I picked up my highlighter and read on. The words Tankersley wrote I soaked up like a sponge. Were her words speaking to me? Was it some higher power? Maybe, on both counts.
Recently I had met with a therapist who insisted I did not want to go back to the person I was in 2016 when I fell. He confidently promised that he was certain that I wanted to leave that person behind. That I needed to find the person I had “evolved into over the last four years.”
What he didn’t understand is that it is as though I left behind a lot over the past four years. There’s a manuscript lying in my studio untouched. I have ideas for two other books, one of which was “in utero” back in 2017. My volunteer work disappeared due to my inability to carry out the job description. My life as a wife and mother has changed in many ways.
I felt like I had lost my former self. I want to recapture my former self. The self I was when I left home on the evening of January 24, 2016.
Those four words, “[a]lways we begin again,” were like the lyrics to a favorite song—they stuck in my mind. But four words do not constitute a word for 2020. They constitute a phrase. Who has heard of a phrase for the year?
Off I headed to grab a dictionary and thesaurus and sort out these four wonderful words. But on my way, I found my word.
I stopped and brought up the subject to Bob, my handy husband. During our talk, he told me a story about a gift he received in church the Sunday before.
I didn’t attend worship that Sunday and missed that week’s children’s time. In the course of their special time, each child received a star that had a word written on it. There were extra stars, and the children shared them with members of the congregation. Bob received a star with the word “renewal” written on it (the link is to the root word, “renew”).
Bob believed that the word he received was meant for me. He brought it home to me. And I pondered this word with thought and heart, plus a quick glance at the dictionary and thesaurus.
That’s the history of my word search for 2020. Renewal seems to be the right choice for me. With four years behind me now plus the first anniversary of my surgery around the corner, I am ready to begin again. I am ready to renew my life as I enjoyed, lived, and loved it on the evening of January 24, 2016. I have lots of catching up to do “[a]s [I] begin again” with my renewal—the wife, mother, writer, blogger, and more!
Remember the magazine True Confessions? As an adolescent, I sneaked my sister-in-law’s copies of True Confessionsto the creek banks. I’m not sure why I thought I had to take them to the creek behind the home where she and my brother lived, but I did.
The words “true confessions” have been playing havoc with my mind over the last couple of weeks. My blog looks neglected and forgotten with fewer posts published. And my presence on social media isn’t what it usually is. There are three reasons. As my readers and followers, you should know I’m not going away.
First, I managed to connect with a nasty cold and cough germ that kept me down for almost two weeks. Second, my laptop caught a virus or two or three. It was “hospitalized” for several days last week. Sadly, I didn’t even miss it. I found joy, peace, and calm in reading, coloring, and music.
And for the third reason, a hazard of my first spinal fusion in 2001 has raised its ugly (and I mean UGLY) head. I’m now seeing yet another doctor to bring this pain under control. We were told there was nothing to control the pain caused by the bone graft. Today patients are fortunate that cadaver bone is available for bone grafting. If we can get this pain controlled, it will be the first time in almost four years I am pain-free.
For the next few weeks, I plan to focus on healing both my body and my mind. Healing the body is difficult when also dealing with depression. It takes time and a commitment to exercising, eating well, and allowing the self to heal.
One post per week is my plan. These posts will include reviews of recently published memoirs. I’ve also read some good books on writing creative nonfiction essays, and I plan to review them. I hope you’ll enjoy these posts.
As I think about picking up my memoir manuscript and consider what next steps await me, I find myself reflecting over the words of other writers on the subject of writing memoir. The post you are about to read was initially posted on March 13, 2014. Yet, the comments made by Justice Sotomayor during her talk continue to strike me as the foundation we must keep in mind as we write our stories.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get tickets to the live event (total of 2,776 tickets), but thanks to Literary Arts and the Portland Art Museum the simulcast was arranged to accommodate an overflow of 1,000 attendees.
Justice Sotomayor’s talk on Tuesday was the culminating event of this year’s Everybody Reads project. Although the thrust of the project is to “[c]elebrate the power of books in creating a stronger community,” Justice Sotomayor’s topic was not announced.
Imagine my thrill when she began with a discussion of the power of words. Her words still resonate in my ears: “Words have power to paint pictures.”
She then went on to share why she wrote her memoir. I want to share those reasons with you here, although they may sound somewhat familiar to you:
To not forget self. Justice Sotomayor shared that she never wants to forget her own experiences growing up in the most negative of environments, the self she was at that time or in that place. Nor does she want to lose the ability to picture the place and circumstances where she came from. Her goal in writing My Beloved World was to write a narrative preserving her family’s story as well as her own experiences.
To document the community. In her community in the Bronx, Justice Sotomayor explains that living in that most negative of environments, first and foremost there were people with aspirations, desires, dreams, and hopes. People with simple values and yet these aspirations, desires, dreams, and hopes like everyone else.
To value the aging. Justice Sotomayor confesses she became afraid to wait too long to write her story of her family and herself. “I was afraid I would not have them around to help recap my family history.” She interviewed family members and in so doing learned from an uncle of the romantic relationship her mother and father shared and how her father had loved her mother. As a child, Justice Sotomayor did not think they were a happy couple; there was so much arguing and fighting. A few days later her uncle died. Her advice? Encourage family members to share stories with you every opportunity you have.
To have the chance to tell my story candidly and honestly. According to Justice Sotomayor, and I think we all realize this if we’re writing memoir, readers cannot be fooled. She drove home that telling your own story is far better than having someone else tell it. But above all, in telling your story she urges honesty and genuineness. Be who you are and have been.
As I said, most of these comments we have all heard before. However, to hear them from someone who has lived through a poverty-stricken childhood, struggled to receive the education needed to become who she wanted to be, fought stereotypes and sexism, and now sits on the highest court in our land was inspiring and motivating.
I enjoyed the Q&A, especially because some of the questions came from among many high school students in attendance. One of them asked the Justice for an explanation of the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. Roughly quoting from my shorthand notes, Justice Sotomayor explained that “a memoir is a description, with emotions, cataloging your life from within, not without,” and “an autobiography is told based on fact cataloging your life from without.”
At the end of a long day speaking to high school assemblies and various civic groups, Justice Sotomayor presented her talk with ease and without notes—you felt you were chatting with a friend. She possesses a contagious and spontaneous wit. Her command of the language is awe-inspiring. Justice Sotomayor exhibits a generosity with people that is humbling. Over 100 students wrote her letters before she left Washington and she told them last evening each of them will receive a personal reply.
I came away feeling I had sat at the feet of a woman who has great things yet to do, and she will without fail.
* * *
One last quote from the Justice:
Until we have equality in education, we cannot have equality in society.
Deadlines are a component of writing, blogging, and appointment keeping. You have to schedule a certain time for your new post to hit your readers’ inboxes or social media. A doctor’s appointment must be kept so we set a deadline by which we need to be parked and in his office. Writing often requires submissions on a set schedule that must be followed.
My Monday deadline for the blog is somewhat cast in stone in my mind. I want to have the new post ready by Sunday afternoon and scheduled to post at approximately 5:30 a.m. Pacific time on Monday. In my plan, I see my post hitting its various destinations in good timing.
Not this morning! A myriad of causes kept me from my usual plan. And I’ll not bore you with them.
Instead, I’ll wish you a happy and productive Monday!