It was late 2014 and I was becoming more and more frustrated with writing. My memoir, full of unpleasant memories, was going nowhere. It was then I stumbled upon the remarkable website, Story Shelter. It sounded interesting, and the stories that people wrote, anonymously or using their name, were fun, crazy, and sometimes very personal. I wondered if this venue would give me the impetus to continue on with my memoir, so I started writing my own stories. How amazed I was when I was told one of my stories, “The Farmhouse”, would be part of a collection of stories published in a book! The book was published in 2015.
“My scream froze when I saw her standing by the window, framed by tattered curtains.”
Two years ago I came to my computer, opened up Scrivener (my writing program) with confidence that I would write and finish a story that would resonate with and inspire others. It was my story after all, so how hard could it be to get it written? I imagined the first draft would be complete in a few months, and I’d have an agent to help me put it in print shortly after that.
Each morning I’d walk into my home office, eager to get started. While the computer started up and with coffee cup in hand, I’d gaze out the window, taking in the inspirational views of Saratoga Passage, Camano Island and the snow-covered mountains beyond. I’m an early riser and took great pleasure in watching the sun begin its ascent over Camano and seeing the world come awake. The birds were already out singing their songs of life and either looking for breakfast or twigs to build a new spring nest. If I were lucky, the deer would be in the meadow, twitching their tails and slowly munching on the apples I put out for them. I was even luckier when the spring fawns began to appear, joining their mothers yet too young to appreciate the bits of apple laying in the meadow..
I like my office. It’s small, but large enough to have a bookcase, desk, comfy chair to read (or nap!) in if I can coax my cat out of it first. Coffee is a few steps away, and walking trails just out the door to shake the cobwebs off if needed. Most importantly, a white board faces my desk with the complete outline of you, Dear Memoir, on it as a compass to lead me through the events of my memoir in case I get lost in my writing. It feels like a safe place for me to be in – safe for me to relive nightmares to get them on paper.
Ready to write our story, I put my fresh cup of coffee on the coaster beside the computer. The blank white computer screen intimidated me. I’d write a few paragraphs, delete them, start over, delete again – over and over until the day was gone and I was exhausted writing, having nothing on the page to show for it. It was a surprise to me how much emotional pain and fear the memories provided. They were buried for so long, and yet I fully expected to be able to bring them all to the surface and write about them as if I were an observer and not the person in whom the memories lived. As I wrote, my mind began to run away from those very memories that I needed to give words to, and I began to dread my mornings; and you. Until finally, I stopped writing.
The fear of facing the reality of my memories and the subsequent emotions that drained me began to push me away from you and our story. I became entrenched in volunteer activities so much so they started to take over my life. Volunteerism is a noble thing to do, and I raised my hand to be Volunteer Coordinator for our Arts & Crafts Festival, pounding the pavement recruiting and then herding over 250 volunteers for one weekend in August. I raised my hand to be Chair of a committee to develop a program that would deliver career guidance to girls 14-18 years old. There was no time to write – I made sure I was consumed, avoiding writing and the painful memories. Other people were counting on me! I made them more important than getting words on paper, while you were waiting, and watching. But unlike so many others in my past, you did not judge.
Why didn’t I see it earlier Dear Memoir? You never force my time-worn feelings of guilt and shame onto me, as my mother did for all of my life, until she died. You are the one entity that sees into my soul; you know how my heart beats for acceptance and peace and what brings sadness to wet my eyes. You are my muse, and I am sorry I didn’t see it before now. But now that I’ve had this epiphany, I readily and tearfully accept your help in putting my story down on paper. The story of a very young girl, sexually molested by her stepfather, betrayed by her mother, and the journey she took to become her authentic self again.
It’s not an easy story to write, is it? Perhaps that is why, after two years of writing it, with many false starts, we’ve gotten just two chapters written. When I start my day off to write to you, it helps me get in the right frame of mind. Perhaps it is better to say the right frame of heart. After I close my letter to you, I surround myself with coffee, changing later to tea, and play some soft music, and begin to write. And, when I need to, I will gaze out my window at the neighboring island every so often to center myself, safe knowing you are beside me, writing with me.