Sunday, July 15, 2012

To me or not to me, that is the question....

On the Twitter this morning:


Memoir Writers: I Don't Know how you People do it 

Follow the link, it's a good read. And it got me thinking, about myself, of course. Over the years people have made the same suggestion to me, "You should really write a book..." Most recently, I had coffee with a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of trauma to talk about Late Discovery and toward the end of our chat, she suggested that I really ought to write a book. Immediately my resistance springs up. Why?

I used to facilitate an adoptee peer support group and every month we would gather in an impeccably appointed Victorian mansion, sit on authentically horse-hair and silk brocade upholstered chairs and settees and tell what was happening with us. Time went on, and our modest five or ten minutes of sharing each meeting began to add like beads on a wire, into fuller narratives that stretched back into time and forward into hopeful or dreaded futures. We got to know one another, and each other's stories. And they were some humdingers, let me tell you. 

One adoptee was experiencing reunion during the year that we met, his first parents were in Ireland, his father Protestant gentry, his mother a Catholic house servant on his family estate. After his secret birth and relinquishment, and becoming an Irish Lost Baby, his parents had married secretly and had several more children they kept. The reunion began over the phone, his first mother could only talk from a pay phone down the street. Eventually she told her husband, the father, and things began to cascade. Not only were his first parents overjoyed to have been found, they wrote him that they had begun the legal process of adopting him back in the family (they hadn't told them they were going to do this, they just did it). As the eldest son, our narrative would stand to inherit his father's family estate, complete with Protestant Orange Lodge. Complete with the threat that the Provo IRA had a habit of blowing up eldest sons of Protestant landed gentry... My friend had grown up Unitarian in one of those Rainbow Families, with African-American, Asian and Latin American siblings. Suddenly he was thrust bodily and spiritually into the Irish sectarian conflict, and all he wanted was to keep the life that he had made for himself in California.

It reads like the plot of a novel. And it was gripping, since we heard it unwind in monthly installments. 
And that was just one adoptee's story, interspersed among the rest. And I loved listening, and thinking and projecting into the gaps and silences as my fellow adoptees struggled to bring coherence and understanding to bear in their own lives, which was the ball of wool from which they spun their narratives. I came to realize that my own story, which I had sharpened and edited for maximal impact over the course of the years, was not particularly dramatic not my insights into it particularly keen. It was comforting not being special. 

Comforted but not secure. If it were simply other people suggesting I write a memoir, I could smile or frown and say, "Nope, don't think so..." They couldn't make me write one. But a part of me thinks it's a good idea, and goads me to do it. More on this later...



1 Comments:

Blogger Amanda said...

Profound thoughts here, BB. You're right, these stories do read like a novel. I would far more enjoy reading these memoirs than fabricated stories of adoptees filled with stereotypes. These stories are real. They are genuine pieces of the human experience. Maybe I will rethink memoir writing afterall!

1:48 PM  

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