Saturday, April 23, 2011


One of the strangest things about starting to write a memoir is the attempt to give one's life a theme.

My life is a series of chaotic events loosely tied together by the fact that this body is somewhat the same body I was born with, and the fact that there are reoccurring characters. These incidents filled with messy randomness don't comb down neatly into a story. Instead they are an unruly mass of events that don't always make much sense. I am not sure what my life's theme would be. I am not sure what the hook would be to lure people into reading about my life homeschooing the beasties. When I lay awake at night, I try to organize those moments into a story that makes sense. I try to build up a foundation. But that foundation doesn't always feel all that stable.

In the last two weeks, I've been through several themes.

Theme 1: Joy. While going to graduate school was hard, I still back upon it as one of the happiest times of my life. I loved the freedom that H and I during that time. We worked hard but it felt like so much of that work was done in the midst of each other and the kids.

I sort of nixed that one because it's just so common place. And it's big. I suspect the joy will manifest itself in my writing.

Theme 2: Survival. The two things: school/homeschooing feed off each other in terms of surviving each. They provided a balance that made the other thing more bearable during rough times. When I felt like I might strangle a little beastie, I could escape to school. And when school was making me want to sob in a dark corner curled up in a fetal position, I had the beasties to remind to be present in my body.

This theme is still on the drawing board.

But for the last two nights, I've been thinking a lot about how having children has made me present. School was good but it's not good for feeling centered in one's body. In fact, it's one of those things that makes it quite easy to forget (or pretend) that one has a body. But the children need that body for their needs. Sometimes quite literally in terms of breastfeeding. The children gave me a base upon which to spring off in other areas.

Next step? Piecing these random events into some kind of sequence while being aware of a theme. Life is not fiction, as Alice Bloom reminded us so often.


John B-R said...

Have you seen the new ed. of Mark Twain's autobiography? He decided against theme, chronology, etc etc and just recounted whatever interested him at the moment. I guess everyone handles memoirs in their own singular way.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

I haven't seen it John. Sounds interesting. I've considered this but I read one recently like this and it annoyed the hell out of me. But that is likely a whole different dog...