February 15, 2011


I had a strange evening. I am going to leave up my last post despite the fact that, in rereading it, I find it almost maddeningly generic. It lacks me. I have found it difficult to write in this context since my arrival in the city because I find that my writerly energy is so wrapped up in the work I am endeavoring to create for my workshops. I think there is also a way in which I am living less in my own interior, and find I have less to say in regards to that interior. My time in Virginia was largely lived out in my own head, and my writing reflected it. Now I find that, given that much more is happening in the exterior of my life, I have less to say about the goings on of my mind. That isn't to imply I've had some kind of personality-death in DC. It's simply a relief, in a way, to have something to do with myself other than think about the ways in which my life has been inalterably twisted about, and the ramifications of that on my thinking and feeling and living.

I bring this up because tonight one of the workshop pieces for my creative nonfiction piece dealt very specifically with some of what twisted my life up in the first place. The workshop descended into a chorus of questions. None of this was directed at me; it wasn't my piece. But, the simple hearing of the questions sent me into a sort of panic state, and I was shaken. How did the sister's illness effect the family? What did our narrator sacrifice for the sake of her sister? Is the narrator judgmental of her own anger regarding her sister's illness, or is she judgmental of the illness itself? What is healthy? Is this story about the narrator or the narrator's sister?

I am handing out a nonfiction piece next week. I haven't completed it as of yet. I am taking up a memoir piece that has lain unfinished for almost four years now. I wrote it as an undergraduate, and it concerns my history of depression and struggles with disordered eating, my close, somewhat twisted relationship with my sister, and my increasing anxiety over my sister's illness. It is saturated in death. I have not touched the piece since my sister died. I was frightened by what I had written, and by how accurately the fears my text detailed were enacted in my living-life in the years following the time when it was written. The piece is feeling increasingly difficult. I have been laboring on it in a surface level--fooling with tense and striking prose. In rereading it now, from this distance, I find my writing indulgent and sloppy. At the same time, I am startled by the immediacy of the emotion the process of editing and adding to the piece is stirring up in me. I am realizing how much I have managed to forget of the two years preceding Laura's death, and I find it unnerving. Difficult too is the revisitation of the times long before Laura was ever ill--our childhoods, the shared time. The time I no longer share with anyone. I find myself wishing I could call her to check the facts of her illness--her hospitalizations and threats and time in treatment--in the same way that the author of today's workshop piece was able to do. I can't. I can ask my parents, but I find I don't want to. It seems unfair to drag them back into the mud with me for the sake of a workshop piece. It is a strange thing to be frightened by what you have written and what you know you need to write and by what you don't remember well enough to write truthfully. The pressure I'm putting on myself over this is doing nothing to improve my outlook. I find the echoes of post trauma deafening me, and old anxiety flooding my system, potent with time.

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