Writing and Memory

Swept Away
Manipulated Pen & Ink Drawing
by
Elizabeth Crawford

Writing and Memory

 

Although I was looking for an image to introduce the topic about which I wanted to write, this is the one that made most sense to me. I hesitated to use it because I’d used it just last month for a poem about memory. So, I went and looked up the poem I had written. It may be found here: https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2019/04/23/healing-of-memory/

After reading it and the comments that were made after posting, I decided it was the very best image for this entry as well. I have been engaged in writing about a past experience in which one of my poems was selected as the anchor piece for an anthology about men and women growing old together. The anthology was very popular and was made into a set of tapes in which twenty of the written pieces were read by actresses and actors. My poem was again the anchor piece for the set of tapes, and was read by Ed Asner. And the set of tapes was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Spoken Word” category.

No we didn’t win, but that brush with celebrity changed my life on an incredible number of levels, including teaching at the University from which I graduated and most of the Fine Arts Schools in the area where I lived. I was also nominated for and became the moderator of the longest established poetry group in Southeastern Wisconsin. And was asked to write my own column in a local magazine.  To say that my life was impacted by the experience doesn’t even come close to all of the doors that opened up afterward.

Within the telling of the story, I also found myself writing about an experience I had in college. One that impacted me almost as deeply as that other experience. You see, I made a decision back there, that I would never write poetry again. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I never spoke of it to anyone. I simply closed the door and walked away. And never realized just how painful that whole following year had been. I’d had a dream and it was totally shattered by an Instructor at the end of the semester. A man who gleefully told me that I’d never write really good poetry. That I was a middle-aged woman still raising kids, and yes, I’d probably, on occasion, write a poem or even two, much like other women knit socks.

I did tell the man exactly what I thought of him before leaving his office, even laughing as I did so. But, I walked away knowing that I wanted nothing to do with anything that might contribute to my becoming anything like him. Circumstances intervened and I did find myself writing poetry again, and found a Mentor who actually supported and helped me dust off that small dream which still energizes my existence. But in writing the story, I realized that I had never really done the work of healing that long ago memory. So much so, that I found myself questioning every word I was writing.

This incident happened before I made the conscious decision to keep a daily journal. Normally, if I get foggy or indecisive about something, I can go back in my journal and find the details there. But for this one I can not do that. What I am finding is that it is sorely testing my ability to finish writing the story I have been working on. All the feelings come flooding back and I can and do feel the pain and rage that was never worked on back there, but still remains in my memory. It is murky at best, just like the flooded element in the image. Mainly because the same man created another incident that almost had me quitting College in my final two years of study. I refused to let him win, back there, but I’m afraid that he might win now, after all the years since then.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. For me, the healing of memories most often includes writing. It also includes Forgiveness. At the moment, I don’t want to forgive. But, I also know that I must do that for the equilibrium of my own soul and spirit. I do know that I can ask for the willingness to be willing to forgive. So that is where I will begin because if I don’t, I might never be able to finish writing this current story.

And, as I’ve said before, story is good medicine. I truly want others, especially women, to know that the impossible is possible. If I’m not proof of that, I don’t really know anyone who is. I got myself out of an abusive marriage, I created a life centered around the thing I most love to do, and I’m a fairly good story teller to boot. That alone tells me that I am more willing than not.

Do you have memories that interfere with your ability to write? Do you allow them to block that activity?

 

About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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4 Responses to Writing and Memory

  1. KT Workman says:

    Memories, even bad ones, don’t interfere with my writing; in fact, the opposite is true. Many pieces I have written, both poetry and prose, address past hurts. Especially with prose, I don’t recognize the demon I’m exorcising until the story is finished. Poetry is more immediate.
    I have a few ugly memories I’ve never come to terms with, haven’t forgiven the perpetrator, but I have written it out, and continue to write it out. That’s how I deal with it.

    And I agree with you, Kathy. I’ve done that many times in my journal. Problem is, I wasn’t doing a journal back then. I had no way of knowing why the man put me through that semester from hell, didn’t understand any of it. But, as I wrote some of this down this morning, I did start putting two and two together. Even found a few ways of being grateful that he did. I might not have found my true Mentor later on, who has always supported and encouraged me to find my own voice. And gladly celebrated with me, each time I moved closer to that goal. And yes, poetry is a good place to find some release under these kinds of circumstances. I thought, when I walked away all those years ago, that was it. But obviously it wasn’t or I wouldn’t be having the problems now. I’m not worried about the situation, I released a lot of it when I wrote this post. And am fairly certain that this post opened the door that I needed to get through to heal those wounds. And I’m fairly certain that I’ll be able to finish the story now.

    Elizabeth

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  2. neil reid says:

    To answer last question first – yes. But that’s for another day and page.

    Don’t I recently recall within a poem of your own, (broad paraphrase) calling on the spirit of deer for their gentle forgiveness, and of most value, gentle forgiveness for yourself. Me myself I’ve long admired the art of befriending monsters! Make each a welcome friend, be generous of deed and praise. Does anything other than affection act like an adhesive? But yes, gotta know the face before conversation can begin.

    Long as I’ve known you, your own dedication to writing has ever been what I most respect about you. Writing propensities aside, I trust that you will look and listen, are open to discovery and learning. All much admirable in a person and friend!

    Seeing -> Ability -> Change -> Choice -> Freedom
    Is it something like that? 🙂

    Yes it is, Neil. When I created this post, I wanted it to be similar to a journal page I might actually write. I don’t doubt my own abilities. And yes, you are correct about the symbolism of the deer. As a matter of fact, I’ve been having a memory that keeps popping up. We were on a camping trip, and I needed to use the facilities in the middle of the night. They were a bit of a distance away down a winding path. My companion, awoke and decided to accompany me. She held the flashlight, while I walked in front of her. Stepped around a curve in the path and stopped still. A full grown doe was taking a nap in the middle of the path. She looked up at me and I just stood there transfixed. She very slowly rose up on her feet. I could have reached out and touched her, but I didn’t want to frighten her in any way. Once she was on her feet, she stared into my eyes and sort of snorted. It sounded like a “Hurrumph” of disgusted displeasure and I grinned. She left the path leisurely and allowed us to pass, watching us finish our way to the building. She was gone when we came out. As I said, the memory has surfaced several times and always makes me smile because of that sort of disgusted snort. Thank you for putting the two things together. I have, since creating this post, continued to work on the story, seeing it all in another light. I believe, for several reasons, that I was not only a challenge, but somewhat of a threat to this man’s concept of the way things ought to be. He felt a definite need to put me in the place he alone believed I deserved. He actually told me that although I had done some very good and even excellent work during the semester, there were young men in the class that would need his endorsement because they would be seeking a writing career, and he couldn’t just hand out A’s willy nilly. That was why he made the crack of how I would never write poems except like other women knit socks. This writing was simply my way of working through the issues and getting myself beyond it. And yes, I can hear that doe snorting quite clearly, lol.

    Elizabeth

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  3. annell4 says:

    Dearest Elizabeth, Probably there is no one who doesn’t have memories, that wished they belonged to someone else. Still, if there is anyone who can turn lemons into lemonade it is you!! Perhaps you are a chief, or a Wizard, changing something into gold. For that, there is no need of forgiveness.

    About forgiveness, men have been trained all their lives to belittle women, for what else do they deserve? I think of Mary Sheaf’s (?) comment about men, “It is hard to be understanding, when you are overspending.” They have been taught that women can’t possibly be as smart as men, write as well as men, be as strong as men, etc,etc. No reason to state it all, you know the song, know every word. So it is up to us to forgive them, in the words of God, “they know not what they do.”

    They are simple creatures, and haven’t been given the gift, given to women…they must struggle and still, they will never know what you know. You are woman, you are strong, and still you are soft, kind, and you can write about it. The writing comes easy, you have nothing going on in that brain of yours, but as Rosemary says, “Given paper and pencil, away you go.” The words flow, tripping over each other to get out, to be seen and to be heard.

    Forget that man in your past, after all, you allowed it. Why do we do it? Why is it so hard to believe what is before our very eyes. You have the “gift” Elizabeth, I knew it the first time I read your words, many years ago, and you have proven it over and over through the years. Proved it to me, why is it you have such a hard time believeing?

    That” knowing” doesn’t come from outside yourself, it is a little voice inside of you, speaking just to you. If it isn’t there, no one can make you think it is. You have told me it is so, so many times, I believe you have it, and it is time you believe it too. Your skills are at the top, no one exceeds you.
    You are incomparable, Elizabeth, master of the “word.” The title belongs to you, accept it, it is part of you, and only a small part of who you are, for you are so much more.

    Wow! Annell, your comment sort of floored me. The entire thrust for writing this particular story is outward toward others who may have similar issues. I especially want other women to know that there is life, fully available, after abuse. How else would a fifty year-old grandmother, almost totally unknown, become involved with a Grammy Nomination? My post was meant to do the same. I have a lot of young writers visiting this blog and I want them to know that writing, like every other choice, has both its ups and downs. This was simply the most current one that was creating problems for me. And yes, I have dealt with it and cleared my path, starting with this post. The post itself helped me to realize, once again, how far I’ve come. It did help me connect myself back to my original reason for writing the story itself. And it allowed me to remember my very last contact with the man, several years after graduation, and a few after the Nomination. One in which he, par for the course, attempted to let me know my proper place in his scheme of things. And my three word smiling reply let him know he’d never be able to do that again. He eyes filled with anger and disbelief as I turned my back and simply walked away. And that is what I intend to use for the ending of this particular chapter of my story. My deepest gratitude to you and Neil for letting me know that this part of my story is definitely an important one. And I think I just heard that deer snorting again, lol.

    Elizabeth

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    • annell4 says:

      Please forgive the typo, I meant, the quote was by Mary Sheaf, “It is hard to be understanding, when you are overstanding.”

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