Tuesday, January 15, 2013
My Stories: Part One
Note: Please feel free to skip these if you are not interested in my life stories and the writing side of my life. :)
I have always struggled with trying to be a loving person and doing the right thing...with judgement and forgiveness. My life's quest has been to figure out how to survive down here and be the best person I could be with what I had to work with. I am slow to get things through my hard head...or my selfish heart...but I have always shared my journey with the people I was close to.
And I have always written. Started when I was about nine. I wrote to try to figure out other people and myself...how best to handle a situation...what was the best decision...and what was really the deeper cause of why I was upset or hurt. I wrangled mightily with myself on paper. With "my conscience" over my shoulder, I would write and write...circling around and around the emotion or the issue...peeling away the layers...until I was finally calm and clearer...and could see things more objectively--even if I didn't want to. Holding a mirror up to yourself can be an ugly shock, let me tell you.
I got my first pen pal when I was about ten. That is when my love affair with letters began. Talking on paper to someone so far away that I needed special paper and envelopes (Italy)...waiting for that return letter to arrive--ahhh! But meanwhile I continued to use paper and pencil and loose leaf paper to dig into my soul and to contemplate the wonder and joy of living...which I destroyed afterwards. Oh, and I read a lot, too.
When I was eleven in seventh grade English class we got an assignment to write a 2-page Christmas story. Fiction! OMG! Well, I wrote this obvious combination Bambi/Rudolph rip-off about a white reindeer who was shunned by the other reindeer, but his mother loved him and protected him. Hunting season came and he saw his father shot and thrown into the back of a pickup truck and his mother was wounded. They ran and ran, but she was getting weaker and weaker--leaving a trail of blood in the white snow. She died next to the frozen creek (giving him advice) and, as the snow started to fall again, the white reindeer had to leave his mother's body there and make his way along the creek bank--alone--but he knew he'd be okay.
The jolting part for me was when the teacher announced that we were going to read these aloud to the class!! To this day, one of my worst fears is getting up in front of people. I was sure I could talk my way out of it because our story was supposed to be 2 pages and mine ended up being 11 pages--and mine wasn't about my favorite present or Santa or elves--but she didn't let me off the hook.
Feeling like I was going to barf, hands shaking, I started reading...and fell into the story. When I finished to spontaneous applause and looked up, I saw three people were crying...and one was a boy! That was when I first realized the power of words. But also, oddly, that I was absolutely not comfortable with fiction.
(No, there are no copies of this melodrama--LOL!)
Now that I was in junior high we had to use pens and, after such an ego-stroking reaction to The White Reindeer, I started to write in spiral notebooks instead of loose-leaf paper--in pen--and I didn't destroy them. I hid them.
I wrote some angst-filled poetry, as teenagers are wont to do, and began to tentatively share them with my two closest friends at school. Encouraged by those girls, I had a few poems published under a pseudonym in the school paper. I filled spiral notebooks with thoughts and observations and my life. Even got brave enough to sign up for the brand new Writing Class when I was a senior and was asked to be on the committee for our first Fridley High literary journal.
To make a long story short---a couple years after high school my then suitcase full of spiral notebooks was destroyed by a jealous boyfriend--reduced to ashes in a driveway bonfire. I hadn't realized how attached to their own words a person can become until mine all went up in smoke.
At first I didn't think I'd ever write again. But, of course, I did. I went back to thinking things out on paper and then destroying it. I still wrote letters, though...and then there were the occasional epiphany moments (in poetry or prose) that I gave away to just about everybody I knew.
Having my words burned away from me was a freeing thing in the long run. I am still not overly attached to what I write, you know? And that's a darn good thing, as I discovered years later that nobody kept the writings I gave them, anyways--LOL! Never think that what you have to say is that important. My words float away on the wind. And there's constant wind up here in Fargo. ;)
Of course, everybody I am close to has heard my life stories (often as they were happening--LOL!) and they have little interest in listening to a repeat. I can never tell anything via the short route, as you have probably gathered. When you're an open book--well, after a few years everybody has read the book--LOL!
Through a combination of injury and health issues, I ended up moving up here to Fargo-Moorhead and starting college at 48 years old in 1999. I thought I'd probably go for being a Social Worker as I love helping people and that had been an illegally demanded part of my last job so I had a good idea what was involved. I had secretly always wanted to go to college. I love school!!!
Anyways, right off the bat my English teachers were all excited about my stories. Okay, to be perfectly honest--I figured it was because I was going to Concordia college where there were extremely few "older" students (I was always assumed to be a teacher everywhere I went on campus and even sitting in a desk in the classroom before the professor arrived the first day) so the English teachers were just delighted to hear something from somebody with some life experience, shall we say. Not really fair. I had 30 years and The 60s on these kids, right?
For example, for the first "story" I was assigned in college, we were asked to write a personal memory. I went up to her after class, laughed and said--OMG! What do I pick?! She suggested--how about your very first memories. So I went home and wrote "Mommy and That Baby". I'd have no clue what to pick for these life story assignments. I had so much to choose from, but so many needed backstory, you know? Another time a professor suggested---how about an epiphany moment. I've had several, but I chose the one about Dagan and wrote "Soft Breaths".
I tried fiction again in college--and it is just not me. Ends up being 90% true and I feel like a liar. At the very least, deceptive--like I am hiding behind the "fiction". And when this kid in class said my story about the high school honor student and the bad boy who'd been in reform school and smoked grass sounded just way too trite--well, I bit my lip and decided I may as well to stick to non-fiction--ROFL!! Because then I could tell it all and it would have that ring of truth. (Right, Alan?)
My health never recovered and continued the downhill spiral. I even transferred to the public college (MSUM) after three years at Concordia so that I could attend part-time, but still couldn't finish my degree. And I still got all kinds of positives for my writing at the public school. There was no longer my "life experience" excuse for enthusiasm over my stories at MSUM because there were lots of older students in my writing classes.
I really had so much encouragement from students and professors to write...it can still bring me to tears right now. For five years in college I heard that I was a writer and I had to share my stories...even that I had a gift--whew! I changed my major to English Writing. Had been encouraged to enter a few contests, submit to literary magazines...and won a few local contests...and have had stories published in literary magazines...
But my body was in agony. I'd be crying before I was fully awake in the morning. I was missing more and more classes, couldn't finish the work, and ended up getting so far behind that I had to drop. The entire last year, with only two classes a semester, I never made it past halfway in any class. I couldn't sit at the computer for endless hours anymore. And I am a very slow writer. Even my blogs usually take me a couple of hours to write and we're certainly not even talking polished or publication ready type of writing. (Just this has taken me three of my hour sessions so far--geez!)
Long story short, I ended up over here in Fargo--housebound--with only 3-5 good (productive) hours scattered throughout the day to my name. I have timers all over the apartment to keep me from going over an hour at a time doing anything--and that includes typing on this keypad--and I've been a bit of a bad girl this morning. ;)
This is old news to many of you--but I can never tell a really short story, right? And it's taking longer than I thought to tell this one--LOL! I can't use up all my good hours today (as I have other tasks waiting)--or overdo so that I can't do anything for a couple days--so I shall have to write this in sections, I guess, until I am done. But obviously, this shift in 2013 has to do with me telling my stories. More to come soon. :)
Many of you don't even know I have another "stories" blog. You can go here and visit, if you like.