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 from who we are. It can freeze us into recalling nothing, or jumble things up so badly we can not grasp onto our truths. The idea here being, one way or another, trauma separates us from the truth of our own stories which is a vital part of who we are.

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 also began to feel the power in finding my narrative. And in doing so, I finally started to truly grasp the pain and powerlessness we experience when our personal narrative is, one way or another stolen from us.

Eventually, over the course of many years, through tears and mountains of hopelessness I began to experience tiny 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 I hoped could bring healing and insight to author and reader.

Finding my narrative and telling it just the way that I need to, I’ve been moving 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 iit’s suggested that I protect myself when I see them.  I’m more comfortable with metaphor, with Monet, with my life feeling like it’s on the edge of creation, a great poem or clay piece in the works. 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. Back where things feel more artful, more dream-state. My state of mind remains here. And as I fall asleep that night my dreams are stained in cherry blossom pink.

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. Something I could stake my life on. I wonder if my parents ever think about Kirsten—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. I can’t fathom how she seemed to not ever skip a beat. Had she never hired Kirsten’s mother to do door-to-door surveys, Kirsten would be alive today. How could guilt not have nearly killed her?

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 on 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 begin to sense the edges of Grain’s presence. She’s come to me before but we’ve not really spoken. She was in Hawaii, triggered when I smelled the hibiscus. And now again, as Kirsten floats into my consciousness so does Grain. I can feel her tapping her foot, arms 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. 

Monkey 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 there’s comfort in knowing that old oak tree is there. Blanket’s voice encourages me to push forward.

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

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

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

A resistance wells up, a version of the melancholy I feel on Mondays, a weight pulling me down—under. But in my mind Blanket puts a big soft blankety hand on my shoulder. I am not alone, I have nothing to fear.

There is no harm in allowing Grain to speak. 

I close my eyes and see a small hand cupped inside a larger one. I can 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 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.