To all of you who keep nudging me and asking “when are you going to write another blog post, I want to say thanks for the encouragement! The reality is that when I’m working on an essay, or part of my memoir, I’m entirely focused on that, and blog posts disappear.
It’s that time of year again when we hunker down and enjoy the change in season. Autumn leads us into reflection, well certainly some of us. In Big Sur we still have super warm sunny days, but we also have days like today when the fog rolls in and bathes us in an invisible cloak. The trees and the landscape are truly “shrouded” in the sort of fog that feels like one of those ultra-light down jackets, you know the ones, they fold up and fit into a tiny bag and barely seem to exist, but when you open it up and put the jacket on you are snuggled into a warmth you can hardly believe possible. Looking out of my window this morning, the fog hides my view of the south coast but I feel warm and held in a weightless, barely perceptible, gift from mother nature. It is hard to believe on days like this that the cliffs and cresting waves were ever visible from my window. I know they will return.
The Writing Life.
As far as writing goes, I am most productive on days like this. I am not tempted to swim outdoors. I cannot resist a swim on a sunny day when procrastination rules! I do a lot of my writing in my head. I know it sounds odd, but I can go about my daily activities thinking writing. I might not put pen to paper for several days, but when I do, it all pours out. All of the thoughts and internal edits I’ve been making for days, sometimes weeks, manifest in an essay or a segment from the memoir I’ve been working on.
The problem with writing a memoir is that it is so personal it can also be extremely painful at times. There are days when I can write without sadness. There are days when I just cry. There are days when I stand back and wonder at the life I’ve had so far, days when I cannot believe I have emerged into the woman I am today, a woman I am beginning to actually like, and sometimes admire. I know I’ve worked through a lot of the highly charged, emotional issues in my memoir, and I can say I’ve come to terms with a lot, but that doesn’t stop me, the memoirist, the writer, from feeling all over again. My friend, Allison Williams, a superb writer, pushes me to go deeper with everything I write. Allison advises me not to just hint at a challenging aspect of my life in my memoir, but to dig deeper and explore the stories on the page with continuing depth. I’m trying to do just that.
Shaping a memoir feels like an almost insurmountable challenge. I’ve written chapters and just when I think I’ve got them in the right sequence in the book, I review them, and lacking confidence in my last decision, the reshuffle begins all over again, and so does the whole question of how to transition from one chapter to the next. Recently, I’ve been looking at memoirs written by writers I admire in an attempt to see how they resolve the structural issue. (Thank you Dinty Moore.) I’m moving towards constructing my memoir as a series of stand alone essays. My thoughts are that if I put the narrative together in this way, I can still keep a loosely chronological movement driving the book by making definite transitions from one essay to another. The reader can pick up the memoir, read one essay, and have a complete “story” to enjoy and think about without being held in an artificial suspense which requires needing to read on to find out what happens next. Of course what happens next is very important, and if I can skillfully transition from one story to the next I hope the reader will want to read on. Enough of that. I need to get back to work pretty soon.
This week is very special. Two of my friends, Kim and Sherilyn, have joined me for a writing retreat at our home in Big Sur. We all went to Antioch University, Los Angeles, for our MFAs in Creative Writing. Kim lives in Kauai, and Sherilyn lives in LA. We usually work together remotely. We are all so excited to be together in the flesh! We are spread out right now in different parts of the house writing away. We kicked off our time together last night with a home-made curry, and some wonderful wine. Tonight we will eat together again and talk writing.
The challenging body.
Another reason this week is so special for me is that it is the last week in a while that I will be able to come to Big Sur. Lately I’ve been spending half the week every week here. I’ve fallen in love with Big Sur all over again.
Many of you know that I had a knee replacement last year. It was challenging as things didn’t go well, and I had to go back into hospital for a manipulation under anesthesia, which is basically a surgery to break up scar tissue and get the range of motion in the knee back. I’ve struggled all year with pain, and my knee has never felt right. After some research I found a surgeon who specializes in knee and hip replacements. He is amazing. I had a C.T. scan and a series of x-rays, and the doctor was able to show me what went wrong with my knee replacement. Unfortunately though, I have to have the surgery done all over again. On November 18th I’m having revision surgery. This means the surgeon will remove the “new” knee that was put in last year, and replace it with another set of components. It can be a complicated surgery. The doctor needs to get all the cement out of the knee.
While I am anxious about going through all of that pain again, and having an even longer rehabilitation than I had originally, I am excited at the prospect of ultimately returning to a pain-free, active life.
An exciting part of this whole new experience is that I intend to be awake for the surgery and watch it on a big screen in the operating room. The doctor warned me about the noise when they get their surgical chainsaw things out and hack away. He said being wide awake can be stressful, and if I feel stressed the anesthesiologist can give me something to sedate me. I hope I will be able to stay awake for at least some, if not all of the surgery, but if I need a nap, I’ll take a nap.
I’ll keep you posted about how this whole new wide-awake knee surgery goes. Imagine, I get to see inside my body!
Time to move on. Please watch this space. I plan to write more about the aging, not as stable as I’d like it to be – body. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Osteoporosis among other things. I’ve tried to live my life in denial of the related challenges I face on a day-to-day basis. One of my writer friends suggested that I write about my life with this complicated body. I think the time has come. I am such a positive person normally, but there are days when my body doesn’t work and I struggle to stay positive.
Until the next time – thanks for reading and sharing your comments.