Writing Memoir Is No Picnic.
Like many creatives, I’ve got several projects going at once: finalizing a fantasy novel, finishing a quilt, blogging several times a week, writing poetry chapbook, and beginning a memoir that’s been in gestation for a good fifty years.
Memoir is yelling at me the loudest recently, so that’s what’s getting the attention. This work is in the first trimester of its journey through me and into the world. The morning sickness of having to face who I was before I became myself is real. If it’s this hard now, I shudder to think what the labor pains will be like.
Granted I’m tackling a difficult subject. Eighteen years of marriage to Harry Jackson — controversial, internationally known artist, thirty-one years older than me. Who lived simultaneously on two continents, and answered to nobody.
That subject unearths my father’s troubling presence in my very young life. And that brings up the other troubles my own children went through with their father. And my complicity in all that.
My denial and complicity.
Shame wields phenomenal power and I quit. Over and over.
But I keep returning.
I know this story needs to be written.
How I fell in love with a man whose neuroses fit glove-like into mine.
How I measured my sense of worth by how indispensable I could be to him. And how I measured that by how much abuse I could take without acknowledging it as abuse. All I had to do to win that game was still be on my feet when it was over. I lasted much longer than I should have.
But that’s because I was having such a blast in between bouts. It wasn’t all bad. We were pals with John Wayne. We dined at the Reagan White House, and shook Queen Elizabeth’s hand. I got to sell Harry’s work to Tom Selleck (and at the peak of Magnum, P.I., that was a big deal).
I got to live in Italy, in Tuscany of all places. I became fluent in Italian. I had my babies at home. We traveled the world. We went on pack trips in Wyoming. At night he would read me some Yeats and I’d respond with T. S. Eliot. We loved each other in flamboyant ways. Threw great…