The Sandbox

Amnesia, Art, Healing

On writing a book…

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In early 2013 I began to, what at the time felt like, fall apart. Looking back, I would say that an unconscious journey had begun inside me to heal. The journey was triggered by an obsession, a sudden switch and change in my state of mind that took me to places inside not, for a very long time, well understood.

It also sparked the beginning of an enormous amount of writing. 

In the first two years I wrote over five thousand pages. And over the next four after that, another five thousand. I have felt both giddy with a relatively new found amount of creative juice. As well as buried and overwhelmed by it.

Over time and and struggle on a daily basis—for years—I reached a point of discovery around narrative.

I began to see how deeply trauma uproots us, how it freezes us into remembering nothing at all. Or how it can jumble things up so that we can never quite grasp onto our truths. The idea here being one way or another trauma separates us from our own stories.

I’ve suffered from both ends of it. First a near black out of childhood, a “freeze.” And then, as things began to “thaw” complete chaos and overwhelm.

At some point I took a deep breath and a sword to all of it—the freeze and the chaos. Every day battling towards a deep understanding of my story. Slowly, as I got clearer I could finally see the pain in the freeze and in the blur. I began to feel the power in finding my narrative. And in doing so, I finally began to truly grasp the pain and powerlessness we experience when our personal narrative remains elusive to us.

Eventually, over the course of many years, through tears and feelings of staggering amounts of hopelessness I started to experience glimmers that I could do it. That I could write a book. And that this book could and would be many things, not just one. I started to see that a book is both process and product—both student and teacher. Something that should bring healing and insight and hope to author and reader.

Finding my narrative and telling it just the way that I need to, I’ve moved from despair to a sense of confidence. From confusion to clarity. From not knowing who I was to knowing more deeply than I could have ever imagined, my own self.

Stay tuned for updates below on this book. And thank you for being here!

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5/27/19 Update: I heard someone talking about running and getting faster. The advice they had? Slow is smooth…smooth is fast. Which feels just about right relative to the writing of this book. I can’t go fast. I must just go at the rate that I can, that feels right. Which is slow. And for me also deep. Layers and layers emerge as I work. Layers for me. Layers for you too I hope. Below is a snip from something I’ve been working on. It comes a little before half way through the book…

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As I exit Eileen’s office through the hallway and into the waiting room I decide I don’t like when therapy is like normal people therapy where I’m asked how I feel about my parents. where it it’s suggested that I protect myself.  I’m more comfortable with metaphor, with Monet, with life feeling like poetry and fairytales and fiction. Eileen on this evening feels like a regular therapist and me like a regular patient. And I don’t like it. 

By the time I reach the street where my car is parked I’m back with the cherry blossoms. Life feel dream-state—somehow more artful and imperative when aligned with these blossoms. As I fall asleep that night my dreams are stained in pink. And when I wake the next morning Monkey asks if  remember the night Kirsten died. 

“It was a Thursday,” I say, surprised by how there are years of my life that are completely blacked out. But then things like this, knowing the day Kirsten died that I could stake my life on it. I wonder if my parents ever think about Kirsten. And what they remember. For a brief moment I question if it all even ever happened—if Kirsten actually did die. If truth somehow becomes fiction if you suffocate it long enough.

I am curious as to what my mother would say about Kirsten—if she would say anything. Curious as to how she went on after her death. I don’t remember any kind of pause, any tears from her. I question how she could not be consumed by guilt. 

Had she never hired Kirsten’s mother to do door-to-door surveys, Kirsten would be alive today.

Monkey asks the question again. 

Do you remember the night she died?

“I do.”

Do you remember the phone ringing? Our bed upstairs? 

“I do.”

It’s early Thursday morning, the day after therapy. It’s still dark outside, the usual time where I am soaked in introspection. I close my eyes. Breathing deeply I sense Grain’s presence. She came to me when I smelled the Hibiscus in Hawaii a few months ago. And she comes to me now when I think of Kirsten. She’s tapping her foot, her arms are crossed. She’s been waiting for this. But then Monkey starts to resist. 

No Grain. 

He gets up and out of his bunk bed and drags his blanket along with him to the center of the room. 

Grain has it all wrong.

“What are you talking about?”

She loves our mom and she shouldn’t. 

He crawls back in bed and pulls the covers over his head to punctuate his point. 

I sigh and look out the bedroom window. It’s still dark outside but I look anyway, knowing the oak tree’s right there. I then hear Blanket swooping in. 

Allow Kirsten. Allow Grain. Allow Monkey. Allow conflict. 

I know I’ve been avoiding Grain, avoiding the little girls in general. I don’t like their clear vulnerability. I am most comfortable talking with Monkey and Blanket. But Blanket pushes.

Long ago someone inside you loved your mom. And that someone is Grain. 

I can feel the resistance, a version of the melancholy I feel on Mondays, a weight inside pulling me down—under. I then imagine Blanket putting a big soft blankety hand on my shoulder. 

There is no harm in allowing Grain to speak. 

I close my eyes. I see a small hand cupped inside a larger one. I can then hear footsteps, can make out patent leather shoes and a pink tutu. 

“Is that you, Grain?”

Pete’s gone to work and dawn is breaking. The oak tree’s tangled branches are now back lit by the soft early light of the day. 

“Do you want to talk to me, Grain? About our mom?”

She looks directly up at me and without hesitation says…

Yes.