Getting Naked: Memoir #1

Nancy at desk #2+I’m not fond of taking my clothes off in public. St. Francis did it when he renounced his father’s lifestyle and business and ran off into the wilderness. But I’m no saint.

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.

4 thoughts on “Getting Naked: Memoir #1

  1. Love this, Nancy. It’s been a year of layer removal for me, too. Like I”m wearing all of the coats of all of my ancestors, some of which have given me eight and protection, some of which are a little musty and not made of breathable fabrics which make me sweat, some of which are beauty I admire but do not own. And each time I take one off, I get closer to the core of me.

  2. The dancing DNA of those who came before us twirls in every one of our cells–no need to also keep those too-heavy, not-quite-fitting ancestral coats anymore.

  3. Nancy, dear Nancy,

    My mind is perplexed by arriving at your Big Topics Blog today, and I am rather speechless. However, my heart knows I am moving from midnight towards dawn, compelling me to connect with you.

    “Too much is at stake for us to continue to hide beneath layers and layers of silence.”

    My story began to weave with yours when I traveled to North Carolina years ago to attend the second Sisters and Allies retreat (1990-91?). I was humbled the following year by the process of co-creating the Be Present Vision Statement one weekend with Lillie and a group of diverse women willing to risk being different. Words that still ring powerful and true for me today. Were you there during that time too?

    I am grateful you got naked through memoir, and I look forward to reading your book.

    Many blessings,
    Laura Kay Greiner

  4. I just got off of a Be Present conference call just before i discovered your comment here on my blog! What a small world. I didn’t know about Be Present until 2002, and have been active ever since. Thank you for your role in crafting the Be Present Vision Statement as it rings so clear and true. It looks like we have many different connections–Be Present, North Carolina, too many layers…! I am delighted. This journey from midnight toward dawn can be wild but there are lots of us along the way. Many blessings to you too, Nancy

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