And yet I felt led to write one of the most revealing of books—a memoir. Not just one memoir, like a normal person should write. But multiple, parallel memoirs: personal, family/ancestral, “my people” (white skin, wealthy, Christian, woman, American, and Texan) and even the moon has her say. Most of these push the definition of memoir, yet all come from my experience and find their “voice” through me. All of these “memoirs” speak with an eye to supporting change from the personal to the global levels.
It was a writing task, to be sure. I’ve always written, but writing a book required lots of learning and relearning the craft of words as well as putting myself at the mercy of great editors. Nevertheless, learning how to write a book was the easy part.
Diving back into the nooks and crannies of my life and the world around me was the demanding part. I looked at things I thought were true about myself and the world around me. I was humbled to see how often I was POSITIVE, yet wrong.
Standing in the light, wide awake and seeing things for the first time, was demanding. Sometimes I hid under my mother’s blue afghan. Often I doubted I was up to the task of learning and change. In the end, however, I surrendered, naked as a baby.
That process continues every day.
In her exploration of the fairy tale “Vasalisa the Wise” from Women who Run with the Wolves (page 108), Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about these demands of living an conscious life:
“… watching and comprehending of the negative forces and imbalances both inward and outward. Secondly, it causes striving in the gathering up of will in order to do something about what one sees, be it for good, or balance, or to allow something to die.
“… we clearly see all sides of ourselves and others, both the disfigured and the divine and all conditions in between.
“Yet, with this light the miracles of deep beauty in the world and in humans come to consciousness. With this penetrating light one can see past the bad action to the good heart, one can espy the sweet spirit crushed beneath hatred, one can understand much instead of being perplexed only.”
In the end, getting naked through a memoir was the only structure I found powerful enough to dive deeply into race, class and gender in order to support the great turning that is so needed in our world today.
I’d love to hear your bare stories too. Too much is at stake for us to continue to hide beneath layers and layers of silence.
First in a series of five blogs about memoir.