The Experiment: Day 14 ~ Making Way For Truth & Beauty Too…

Today I realized that this 365 day project of mine was growing, becoming bigger than I had at first imagined it. It can’t be simply a search for happiness, it has to be a search for truth and beauty too. And it has to encompass my whole life, which, given my history and ongoing struggles with mental illness, as I said yesterday, can’t be all butterflies and rainbows. The purpose for me doing this project was, at the start, to try to get away from writing so many dark, difficult posts about my struggles which have been particularly hard the last six months. I couldn’t pull myself up and out of the hole I’d sunk into. Too, I thought by writing about happiness for a year it would retrain my brain to look for brighter, lighter, happier things on the days that become so dark. Well, it’s a good thought, and it might work, but realistically speaking it’s not who I am, I need to be able to tell it all, with an emphasis, as much as possible, on beauty and happiness. It will be good to search for those things every day but I am a truth-teller and there has to be room for that too.

I’m two weeks into this project and it is shape-shifting as I find my way. A year’s journey is just that, a journey, and there will be unexpected things happen along the way, things that I need to speak about, dark and light, and in the vein of “I don’t know what I think until I see what I say” I need to be able to “talk outloud” here to process things. At 63 I believe I am on the cusp of a whole new way of living and being, I’d like to believe so, but this is an enormous shift and it can’t be made if I keep the focus too narrow. That simply isn’t the way a human life is lived, it isn’t the way life works. I am going to keep on for 365 days, but I won’t know until the end of all the days what the whole thing will look like. It will be interesting to watch it unfold.

This came about today because of the book I am currently reading by Glennon Doyle Melton, the book itself, and the effect it’s had on me as I begin looking at how I will approach the book I’m writing. The book is Love Warrior, I just finished reading her book Carry On, Warrior which I loved, and Love Warrior is so highly praised by so many people I respect and admire that I felt I had to read it. I read all afternoon, I’m up to page 105, and to say that I am being completely blown away by this book would be an understatement. It is making me very uncomfortable. Her story and my story are certainly not the same, they are not alike at all, but some of the truths she tells about her marriage and how she coped with intimacy struck such a deep chord I almost couldn’t go on reading. And I started questioning a great many things.

She calls herself, over and over again in interviews — I have watched a ton of them on youtube and I am absolutely fascinated by her — a “truth-teller.” I have long considered myself a truth-teller, but where does one draw the line? I have read and loved memoirs all my life but she says things, she writes about things, that, to me, cross lines that shouldn’t be crossed. She tells truths about her husband that I found shocking, not his actions, but that she would write about them, in a book, so openly. I swear to you it took my breath away, I was rigid in my chair, I was actually holding my breath. And in that moment I came to believe that there was a difference between being a truth-teller and a memoirist if writing memoir means revealing so much about other people. I can’t tell my story without talking about very personal details that belong to other people, and I just won’t do that. And if I won’t and if I can’t how can I tell my story anyway? What do I have to say of value?

I want to tell the truth, but not at the expense of other people, some of whom are living and some who are dead. I once wrote in a book I called Voyage of the Stranger, “How do we stop this chain of pain, the gift that keeps on giving?” I think we stop it by finally laying some things to rest. I have written a lot over the years about having been sexually abused as a child, it certainly happened and it has colored the entire rest of my life, but how would it help me to dredge all of that up? It wouldn’t. And bad choices that I made during a prolonged manic episode as a person whose as yet undiagnosed bipolar disorder was running amok, choices that affected and sometimes hurt other people, in the end most of all myself, how would I be helped by writing about that? And while I want to help other people through my writing, and some of those things, written about honestly, could help other people, if it upset me so badly dredging it all up, if I could have no peace of heart or mind, what good would that serve? Every single day I must fiercely protect myself, sometimes from myself, sometimes from other people, so that I can be alright in the world. My sense of well-being can be precarious at best. I cannot do what, just yesterday, I thought I could. If this book, Love Warrior, is an indication of the kind of memoir being written today, what is expected, then there’s no place for me in this genre. I have to find another way.

I can tell truths about myself that are often difficult, I don’t have a problem with that, but how to tell a life story that includes everyone from parents to spouse to children to other people who have been in your life without hurting anyone or invading their privacy, well, I just can’t see how to do that. I am fiercely protective of the people I love and I won’t expose them to my truths, some of which they don’t know, and some of which they may wish I wouldn’t share. There are lives at stake here, and by that I mean the hearts and minds, the peace in the hearts and minds, of those I love matters most of all.

So what do I write? It’s not about me not wanting to do a hard thing, it’s about the fact that I cannot tell my story and leave out people who are integral to the story and make any sense. Oh Lordy, this has really thrown me for a loop. I guess I’ll never be on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, I can’t be shocking enough!

I am at such a loss. If you have any thoughts about these things I’d love for you to share them with me. For now I think I’m just going to rest my brain. I’ll finish reading Love Warrior but at this juncture I’m kind of afraid to. I want to write about those butterflies and rainbows, maybe unicorns too! I am learning something about myself tonight and I just don’t know what to do with it.

Tomorrow it’s all going to be beauty and happiness. I can’t do this two days in a row!

 


The Experiment ~A 365 Day Search For Truth, Beauty &
Happiness: 
Day 1 ~ Introduction To The Project
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Yoda

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Comments

  1. Maitri, you are the only one who can decide what you can or can’t disclose. Not a one of us, your faithful friends, will judge you. Love, Marge 🙂

    • Thank you so much Marge, you are very dear honey, thank you so much for being here with me, it means more than you could possibly know… 🙂

  2. Writing is such an amazing thing — you’ll sort it out. I totally understand why writing about hard things, and things that we normally would keep private, in terms of sharing, doesn’t seem right, as it’s not our story alone.

    I was wanting to paste an amazing snippet from Emily Carr University’s writing center here in Vancouver — their “manifesto” about writing as creativity and building community was remarkable. But I don’t seem to be able to do that. Sending all good thoughts.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughts Lisa and oh, I would love to read the Emily Carr manifesto, can you e-mail it to me? I hope all is going well for you. Are you back in Asheville yet? 🙂

  3. Victoria SkyDancer says:

    When I wrote down my life story as an exercise in Shadow Work (as found in Debbie Ford’s “Secret of the Shadow,”) it was intended to have an audience of one…me. I wrote it out to see where my Shadows had gotten stuck. If I were to publish it, some of the names and characteristics of people in my story would definitely be changed, to protect their anonymity.

    You don’t have to show anyone else your story at all; I believe you said earlier that publishing it was only an option anyway. If you do choose to write AND publish your story, write the whole truth out first. Then you can go back and figure out what stays, what goes, and what changes to keep the integrity of the story intact without rocking too many boats.

    • Thank you so much Victoria, your shadow work sounds fascinating and it’s a very good exercise. Recently when I started journalling again I wrote out my story, it took days and days. And because my memory was blighted from the early years of abuse and sometimes in my twenties and thirties when I did really heavy therapy about the abuse and started taking medication I made a chart, my life in decades, 0-10, 10-20, 20-30 and so on, and wrote everything I could remember all the way up to the present. I was FLOORED and it was the first time I realized how HUGE my story is in ways that could be helpful to others, moving through 18 years of abuse, marriage and how having been abused affected not only my marriage but my mothering of my children in the early years and throughout. I loved them so deeply, was a good mother I think, but I was as fragile as a china teacup and often my husband just had to take over because I was breaking down, and living through the end of my 30 year marriage, coming out a lesbian, the disasters that happened through those years, and there were big ones, and dealing with living with mental illness my whole life and SURVIVING! There’s much to tell, but my story is so intricately interwoven with the lives of other people — my ex-husband for example is very dear, a very kind sweet man, and very, very private. So much of my story includes him, and leaving him, and why, say, I just couldn’t tell that story without including him and I just won’t do that. When how I was, my fragile emotional state, my mental illness, affected the people closest and nearest and dearest to me and my story is interwoven with them, I can’t just “change names” or leave some things out because who they really are would be obvious and I couldn’t really tell my story without them. Oy, it is such a puzzle. But, what I was trying to say is that I have been writing my story for decades in my journals, talking about it in therapy, and even writing honestly about a lot of it here on my blog, how to do more, in a book for public consumption, is a whole different thing. Sigh, it’s all so complex.

      Thank you for your thoughts honey. Sorry I “went on” so! 🙂

  4. I can see clearly what you are talking about. There is a fine line and we have to be careful we don’t hurt others. I admire your heartfelt concerns and think you are on the right track about not wanting to expose certain people or things in your writing. I think it is possible to write an honest book by making certain things vague…to protect others. I also think you will eventually figure it out, as clever as you are.

    • Thank you so much Sheila, I just wrote a LONG answer about all of this in response to Victoria above if you want to read it. It is complex, a real puzzle. I am hoping that through daily writing here for the next year themes will emerge, or a story that I can tell, and I will be able to see, at the end of the year, what it really is I have to say and how I might say it. That is my deepest hope. And thank you for being here with me honey, it means a lot to me…

  5. What an interesting journey. Perhaps one of the key things is that if reliving these experiences in your writing isn’t going to help you right now, it might be best to let things rest. It’s very difficult, isn’t it. Much love to you and the pugs! x

    • Thank you so much Jenny and yes, therein lies the rub. To write about certain things is like reliving them, and I have to work hard every single day to stay afloat in the world and combat depression, anxiety, and more. I can’t upset the applecart so to speak more than it already is, everyday, just by living life. But I do believe that writing is my gift, my path in this life, and I do believe there are things I can write about that will help people. I just have to figure out how to go about it. I think this year long project will help me do just that. Wish me luck! And the pugs and I send our love to you too… 🙂

  6. I have had exactly the same thoughts about writing my book. How far do I go? I sense that maybe talking strictly from the “I” word and how I feel might be the way to go. What if it was in the form of fiction with made up names?
    As for writing about our experiences, this might be a good thing. Why? What good would it do? I am a firm believer in EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping) and what we do is write out or talk about how we are feeling and then tap on it using the acupuncture points. We tap on what is bothering us and how we feel, like editing a manuscript. So when we use this to acknowledge how we feel and release it, then there is more room within for the real ME.
    I am curious about the book you are reading. Very.
    I would love to read your book! Much love, Jean

    • Hello Dear Jean… yes, it’s a hard thing to figure out and we each must find our way. Last night I was thinking that I could write a book in journal style, like my dear friend May Sarton’s journals. She wrote in the present moment but was very honest about her struggles and yet she would bring in elements of the past. It occurred to me that writing in the present moment and bringing in some of those things from the past, bits and pieces I could tell without telling other’s stories, might work. I am thinking… And I am wishing you well with your book too. It is a journey for sure. May we each find our way… And much love to you dearheart…

  7. I think I agree with Victoria’s comments on this one Maitri. You write out the story/truths you had thought about in as much detail as you want, for your eyes only. Then you sift through it to see if there is any essence of it you wish to share with others, without causing harm but keeping the integrity of the story.

    • Thank you so much Joan honey. I just wrote a long response to Victoria about just this. And I wrote to Jean above that I have just been thinking that I could write a book like my dear friend May Sarton did, a journal in the present tense, and I could bring in elements of my “backstory” along the way without telling other’s stories which as far as I am concerned isn’t my right to tell. I can’t or rather won’t write a “tell all” kind of book. I just don’t think it’s kind or right, but I have lived through much in my life, learned much, gained a lot of wisdom, and just the mechanics of living through daily life with mental illness, continuing on despite it all, there’s a story in that. I am thinking hard about this, I will find my way. Thank you so much for being here with me, it means more than you could possibly know honey…

  8. i just recently read in a magazine (oprah, i believe) that the woman who wrote love warrior, when it finally came out, she and her husband were no longer together, and the publicity people were flummoxed about how to “tout” the book…

    life is such an amazing tumble of realities, emotions, memories, fears, hopes, and each human being has layers and layers of all that, back to ancestors, so yes, you have to make a choice when you write, about how you will write, and who you will share it with.

    an ethical being can also be a productive and creative author, maitri, as you are proving
    !!!
    xo
    ka

    • Thank you Ka honey, and the FASCINATING thing is that she wrote this book about her marriage, their falling apart and coming back together again, but by the time the book came out they were divorced! And TWO MONTHS LATER she was with a woman whom she married! It’s like in life, if you BLINK you miss so much! I wish her well, I really do, but I don’t agree with her choice to make her husband’s private life and a very private part of their marriage part of the book. Maybe that’s just me. But where I draw the line is the place where *my* story ALSO becomes theirs. I will not do that to those I love, to those who don’t deserve it. I am thinking hard about this and I think I am discovering a way I can do this, writing it in the style of a journal, a la May Sarton, and in telling the story bring parts of my past in that are pertinent without revealing other people’s private lives. It’s the only way I see I can go. At least that’s what I’m thinking about today.

      I can’t wait for you to see the new blog post today, about 1969, and the Beatles. I really want to hear what you have to say….

      I love you Sister….

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