Joan Rough is an artist, poet, and writer of nonfiction. Her poems have been published in a variety of journals, and are included in the anthology, Some Say Tomato, by Mariflo Stephens. Her first book, AUSTRALIAN LOCKER HOOKING: A New Approach to a Traditional Craft, was published in 1980. She is currently at work on her upcoming memoir, ME, MYSELF AND MOM, A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing. You can follow Joan’s blog on her website at http://joanzrough.com and on these social media networks: Twitter: https:// twitter.com/JoanZRough Facebook: Personal page: www.facebook.com/joanz.rough Author page: www.facebook.com/JoanZRough.Author
Please join me in welcoming Joan!
I’m getting close to finishing up what I hope is one of the last of the revisions of my memoir, ME, MYSELF, AND MOM, A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing. Some of the work on this project has been easy. Some of it has been very hard. The toughest part, for sure, was making myself sit down and revisit the memories and places that I wanted to hide away forever in a dark closet whose door I never unlocked. But struggling with recovery from PTSD and a bout with endometrial cancer, I knew I needed to clean up my act if I was ever going to be ready to pass onto the next level of existence, feeling good about myself, and the legacy I hoped to leave behind.
I’d watched both of my parents die without making peace with themselves or with those around them. They were difficult, painful deaths that I believe could have been less emotionally charged had they taken the time to examine the baggage they’d carried around with them all of their lives.
I did not want to leave this world the same way they did. I sat myself down and had a long talk with myself about what I did want. On the list were things like peace, clarity, authenticity, and the crazy idea of writing a memoir about the most difficult period of my life. That last item arrived with clanging bells, shrill whistles, and choral music performed by an invisible choir of characters, along with approval from my remaining family members and friends who wanted to know my story.
I never realized it would be so hard. I started writing, trying to loosen memories. It was like untwisting the stuck lid of a jar of Marshmallow Fluff that you can’t wait to dig into. As my ability to remember improved, the work got even harder. While I reviewed the last years of my mother’s life, I was filled with anger, sadness, and jarring discoveries of what had been happening to both of us while she was under my care. As pages began filling with stinging remembrances, I wanted to set fire to them. I cried a lot, wanted to blow myself up at times, and hated my mother, the process, and myself.
But I kept on going. I trusted that somewhere along the line the inner voice that was threatening me with extinction would go away. Who ever owned that voice didn’t want to hear what I was remembering or feel the heat of exposure that was brought on through my revealing words. She managed to slap me down with several periods of writer’s block.
But this writer is stubborn, a recalcitrant mule. I somehow managed to push through those times and the worry that I’d never be able to write again. I knew that I had to trust the process in order to finish what I had started, because with the pain of remembering came an ease that I had never experienced before. The incidents I relived and wrote about, no longer had a hold on me. The writing was releasing my being.
I allowed myself to take a week here and there to not write. I did things that were fun and that made me laugh. I saw friends, had meals out, went to movies, read, napped and did whatever my heart desired. I got my hands dirty in the garden, experimented with new gourmet recipes, and tried not to worry about the writing. At the end of each needed break, I found myself eager and happy to step back into my role as Chief Memory Writer and went back to work on my book … until it was time to take another break.
I discovered that all of the difficulty was part of the process. The inner critic, the writer’s block, the worry, the pain, and sadness, were all a necessary part of this writing project. Without the entire list of ingredients, I doubt I would have gotten this far. I still hit a few barricades now and then, but it’s all coming along. The book is almost finished, I’ve been cancer free for going on five years, and the PTSD isn’t much of an issue any more. I’ve picked up the pieces of my broken life and am now whole. I value the time I’ve spent doing this work. The grace that comes from working with your demons and allowing them their day has been well worth the effort. I continue to live, trusting that whatever comes next will continue to make me proud of myself.
Do you deal with the demons in your life through writing? How do you manage writer’s block and the inner critic who says you’ll never get it done? Everyone has his or her own way. What is yours?
Joan shares a synopsis of her book. Enjoy!
ME, MYSELF, AND MOM
A Journey Through Love, Hate, and Healing
By Joan Z. Rough
ME, MYSELF AND MOM, is the story of my mother’s last seven years of life, during which I am her caretaker. It’s about our grief and pain as we struggle to maintain our independence and privacy as we share a residence, and my efforts to reclaim my own life after she dies. Along with the daily challenges of living with a narcissistic alcoholic, repressed memories of the abuse I lived with as a child rise to the surface and find me diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
My deep longing to bring us together crumbles as Mom nears death and becomes impossible to deal with. When she dies I’m left with feelings of deep bitterness and a bag of her ashes. Five years and four different “Letting-Go” rituals later, I begin to rid myself of shame and victimhood, picking up the broken pieces of my life, and finding forgiveness for both my mother and myself.
This story is for adult children left with loss and emptiness from investing themselves in a loving yet hateful relationship with an aging parent and the challenge of renewal when their loved one is gone. It is loaded with themes of love, hate, aging, healthcare, mental health, guilt, shame, condemnation, despair, substance abuse, domestic abuse, heroism, dedication, perseverance, loneliness, regrets, redemption, forgiveness, healing, and more.