Archive for February 26, 2016

How I Ended up Writing This Memoir

writingmemoir

I wanted to be a novelist. Instead, here I am, writing another memoir. I’m calling it Aging and Staying in Charge of Your Life: A Memoir. The following passage from my work-in-process describes how it happened:

It’s breakfast time at The Mad Dog Café. Wayson sits across from me in the high-backed booth. His soft brown eyes study the platter of fried eggs, sausages, bacon and toast in front of him.

“Isn’t that a work of art?” he asks no one in particular.

I hadn’t noticed my own careful arrangement of tomatoes, two poached eggs and whole-wheat toast. Wayson is one of the most present people I know.

Wayson Choy, a well-known writer and one of my literary heroes, brings to life the Vancouver Chinese community of his youth. He creates a world for us to experience vicariously. That’s what I want to do: create a fictitious world of my own. I want to learn from Wayson.

Wayson has dropped into my life like some sort of guardian angel to help me with the novel I’ve been writing for the past three years, ever since I retired as a trauma therapist. I tell Wayson about all the courses and workshops I’ve been attending in my determination to learn the art of writing fiction.

Wayson has brought my previously published book, Confessions of a Trauma Therapist to our session. It’s well stickered with post-it-notes. He flips through it to show me his highlighting of passages he finds significant. He really likes the memoir I published in 2010. Confessions is my own story of child sexual abuse filtered through my more than 30 years as a psychotherapist. I wrote it to guide others in understanding this pervasive, secret crime against children and to offer victims assurance that they can heal and that they are not alone.

We eat our breakfasts and finally Wayson looks directly into my face. He leans toward me over the table, holding up his copy of Confessions of a Trauma Therapist. “Why on earth do you want to write fiction? Your own life is so much more interesting. You’re not a novelist,” he says.

What! I’m shocked. Two things happen inside me. A superficial, rational part wants to say, “What! After all these years I’ve been learning to write a novel?”

Another part suddenly relaxes. His words slide over me like a softly knit glove. I know he’s right. I write best when my fiction is telling my own story. I’m not really very good at creating characters that are different from me.

That’s how my second memoir, came into being. Wayson convinced me I needed to write about my own life. My own life? The life of an old retired yoga teacher and Focusing Oriented Psychotherapist? Yes, I finally realized: I need to share what I know about taking charge of our lives as we age. My whole cohort is living longer and healthier. We need new paradigms for living fully.

What about the title, Aging and Staying in Charge of Your Life, you might ask. When I started writing this memoir, I intended to tell you how, through changing my own behavior, I managed to settle into my marriage. I really expected to stay in that bungalow we bought together. Professionally, I know that the only person you can change is yourself. I hoped that, in changing myself, I could change the relationship. Alas, that did not happen.

I invite you, then, to follow my struggle and my joy as I shape my experience of being an older person in this age of change. This is the first of many blog posts. I hope you’ll follow each Friday as they appear.

How People Like Linda Stewardson Can Change a Whole Community

unnamed-6

On one of my regular walks with Sammy the poodle along the Kingston lakefront, I came across the plaque pictured above. It stopped me in my tracks. A flood of sadness, then excitement rushed through me. Sadness from being reminded of our nation’s denial of the crimes perpetrated on our young who cannot defend themselves. Excitement because here, marking a recently planted young tree, was a plaque reminding us not of a loved one’s death, but of our children who carry shame and grief in their hearts because of child sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Child abuse is our nation’s best-kept secret. My profound thanks go to whoever chose this way of reminding us of the fate of our children.

Every time someone finds a new way of breaking into our society’s denial of child abuse, I cheer. How else can we protect our children? If our collective head is in the sand, their cries go unheard. We have to educate ourselves about child abuse if we’re going to help. Remember, as Judith Herman tells us: we are either on the side of the victim or the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that you mind your own business, turn the other way. The victim, on the other hand, needs your active involvement. You need to get involved in something that’s not very pretty.

Another recent breakthrough was Linda Stewardson’s recent publication of The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. Linda’s book launch and support from her Thunder Bay community is outstanding. Her church provided a venue for further discussion.

Imagine how many citizens in that community and in the communities where Linda speaks about her experiences are now educated about child abuse. What a huge difference that must make in that community. Nobody there can claim to be unaware of the intolerable suffering of some children. Her story will change that whole community.