Your Dull Suburban Heart Writing Memoir

There’s a way of expressing language that makes me want to slurp it up like melted ice cream, or a Killer Coconut Cocktail. For example, the following was taken from a speech Charlotte Wood made to an Emerging Writers’ Festival in New South Wales:

Allow your writing to expose your shameful ordinariness, your dull suburban heart, your fear, your humanity. Write truthfully into your frailties not away from them.

Your shameful ordinariness. Your dull suburban heart.

That’s what I mean. Using words we all know, Charlotte puts together phrases that make me want to read everything she’s ever written, want to feast on it hoping somehow it will nourish the same brilliance in me.

When I started the memoir, I didn’t know about writing truthfully into my frailties. But I did find myself stopping often in mid-sentence to ask, “Was that how it happened? Or is that just the story I’ve always told myself?”

I wrote the initial draft in first person present, reliving everything as though I was once again in that moment. It was tough. Really tough. The narrative was raw because my life was raw. I rehashed events taking no notice of the lessons they were meant to teach. But I finished it without slitting my wrists.

And sent it off to agents.

One answered. She said two things, 1) at 160,000 words it was too long, and 2) I hadn’t resolved the issues. She suggested slimming it to 80,000 words, an acceptable count for first time authors.

Okay, she wanted me to chop it in half. Sure, I could do that. And I did. But the second time through I told the story in third person past. It was me, older, wiser, pondering my younger self. As I wrote, it was obvious that of course I hadn’t resolved the issues; I hadn’t even recognized them. That’s when I started to question. Perhaps I hadn’t been the ravaged heroine I’d imagined. Perhaps I’d had more culpability in my tragedies than I’d been willing to admit. Victim energy leaked through the narrative and made me nauseous. Oooo. Ouch! Unacceptable.

That rewrite took the better part of a year. An entirely different story emerged, a truer one, and the word count was just a hair over 80,000.

I sent it off to agents.

One answered. She said, 1) the current market prefers to have memoir told in first person. There was no number two. As soon as I read it, I knew she was right. A compelling gut feeling told me that I’d needed that perspective for myself. But for the reader, the third person past point of view left too much distance between the main character and the action.

I’m currently in the third rewrite and once again it’s narrated in first person. But it’s coming from a much different place now. I won’t be well liked but I’ll be real. I won’t be a victim but readers will sympathize once they get over my serial stupidity. And the issues? Are they ever truly resolved? At least it will be clear that I’ve learned from my mistakes.

More than any therapist ever could, this labor of self-love, this monumental undertaking that has already spanned four years of my life, has helped me own my demons. Nobody really cares about Ms. Perfect. It’s the shadow that makes us interesting. In writing and rewriting life’s journey from three different perspectives, I’ve become honest about who I was and fiercely grateful for who I’ve become.

I’m about to send it off to agents…again!

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Truth-essence

Have you ever felt like something was trying to break through…something profound…but you just couldn’t quite…………………..
 
HALF-REMEMBERED
 
Something plays around the edgesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
of my mind.
It’s big,
like a half-remembered truth.
It darts back into the shadows
allowing hidden glimpses
of itself.
In lucid moments
I grasp at the meaning.
It eludes me,
but it’s there.
I can feel it more than see it.
I can remember it more than
know it.
It’s universal,ghandi www.worldpeachcouncil.ne
not just some morsel of
understanding,
but grand, elegant, preposterous.
It’s a Buddha truth,
or Ghandi,
or Jesus…
it’s that big,
and that slippery.
Oh! There it goes,
sliding into the sinkhole
of forgetfulness,Stained glass Jesus
with other unremembered truths
that never quite make it
to the surface
of
my
mind.
 
Sherry Bronson
8/13/2013
 
 
 Credits:
Buddha photograph from http://www.terpinski.pl
Ghandi photograph from http://www.bollywoodworld.com
Jesus photograph from www.derekleman.com
 

Returning

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Longing
 
It haunts me,
calls gently.
Return, it says.
I don’t have to ask
the knowing is written
in my bones…
the longing
speaks more loudly
than love
or anger
or pain.
Return, it says,
to my green arms
to my heat
to my fragrance
to joy.
Return.
And I will…
soon.
 
This poem needed to be written. It was tight around my heart. I couldn’t put words to it because I didn’t know when. I didn’t know if soon meant weeks, months, or unbearably longer. Today I know. Weeks. I will return to Bali in July, in four weeks. That is just long enough to get a new visa. Just long enough to see friends one more time…just long enough.
 
I have never loved a place before. I’m trying to understand the improbability of it. Why this place? Why half-way around the world from everything I know?
 
 
Of course I explored the question in my discovery writing and the answer rang like truth when the words of it appeared on the page. With truth comes freedom. Freedom allows. And it is all about allowing ‘havingness.’ Havingness is about worthiness. Worthiness is about self-love.
 
There! Did you follow that process? Discovery writing unlocks truth. I love it! I created it and I believe in it. It has informed and transformed my life. And for those of you who have faithfully followed my blog, I am returning. Please come along!
 
 


Growth

I took a photo from my balcony that first morning in Bali. The tender young shoots of rice plants in the paddy below spoke of new beginnings, possibility, unlimited potential. They were like pre-schoolers marching in obedient rows, drinking deep of the nourishing mud at their roots.

Every morning since then I have eaten breakfast overlooking that same paddy, observing the subtle changes, drinking in the green of it, the succulence. I have seen it tended by barefoot women, bent all day over their task, mindfully pulling away what doesn’t nurture, what doesn’t belong.

And this morning when I sat down to breakfast and drank in the view it was like looking in a mirror I could so clearly see my reflection there. The seed of self planted here in the healing climate of Ubud has taken root. Things that do not belong to my truth, that do not nurture my growth, are being pulled away. I have met someone that I vaguely remember from a long, long time ago, a simple girl with poetry and passion in her soul. She got left behind when she didn’t fit the image I created for myself, the person I thought I ‘should’ be. We’re getting reacquainted. She’s a grown-up version with life-grit in her pores, not very pretty but very, very real. I am falling in love for the first time…with myself.

The rice paddy, too, has matured. She is a vibrant maiden now, full-grown but not quite ripe. I may not be here for the harvest of the rice. It’s not a plant whose growth I can predict with familiarity like tomatoes or corn. I’ve heard it has to turn golden before its time. I don’t need to know. It has fulfilled its purpose for me. Others will enjoy the fruits of its yield. My job is to show up for the reaping of my own late-sown crop.

Hafiz had it right

I was searching for words this morning. I am a writer, I told myself. There are words for this. Then I asked myself, What is the ‘this’ I am trying to describe? From somewhere subconscious I recalled a poem. I did not remember the author or even the words, but I thought perhaps Rumi, or Hafiz. It took only a few moments of communing with Google to find it. Ahhh. Hafiz. Here is the poem:

I Have Learned So Much

I

Have

Learned

So much from God

That I can no longer

Call

Myself

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,

a Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself

With me

That I can no longer call myself

A man, a woman, an angel,

Or even a pure

Soul.

Love has

Befriended Hafiz so completely

It has turned to ash

And freed

Me

Of every concept and image

my mind has ever known.


From: ‘The Gift’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Isn’t it beautiful that love is the friend that freed Hafiz from every concept and image his mind had ever known? As I sat with that thought it became clear that love is the only thing that will ever free us. To love others is to accept them in all the ways they are different freeing ourselves from judgement. To love the earth is to protect and care for her freeing ourselves from the consequences of her demise. To love oneself is the ultimate freedom for out of that love comes the capacity for all other love.

The past few days my journey has been inward. The name of this village is Ubud. It means medicine. The essence of Ubud is fundamentally healing to the body, the mind, and the spirit. I have asked myself, why is this so? Is it about the thousands of offerings made daily? The scent of incense ever-present in the air? The constant rituals and ceremonies performed specifically to maintain balance in the spiritual realm? Every day hundreds of tourists parade the streets of Ubud. Every day another rice paddy is drained to make way for a new resort or villa funded by money from the West. But inside the walled compounds of Balinese family homes, life goes on as it has for two thousand years. These people have a way of accepting the new, adjusting to accommodate change, but remaining virtually unchanged themselves. They do this with a self-possessed dignity that defies explanation.

I don’t know the answer to my question. All my life I have believed that everywhere was basically the same as everywhere else. I have traveled and visited amazing countries. I have seen works of art and architecture that left me breathless. I have met wonderful people who genuinely cared for me.  Yet nowhere else has a place whispered to my heart entreating me to stay, to learn, to just be.

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