I’ve been working on a project for the past few weeks, and the more I work on it, the harder it gets. I wrote a blog a while back declaring my intentions to self-publish my memoir on my first daughter’s stillbirth by Thanksgiving. Obviously, I’ve missed that self-imposed deadline, but it’s not for lack of trying. It’s because the story has changed so much since I first wrote it that I’ve had to make some massive edits and additions.
That’s the thing when it comes to writing about your life: life doesn’t stand still. It’s always moving forward. There are those rare moments when we find ourselves in stasis, but they are few and far between. Anyone who’s been through a traumatic experience knows all too well that the world will allow you a few moments to grieve or process, but after that it’s back to the speed of life. You get pulled back in by work concerns, or the hot water heater goes on the fritz at home. In some way, big or small, you will be pulled back into the flow of human existence, and in that flow you will eventually find yourself farther along than you realized, looking back at a moment that’s etched in time yet somehow different, always different.
And when you are able to look back and see those differences, you will want to talk about them. To sound them out. You do this because you want to make sure you’re seeing things – and yourself – clearly.
The truly gracious people in life are the ones that allow you to talk things through. They give the audience you need for however long you need it in order to see you make a breakthrough. People like that are godsends.
But there are also people who don’t want to hear you rehash something you’ve talked about a million times before. There are some people whose view of life can be summed up by one great edict: get over it.
“Can we talk about something else?” they’ll say, and they’ll mean it. They don’t want to hear you reassess your life.
They are not bad people, the ones who don’t want to listen, who don’t want to talk. Some of them have known deep and lasting pain, and simply see no good in dredging it up. To them, talking is like perpetually cutting open a scar. There’s no use in it. Let the thing heal and move on.
For others, though, they have never known what you know. They can’t handle you talking about your past because they don’t have a corresponding event in their own history to give them perspective. And perhaps they’re intellectually honest enough with themselves to know that they can’t really speak to or understand the kind of things you’re processing, and so they don’t want to waste your time. Maybe. The alternative certainly isn’t too pleasant.
I bring this up because, once again, I’m diving into my past in an effort to understand it. I’m pulling up painful memories two-fold: those memories from the actual experience of Ruthanne’s birth and the memories of writing the memoir the first go around. It’s exhausting on multiple levels; it takes a kind of concentration that I can only manage for so long before I have to resurface and do something else for a while to catch my breath, then plunge back into the deep, dark waters of recall. And all of this effort has me thinking and thinking and thinking about my life, what’s it meant, where it’s been, and why it matters.
And not surprisingly, I’m talking about some of the same old things again.
You may see some familiar topics pop up on this blog from time to time while I’m working on this project. You may wince and say to yourself, “Geez. Can we talk about something else?” If so, I can’t say I blame you.
But for me the answer is simply No, we can’t talk about something else, because, for as much as I’ve tried to deny it, this is the defining event of my life so far. Everything that has happened since relates back to the moment we looked at an ultrasound of a perfectly healthy baby girl and saw a still heart.
I may not always talk about it, but it is there, beneath the surface (and sometimes waaaaaaaay beneath the surface), and I can’t change that.
What I can do is learn from it. And I thank you in advance for giving me the space to do so.