir

DSCN6930When I first starting writing my memoir, I got caught up telling instead of showing my story.  I waded in exposition that bored every tooth in my head, not to mention my eyelashes.  In the past, I ran into boring exposition in other people’s memoirs too.  Why do we equate memoir with boring story?

Well, I can think of two reasons: First, we’re afraid to include dialogue because we can’t remember the conversations we had with others verbatim.  We’re afraid that someone will ring our neck and drag us into court if we put words in their mouths.  Second,  we worry that if we add an actual narrative with scenarios that include action along with dialogue that we entered the world of novel writing.  But let me ask you this question.  Do you really think that memoir authors such as Liz Gilbert remembered all her conversations as they were exactly spoken?

Now, there’s a huge difference between making things up and relying on memory to the best of our ability. The second scenario involves integrity and ethics because we’re trying to get it right to the best of our knowledge.  The first scenario implies that we’re just making stuff up and placing words in other people’s mouths that we would have liked to have spoken.  Wishful thinking does not equate an honest telling of the past.  That lands in the fantasy realm.

The other thing I learned is to get all the anger, resentment and negative feelings out during the rough draft and a second draft if it is required.  Then delve into a space of forgiveness and compassion for everyone involved in the story.  While it’s still your story to tell and through your eyes and your memory, ask yourself what it would feel like to walk in the other people’s shoes.  Psychoanalysis of others isn’t required and we’re best avoiding placing our memoir characters on the psychoanalysis couch.  Also avoid the exposition that results from delving into someone else’ head space.  Memoirs reflect our memories and our point-of-view which readers of this genre do get.

Avoid adding anything (especially that sounds bitter, self-pitying and resentful) to the story that actually doesn’t move the narrative forward.  I cut out a lot of this type of writing from my first draft because I realized I was ranting and not sharing a cathartic story.  I thought of readers wading through paragraphs, if not actual pages of me joining a pity festival.  This pity party didn’t move my story forward and just made other people look like predators out to destroy me, which in reality wasn’t the case.
FSCN0887So we can write dialogue that comes from the best of our memory and we can write scenarios in the same way that we write fiction, but it’s stuff that actually happened in our lives.  We also have the right to invent structure so we don’t have to tell our memoir chronologically, meaning we can step back and forth through time.  In actuality, I have never met anyone with a linear mind.  How often does your mind wander into the future or into the past? Try meditating and you’ll see what I mean?

Even Liz Gilbert with her carefully structured three-part memoir travels back to her past.  Even when she’s in Italy and India, she’s still bringing her divorce and marriage from the past into the present.  That’s the way our minds work, especially if we have undisciplined minds, which most of us do have.   Besides, memoir is French for memory and memory doesn’t occur in the present moment.  This means that we can play around with structure.  I encourage you to watch movies with unusual structures or books told in fragments to inspire you about creating the structure for your memoir.  I chose to tell parallel stories in mine so I have ten interludes about suffering from multiple chemical sensitivities interlaced with my housing quest in 2014.

The final element required for a memoir besides dialogue/scenarios and narrative structure is a voice.  The best memoirs feature a strong voice whether that’s a wry and funny voice or a spiritually powerful one or a fragile voice of someone coming into their own and beginning to acknowledge his or her personal power, I guess the word I’m looking for is vulnerability.   Once you have the dialogue/scenarios, structure and voice, the last selling and reading point is strong writing.  Work on sentence structure by varying length of sentences, balance exposition (telling) with scenarios (showing) and give the reader a good reason to read your memoir when they have thousands of other books they could pick up and read.

I’ll share more of what I learn during my memoir-writing journey as I work on my revising this spring.  If you would like a intuitive coaching session for writing or other creative projects, sign up for a session at Metaphysics for Everyday Living.  

Holding Out for the Cinderella Ending

Queen Anne tub, 1995

I thought I had completed my memoir, Woman Sleeping on the Couch last spring, but with a recent turn-of-events, I still have one last chapter to write. And I’m hoping for a Cinderella type ending.

At the beginning of August, my landlord gave me 30 days to vacate my current home. This home was never meant to be permanent but a jumping off point to my dream home. I have dealt with spiders, mold, and other irritations for the past several months, but at the same time I was grateful to live in the Sunnyland neighborhood of Bellingham.

Given my experiences from last fall, mainly dealing with narcissists and their ensuing drama as I couch surfed, I went into panic mode at the beginning of August thinking that I would have to experience the in between home scenarios once again. But then something miraculous happened and a friend hooked me up with a channeled session, much like the Abraham-Hicks work and I began uncovering my blocks by transmuting fear and despair into anger that burned through all the lies I had been taught since childhood. I let go of defenses and allowed myself to dream big.

So with a few days left to manifest my dream home (something I hadn’t even considered prior to doing Louise Hay’s affirmations and this clearing work), I see myself walking into a counter intuitive situation and living in a beautiful home for free by exchanging creative services (interior decorating, photography, etc). It can be done and when this dream home manifests, I’ll complete my memoir and begin another round of pitches.