Dive In More
Updated: Aug 15
I am in deep in the midst of writing a memoir. “Dive in More” is what my writing coach keeps telling me as I attempt to peel more and more layers of the onion, delving deeper into my personal feelings to create a vivid painting of my life.
But here is what I am learning. If you just tell a story, “this happened, then this happened” the reader does not care. You have to go deep into your experiences, including your pain. You know how peeling an onion can make you cry? Well, in writing memoir, you have to cry! “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader” says my knowledgeable coach. So, I have surprised myself a few times by crying over what I write. But then I get scared to read it to someone else. Will they be touched? Will they get my pain? Am I off track here or worse, unclear? Like any performance, you expose yourself to an audience and hang in limbo, not knowing until you hear the applause or criticism how you are being received.
Diving deeper is like crawling through dark and dank caves you are sure only you have traveled. The deeper you go, you find places you think no one has been and would not understand, like dark places that reveal your shame or guilt or embarrassment. Who wants to go there? Ironically, the deepest depths of your personal cave are what touch the universal. If I can invite you in to experience how I feel, what it tastes like, smells like, or looks like from inside my world, then you may find a kernel of truth that resonates, because we all know how sadness, hurt, despair, frustration, joy, sorrow, anger and all the complicated feelings in between feel. If we are human. And we are. But my defenses keep me guarded. They resist the paring knife. I am just learning to delve deeper. Give me an onion.
Like these posts on facebook that show people’s lives as all perfect. It gets boring, my jaw tightens, and I roll my eyes. The highlight reel of smiling shiny faces in sunny shiny places is shown and while often sweet and touching, especially if these people are beloved by me, they get old. Because nobody is perfect. And I sigh some relief if they include some rough waters. Why? Is it that I am jealous and wish them ill? No, I just want to be able to relate, so I can feel closer to them. Show me the backroom where you store stuff that is dirty or dusty so I can smile in recognition.
We all have what my mother and her sisters called, “a junk drawer”. There is a real one, often in the kitchen where the gum packs and battery packs, paperclips and not ready to throw away but not being used stuff gets disorderly crammed into. (and I just ended a sentence with a preposition, but I don’t care). Notwithstanding Marie Kondo, we all have a junk draw. Well, maybe not Marie Kondo, the organizing your home guru. But even her mission to sanitize our living spaces by eliminating junk has had a downside. Because of her popularity, thrift stores report being so laden with an over abundance of donations that not all of them are being recycled or upcycled or composted. Some are being sent to dumpsites to linger for years as waste. Just like me. I can be a waste. I waste time (usually looking at those cringy happy vacation pictures of perfect people).
We are all waste and dust and dirt and smelly onions that make our eyes sting. You hurt me, I cry. You hit me, I bruise. We all have emotional bruises, some current, some long ago buried deep in a dark cave in our psyche. A cave that I have to take a light and crawl back through to feel again those jagged or slippery steps, gingerly staying long enough in one spot to shine that light on the truth, so you can feel the pebbly stones beneath my feet on the journey. I am seeking the core of the onion. I know I have a long way to go. I am still learning, one onion layer at a time.
POSTSCRIPT: Thank you to my wise writing coach, Marni Freedman. www.sandiegowriters.org