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3 Rules to Write World-Changing Memoir

This guest post is by Jeff Goins. Jeff is a writer who lives in Nashville with his family. He is the author of Wrecked and The In-Between. You can find him online at his award-winning blog, Goinswriter.com or on Twitter @JeffGoins.

I love memoir, always have. Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Annie Dillard, even Stephen King. There’s something magical about the ability to transform ordinary circumstances into beautiful scenes that teach a deeper truth.

Write Memoir

Photo by Christian Gonzalez

Twenty years ago, it seemed the only people qualified to write memoir were the incredibly famous and the I’m-so-disgustingly-rich-I’d-better-write-a-book elite. The rest of us had better keep our mouths shut… or turn our life’s story into a novel.

But recently, more “normal” people are writing powerful reflections on everyday life. So what’s to stop you and me from joining them?

This logic led me to write my second trade book, a memoir. While writing it, I learned a few important lessons about writing that apply to anyone wanting to communicate a true story.

Here are my three “rules” of writing memoir:

Rule #1: It Must Be Interesting

The biggest mistake you can make in telling your story is to tell it all. To expose every detail and explain every aspect of what happened. To tell us every word everyone said.

The problem is our stories are rarely as interesting as we think. As my writing mentor Marion says, “Just because it happened doesn’t make it interesting.” Your memories always mean more to you than they do to other people.

So what do you do? Bend the truth? Change details? Lie? Of course not.

Instead, you must be deliberate. Cut every scene, every detail, every piece of dialogue that doesn’t drive the story forward and isn’t directly connected to your central theme.

Rule #2: It Must Be Thematic

All great writing is thematic. Behind every compelling story, every memorable movie, every interesting documentary is a theme. This is especially true with memoir.

What is a theme? It’s a universal idea we all grapple with, something anyone can understand. Good themes remind us of what is right and good and true in the world — or at least, what we would like to be.

A few examples of good themes are:

  • Courage in the face of opposition
  • The conflict between mercy and justice
  • A parents loving sacrifice

The thing you cannot do when writing memoir is tell a bunch of stories. On the surface, that’s what memoir appears to be, but it’s more than that. Good narrative nonfiction always connects the reader’s heart to a deeper truth.

Rule #3: It Must Be Personal

Don’t make the mistake of thinking memoir is autobiography. It’s not. Memoir is about something bigger than you. It’s about a part of life we can all connect to.

Ironically, the way you accomplish is by focusing on the small, seemingly insignificant details. Where were you when you realized you were going to be a parent? What flavor of gum was your boyfriend chewing when he proposed? These are the details that mean the most to all us and what make us connect with you, so you can take us somewhere else.

Memoir Changes the World

A good piece of memoir begins with the author’s perspective but doesn’t end there. It leaves the reader—often implicitly—with a decision to make or action to take.

When millions of college students read Blue Like Jazz, they had a framework for processing their faith in a postmodern world. Thousands began living more adventurously after reading Eat, Pray, Love.  And after finishing Same Kind of Different As Me, I was compelled to spend more time on the streets with the less-fortunate.

Good memoir is powerful. It can change lives, if you make it personal — not just for you, but for the reader.

Memoir Is Vulnerable

You know you’ve done your job when a reader finishes your story about growing up in the Midwest and tells you it reminded her of summers spent in Maine with Grandma.

Great writers work their way into our hearts by being vulnerable, sharing the ugliest parts of their story, the parts any normal person would prefer to hide. (Tweet that?) And that’s what makes them so believable.

Ever notice how self-effacing Anne Lamott can be, how crude David Sedaris sometimes is? There’s a reason for that. They know their first job is to earn our trust. And the best way to do that is to embarrass themselves, to expose their humanity. How else will we believe them?

If you are going to write memoir, if you are going to share a story that matters, then you must be willing to do the thing that so few people are willing to do. You must be human, at once whole and incomplete. And if you do this well and honestly, we just might let you share some deeper truth.

What do you look for in a good memoir?

PRACTICE

It’s time for you to write your memoir. Now that you know good narrative nonfiction is about more than where you were or what you were doing, you must pick a theme and begin telling your story. So let’s start:

  1. Pick a theme for your memoir. What will it be about? Forgiveness? Justice? Redemption? Overcoming fear? Choose something that is true for you and will be for others.
  2. Choose a scene in the story that is interesting, that drives the theme in some way.
  3. Write that scene, sharing personal details but also universal truths. Shoot for 250 – 750 words (max).

Post your work in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to leave feedback for a few other writers.

Check out Jeff’s new book, The In-Between, a memoir about how to not waste our times of waiting. Find out more at inbetweenbook.com.

About Jeff Goins

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  • http://www.tammyhelfrich.com/ Tammy Helfrich

    Great advice, Jeff! I’m going to work on writing something now. I’ve always hesitated to do it, but you’ve challenged me once again! :) Loved the book.

    • http://www.aterriblehusband.com/ ATerribleHusband

      Tammy, thanks for sharing this with us in the writers group. This is very helpful. And awesome job with your interview of Jeff Goins on your podcast today!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      So cool. Thanks for always stepping up and going for it, Tammy.

  • Margaret Terry

    Thanks for this post, Jeff – I feel as though I know you from reading your blog posts. Am looking forward to your memoir and will order today!

    This post is near and dear to my heart because altho I never planned it, I wrote a memoir in the form of letters to a friend who was dying of cancer – I didn’t know what to give her so sent her pieces of my life, one letter at a time. The letters went around the world and Thomas Nelson published them in a book called “Dear Deb, A Woman with cancer, a Friend with Secrets and the Letters that Became Their Miracle”. Since it wasn’t a planned memoir, I didn’t have a clue about theme until I turned the letters into the book and learned that the theme is a search for love and the surprising ways and places I discovered it. Guess you can deduce now that I’m the one with the secrets…here is one of them:

    In 1998, my friend Sarah and I were in England on a walking tour. Before we started the six-day guided hike of the Cornwall Coast, we spent a few days sightseeing in London.

    “Stop!” I cried over the groan of the cheery double decker bus that had pulled up in front of us. I yanked on Sarah’s sleeve. “I have to go back. I forgot to do something, and it’s really important!” We had just finished a three-hour tour of Westminster Abbey, the famed seven-hundred-year-old Gothic cathedral in the heart of London. I left the tour tired yet hungry for more. Walking the floor of the Abbey was more exciting than walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bob Hope’s and Charlie Chaplin’s hand prints couldn’t compare to standing
    over the graves of Darwin and Dickens.

    “Did you leave your purse in the washroom again?” Sarah covered her mouth with her hand as the oversized bus coughed toward Big Ben.“No . . . I have to go back to light a candle for my mom.” I’d been lighting candles for Mom in every church I’ve visited since I was sixteen years old. Sarah was aware of her mood disorders and my roller-coaster relationship with her illness. She had seen me get caught in Mom’s web of pain and delusions more than once and how long it took me to free myself from it. For most of my life, I believed I could love her all better. But my love was a bandage that never stuck for long.

    The first time I lit a candle for Mom was during a grade twelve field trip to Ste. Anne de Beaupré in Quebec. When the tour guide walked us through the massive copper doors of the town’s basilica, she began the tour by
    pointing out the stained glass windows showering multicolored
    stars on the pews. My classmates oohed and aahed over the light spectacle, but my eyes were riveted on the pair of towering stone columns near the entrance. They were adorned with crutches, canes, and braces. Hundreds
    of them were piled on top of each other, left behind by people who walked away after being healed, each battered walking stick proof of a miracle. I thought if God could help people walk, he might be able to help people be happy.
    People like my mom.

    “Seriously, Sarah . . . I’ve lit candles and said prayers for Mom everywhere I’ve ever traveled. From chapels in country villages to St. Peter’s in Rome. I even lit one in that manger church in Bethlehem—remember I was there in 1982?” My stomach growled loud enough to hear over the London traffic. We had been on our way to a pub for fish and chips. “So go back.” Sarah plopped down on the bench in front of the bus stop. “I’ll wait right here.” She patted the bench like it was one of her treasured pets.

    “Oh, never mind,” I muttered. “Let’s go eat.” I sat down beside her in the space she had patted. “When I think of all those churches and all those candles, it feels like such a waste now.” I looked up at the sky. The sun was making another attempt to worm its way out of the ashen ceiling that had hung over the city since we arrived. “I mean, what difference has it made, Sarah? You
    know how she is . . .”

    Sarah nudged my shoulder with hers. “Have you ever thought about how she’d be if you hadn’t?”

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      Nice dialog, nice details. The ending was moving.

      • Margaret Terry

        thanks, James – means a lot!

    • http://www.expatlogue.wordpress.com/ Aisha Isabel Ashraf

      Already I can tell Sarah feels like someone I could be friends with.
      The easy, personable tone and character details make for a relaxed but vivid reading experience, leaving the reader thinking, ‘I’ll just read another couple of pages’ – that’s when you know you’ve hooked ‘em.

      • Margaret Terry

        thx! And you are right about Sarah, an incredible friend whose calm and wisdom I continue to count on…

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Margaret. I really appreciate that. Great essay!

    • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

      This story tugs at the heart all the way through, Margaret. ” . . . my love was a bandage that never stuck for long.” Wanting so badly to help but finding it beyond your power.

      The dialog between the two friends rings very true. Good writing.

      • Margaret Terry

        Thanks, John. I appreciate your comments!

  • http://www.expatlogue.wordpress.com/ Aisha Isabel Ashraf

    It was the laugh that did it.
    It made the hairs prickle on the back of my neck and told my seven-year-old sensibilities something wasn’t right. I was to hear it often growing up and it was always a signal that things were headed in a bad direction; eliciting a Pavlovian unease deep within me whenever its duplicitous joviality filled the air.

    It was lunchtime. On the farm we took our main meal in the middle of the day, the hard physical labor demanded substantial re-fuelling the likes of which a sandwich or plate of cold-cuts couldn’t deliver. The kitchen was warm and welcoming; the stove, nestled in her alcove gently heating the bottoms of the two huge steel kettles that lived on her hotplate, circulated the aroma of a hearty cooked meal like a binding promise. I eyed the door to the oven suspiciously – the memory of my mother’s explosive attempt at rice pudding still was vivid, the alarming BANG mid-meal the siren of a surprise gone wrong. I needn’t have worried. Today’s meal would be marked by an outburst of a different nature.

    I took my place next to my father at the rectangular pine table that abutted the wall, fingertips braille-reading the scarred yellowed surface while I waited for my plate to be put in front of me. The scent of the outdoors still clung to his overalls and made me eager for the meal to be over so I could run out and play. My legs swung impatiently beneath the table.

    My mother laid our plates before us, and sat down opposite me to eat. Quiet ensued and minutes passed as we blunted our hunger. I watched condensation fog the inside of the window-pane behind her as I chewed and swallowed. Comments were exchanged but I wasn’t listening – I was thinking of exploring the mound up by the paddock and visualizing the path I would take to scale it. I took no notice of the adult conversation until loud laughter brought me back to the table. I thought I’d missed a joke but the dialogue seemed at odds with the levity.

    Oddly high-pitched and mirthless, my father smilingly cajoled my mother to confess to poisoning his food.

    “Why won’t you just admit it?” he wheedled with a forced geniality that seemed out of sync with his line of questioning. Like someone wearing headphones, every utterance was abnormally loud.

    “I know there’s something in it. Just tell me. What did you put in it?”

    As I waited for the punchline that never came I was suddenly, brutally aware I was sitting next to a man I didn’t know. I didn’t need to look at him to know a stranger had usurped his body, indeed I intuitively kept my gaze fixed on my dinner plate. An animal instinct told me it was best to be invisible. His behavior was artificial; a saccharine coating, intended to mask something sinister, like the banana-flavored medicine with the nasty aftertaste I had when I got chickenpox. Throughout her repeated denials my mother kept her tone light insisting she had no idea what he was talking about, but still the atmosphere was uncomfortable, even to a child, the air heavy with tension the way it is when a thunderstorm approaches. I was glad when the meal was over and I could escape. I played on the mound all afternoon until it grew dark and I had no choice but to go inside for tea. I didn’t know it then, but I’d had my first significant brush with mental illness.

    • Margaret Terry

      wow, this is an intense scene with a lot of tension – am unsure if the writing made it so fast paced or that I identified with the fear of the first line about the laugh, but I had to read it again because the first time I rushed through it. Some beautiful lines here like: “my fingertips braille-reading the scarred yellowed surface while I waited for my plate to be put in front of me” . Nice work. (btw – I can relate so much – my mother’s first series of electro shock treatments for multiple personality disorders began in the late 1950’s when I was six years old)

    • http://www.vozey.wordpress.com/ James Hall

      Margaret nailed it below. Though, I didn’t tend to speed through it, I did feel the tension. I loved the “banana-flavored medicine” detail. Well told!

    • eva rose

      This is a powerful piece seen through the eyes of a child. Wonderful phrases, “hairs prickling on the back of my neck”, “circulating the aroma like a binding promise”, “condensation fogged the inside of the window,” air heavy with tension like an approaching thunderstorm.” Thanks for sharing a poignant memory.

    • http://www.shelleydupont.com/ Shelley DuPont

      “….eliciting a Pavlovian unease deep within me whenever its duplicitous joviality filled the air.” Your words are powerful. I wish there was more.

    • Kim Fruitheads

      I love how you describe everything!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Ooh… really good! I love the lede: “it was the laugh that did it.” I was immediately hooked!

    • Dawn-Renée Rice

      Amazing detail! Definitely had me hooked from the start and the detail made me feel as if I were experiencing what you were experiencing. Good job!

    • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

      You succeed at putting the reader inside the room with apt description of sights, sounds, smells. I like your designation of the oven as “her” — suggestive of the womb, and whose memorable expulsion in the past had been explosive. It helps to build the ominous mood, complete with outward attempts to “keep it light” by the mother.

      This is good writing!

    • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

      I was holding my breath on this one…it was triggering. Great writing!

    • Annemarie

      Wow. Just wow. That is amazing!!

    • Catherine

      As someone who grew up with a father and stepfather both with mental illness I could immediately relate! I want to read more!

    • Melanie Storm McNamara

      I just came across this site and am amazed….so much talent! Aisha…I loved your writing and I hope that you continue.

  • http://www.aterriblehusband.com/ ATerribleHusband

    This is awesome, Jeff. I’m in the middle of a memoir of my own and this will be very, very useful.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Very cool!

  • KathyPooler

    Excellent post on memoir, Jeff! I appreciate all your points, especially the willingness to embrace our vulnerability and humanness in a way that helps the reader connect their own story with our story. Therein lies the transformative power of memoir. I feel like you did that in WRECKED and I am looking forward to reading your memoir. Best wishes!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Kathy! That means a lot.

  • https://twitter.com/Jeff_Emmerson Jeff Emmerson

    Perfect advice – mine is coming! Thank you! #SuccessByChoice, my friend!

  • Barbara Blackburn

    The Wake-Up Call

    I had just typed 30 onto the bottom of the page on the
    computer screen when my telephone rang. It was my mom. Dad had tried to hurt
    her again.

    She had managed to escape and run to the pastor’s house.
    When she got back home, dad was gone, nobody knew where, and she was filing for
    divorce after 32 years.

    I just listened, not saying too much, stunned because the
    fantasy world I’d built, the one that said I had had a happy childhood and
    everything was fine, had just collapsed under the weight of reality. It really
    had happened the way those haunting nightmares kept trying to remind me. My dad
    really was sick. He really did hurt my mother and the fear I had grown up with
    was just as strong now as it was when I was five, huddled under my covers
    pleading for God to make daddy stop throwing mommy around the living room.

    I had never told anyone about what had happened, not even my
    husband. Every time I saw people on talk shows talk about growing up in abusive
    homes, I was drawn to their conversations, but their tales were always so
    dramatic and much more intense than I remembered our lives to be. I’d tell
    myself, “that’s not me,” and move on with life.

    Now, everything I thought I had left behind had resurfaced.
    There was no hiding it anymore. When a friend, my editor, had written an op ed
    memoir in the paper about her alcoholic father for Father’s Day, something told
    me I could talk to her. Suddenly, the dam burst, and I found myself pouring out
    to her everything that had always been hiding in my past.

    When I was finished, I was surprised at the look on her
    face. She was stunned. She said, “that was abuse and it was wrong.”

    • Barbara Blackburn

      Not sure why the formatting is so strange, but, oh well.

    • Dawn-Renée Rice

      Very poignant!

    • Vali

      This was really vivid and gripping.

    • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

      Directly and unflinchingly told. Which tells of the firm decision to face the reality. The friend’s words at the end are few but direct, and might have been the best thing she could say. It takes courage to face, and then write about, something like this.

    • Margaret Terry

      I agree with John’s comments below. Well done. It takes not only courage to face the truth of a childhood like this but also a lot of heart work to let go of the shame that isn’t yours to own. I hope you keep writing like this. Sad to say, but there are many who are unable to stop pretending because the truth of the past it to painful…stories like this helps them let go.

    • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

      Barbara, what you wrote reminded me of what I used to do to cope…compare my situation to situations worse than mine. I remember going to a therapist and having him ask, “Did he ever hit you?” I said, “No, not closed fisted.” I’ll never forget the knowing look on his face. I did not recognize it as abuse. Very well done!

      • Margaret Terry

        wow, Linda – your comments stirred a powerful memory of how I used to play “at least” to help cope – at least I have my sisters, at least I had food today, at least I have money for bus fare…thx for the reminder!

        • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

          There’s a difference between using this as a way to minimize our pain and just telling ourselves the truth, right?

          • Margaret Terry

            you ask a great question, Linda. Through many years of therapy, one of the things I learned was the difference between sticking my head in the sand (denial) and putting the painful thing aside where I could see it, acknowledge it for what it was, but still wasn’t quite ready to deal with it. Took a lot of practice to rid myself of denial since it was a skill I learned to help me survive my childhood. BUT, like you, that skill helped me learn to be grateful as well – the trick is learning to lose the denial yet hang onto the gratitude. Time and practice…and accepting that all healing is a process.

          • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

            Yes…thanks Margaret!

    • Eila Algood

      This is powerful and I wish I could read on. Very captivating

  • http://www.ordinaryservant.com/ Pilar Arsenec

    Great post as always, Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Pilar. :)

  • Victoria M. Johnson

    Jeff–
    You make excellent points about writing memoirs that I hadn’t heard before. Thanks for your insights!
    Victoria–

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      You’re welcome, Victoria!

  • Jeff Cagwin

    Thanks Jeff — this will actually help me as I prepare to preach a sermon in first-person (Joseph, from Genesis 37-50) this weekend!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Cool!

  • Dawn-Renée Rice

    Jeff, awesome post as usual! I didn’t even realize I was writing a memoir until now. Here’s an excerpt:

    In two days, my daughter turns 18 and the years of memories are flickering through my mind. Remembering when I found out I was pregnant at the tender age of 17. Remembering the confusion and concern because I didn’t know what to do. Remembering the moment when I told my mom because I was too scared to tell my dad his “little girl” had messed up.

    I told my mom on my 18th birthday, and up until that day, it was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do in my life. My boyfriend was supposed to be with me to tell them but he chickened out at the last minute. It should have told me then what I would later find out – he was unreliable and selfish.

    But young love (lust, really) knows no bounds and I ignored the feelings I should have listened to. Now, I sit here in a coffee shop quietly typing these words on my laptop. I’m a writer, as I have been since I could hold a crayon (to my parent’s detriment – think of walls, books, and even vehicles desecrated by my childish scrawls). But, for years I let life get in the way of my dream to be a
    writer.

    The funny thing is I’ve been a writer the whole time. I just wasn’t writing. I used to – a long time ago. I used to pour my heart and soul onto paper. I have never felt comfortable unless I have pen and paper handy, or nowadays a computer. But typing just isn’t the same as scratching a pencil or pen across paper, letting words flow from your mind, swollen with the desires and creations of your heart and soul – at least not to me.

    But my choices and an unplanned pregnancy sidelined my dreams; dreams of traveling the world and writing about the interesting people, places, food, culture and so much more. It wasn’t even a conscious decision to let the dream go to the wayside. It just happened. But deep down inside there has always been an intense yearning to write – as far back as I can remember.

    • Oludami

      Wow! Tried so hard not to cry. Wish I got more on how you survived…how the experience really affected your life and what you’ve been able to do with your life. Guess that’s a suspense I’d have to deal with :(
      Great one there, Rice!

      • Dawn-Renée Rice

        Thank you! Your response means a lot to me because I wasn’t sure if I should even write this about my life. I really thought “who would care?” but I see now that maybe it isn’t true.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Awesome, Dawn.

  • Krizelle

    My teacher reached out her hand and said, “You follow your heart.”

    I was an 11-year-old fifth grader back then when I found myself in a dilemma. Should I take the acceleration exam or join in the journalism contest which would happen on the same day?

    The acceleration exam was what my mother wants me to take. If I passed the exam, I would advance to sixth grade and be ahead of my batch. I’d be able to end grade school faster. Of course, I wouldn’t want to disobey my mother.

    On the other hand, I’ve already loved writing. The journalism contest would give me an opportunity to share my writing to others and to learn more about campus journalism. When I sought for my journalism teacher’s advice, she smiled. She reached out her hand and said, “You follow your heart.”

    In the end, I still took the acceleration exam. I wanted to obey my mother. Luckily, I got very high scores in the first two levels. However, I didn’t pass the third level of the exam and so I didn’t achieve the acceleration. My mother didn’t say anything. I finished fifth grade normally.

    When I entered sixth grade, my journalism teacher talked to me again, with the same smile, and asked if I was in for that year’s journalism contest. Without hesitation, following my heart, I told her that I was in. I wrote my sample piece and submitted it to her. That year, I bagged the second place for the Feature Writing Category among the participants from our city’s schools. Although I didn’t win in the next level of that contest, I felt the happiest when I graduated from grade school.

    That was 2003. Fast forward to 2013, my teacher’s smile as she reached out her hand and her immortal words still resonate to me. I continue to write, keep up a blog, attend writing workshops, and inspire others. I feel happy now all because of one thing—I am following my heart.

  • http://hugmomma.blogspot.com/ Hugmomma

    Fatherhood at Niagara Falls

    Determined to utilize his free weekend,
    Tedeau was up early Saturday morning with big plans for shock and awe. Major
    Dad got his troops high and tight with only minimal balking for the early
    weekend hour. With Pillowpets, maps, and coffee in tow, our great leader
    plotted a course north to see one of the true wonders of America, Niagara
    Falls.

    The
    approach to the falls area speaks well to the story of life. We were traveling
    along in the car looking on at what seemed to be a peaceful river. There in the
    water, a boundary of peacefulness gave way to turbulence. The farther we went,
    the more turbulent the water became. In the distance, we could see the warning
    of a great spray of water several hundred feet high where the fall begins.

    Our
    entire visit to Niagara Falls was a mixture of emotion. We were in utter
    amazement of the massive, exhilarating power of the falls, yet nagged by
    fear knowing that ultimate danger was mere steps away. I was taken in by the beauty;
    Tedeau stood watch as protector of his family. He snapped photos with his phone
    and sent them to my father, which drew an immediate response of, “That’s my
    babies; don’t let them get too close to the edge.” He sent another message to
    his son letting him know how greatly he was missed on this adventure. The
    response from my daughters’ message was, “you all look so good!” apparently not
    noticing the waterfall in the background.

    Little
    Bit was thankful that her Daddy had brought her to see the falls, and very
    impressed with the pink sun visor he bought her at the souvenir
    shop. Blondie carefully chose a snow globe, wanting to bring back
    items for each of her siblings, wishing they had shared the day. Sonny enjoyed
    the fudge, regretting we hadn’t gotten a larger hunk.

    As
    we looked through the photographs when we got back to the hotel, the most
    noticeable thing to Tedeau and me was the faces that were missing. In this
    fantastically beautiful place, we faced the reality that we are given such a
    short time to hold our children’s hands, to walk with them, hold them from
    danger, allow them to see wonder from the safety of their father’s diligent
    grasp. We savor the moments we have been given, and give thanks to our God that
    the moments have been so generous in number.

    I thought of Dad, and his message, “That’s my babies; don’t let them get
    too close to the edge.” Smiling, I had a glimpse of my father’s love, because I
    see how my own husband watches both the children and the edge. I thought about
    my Heavenly Father and the love he described for his children. “For I, the LORD
    your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help
    you.” (Is 41:13)

    Do fathers ever really stop holding their
    children’s hand, moving them from the edge, watching over them? A good Daddy
    never will. His love transcends time and distance. Even though
    circumstances may bring miles and time between us and our older children,
    as we navigate the waters of life, love prayers and watchfulness will endure.

    “May the LORD watch
    between you and me when we are absent one from another.” – Mizpah Gen 31:49

    • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

      I enjoyed reading this! It made me think of my dad and how he would hold me so carefully when I was little, such as in the mountains of Big Bend in south Texas when I was four. “See how small the people are? No, now watch the edge . . . ” Your description of “a good daddy” brought back the realization that I had a good one, too. And your description of all the responses from the others is very real and true-to-life.

  • Vali

    My self-esteem died when I was nineteen, in a tiny children’s bookstore on the upper floor of an obscure mall.

    Nineteen was a strange age to be—as Britney Spears would put it, not a girl, not yet a woman. At that time I thought I could do anything. It had always been my dream to work in a bookstore, and when I took the job as a sales assistant, I never expected that I would only be there ten days. I remember the rickety shelves of picture books, row after row of them, arranged in such haphazard fashion that no one ever knew where anything was. I remember the way the customers spoke to me as if I were barely subhuman, or perhaps a particularly intelligent species of dog, while their toddlers screamed up and down the aisles. I remember counting and recounting the money in the till at the end of my shift, shaking fingers slipping sweat-slick over the rough paper bills, praying that nothing would be missing.

    Above all, I remember having a nervous breakdown one night after work with my friends, and passing my tears off as a very bad cold. I remember my shame as I considered resigning —thinking that lots of people put up with crappy sales jobs for years, and that I was just thin-skinned and weak—and my intense, head-spinning relief when I resigned anyway.

    At nineteen you think in black and white, and as far as I was concerned, one flop experience spelled the end of all my dreams. My self-image walked into a funhouse mirror and promptly distorted, taking on such glowing terms as Loser. Coward. Quitter. Too sensitive. I had screwed up before, but failure had never bitten so deep, and for the first time I contemplated the idea that there were some things I couldn’t do. In hindsight, that was the year I crossed from girl to woman—the year I first reached out for something and instead bumped my fingertips against my adult limitations, there in that shop where the toddlers screamed and the till always came up short.

    • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

      Very clear and vivid storytelling as you describe the setting and place yourself in it as you were at that age. I had a similar job once and remember the same condescension from some of the customers — and that same fear of my cash drawer not coming out right. I’d a very fussy boss, and ending up “over” was as bad as coming up “short”.

      My very shortest time on a job, at a younger age, was less than a day — due to my ineptitude at handling the money; but that was a gas station so a bit different.

      Your writing is very relate-able to the experience of others, and that was one of the main goals here wasn’t it? Good job!

    • Margaret Terry

      The first sentence grabbed me right away. Powerful image with the children’s bookstore. I felt like I was following Alice down that rabbit hole. Great description of a nineteen year old “you think in black and white”. The last sentence with “bumped my fingers against my adult limitations” is great writing. Thanks for sharing this…

    • Ellen Andersen

      Great first sentence. “My self-esteem died at the age nineteen in a tiny children’s bookstore on the upper floor of an obscure wall.” What a great way to describe it. And the words “my self-image walked into a funhouse mirror and promptly distorted.” Terrific way to show how it felt.

    • Tara Imani

      Great writing. I think we’ve all had at least one of these kinds of jobs– where there’s little or no training and we feel lost and belittled by customers and especially by the “boss”.

      I guess your theme would be the quest for finding your confidence…

      thanks for sharing, I could relate to all of it.
      ~Tara

  • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

    Joe, I’m late getting to your blog this evening, and I hesitate to post my practice for the reasons having to do with vulnerability that you mentioned, but this lesson is *exactly* what I needed for what I’m trying to write. So thank you and here goes: (My chosen themes are forgiveness and redemption.)
    ********************
    As soon as the security guard appeared at my cubicle and said, “Sir, you’ll have to come with me,” I knew what it was. I tried to blank out all thought on the elevator, and as soon as the guard ushered me out into the elevator lobby the detective stepped up and placed me under arrest. I made my feet and legs move, feeling so shaky as to be in danger of falling. Out on the sidewalk, from the corner of my eye I could see casual acquaintances from the building slow their hurried trek back to their offices to watch as I put my hands behind my back as instructed, handcuffs were locked snugly in place on my wrists, and I was placed in the rear seat of the unmarked gray Chrysler.

    The thing is, I told myself as the driver walked around the vehicle to get behind the wheel and two detectives settled themselves on each side of me, I’m still a good person. Never have I not been. I know why I’ve done the things I’ve done. But my half-baked notion of criminality-as-social-protest just isn’t working out. All too predictably. Not having the desired effect at all. Martin Luther King, Junior, I am not. Then the coherence of my thoughts took a nosedive. What would the rest of this day be like?

    As the car started forward, the small, dark detective to my left with the features of someone perhaps from India or whose family had been, his small black eyes snapping, jiggled the back of the driver’s seat and hissed, “Officer. Officer. Seat belt.” I ducked my head to stifle a sudden, inappropriate giggle.

    The other detective, a large muscled man with an Italian name on the badge ID he’d flashed, started a parody of a friendly conversation — “Yeah, I don’t know exactly what this is about but I’m sure they’ll get it cleared up in no time.” Facing ahead, swiveling his face in a bored, condescending circle like a graduate student mistakenly assigned to a class of seventh-graders, he asked an innocuous question about how life had been treating me, and while I was still answering, swung that large face, leaned in and rapped out in rapid fire “what-kinda-car-do-you-drive??”, glowering, and I answered, “Seventy–” before I made myself shut up. The rest of the ride was taken in silence.

    Forgive myself, I thought, would be the first thing.

    Then maybe, just for my own sanity, forgive these detectives; I’ve never met any of them in my life, and they’re just doing their job. And I’m wrong — wrong with reasons (“like everybody else,” spoke up a little voice in the back of my mind) — but still wrong.

    It just may be a long road back.

    • Margaret Terry

      A writing mentor taught me that the most tender, private things locked deep in our hearts have the most universal appeal. She said the best writing, the best stories come from our mistakes, fears and yearnings. When I wrote my life stories to my sick friend, I thought the hardest one to write would be about getting caught shoplifting at Target when I was 48 yrs. old. But it turned out that story made me laugh because it happened at a time I was so broken – the most difficult one to write involved one sentence: “All my life, I felt I wasn’t good enough to love” Yet, it was so freeing to see those words on the page and know they were a lie I’d believed…Thx for your story, John. Would like to read the rest…

      • http://thewritepractice.com/ John Fisher

        Margaret, thank you so much for your comments, I read them saying “Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes . . .YES!” Thanks for the encouragement to continue.

  • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    The “theme” is the hardest part for me, everyone! So many different things happened over my life…but I think the theme may be that freedom comes with a price, which was the title of this snippet of my memoir…

    We’re born with a desire to be free. Thankfully, we have parents. Otherwise, we would not be long for this world. There’s too many dangerous things around, like electric sockets and fast moving cars. If we didn’t have adults to watch out for us, we just wouldn’t survive. Parents are there to keep things in check. They feed us, clothe us, make sure we take a bath, brush our teeth and get to school on time. Someone, usually “mom,” keeps the house reasonably clean. And if we started coming home out of our heads with Testor’s glue all over our mouths and hands, someone in our household would notice and maybe make a comment.

    One night I awoke with a start. One of the thousands of cockroaches that crawled around the floors of our house in the dark was crawling across my face. I swiped it away, hearing the crackling of it’s shell as it flew off into the darkness. Why didn’t someone do something about this? I had to pee, and knowing I would have to walk across the top of my bed, turn on the light, and watch an army of them scatter in all directions before I could walk to the bathroom made me want to hold it in as long as possible. I lie there in the dark, willing myself to go back to sleep. I thought about my sister, lying in the other bed across the room, her unwashed hair full of fleas and her legs bitten from top to bottom. I felt angry and afraid.

    It was getting harder to make myself go to school. But I showed up dutifully, still attempting to do my best. On the long walk home I stayed lost in my thoughts, but the closer I got to our house, the relentless anxiety would take hold, starting in the pit of my stomach. I wanted to race home and yet never arrive at the same time. Once at the door, I would try the knob, and if it was locked, that familiar feeling of dread, the rush of adrenaline and fear of what I would find, kicked in. I knocked. I rang the bell. I knocked louder. Then I walked around the side of the house to the kitchen door and tried that knob. If it was locked I went through the gate and found a place to pee in the backyard, not able to hold it any longer. I climbed up on the garbage cans and tried the kitchen window over the sink. If I was lucky, it was unlatched. I crawled in over the faucet and watched my mother sitting upright in the kitchen chair, unable to lift her head or open her eyes. She was plastered again. I seethed.

    But absent, neglectful parents meant I got my first tastes of freedom early. I was free to eat what I wanted for dinner as long as my mother had money in her wallet to steal. I was free to sneak out of my bedroom in the middle of the night and go wake my brother so we could walk the streets for a couple of hours, smoking the cigarettes my father had bought for us the weekend before. I was free to steal my parent’s alcohol and smoke marijuana, try my mother’s Darvons, sniff glue, and generally, come and go as I please. But I really didn’t want all this freedom. I wanted someone to take care of me, reign me in. The neighborhood moms had stopped letting their children play with us long ago. We were on our own.

  • http://www.kizi10.info/ Kizi 10

    Very impressive article. I have read each and every point and found it very interesting

  • http://www.theinspiredpilgrim.com/ Dustin White

    Jeff,

    Thanks for this great post! I especially liked, “…you must be willing to do the thing that so few people are willing to do. You must be human, at once whole and incomplete.” Wow, that’s how I feel most of the time.

    I’m new to the world of blogging, so thanks for helping to open my eyes. Keep it coming, Jeff!

    Here’s the bit of memoir that you helped kindle this morning:

    She won’t admit it, but my 10th grade substitute English teacher fueled me to write for the last 26 years.

    The first teacher took ill and had to take a sabbatical. I think that maybe we kids gave her a nervous breakdown. Then “Mrs. E” showed up in a big fur coat and bleached blond hair that lit up the classroom. She had style and flair and had seen the world.

    She spoke poetry, the words gliding off her tongue with authority and flavored by cultures and a life truly lived. She captivated me, the habitual daydreamer, the proficient procrastinator, expert excuse-maker. She made me want to l-i-s-t-e-n and to bring those dreams to life on paper.

    She pulled me aside one day after class. I thought that I was in trouble, because she looked at me like a raptor sizing up its prey. She said, “Dustin, I don’t want you to do your homework. I don’t want you to take the tests. I don’t care if you pay attention in class. Just keep writing and turn it in to me—you are guaranteed to get an A.”

    Immediately, I felt like a secret service agent. I told no one of my special status, not even my parents. Can you guess which class was my favorite? And I seriously hated English class. With a single conversation, “Mrs. E” turned drudgery into life and gave me permission to love what I was born to do.

    I can still feel my heart thumping in my throat as I pumped the old Huffy pedals as hard as I could to get to her house to share the latest story. That summer break we made a deal: if I shared what I wrote with her, she would share what she wrote with me. I wish I could get this squeaky bike going faster!

    She taught me that poetry isn’t just about life. Poetry is life. The way that you shape your life comes from deep within you. Words come from the same place. They come from your soul and you are helpless to change it. You are a fool to try.

    I learned that poetry is something to give away. And that life is to give away. Poetry and life are children of the same womb. When you give them freely, as my first mentor does, everyone grows.

    To this day I am grateful to the poet who helped shape me. It is rare to hear of a teacher that has the courage to break the rules like that for the growth of her student. I saw her a few years ago at a poetry reading that she organized. She still works hard to inspire writers, to give life. I shared with the group how she changed my life. She denied it. “No, no. I did nothing of the sort,” she drawled.

    Then she got that look of a hungry raptor again. I was sure that I was in trouble this time! “No, Dustin.” She said proudly. “You were just an excellent student.”

    I’m good for the next 30 years.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Excellent, Dustin.

  • Michael Paul Groves

    Samaritan House
    (1)
    After finishing my second rehab I was accepted to Samaritan House. I sensed there was some hope there; more than anything else it was a bed–I had nowhere to go, and no money for a room. It was downtown, and that excited me because I could walk to my aunt’s house, and visit her during the day.
    There were two counselors, Mike B., and Tristan. They were both in recovery, I didn’t know about the Director, he was kind of a quiet guy, my interview with him only took ten minutes. There wasn’t much talk about him in the house. Mike B. was my man. He was a pleasant guy in his thirties who got married during my stay; athletic, white, like the rest of us.
    Then there was Tristan. Every weekday at noon I attended a large Alcoholics Anonymous meeting downtown. Annapolis was the state capitol; half the gathering was made up of lawyers and lobbyists who got caught with their pants down. I became friends with a used car salesman who offered the group a 15% discount to atone for his past misdeeds. I led the meeting a couple times, opening my story with the familiar, “Hello. My name is Mike and I’m an alcoholic.” Tristan led it frequently and he opened with the statement, “My name is Tristan and I have an IQ of 186,”
    There was no doubt in my mind he did, but it was a precept of the AA program that the prospects engage in as high a level of humility as they are able. The lawyers loved his opening, but I didn’t get it.
    (2)
    There was a demeaning system for transgressions. The night counselor wrote up our demerits, and we would wake to find them left publically on display on the beautiful cherry table in the lobby. I cooked part time at a carry out at night, and I barely finished in time to get home by 11pm curfew. This was usually Tristan’s shift and for a long time he didn’t write me up; if I was a few minutes late, he let it slide.
    (3)
    Mike B. told me I had a “huge ego and no self esteem.” This bothered me no end; I could see having one or the other, but not both at the same time. I had seen a therapist in rehab who told me I had little self esteem, but it was unbelievable to me that I was an egotist, I helped people all the time, sometimes to my detriment. He said, “Yeah, you help people, but to feed your ego.” He called me a ‘people pleaser,’ one of those nebulous phrases from AA. I didn’t like this, I felt he was calling me an ‘ass kisser.’
    At the six month point in my stay, I was required to sit down in front of a tribunal, the Director, Mike B., and Tristan, to ask for an extension to my stay. If they would have bumped me, I still had nowhere to go, so I was pretty anxious. When they asked me what I thought about going without demerits for so long, I said, stupidly, “I just want to be treated like all the other guys.” The Director called me a ‘people pleaser’ again. Tristan said I was too green to lead the noon meeting. They let me stay for another six months, but the shakedown stuck with me.
    (4)
    I came in from work at ten minutes after eleven. Tristan just said, “Good Night,” but there was a demerit on the table in the morning with my name on it, signed by Tristan, for coming in after curfew. I was very upset about it and asked him why that night, and he said, “You said you just wanted to be treated like the other guys.” We had regular chores and the next morning there was a write up because I left streaks on the bathroom mirror. Soon I had enough demerits to push me close to being bumped out of the house. I was continually anxious.
    (5)
    I went to the liquor store close to work and bought a cold six pack of Colt 45’s. There was a small field behind the shopping center that had a single tree in the middle of it; I sat beneath it and drank them all. Afterwards I went to work, but the boss smelled the alcohol and sent me home. I went back to the house and did my chores, and one of the guys must have ratted on me, because Tristan came into my room just as I lay down, and said, “Blow into this.” I did and then rolled over and faced the wall. He exclaimed, dancing, “Oh, Happy Day! Point-oh-one! You’re out of here!” I asked him without looking at him, “Can I leave in the morning?”

  • Linda_Brendle

    (This is a blog post I wrote last year after Mom passed away.)

    Just Let Me Feel Bad

    There is a scene in “Ordinary People” where Conrad is talking to Dr. Berger after Karen has killed herself. Dr. Berger is trying to console Conrad, but it’s not working. Finally, Conrad explodes in frustration.

    “I feel bad about this! I feel really, really bad about this. Just let me feel bad about this.”

    This morning I couldn’t settle on a blog topic, so I went outside to help David deal with the two dead trees he felled earlier in the week. He’s become a real Paul Bunyan, except with a chain saw instead of an axe.

    Stacking logs and piling up limbs takes physical effort, but it leaves the mind free to wander. I had gone through my prayer list a little earlier and started thinking of all the sad things that have happened in the three weeks since Mom died. Three friends lost their moms, my aunt lost her best friend, and another friend lost her son. At least three
    friends have parents who are in their final stages, and three more are battling
    a recurrence of cancer. I could go on, but you get the idea without my dragging
    you down into a deep depression. The point of my mental wanderings was not the
    tragedies themselves, but how can I best help and support my friends when they
    are going through trying times?

    When I was growing up, my family didn’t deal well with emotions, in fact, we didn’t deal with them at all. We denied, avoided, and otherwise swept them under the proverbial rug. As a result, I feared emotions and made it my mission in life to be sure everyone I knew was in a constant state of euphoria. I was a champion Pollyanna, the queen of Don’t feel bad. Just smile and it will be all better. After lots of counseling experience, both as a counselor and a counselee, I’ve learned that doesn’t work. The bad feelings are there because it’s a bad situation, and feeling bad is part of the healing process. This morning as I worked, I continued to think about the subject, but I wasn’t sure how to develop it into a post.

    After a couple of hours of dealing with dead wood, we cleaned up and went to the Senior Center for lunch. One of the regulars has a beautiful voice and loves to sing, and sometimes she brings her boom box and serenades us. Today was one of those days, and she sang a number of old-time gospel songs, all of which seemed to be about Mama and Heaven. It wasn’t long before the tears were flowing. Some were tears of sadness and loneliness, and some were tears of joy that Mom is “all better” now, but all
    were tears of healing. Nobody took much notice. My friend across the table shed
    some tears of her own, partly sharing in my grief but partly remembering her own
    mother and the child she lost way too soon. David brought me a dry napkin when
    mine became a soggy mess, and he draped his arm gently around my shoulder. But
    nobody told me not to cry.

    When it was time to leave, I went over and hugged the singer. She had seen my tears and held me in a comforting embrace.

    “You know, we buried my Mom three weeks ago,” I said.

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

    And then she listened as I told her a few stories about Mom, and she shared a couple of stories of her own. As we bonded in the sisterhood of grief, I felt validated and affirmed.

    Now that I’m home, my eyes feel scratchy and puffy, and I feel drained. At the same time I feel strengthened. I know I will cry more tears and feel more grief, but in time the wound of Mom’s loss will become a scar where the wound has healed. For now, I’ll continue to cry and tell my stories. And I will bring you dry napkins, listen to your stories, and offer a shoulder to cry on when your sorrows come.

  • Trish Kaye Lleone

    I made my world debut in 1976. I was told that my mother gave birth to me, aided by a local midwife, in a two story wooden house which sat in the heart of a pulsating, vibrant and culturally diverse city. She called this house a “home” for a few years, paying rental fee month after month while she sometimes stayed at home to care for me and on nights when it was scarce, she worked as a bar girl.

    Thecircumstances surrounding my birth are like pieces of a puzzle to me even to this day. I was told that on the night I was born, I had to be rushed to the
    hospital because I had congenital pulmonary issues and my fingernails and
    toenails were blue, hence I grew up knowing that I was born a blue baby.
    Apparently, another woman helped my mother that night and that woman became my mother just a few months before I turned seven. No, I wasn’t adopted. I was given up.

    My first mother – let’s call her Anna – met my father when he was already married. Well, Anna fell in love despite the knowledge that Papa already had a family and could never make an honest woman out of her. Thinking about it now, it’s probably in the genes, this stubbornness and this devil-may-care attitude. I see myself in Anna often and it scares the living daylights out of me because, truth be told, I do not want to be like her. Anyway, Anna and Papa’s love affair seemed to have flourished because it produced me. I am a “love-child”, their love-child, and whether I was a welcome surprise or not was a mystery that I sought out to solve. There were a lot of times when I felt that Papa hated me. I could not remember a time that he ever carried me on his lap or sang me lullabies. I could not even remember him talking to me.

    Much like the circumstances surrounding my birth, my childhood memories were also like jigsaw puzzles that I struggle to piece together. When I try to remember, all I could come up with are bits and pieces of memories that I could not string together in chronological order. I see faces – women, men, and children. I see places – a nipa hut, a large square space that had no rooms, I see my father shaving my mother’s head, I see my mother crying, begging my father to let me out of this big family home so she can take me home with her, I see a man who owned a television store, I see a man who bought me new clothes for Christmas and spent one Christmas eve with me and Anna in our apartment. I see Anna, drunk and in a fit of drunken rage being dragged by four men into a room with mirrors and dresses lying everywhere. I
    see Anna and her friends sitting in our “living room” smoking pot. And then I see Anna banging her protruding belly on the wall. None of my early
    childhood memories were consistent; there were always different names,
    different places, different faces and different surroundings. Thinking about it
    now, I was probably shuttled in between one caretaker to another more than I
    ever spent time with Anna.
    But I loved her. I loved her with all the love that my tiny being could muster.
    Anna was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on…

    ——-
    Hi everyone! I’m researching on how to write a memoir and Google took me here. I thought I’d share what I have so far. Please feel free to let me know what you all think. Thanks!

  • HIGHWIREGIRL

    BUSY, THE CIRCUS BEAR

    I walk past Charlie staring at the kitchen sink and head straight into the bathroom. He doesn’t realize I’ve come in; he’s still zooted out. I have some time. The door to the bathroom doesn’t close all the way. It just wedges shut in the frame. He took it off its hinges once to get at me. It’s been rehung, but not right. All the doors are like this. The cops gave me a phone number while Charlie was in jail. A place to call and get the locks changed.

    “The lock is fine,” I told them. “I need someone to fix the door. It’s busted right off the wall. Do you have anybody who can fix that?”

    I remove my coat and lay it on the floor. I sit on the ledge of the bathtub. I have a new gallon bottle of wine, plus two beers in a bag. Five single boxes of Sudafed. Under the sink, there’s a little left in last night’s bottle and a plastic cup. Plus two smaller empties. I have to get rid of these; there’s no more room under here. I pour out the remainder of the wine and put the big spent bottle in the shopping bag from tonight’s purchase. I wrap the others in toilet paper so they don’t clink together, and I fold the top of the bag over. I don’t want anyone to suspect that I drink this much. I replace the fresh jug of Carlo Rossi to the back of the cabinet. It makes me feel good to have new things, even though this will be gone before tomorrow.

    I pop twelve or so little red pills from their foil and swallow them down. I take these all day, every day when I can’t get real speed or cocaine. I go to different drug stores to buy them. I stop at Duane Reade before work and Rite Aid at lunchtime. I like to always have enough, somewhere between 80 and 120 a day. I grind up a dozen more with the heel of my shoe and snort them off the lip of the sink. They make my nose bleed bad, but so what.

    This room is tiny. I painted the whole thing navy blue, back when Rusty lived here. Right over the tile and mirrors. I thought it would look cool. It feels like being inside of an eyeball. Portions now, peeling off in sheets. Like a bear, slashing its way out of a lousy tattoo. I turn the water on and pop a beer open quietly with my finger over the hole to disguise the ‘pfft’ sound.

    I hear Charlie banging pots around outside. He’s hungry when I get home. Chuck has no steady job. He works day labor – moving furniture, laying blacktop. He and his cousins steal and strip cars. He earns just enough to get high and sometimes buy groceries. A carton of eggs, cheese, a box of instant mashed potatoes. He prefers soft food because his teeth are loose. I smell butter burning in the pan. I know I’m hungry but I have no appetite, really.

    I dump a handful more pills into my mouth; I tear the foil at the perforation and put the rest in my pants pocket. I open all the decongestant boxes and cram the remaining three sheets of pills into one box and stuff them back in my knapsack. I fold three empty boxes into the fourth and drop that into the shopping bag with the empty wine bottles. I like to be organized.

    I pee and wash my face. I put my coat back on. “Hey,” I mumble quietly at Charlie’s big, angry shoulders. “I’ll be right back,” I suggest, already on my way outside. “We have no bread.” As I walk up the street to a different liquor store, I drop my garbage into the dumpster behind the Roy Rogers.

  • Chatterbox

    In February of
    2012, Angela and I stood in court again to finalize the guardianship of Kaylee,
    my granddaughter. Because of an issue in
    Angela’s past, it was deemed that her presence was by no means to be permitted around
    Kaylee until certain conditions were met.
    What a blow! That meant overnight
    visits at our house were out, and there would be no going to the parks. Angela
    could not participate in Kaylee’s upcoming birthday or even Skype with her on
    the computer. She handled it by going
    to an AA meeting. I handled it by having
    a drink with my dinner. After a couple
    of weeks, my dinner drinks extended into the nights. Then they started at lunch. Pretty soon I was
    in full swing and drinking every day.
    And of course, drugging. It is
    amazingly easy to get prescription drugs.
    It is actually easier to get them on the streets than in your doctor’s
    office. Angela was resolute. She followed the court’s suggestion and
    attended an anger management class. I
    drank. At the end of April, the court reversed its decision and granted Angela
    the ability to be around Kaylee with no restrictions. I still drank. I mean, why stop now? Let’s
    celebrate!

    After a 6 day mega binge in May
    2012, I woke up at the crack of 2:00 in the afternoon and looked around the
    room for Angela. I saw her sitting on
    the floor between the bed and the closet, with tears running down her
    face.

    “Honey?” I asked.

    She looked at me and said, “I don’t want to
    live life like this with you. I have been up watching you breathe. You scared me last night. You drank an entire liter of rum and took 25
    lortabs within 3 hours. I don’t want to lose you”

    Last night? Hummmmm, lemme think…..NOPE! Don’t
    remember anything. Seriously. Not a
    thing. I remember leaving our apartment
    and going to the pool. End of
    story. I had never had a blackout
    before. I had heard of them, of course,
    but had never experienced one.
    Apparently, the cocktail of rum and a slew of Lortabs afforded me the
    opportunity to experience this phenomenon.

    I tried
    to sit up to talk to her, but being vertical was absolutely out of the question
    without my head swimming. As I laid back
    down, I looked over at her and saw her pain, fear, and desperation, and I just surrendered. I truly surrendered everything I had and gave
    in to the knowledge that this disease was going to kill me. After 3 years in the program, Angela knew
    where we needed to be, and at 5:30 that evening we were sitting in chairs at an
    AA meeting. We stopped working at the pizza place and went to 60 meetings in 30
    days.

    On June 15, 2012, Angela graduated
    from Tulsa Welding School with top honors, and we hightailed it back to the
    farm. We re-joined our Texas group and
    have never looked back. There were lots
    of times in my life when I fantasized about how I would like my life to be, but
    I am here to tell you……nothing I ever
    imagined was as good as my life actually is.
    There is an AA promise that says, “You will know a new freedom,” and I do. I wake up every day and do not think about
    where I am going to get the money to buy for my addiction. I wake up not
    worrying about what I did the night before.
    I wake up with NO secrets that need to be heavily guarded. I wake up with the realization that I am who
    I say I am, and nobody has enough control of me to tell me any different. I wake up next to my best friend and partner
    in life, and I am happy to be there.

    I wish I
    could tell you that the urge to drink or use went away and never reared its
    ugly head again. I WISH I could. But now
    when it happens, I get an immediate thought of sobriety and all that I have but
    could lose were I to go down that road again.
    Jiminy Cricket’s voice is louder than my addiction’s. I never in a million years would have thought
    that was possible.

    As we
    re-joined our Texas group I reached out (like I was supposed to) and got in
    touch with someone who had been recommended to me as a sponsor. Her name was Leslie and she accepted me after
    a long conversation about my goals and my feelings of determination. We sat down and mapped out a plan of attack
    along with an estimated time schedule for each step. It was time to get serious.

    • Kimo

      This is such a moving story. With never having an addiction problem myself, I have no idea what it would be like. But after reading this, I felt as if I was right there with the author. Loved it! Want to read more……….. thank you Chatterbox!

      • Chatterbox

        Thank you so much for the feedback! I will post more.

  • Chatterbox

    Let’s play a game. I will describe something to you and you guess what it is. Ok?

    Description: It drains peace and happiness out of the air around it; it glories in decay and despair. If you get too close to it every good feeling and happy memory will be
    sucked out of you. If it can, it will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…..miserable and depressed. It is intelligent enough to be greedy, therefore holds no true loyalty except to whoever can provide it with enough feed for the moment. The very presence of it can make the victim’s surrounding atmosphere grow cold and
    dark, and the longer it is around the stronger the effects.

    For those of you who have read or seen “Harry Potter” you are saying to yourself…..”A Dementor! It’s a Dementor!” Nope. I am talking about my grandmother.

    After mom left us I grasped onto any connection I could that stemmed from her. Some were positive (my aunt) and some weren’t. But regardless, I held on tight to each one because of the ties that they held to mom. When Mom left us, she did not have a very
    good relationship with my grandmother (her mother). I knew some of the details, but really she kept the details between herself and Dad. Mom was such a lady that she wouldn’t say “shit” if her mouth were full of it, much less speak ill of a family member
    in front of us kids. In the past 20 + years that Mom has been gone my relationship with my grandmother has morphed into true illness. I know that other females in our family have had to endure the kind of mean spirited passive-aggressive venom that takes the place of her words that I have. Of course, my aunt (as she is the eldest and therefore has been around longer) has been the recipient of more mind bending insensitive scorn than I could ever imagine and not wind up in daily therapy. I haven’t compared notes with my cousin but the abuse has been alluded to by others. And of course there is me. Her favorite cause. Her favorite emotional punching bag. It took me YEARS to be able to admit to myself the extent of the damage that I have allowed her to do. I am not sure why. What was the reason that I let her have so much influence on the way I thought about myself? If ANYONE spoke to me the way that Mimi felt free too I would have cut them out of my life, dismissed them as “Looney” and would have pressed on. No grandmother should ever begin any sentence to a grandchild with the words “You
    are NOTHING but….” (fill in the blank with your favorite loser activity.)

    Somehow along the way, after I had moved to Oklahoma, got divorced and came out of the closet (I believe that would have made me around 32- ish) I called and visited Mimi on a regular basis. My cousin and aunt were still pretty involved with her so she didn’t need me around very often, but they had a change of heart after they closed down the house on 16th street and moved her to the condo. I am still not sure of the details of all of that….but after hearing and knowing what Mimi is capable of…..I am sure I don’t ever need to. I understand. ( I feel ya sistas! ) After they decreased their involvement in her
    daily life she turned to me. Slow and sure I succumbed to the control of my grandmother. I eventually called her every single day of my life, rain or shine, work or not, well or ill. Some conversations were pleasant, but most were subliminally destructive. Even at damn near 40 years old, I was often told of all the wrongs that I did and how I should correct them. From the way I spoke, the way I dressed, the way I interacted with people and of course the people that I chose to be in my life. For example: As a critical care nurse, I wore scrubs to work each day. I was often told that I
    looked “low class” because I didn’t wear traditional old fashioned, starched “Nurse’s Whites”. I worked nights because I enjoyed the emergent nature of critical care at night but to her I was “NOTHING but an overweight nurse that needed to be hid on the night
    shift. “If you would just lose weight you would be someone they would be proud to
    have on the unit during the day when all of the Doctors were around.” Yada yada
    yada. After I left nursing I was fortunate enough to be in a relationship that afforded me the opportunity to stay home and take care of my family and begin my writing dream. At that point… I became “NOTHING but a maid and a servant and I was spoiled because I was never made to pay for anything on my own.”

    It was in the year 2009 ( I think) I had had about as much as I could stand and
    didn’t call her for 3 days because I needed a break, and on the 4th day there was a knocking on my front door. So naturally I opened it and there stood a cop. The sleepy groggy feeling of being awakened in the middle of my night left immediately.
    It was replaced by sheer panic. My blood ran cold and my heart stopped.
    What had happened?! Was something wrong with one of my children?! OMG! Nope.
    They were all well. He informed me that he was at my door to perform a “welfare check” on….who? You guessed it! ME! Yep! Officer Do-gooder was responding to a
    call from a “very sweet sounding old lady that was just worried sick because
    she hadn’t heard from her granddaughter.” (I wondered to myself, “exactly how much grandeur does one need to display while one is pulling her manipulative strings?!) Oh really! Does it matter that she has made absolutely NO effort to contact me? Not one phone call, not one message left. Just a cop at my door wondering what I was doing that was so important that I couldn’t stop it for 3 minutes to let “that sweet little voice” know that I was alright and not to worry. I said “ok! Ok!” I will call her right
    now. Never mind that it was the 5th straight day of working back to back 12 hour shifts. Never mind that it was in the middle of my night. And never mind that quite frankly….I was tired. And not impressed that there was
    an officer of the law at my door playing the role of Jiminy Cricket. But I called.
    The first thing out of her mouth was “Debi Kaye, where have you been?” I worry that someone has grabbed you and taken you away from that hospital parking lot that you are in at night and all alone. (I am going to paraphrase here….) “After all that I have done for you, NO BODY has loved you like I have loved you and this is how you treat me. I was so worried that I was sick to my stomach.” When I asked why, if she were that worried, didn’t she just pick up the phone and call me? Her answer? “Why SHOULD I?! I am the Grandmother. You should be grateful enough to call me” OH. Silly me. I got
    chewed on for a few more minutes and the phone call ended with her telling me
    how much she loved me and that she would talk to me tomorrow. I felt guilty for not checking on her, weak for letting her push my buttons and childlike for feeling like at damn near 40 years old I needed to answer for my behavior! Deep sigh. And she did hear from me. I regained contact with her every single day of my life, rain or shine, work or not, well or ill.

    The extent of the damage will be talked about for pages to come, but I wanted to do a kind-of “preface” to stories. I will own up to my part of the situation (staying in an unhealthy relationship) as long as you PROMISE to not respond using any sentence that begins with the phrase “She just….” IE “she just meant she was worried. She just wants to see you succeed. Etc etc etc. blah blah blah. The person that the rest of my family talks to on a sporadic basis is not really their true grandmother. The person that they talk to on a sporadic basis is an old woman trying to get into heaven. The one and
    only way to honestly know my grandmother is to be part of her life on a daily basis. In that realm, she drops all pretenses of kindness and controls everything around her, sucking the life from the room to feed her sadness and disappointment of the way her life really turned out. She is very disappointed that she is alone. Plain and
    simple.

    And for a very long time, that made me feel guilty. So I allowed it to control my emotions and basically my life. I wanted/needed a connection to my mother so badly that I was willing to endure the meanness. Was I experiencing the same kind of treatment that my mother did? Did she walk away? No. The relationship was strained, but it was still in fact, a relationship. When I was with Mimi I never had to say anything like: “I wish you had known my Mom. She would have loved this!” She already knew. She could tell me stories about my Mom as a little girl and funny things that had happened when I was a
    baby. But the good stuff was wrapped up in the bad stuff, and the bad stuff is sometimes just plain easy to believe. I wasn’t good enough. I never have been. If my mother had just married the boy that she wanted her too, she would have had a more refined granddaughter. My mother would have been embarrassed at how I turned out. How could I be such a bad mother when I had such a good mother? Yada yada yada.

    How does someone like me quiet the voices? How does someone like me get the opportunity to feel numb? We drink. We use. And I did lots of both. The
    following stories will be sprinkled with “mimi-isms” along with inside and
    outside influences that made me want to shrink my world. If I couldn’t feel like I was good enough, then I wanted to feel nothing. Nothing at all.

  • http://www.booksie.com/nadialopez Nadia/Macy M.

    It was a sunny afternoon when my friends and I walked out of our ninth grade classes on the
    last day of school before the summer vacations. Everyone was busy saying
    good-byes and meeting their friends for the last time, before going home. My
    friend, Mansha, and I were walking together to our bus stops when she suddenly
    asked me, “So when are you leaving for and returning from U.S.A?” I joked with
    her and said, “I am leaving on 11th June and I may not come back, as
    I might go to the high school over there!” She was surprised with my statement
    and looked happy for me. I said her good bye and then I met my best friend, Sheena,
    and I talked to her and waved good bye for the last time too. I didn’t know
    that this joke would make me regret my words later. I spent my last bus time
    chatting with my favorite bus mate and had fun with her. Then I reached home, I
    got excited because I had finally gotten free from school and couldn’t wait to
    meet my father in U.S.A after one whole year. I started packing my stuff and
    made a bag full of my notebooks and books because I had already been given a
    mid-term exams date sheet, which would start right in the middle of August, on
    my first day back to school. I was very fond of writing stories and kept a
    folder with rough drafts of my stories with the real-life characters in it. I
    was very imaginative and fascinated about my perfect life and used to enjoy my
    day. I wanted to take my stories with me to U.S.A but I hid and locked them in
    my cabinet, thinking that I would return home in three months and will write the
    stories then. I thought I should better enjoy my holidays with my family.
    Little did I know that my life was about to change forever and I wouldn’t be
    able to return to my people, my things, my friends, my home-Pakistan, again.

    A few days
    later, I was all set to leave for the second time to the United States and I
    called my paternal grandparents, whom I called, Dada Jan and Dadi Jan,
    and sought their prayers and good wishes for the future. I told them that I
    wanted to meet them but their home was in Lahore. I talked to them for a long time and said
    them a final good bye. Before leaving my home, I emotionally bid a goodbye to
    my favorite study room, where I spent my most of the time; my personal things,
    my bedroom, and my home for the last time. I left for the airport and thus
    began the unexpected journey of my migration to the United States. After a long
    and tiring flight of around 23 hours, my family and I finally reached the
    Washington Dulles International Airport. I was amazed by the friendly, clean and
    the peaceful environment America had. One of the immigration officers looked confused
    at my mother after checking our passports and asked her, “Why did you go back
    to Pakistan?” My mother confidently told him, “We went back because I had to
    look after my old parents-in- laws.” He shrugged his shoulders and looked
    confused again. He wrote on our passports, “OUT OF U.S. FOR 10 MNTHS” and
    warned us that our Permanent Resident Cards could be cancelled if we didn’t
    “live” in U.S.A. This incident shocked us and we came into a dilemma of what to
    do next. We met our father and uncle at the airport and I loved his new white,
    Pontiac van. We were excited and reached our apartment after 2 hours. I was
    surprised to see our apartment and there was another surprise waiting for us. I
    met my maternal grandparents, aunts, uncles and my cousins waiting there to
    give us a warm welcome to United States.

    After resting
    a day or two, the family began to reflect upon the serious trouble that had
    taken place at the airport. Our extended family members suggested that my
    mother to take a one year leave from Pakistan and leave my elder sister and me
    here in U.S with my father. We didn’t agree to this as we hadn’t lived without
    our mother and couldn’t think of separating from her for a year. This decision
    remained uncertain for a long time and sometimes we were asked to study for our
    exams and sometimes to start preparing to live in U.S. My parents had a hard
    time making this difficult decision as many obstacles came in our way. I was
    very young and I depended on my mother; I had just started my O-Levels, a
    British GCE affiliated with Cambridge University, and my elder sister had to
    complete her A-levels, the in-depth, academically advanced level after
    O-Levels. Finally, after much courage our family decided that it was better for
    my sister, Sabeeha, and I to live in U.S with our father while my younger
    sister, Dia, and my mother would reside in Pakistan.

  • James Skinner

    “Why would you go and do something like that? What were you thinking?”

    I felt like I was in an interrogation room after I took a bottleful of
    klonepin. My fiancé sat next to me questioning me on my motives of taking such a heavy dosage of the anti-anxiety medication. There was no strong emotion left in me to be truthful. I would have loved to say “I wanted to drown out your annoying voice,” but I could only stare at the wall and picture my demise. Depression hits, but those affected by it can’t see the harm they do to themselves; they can only see the negative change in others.
    My mind started to slow down. The negative thoughts I experienced for years slowly seemed to fade away as I was going into a deep slumber. Death was the only thing I was trying to embrace, because life seemed like a distant sad memory. I understand that overdosing is fatal when mixing drugs, and part of me wanted to live. There was a small part of me, however, that wanted to die; I was hoping that this was the answer. I blacked out. The next hours then seemed blurred together.
    The next thing I could see was a cop standing over me, asking me if I was okay and why I did it. I quietly mumbled “Her” in reference to the woman I was engaged with. This was a complete bullshit lie I was trying to set up. Really, I didn’t know exactly why I attempted suicide. Someone who attempts suicide hopes that they won’t have to wake up to answer questions from others. I wanted others to believe that a rocky relationship was the cause, instead of years of illness I was inflicted with. My consciousness became more strained, and the next jolt of it was when I was rolled out to the ambulance on a stretcher. The summer day was beautiful, and I didn’t care to experience it. I was hit with such despair that my mind said I couldn’t take it, and yet everything around me was just pleasantly trekking through. It was in this realization that I was not the center of it all. I was just one of the pieces of this bigger spectrum of reality. Once I woke up one more time in the hospital to swallow the coal to clean out my body, it was over. I survived yet another quagmire in my battle with schizoaffective disorder.

    Early in my childhood, when I was roughly 12, I realized things were changing. Not the normal “I grew hair in places I didn’t know I had, and women are embarrassed to talk to me because of my mid-conversation squeak” phase. Instead, my thoughts were developing into something sinister. Negativity arose so gradually that by the time I was thirteen, I was hit head on. I remember being in my classroom, and a test was being handed out to take. There was to be absolute silence for 40 minutes to allow everyone to successfully complete the exam. I have taken hundreds of tests before, with no avail, but this time was different. As ten minutes of silence went by, I started becoming restless. Whispers were surrounding me.

    “You’re a piece of shit.”
    “No one likes you here. You even see it yourself. End your life now.”
    “You won’t be successful.”
    The whispers started to even come at me in what appeared to be another language. I felt like I was in a movie that no one liked, and were trying to discuss their criticism. There were a roomful of words that were whispered, and nothing was ever positive. I started shaking in my chair, hoping it would stop. There were twitches in my arm, I started sweating. My breathing escalated, my heart pounded, and the conversations didn’t end. I looked around, and not a single classmate was uttering a word. Whispers were present, but not a mouth was moving. It was at this point that I asked to be excused, and jolted into the hall. I slammed my body against the wall, breathing rapidly, hoping that the whispers would come to a halt. I would talk to myself and, in repetition, say “They aren’t real.” Eventually the voices subsided, but my nerves did not. This was the evolution of my paranoia.
    Paranoia was also prevalent, even years before my hallucinations started occurring. Kids around me cared about whatever fucking thing kids do. I confess that I don’t really know what kids thought about. At a young age, I was thinking of grim and really poignant subjects. I felt as though people were out to poison me, with no evidence to corroborate the thought. Fast-food workers, relatives, and even my own mother were not exempt from this. Who inspects food products better than Sherlock Holmes could? Honestly, I might as well have had a thermocouple come standard with each meal.
    My mom’s meals were the ones I felt I should inspect the most. This had nothing to do with the quality of food she was preparing; she was, and still is, an excellent cook. I was always down upon myself as a child, and I would think that each mistake meant there needed to be some repercussion. What better repercussion would there be for a tantrum than death? A logical and morally uncompromising one would be the sufficient answer. My mind would find the worst way to rationalize and deal with discontent.
    For example, I was known to take tantrums in public places. If there was something I didn’t care for, I was very outspoken about it. By outspoken, I mean that I would make incessant noises, including snorting sounds to clear out the mucous from my headache-inducing cries. I took tantrums in such lovely places as the movie theater (a crying child makes a blockbuster thriller much more thrilling), Wal-Mart, and even McDonald’s. The McDonald’s tantrum I will never forget.
    I went to McDonald’s and requested to my parents a plain cheeseburger happy meal. Apparently that was not an option for me that day. When I got the cheeseburger, there were all the toppings that made me cringe. Ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions were topped onto a colossal waste of an animal. Any child that had a speck of decency could easily request the burger to be replaced almost immediately. I, unfortunately for my parents, did not do such a thing.
    I remember how my parents would stare at me as I would open my food, hoping that the meal was satisfactory for me. This had nothing to do with them spoiling me, because we didn’t have enough money for that to occur; my parents were terrified of my actions. I don’t blame them, because what I would do if there was the slightest mistake in my food was absolutely embarrassing. My body was thrown on the ground like I was a wrestling champion body slamming my opponent. Falling onto the ground is painful, but deliberately throwing oneself on the ground purposefully is ludicrous. Hell, depending on my mood, shoes would be flown off in a frantic manner. I would scream and twitch as though there was a man with a knife stabbing me. What did my parents do in all of this? They turned glaring red and angrily stared in direction of my pathetic outrage. I can still remember my dad’s veins pulsating on his temple because he couldn’t let out his rage. Corporal punishment was seen in such an unflattering light at the time, but I still think it should have been acceptable for my parents in moments such as that.
    The only thing more ridiculous than my tantrums was the reason I had them; the tantrums existed over a paranoia that people were out to retaliate upon me in some way shape or form. Oh, there is a mistake on some type of food? I want to upset that child. People are staring in my direction? I want to kidnap and harm that child. These illogical thoughts were a constant flood that I accepted. The acceptance of the thoughts turned into anger and aggression to those who would “wrong me.” Those are when the tantrums occurred, mainly for retaliation purposes. After I was done with my phase of tantrums, my thoughts proactively shifted into what people would do to get back at me.
    It was after my tantrum phase that I was starting to think, at the ripe and mature age of 7, that my mother was going to poison me. Each chicken dinner was followed by me raising the food up to the light, like it was some type of delicate relic, just to inspect it. There had to not be an inkling of pink in the chicken. The side dishes received special treatment from me too. It was a necessity for me to unveil that it was salt on the baked potato, and not powdered dish detergent.

  • Memoirs Rhonda Johnson

    Memoirs Of An Addict:
    Fact or Fiction
    Picture this…the setting is in Washington, D.C. during the 1980’s and 90’s, a new drug called crack has entered into the universe. The movie New Jack City gives details of this new drug that has a triple killing effect. Drugs and more drugs are entering into the big cities and small towns all over the United States of America. Illegal money is being made like never before. A glass pipe turns men, women, rich and poor into crack zombies and the people’s Mayor for life Marion Barry quotes (“The B** set me up”). Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia, also known as the DMV, are out of control. DC is being called the murder capital of the world for the crimes, murders, sexual behaviors and the way life has changed. The devil is smiling to all those people who want to get high.
    Living in a sin sick world, society misuses and misunderstands that addiction is more than illegal drugs and alcohol. Addictions come in many forms and patterns such as gambling, sex, cigarettes, cell phones, food, video games, prescription drugs, coffee, soda, the internet and the list goes on and on. For the addict who struggles there is a familiar trait in the life and pattern of addiction, but what is the definition of the word addiction? Better yet, what is the definition of the word addict? Enter into the world of Mary/Pumpkin’s memoirs. She is one person with two different personalities who suffers with a dual diagnosis of depression and drug abuse; who happens to be suicidal.
    You decide: Fact or Fiction
    http://www.memoirsof2165.com

  • A.A.G.

    News flash: Parenting five children is exhausting.

    I know what you’re thinking.

    Some of you might be thinking: You brought this onto yourself — when you decided to help over-populate the Earth (how dare you). Or: for being so pious against the modern wonders of contraception. Or: for taking your chances with unprotected and rampant intimacy with your spouse (imagine that), etc, etc. My sister, the city-slicker-swinging-single-Vegan-recycle-everything New Yorker in the family, certainly thought as much. To you, I say, I truly and sincerely admire your uncanny ability to imagine yourself in a scenario where you actually have kids and actually understand what it is like; your astounding imagination alone should be enough to compel me to thank you for your valuable feedback — and, oh by the way, Mom loves me more than you.

    And then some of you might be thinking: I totally understand — I have two dogs, one cat, and a cockatoo, and they are a lot of work! My co-worker, the one who entered at the same level as me but whose blonde-and-blue-eyed charm is sure to get her promoted years long before me, certainly thought as much. To you, I say, I truly and sincerely admire your uncanny ability to imagine that creatures of other species are the same as human children, and that all that kids need to be happy is to be fed, walked, sterilized and petted; your desire to connect with my plight, even through the fog of logic and concept, should be enough to compel me to thank you for your empathy — and, oh by the way, everyone on the promotion committee is prettier than you, so dream on, sister.

    And finally there are those of you who I am trying to reach — those of you who would gladly join me in alienating everyone else as I did just now: You who want to have children more desperately than you’ve ever wanted anything in your life. To you, I say,

    News flash: Parenting five children is exhausting. But not in the way you might think.

    Yes, there are the endless logistics of after-school activities, music or dance lessons, dental and medical check-ups and appointments, parent-teacher conferences (my kids are in four, count ‘em, FOUR different schools), science projects, theme papers, Halloween costumes, play dates, slumber parties, driver’s ed, church youth groups, and — the mother of them all — birthday parties. Sure, all that is exhausting, but I don’t mind as much because it does help me bond with the spouse, and more often than not, those activities end up being well worth all that time and energy. So that’s not what I’m talking about.

    You know what I find truly exhausting? Worrying.

  • Eila Algood

    I sat silent, stunned by what I thought I heard.. I wasn’t sure, because it was so
    outrageous. “This isn’t the east village” he said. Could an attorney say that to me? I’m their mother. I’ve been their mother for 14 years without challenge or question. I spent nearly every day and night with them since birth; loving them, nurturing them,
    teaching them to be kind to others. But now, this court appointed Roman Catholic white male law guardian said he would do everything he could to prevent my adorable sweet ten year old son from living with me. Meanwhile, my $300 an hour attorney just sat there and said nothing. I laughed because that’s what I do when I’m nervous. I didn’t know protocol in this awful, miserable family court legal process and I was waiting for her to respond, especially when he commented, “this isn’t the east village, you know”. As in Greenwich Village, I assumed, but I didn’t know. This was Albany, New York, a long way from Manhattan and the east village. I could not comprehend that a court appointed
    attorney for my children could legally speak to me that way. Yet my attorney said nothing in my defense. Thousands of dollars and months of legal actions to gain physical custody of my son and here we are in this god-awful place of total denial by this smug, arrogant man. Perhaps I need to mention that the court appointed psychologist met with all of us.
    There were our two children, Kristin and Montana; their wealthy father and his phony, gold digging wife; me and my partner Holly, who would have been my wife if our country had legally provided for us to marry, which it did not in 2002. The findings by the
    psychologist was that Holly and I were emotionally and mentally healthy and stable; while my children’s father and his wife had a myriad of psychological and emotional issues with anger topping the list. That sounds easy, right; let Montana live with us? But the psychologist would not recommend us because we were a female couple. I was dumbfounded, outraged and heartbroken, but not in that moment. In that moment I was in shock and by it’s mere definition, I could not process my feelings, because I was
    unable to connect with them.

    On March 14, 1985, I went into labor. According to the doctor’s calculation, I should have given birth on March 6th, but I’m a patient person and didn’t mind waiting. I was pretty much terrified about childbirth, so putting it off a week or so seemed fine to me. Labor is exactly as it’s word suggests; it’s work. It was hard, laborious work. After nine hours, my husband drove me to the hospital. He was right there with me, being supportive, but don’t forget, I was the one having painful contractions every three minutes. The doctor said I was a long way from delivering this baby and suggested
    an epidural to ease the pain and help move the labor to delivery. That sounded sweet to me, but there was a woman screaming in the next room that also needed an epidural. I told them to go to her, she sounded more desperate. The nurse expressed surprise
    at my generosity. As I reflect back, it occurs to me that my truest nature, even in a moment of distress and physical pain, is of kindness to others. I am not being conceited or egotistical. I’m inherently kind and generous. I have other qualities that are not as endearing, but they do not outweigh the positive. After a few pushes by me and the nurses, I heard the cry of my child. The sound of her cry evoked the deepest joy I had ever known to well up from inside my heart. Tears streamed down my face as they placed my infant daughter on my chest.

    I was able to experience that rapture once more, on November 29, 1991, just hours after Thanksgiving Day when, after 22 hours of painful labor, I pushed and pushed and pushed some more, this time when the midwife wasn’t looking my son was born. He
    didn’t cry, but I sure did. When he was placed on my chest, that deep joy returned once more.

    I was fortunate in that I did not have to go to a job when I became a mom. I was able to raise my children, love them, feed them, teach and play with them every day. They were the glue that kept the marriage between their father and I, together.
    And that was okay, until it was not.
    After sixteen years of marriage, I acknowledged to myself that I was emotionally unfulfilled. We had lots ofmoney, houses, cars and boats, but none of it satisfied my emotional appetite.