Like a black hole, but with emotions

In a perfect world, I would have posted more in the last year, because so many wonderful things have happened. I fell in love and started a new career. It felt like my real life started. But it’s not a perfect world. Instead of posting, I was learning about business analysis & writing requirements by day, kissing & laughing with Mike by night.

I’m posting now because it’s the only thing I can think to do. When my heart feels fractured and my contacts salty, my mind gets restless. For the last few months, I’ve sought easier outlets than writing: HBO, new crochet projects, wistful novels, adult coloring books, and binge-drinking. Writing about pain is difficult. Writing about personal pain is exhausting. Writing about family pain is dangerous.

Yet here I am, about to dig in.

The specifics aren’t important, but the basics are probably necessary. The last time I saw my mother was on my birthday, February 29. She left without notice in early March. The last time we spoke was mid-April. She filed for divorce sometime late April. She’s been with a man in Oregon since early June. The last time we exchanged texts was Saturday, while I was recovering from a hangover. The night before I either instigated an argument or cornered her into confessing her sins, depending on your perspective. Either way, I blame alcohol.

Part of me is terrified to write about this – privately or publicly; the other half doesn’t give a damn – it is what it is. These thoughts and feelings have been churning for a long time, and I haven’t been able to do much with them. I talk to Mike. I see a counselor. I try to spend time with my dad and brothers. I take vitamin D and sleep in on the weekends. But when I slow down, I realize I’m buckling under the weight. I just want to be past all of the frustration.

I thought my depression phase of the grieving process was very short. There were only a few days in June where I couldn’t concentrate and slept so hard I woke a zombie. Other than that, I’ve been angry. My counselor assured me that I would likely be going through cycles of grief for the next few years. The idea is daunting. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’ve never had to deal with something so emotionally massive.

This isn’t just something I’m going to have to deal with over the course of the next few months. I’m going to have new questions, frustrations, and concerns as I hit my own milestones.

800px-Black_Hole_in_the_universe

My emotions, circa spring/summer 2016. Everything is at the event horizon, basically.

I want my rhetorical questions to have answers.

How? When? Why?

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A Million Little Pieces, Memoir, and Honesty

I was up at 6am today. Not as terrible as 5am, but on labor day, that’s still a pretty crappy time to be awake. I went for another run, followed by some yoga. Then I sat on my patio for a nice breakfast and reading session. I finished The Marriage Plot and was pretty disappointed. I had such high expectations after Middlesex, so my disappointment was inevitable.

I’m trying to find something to read next, which is sort of funny all on its own. About a quarter of the books on my shelf haven’t been read. A customer from the coffee shop I used to work at gave me the The Letters of Anton Chekhov. That seems like a nice thing to read, right? Meh. I went through a phase a few years ago when I was obsessed with Chekhov. I ripped through a collection of his short stories in a week (probably the same week the customer gave me the book), and haven’t picked up a story or play of his since. Had I read his letters right after those short stories, I probably would have gotten some insight into his life and personality, and I probably really would have appreciated it. Now? Nah. I also have the Norton Collection of Personal Essays that I found at a used book store for $7, but I’m trying to stay away from shorter works.

I wandered over to Carissa’s shelves today and found A Million Little Pieces. I don’t know much about the book other than it claimed to be a memoir and ended up being false. Also, something about drugs. And Oprah.

When this book blew up, I wasn’t interested in memoir. I sort of regarded it as a lame fad: just uncreative and self-indulgent people who wanted to write but couldn’t write fiction. I was a Fiction Writer, interested in the construction of character and plot. Then I took a memoir-writing class at UW-Milwaukee and that changed. I realized that my fiction elitism was unwarranted since I was an unrealized memoirist at heart, what with my incessant journaling (I did more digging, my journaling slowed most during my junior and senior years of college). Then I started reading memoirs and essays and found that I loved how truth could be stranger than fiction.

So I have mixed feelings about A Million Little Pieces. Now that I write memoir I’m aware that I have an obligation to be honest. I had a few autobiographical fiction assignments in college, and I was so confused about them. I allowed myself fictional retribution – ending a relationship when I should have, dumping beer on his belongings, wildly advertising his infidelity, slapping him more than just the one time, etc – but it felt sort of dirty. I was telling a story that had its roots in reality, but then ended it falsely. If my ex were to read it, he would surely point out all the fiction, expose me as a fraud, humiliate me, etc. And I would know he was right.  I would face similar consequences if I paraded the story as fiction, only in a weirder inverted way.

If I were to ever share those pieces, I think I would need to preface them with a disclaimer: “The following events are based in reality, though I’ve taken the liberty of replacing certain details and/or the ending with ones preferable to me.” And really, who cares then? The truth probably offers a better story than the one I give anyway. Maybe I’ll clean one up and share it later this week, then you can tell me what you think.

Anyway, reading a fictionalized memoir is going to be an interesting experience. I’m going to have to tell myself it’s a novel if I don’t to feel completely cheated by the end of it.