I haven’t blogged in years. That is, I’ve never been able to maintain a blog. I wasn’t disciplined in that way, or perhaps it was that I was too enmeshed in my journal and memoir cocoon to constantly update. Whatever the case, something’s been pulling me to share this memoir journey, the plethora of research I’ve gathered in my obsessive quest to write and complete my first memoir,A Dim Capacity for Wings, so here I am, beginning again.
Turns out that I’d started a blog a while ago when I first quit the safety net of a full-time job to live this dream of writing and teaching, but it wasn’t sustainable, at least not where I was in my life. I remembered vaguely creating the blog, even remembered vaguely that it was on wordpress, but I didn’t put much thought into it when I was researching my options. Interestingly, when I did find the blog, the first post that appeared is titled: Follow the signs. How very appropriate!
So, what’s different about this go-around? A number of things: The reality that I’m well on my way to completing the first draft of this memoir that I’ve been walking with for over a decade. The fact that I’ve permitted myself to be obsessed with memoir, research and teaching so I now understand why I’m writing this and what it is I’m writing about in this memoir: what happened from age 0 to 13 (and before) that led me to leave my home at 13 and never return, that is, my relationship with my birth mother and why I had to leave her at such a tender age. Working with 13-year-olds among others has made me see that I was a baby when I left so being able to make such a mature decision at that age is profound, and has made me want to dig into what it was that happened that led me to that. So now I feel better equipped to write these stories and share this journey for the walk is an intricate and necessary part of the process.
In addition, my research has helped me deal with the firestorm of emotion that is an unrelenting facet of memoir. Memoirists agree that guilt accompanies memoir. We fear hurting those we hold dear, we wonder if some of these secrets are ours to reveal, we worry that we will fracture relationships. It’s the ultimate confrontation with myself and my past, one I’m finally ready to do. It was a conversation just a few months ago that helped me hone in on where I was and the shift I needed to make to finally complete this project.
“What are you afraid of, Vanessa?” Without thinking, like a knee jerk reaction, I responded, “I’m scared of hurting my mother.” He softened. “From what you tell me, there’s no relationship to break. You have none.” That fact staring me in the face shook something loose. I returned to the page that night with a renewed vigor to the writing where before I’d felt stuck, unable to find a thread in all the writing I’ve produced. I saw what I was writing around and why I have to get that out, purge it, in order to get to the cusp of this memoir: what happened to me that I had to flee? Since then, I’ve established a writing ritual: at least five days a week, after putting my daughter down for the night, I make myself a cup of peppermint tea (Trader Joe’s organic or Yogi do nicely), light a candle (red or white depending on the mood), and burn incense, and I sit on my bed in my red room, with my laptop on my lap (which is different and those who know me understand that is a huge shift in my writing process) and I write. I allow the stories to flow. Usually I journal first, release the worries and happenings that can block the real writing from happening, then I allow the stories to flow. As a result, I now have the first four stories, a few stories in the middle, and I have the final story. I have a table of contents! I know the direction of the narrative, and though there are days where I feel terrified and question myself and my ability to write this, I’ve learned that those fears are just as much a part of the journey as is the voice in my ear that whispers, “SANKOFA!” when I buckle.
So, there it is. This is why I’m here. This is why I’m sharing. Welcome to the ride.