Because this is my "Big Magic" year, because I for damn sure am not getting any younger (I keep trying to tell myself that 55 is just a speed limit, not a dead-end), because I know with every part of me that creativity and inspiration have been waiting far longer than I deserve for me to just get over myself and follow where they're leading, and because what the hell am I waiting for, when I saw the flyer in the library where I work for a non-credit class Storytelling and Memoir Writing taught by Dara Lurie, I signed up. Well, it wasn't quite that fast. There was hemming and hawing. There was arguing with myself that I'm not wanting to write a memoir; I just have this idea, this story potential, that has sprung out of a particular life experience. There was telling Linda about the class and trying to get her to talk me out of it (needless to say to anyone who knows my beloved, she was all over the idea of me taking the class, and thrilled I'm doing it). Then, when I ran out of excuses not to, I signed up.
The first class was this past week. That morning, while doing my too-sporadic morning pages, I had a chat with my fear, kind of Liz Gilbert style. I told fear that creativity, inspiration and I were building a bonfire (let me backtrack for a second: when I do morning pages, I light a candle for Brigid. Since Brigid is the Goddess of fire and poets, among other things, the morning candle, as well as that figurative bonfire, is a symbol of homage and dedication to 'my' Goddess). So I pulled a chair up near the bonfire, offered it to fear along with a warm blanket, marshmallows, and a nice pointy stick for toasting them (the pointy stick was maybe a mistake). I told fear she was welcome to hang out and stay cozy, but that was about it. I reassured her she could voice her opinions if necessary but was clear it would be better for all involved if she just ate marshmallows instead. She seemed quite content, and even dozed off awhile.
But holy fire whistle Batman, the instructor had barely begun talking when fear jerked awake, dropped the marshmallows, grabbed that pointy stick and freaked! I could barely concentrate with fear's caterwauling. When we began our first exercise, a simple one, she leapt from the chair and began frantically looking for a bucket of water to throw on the bonfire. I started wondering how I could get out of the class, could I come up with an excuse that would let me get a little bit of a refund, how would I explain bailing out. Then I took a deep breath, pointed sternly to the chair, and told fear to be quiet and eat another marshmallow. Then I could focus again.
"Interesting" is such a polite, over-used word, so maybe I should borrow from Big Magic again, and say that the exercises piqued my curiosity. First we made a list of a few memories, whatever came to mind. The expected ones popped right in, with the 'biggie' right there on top where it's always hanging out. But then, an odd one meandered onto the page. Really? I asked. Why you? But I wrote it down too. When the second part of the exercise came, and we needed to choose one of those memories, I instantly chose the unexpected visitor. Why? Because I figured it would be easier, less painful, a gentler start to this adventure. We did this thing called a "mind map", sort of free associating with the memory we'd chosen, and then analyzed it, looking for patterns. And that's when the 'interesting' thing happened. The word silence was written all over that mind map circle (by the way, I was sure the instructor was calling it a 'mine' map, not 'mind', and it most definitely feels like looking for land mines). Silence.
Since Thursday, I've begun looking at the 'biggie' on that list of memories. For two years this 'idea', my story, has been intended to be one of failure and forgiveness and more failure. It's been about questioning whether I ever fully forgave my mother's sins, because when she truly needed me, I failed her. And wondering whether, wherever her soul is roaming now, she has forgiven me that final failure. But in working with the mind map, silence is the word that keeps appearing ghost-like, still, but unavoidably present. So many kinds of silence, safe and oppressive, gentle and brutal, suffocating and life-giving.
I don't know where this will lead, what impact it will have on my story, and where we'll end up. I'm still surprised about the whole thing. But I'm also fascinated by this journey, and just a teeny bit proud of myself for not retreating. I promise to send you postcards along the way!
And because I simply can't resist: Click HERE.