I am flying to a faraway and familiar place to finish the first draft of my memoir this weekend. The trip itself has been planned for many months, but the circumstances changed at the last minute.
I am simultaneously devastated by the turn of events and grateful for the time alone, to remember, to grieve, to write, to honor, to heal.
Writing this memoir has been a journey into myself, into the deepest depths, into the abyss. At times, it’s felt as if I’m peeling skin from muscle, the pain is so intense. But I know on the other side, I will reassemble into a new and different form.
A reawakening from an unraveling.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here, and for those of you who have waited patiently, I offer my thanks. It’s interesting how life moves us into unexpected and uncharted waters. I began here posting funny short stories of my babies and toddlers. Today, I am offering up elusive glimpses into my forthcoming memoir, full of revelatory pain and love and loss.
I am nervous about sending it to my agent, even though she is kind and gentle and brilliant. She will guide it into its eventual existence. She will fix all that’s wrong and make it right. But when I hand it to her, it becomes real. Velveteen Rabbit Real. And soon it will become Real to all of you, too.
There is a great deal of truth and revelation in this book. It is not for the faint of heart.
Why write it then? Why step into the maelstrom?
Because of you. Because of us. Because of all the living, breathing, imperfect human beings out there who think they’re alone. Because they — because you — can sigh, “Me, too.” And together, we’ll know that no one is really alone. No experience is truly singular. And it is in the sharing that we feel the human connection, the invisible thread that binds us all together.
I did not know how to end this memoir, but during this past week, the ending was handed to me. A gift? Perhaps. It didn’t feel like a gift, but I accepted it anyway. As the brilliant Mary Oliver said, “Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”
It may take me years to understand this one.
Maybe a lifetime.
But I have my ending.
At least to this part of the story.
In the midst of my search for the final pages, I thought back to a writing prompt provided by luminous Lidia Yuknavitch at last year’s Tomales Bay Writers Conference. “Sing the song of yourself, a la Uncle Walt,” she instructed in her deep, alluring voice. “Whatever it is, sing it.”
And on that day, with my favorite gray scarf wrapped around my neck, beloved writer friends by my side, and oysters floating in the fog-covered bay, I wrote this:
“I sing the song of myself, blue eyes and unruly middle. Strong hands and stubborn feet and scars that map my story. Lovingly held after brutally taken. Freckles, wrinkles, lines that tell tales.
Babies grown inside, four beautiful minds given back to the earth.
Giving pleasure, receiving pleasure, when first, there was only pain.
Heart beating, loudly, loudly, to the crescendo of I’m here.
Arms to wrap around those who need them, hands to intertwine with lovers, friends, children.
Breasts that nourished both new life and old loves. Blood that has been spilled but continues to pump, visible under the skin that holds all of me.
Lungs, expanding, contracting, sustaining. This breathing of life, this gift.
Brain that says, I am capable.
Heart that says, I love you. I love you. I love me. And that is why I am able to love you.
Generous soul. Kind eyes. Warm hands.
Fingers splayed, palms up, ready to receive and to give. Left, right, one for you, one for me.
Strong legs, continue to carry me.
We have so much more to discover, you and I.”
It is both an ending and a beginning.
Most important things are.