The ripples from my insight in late December about my dad’s (and consequently my own) life have been pretty long-lasting. I have lost story.
Or, more accurately I suppose, since I read 12 books on vacation, I have lost personal story. And I seem to have lost my connection to the very idea of memoir. A work of fiction is outright and baldly what it is: a fiction. A made-up world with made-up characters – and I do believe that fiction is the lie that tells the truth – but a world created and explained and held by a writer. It is what it is because that’s how it was created to be. It may take root in a reader’s mind and heart and live on, as great works do, leaving me wondering what a character is doing now before I catch myself and realize it was “just” a character in a book, but nevertheless it was “just” a character in a book. It can’t be ‘gotten wrong,’ the character’s story can’t be ‘gotten wrong’ because it is crafted.
But memoir work is inherently ‘wrong.’ It’s a single shot of weft in a larger, more complicated piece, and directly and frequently contradicted by others in the same life. We get ourselves wrong, and we have all our biases (some invisible, some hoisted to help ourselves feel better) and I’ve not been able to pluck out any stories since mid-December. I can tell a factlet, like I first heard Camille Saint-Saëns’ spooky Danse Macabre in first grade, in 1964, in music class at Lucy B Reade Elementary School in Austin TX and I was also trying to learn how to snap my fingers then, but I can’t say more than that. I can say that I remember feeling something like wonder that a piece of music could make me feel shivery and scared. I can say that I could only snap by curling my index finger tightly and snapping my middle finger against my thumb, and other kids looked at me strangely because of that. I can have a tight spotlight on a moment but I can’t tell a story around it. I can’t say what it meant, or how it connects outwards from that hard chair in the music room.
Not even for the travel blog for our trip to Laos and Thailand, and that’s really weird. I’ve written a travel blog for all our trips together since November 2005. I still retain the impulse to write, but when I’d open the laptop to write a post — about the Mekong, or Wat Phu, or food, or the Lao people, or a difference I feel between Laos and Thailand — it’s like my hands are full of sand and immersed in a flowing river. There’s nothing to hold onto, no place to start, no story to tell. It’s weird, I tell you.
I’ve been thinking about closing down this blog for that reason, but I’ve decided to put it on hiatus. If you get email notifications, or follow the blog page on Facebook, you’ll know when (or if) I’m back. I may turn this into a reading and making blog, an in-the-moment observational writing platform (since I do still love words, and finding elegant and evocative phrasing), but just for now, I say au revoir…until I see you again. xoxoxo