WONDERFUL! LET’S DO IT! WRITE A MEMOIR!

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THE GENRE

I enjoy a good memoir as a brief respite from psychological thrillers and horror books and have always gone for the human-interest element. What can I say? People and things fascinate me. The idea of writing a memoir, however, hadn’t occurred to me until recently. It seems somehow relevant now in these days of the pandemic, a time when people are still fighting for their rights and their lives.

I’ve oven heard people say, “Certain things need to be kept private.”

Hey, we’re on Facebook and Twitter. The Internet spies. They know what kind of shoes I like. You get messages like, “Don’t you want to give this another look? Come on; we know you don’t have any willpower. Go on. Get it.”

Everything I research for my writing shows up in ads. My character gets injured, and they show me compression wraps.

So, we are living in an age of transparency and accessibility. As an introvert, I never liked that, but I get over it when I’m writing. 

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WHY I WANT TO DO IT

Understanding is critical in the world we live in today. Oh, I know, some people think there’s way too much empathy in the world and that we need to go back to being vicious and cruel. Maybe even with a bit of medieval torture thrown in for good measure. As for me, I like the fact that time has taught us more about humanity. It’s part of evolving as a species. 

The aim of sharing is not to gain sympathy but maybe help shed some light on how certain things develop and how we overcome those challenges even when the odds are against us.

One thing I’ve heard and can relate to as a poet and a writer is, Don’t waste your pain. Life is beautiful and tragic, happy, sad, and everything in between, and, as a poet, I’m here for all of it. The pain is often long gone by the time we relay things in poetry and books, but through the pain we once felt, there’s a collective empathy we feel for people trying to navigate whatever we’ve already sorted out.

Speaking of that, I learn from everyone. If someone doesn’t want to talk about a subject or hear about it, that’s okay. Others may be looking for answers to the questions we once had, wanting to survive and thrive as we managed to do and then become better and stronger.

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WHAT I DON’T WANT TO DO

Some of the memoirs I’ve read have shown me what I don’t want to do. Here’s my shortlist.

  1. A personal grudge memoir – If the book is full of swipes at others for revenge, no thanks! As someone who has been on the receiving end of character assassination attempts, I don’t want to do that to anyone. I think it would hurt my soul more than it would hurt them. Write from your heart.
  2. Get into other people’s stories – Other people’s stories are theirs to tell, not mine. For the most part, I want to make every effort to respect their privacy. I won’t reveal real names (except for mine, but there are still those who would be easily identifiable, so unless I’ve found it necessary to get their permission for one thing or another, their secrets are safe with me.
  3. Name dropping – I’ve lived in New York all my life. When you live in New York, you see famous people. You meet famous people. None of them had anything to do with anything relevant in my life.
  4. List sexual conquests in graphic detail– Just no. Recently, I read a memoir where the author constantly got into what physical characteristics he liked and didn’t like in a woman. What body parts were his favorite, all the intimate details of his sexual prowess. It made me wonder, why am I reading this? What is the focus? Yeah, no. 

I’ll ask my alpha and beta readers to check me on all of that.

And, don’t get me wrong, there are people who read memoirs for all of the above, and they love it, so I’m not knocking it. If that’s your thing, go for it, no judgment here.

WHAT I DO WANT TO DO

Memoirs have a focus, yes, and it’s not just to present your life story like you would in an autobiography. Mine is a story about addiction and recovery (from many things). I am one of the fortunate ones who lived to tell how it went for me—going from victim to survivor and beyond to what we call “surthriver.” That fits because we’re learning to do so much more than merely survive. It would focus on an all-consuming fight for sanity, peace, and recovery. I want to make readers feel like they are right there with me for all of it. But, fair warning, being right there with me is bound to get pretty scary.

And let me tell you, when people say they have no regrets, I’m sure I misunderstand what they mean by that or, perhaps, take it too literally. I can’t imagine not having regrets. Most of us do cause pain, even if we don’t want to, and the one thing I regret more than anything is the people I’ve hurt in my oblivion and ignorance.

Recovery, for me, has also been an ongoing journey toward authenticity, removing the veils layer by layer, discarding the masks. I was told, in recovery, we are only as sick as our secrets. Of course, we are allowed to have secrets. But if your hidden truth has you living a double life or creates a barrier between you and the world, and you tend to compartmentalize aspects of your life as part of the deception, it can make you sick. It can limit your healing. It can impede your goal of authenticity.

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Oh, I’ve revealed my secrets to certain people and groups of people, but some of the struggles weren’t public ones, so, in this case, I will tell the whole story of my recovery. Unfiltered, I hope to include the humor and joy among the tragic madness.

My favorite memoirs have been well-written and inspiring with a powerful message. They are my inspiration. It makes me happy, too, when an author is aware of their patterns and vulnerabilities and seeks answers. That’s how we evolve as humans. The constant transition brings wisdom and strength. Raw honesty combined with accountability helps everyone, especially those of us who have gotten caught in a cycle of self-loathing and self-sabotage at some point in life. There is a need for truth and spiritual courage, as well as a need to remain teachable.

And what is the truth? For me, the truth is what makes sense to you after all your exploration and quest for authenticity. I say it all the time, no group, no matter who, what, or where is perfect. Some have seen the light, and others have yet to see it. Let’s hope they keep looking.

Roger Daltrey: My Story – Thanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite

I had Roger Daltrey’s poster on my wall as a kid. My father tore it down nonchalantly when he decided to panel the walls. He didn’t think my sister, who shared the room with me, or I would mind. But, we did. He left the beautiful poster crumpled up in a ball on the floor!🤣

I cried and did a little foot-stomping. The Who was one of our favorite bands. We loved the movie Tommy and the collection of songs from the rock opera that preceded it. I always thought it was the work of a genius, and that genius was Pete Townshend, the band’s legendary guitarist. His other works were phenomenal as well, and seeing Roger bring Tommy to life on screen was incredible. I’ll confess; I had a mad crush on him.

As you can imagine, by the time my sister and I got to see the band in concert, it was so powerful and emotional, I was in tears. My heart was just exploding with joy. 

Now, I happen to love a good juicy memoir. When I say juicy, I don’t mean in terms of sex but information. Curiosity, I guess, but I do enjoy learning about people and things.

I didn’t know much about the band members beyond Keith’s self-destructive path, resulting in his death and Pete’s arrest for downloading child porn. (Pete was found innocent and cleared of the charges.) Roger tells that story in his book. He is a fantastic storyteller, and his collaborator did an excellent job helping him put it all together. Reading about his experience, I learned a lot more about music and what bands go through. Being a lover of music who could only dream about singing on stage, I found it fascinating. Reading about the sixties and seventies has always been exciting to me, too. If I could transport back in time to get there, I’d take the chance in a heartbeat.

So, in my assessment, Thanks a lot Mr. Kibblewhite is a fast-paced read and thoroughly enjoyable. Fans of The Who will love it. I got so into it that I had to watch a bunch of their live shows on YouTube. I wanted to observe each of them individually and collectively. (Yeah, when I’m watching or reading something good, I am obsessed.) They blow me away now more than they ever had! All of them were beautiful and brilliant— topnotch musicians and showmen.

I will say I can’t entirely agree with everything Roger says in his book. For instance, he thinks fidelity should not end a marriage. That might have been debatable at the peak of his fame, but to say that after the 80s? He’s had children with women he played with on the road, so he wasn’t too concerned about protection. In terms of awareness advocacy, I’d be remiss not to say I’m glad he and his wife never had to suffer the consequences. 

Other than that, I admire Roger Daltrey and respect him. At 5’6, the man’s presence was (and likely still is) enormous. It seemed to me he was not only grounded and a tough guy, especially with his anti-drug stance but also vulnerable and emotional. What happened to Keith and John—and even the troubles Pete had— broke Roger’s heart. He seemed to have tremendous empathy for them, even though their antics had a detrimental effect on the band, in general, and individually.

 One thing struck me while reading about his depression after the series of tragedies. He wrote: 

 “We hadn’t been able to grieve after John’s death. We had just pushed on through that intense tour and then, only weeks after we’d got home, before we could process it all, Pete was arrested and all our lives got turned upside down. In the face of a sustained crisis your brain stops coping. It shuts down to protect your heart.”

 That was sort of an a-ha moment for me because this happened to several people I love and me, too. As simple as it may seem, it is deeply profound. In fact, after reading that, it helped me help someone else. 😉

Roger Daltrey shows, throughout this writing, that he’s capable of admitting his mistakes and learning from them. In my book, people like that are a treasure. Thank you, Roger, for sharing your fascinating story and thought-provoking words of wisdom. If I was a fan before, I’m more of a fan after finishing your book. ❤️

Roger Daltrey: Thanks a lot Mr Kibblewhite

My Review of “In Pieces” by Sally Field

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Sally Field is one of those people who notices her patterns and vulnerabilities and, as a result, digs deep for answers. Because of that, she continually evolved as an actress, as a woman, and as a human trying to survive all the madness. That type of constant transitioning brings wisdom and strength, but it also leads to unlimited capacity for empathy.

Sybil was the first movie of hers that I watched after having read the book. While reading In Pieces, I had to go back and watch Sybil again. The woman is brilliant, and I can tell you, after reading her memoir, she’s badass as well.

I never realized how many movies she’d been in—at least 38! It was fun to read about the filming of many of those because she shined in every single one that I saw—Norma RaeSteel MagnoliasMrs. DoubtfireForrest Gump. She even played Aunt Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield—a made-for-TV movie adapted from one of my favorite novels.

If you are a fan of Sally’s movies, you will fall in love with Sally while reading In Pieces—the same way you fell in love with Sybil and Norma Rae when Sally became those characters on the screen.

Ms. Field wrote In Pieces herself and did a beautiful job of it.

At times, there were some unflattering things about others that I didn’t think were necessary. I wasn’t sure I’d be patient if that continued throughout the book. It didn’t. The more you read her words, the more you realize how fair she tries to be to everyone involved. Her kindness, her understanding, outweighs the need to point fingers and punish the people who inadvertently harmed her. It’s her raw honesty and accountability combined that leaves me in awe. She never tries to make herself look good or perfect or as if she is forever the victim but never the culprit. The rest is her truth, which she has every right to divulge. The “Me Too” revelations are merely a part of her incredible story because she triumphed over all of it.

In short, I liked this book from the beginning, and, by the end, I loved it.

Nobody would see the pain behind that beautiful Gidget smile of hers, but Sally Field has been so incredibly brave from childhood to this very day, and she has continued to grow more beautiful with time.