“This is a work in progress, a process of uncovering our natural openness, uncovering our natural intelligence and warmth. I have discovered, just as my teachers always told me, that we already have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always. We are just uncovering them. We are rediscovering them. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds. No one else gives this to you. People will support you and help you with teachings and practices, as they have supported and helped me, but you yourself experience your unlimited potential.”
Pema Chodron, Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears
I’ve been rolling along working on my memoir for the past couple of weeks with little difficulty. Words have been flowing like a mountain stream spilling over its banks with snow melt. I’m more sure than ever about the structure of my story and where I’m going with it. It’s about my relationship with my mother, and how being her caretaker during the last seven years of her life forced me to take a closer look at my own life and how I’m living it.
Two days ago, starting on the seventh chapter, I hit a brick wall and was stopped in my tracks. I sat in front of the computer for several hours for two days, typed in a couple of paragraphs and immediately trashed them.
I was feeling pretty bummed out about it, because I’ve set myself a goal of having a finished draft of the book in nine months. I did what I too often do … immediately started worrying and beating up on myself, fearing I’d begin getting behind and never make my September first deadline. Then I started calling myself names for being worried and giving myself so much grief. It’s the kind of thing that can just go around and around in circles until I throw up my hands and consider eating a pint of ice cream and/or several bars of delicious dark chocolate.
I was trying to write about a particularly difficult time in my life, which I apparently blocked off with several layers of cinder blocks and three or four layers of concrete. I could remember the time period, but could not find the words to describe how I felt and what it was that had made it so difficult.
I decided I’d go back through my journals and reread a few to try to figure it out what I was missing. But they are stashed in a storage bin we rent, way across town. Working around other appointments and warnings of a major snowstorm heading our way, I stopped and picked up a box of journals dated with the two years I was trying to recall. When I got home I realized I had mislabeled the box and those dear, yellowing journals were not the ones I needed.
Foiled again, and unable to return for more journals, I told myself I’d simply make myself start writing again. I figured words would come to me if I didn’t get in the way with all that worrying crap. Sitting down again at the computer and pulling up the ridiculous stuff I’d written the day before, my fingers began moving and words started forming on the page. It was painful stuff about things I’d completely erased from my memory tapes. It may or may not have much to do with what I was trying to write about, but it certainly cleared the channels and I feel good to go once again.
Writing memoir can be very challenging, but I’m finding it to be one of the most healing things I’ve ever done. Revisiting the past has brought so many new perspectives on the people and experiences that have helped to shape my own being.
I’ve been journaling for years. But writing memoir is helping me to explore even more deeply the way of the world and the person that I am still becoming. I understand how precious the gift of writing can be. Should my written words never make it into book form, I will be forever grateful for the words that have found me and the time I’ve taken to write them down.