I have been kind of depressed on and off for a little while. I know it has to do with my work, my writing, not feeling connected to a writing community. Feeling under-utilized, ineffective. Last Friday I biked to my prayer place on River Road. I straddled my bike and looked across the river and asked, Why did I have to do everything kicking-and-screaming? Everything. Becoming a woman. Getting a job. Writing. The trees answered. I saw how I had to open a new file and start the memoir again. Revise it through this lens.
These past few years I kept thinking I was on-track, I show up every single morning for a few hours, including on teaching days. Working with what I learned in the MFA Program with the finest teachers, and working on three books with the best editor. Plus essays, and op eds. And still I get in my own way. Still I cannot stop trying to control the draft. Perhaps I’ve lost another year doing this. I know it’s learning, and you can’t just pole-vault over the crappy first drafts. Still. I am so frustrated with myself for being afraid. I am terrified to make a big leap; I don’t actually know how. I push myself, but I haven’t actually thrown myself off the cliff, I just stand on the edge.
My wise friend and brilliant reader said, “Maybe when it’s all down you will feel the freedom to go back in and tell the real story, in that [adult] voice, instead of the chronicle.”
I think she’s right. Though I haven’t been able to see how to tell “the real story,” I keep thinking well, that’s what I’m doing, telling the story! My friend did say my writing was “SO solid.” But so what. Why isn’t it working? I strongly suspect it is because I haven’t identified the very core of the issue until now. Jeez, I hope I’m right. It’s like this: When I look at my life, what is my problem? I am a problem, my very existence is a problem. That’s where, as Mom likes to say, the dog is buried. She was 15 when she had me. My family had a hard time with that. Nobuko, my therapist worked on me to get me to stop using the word “illegitimate” in reference to myself. “There’s no such thing as an illegitimate person,” she said. Near the end of our work she asked, “What do you want?” I said, “An adult life.” She told me I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. It’s nuts, but I actually puzzled over that to grasp that if I wanted an adult life I’d have to let go of being a child. Stop growing up kicking-and-screaming. I had to view taking responsibility for my life as freedom, not something punitive. Seems like the most basic thing.
A few weeks ago my horoscope said something about taking my rightful place. That went right in. You can interpret a horoscope any way you like. I took it to mean it was high-time I took my rightful place as an adult. This feels right for the memoir, too.