close up of a pen and a notebook

Thoughts On Writing My Memoirs

I have been working on my memoirs. It is a foul business of dredging up memories, good and bad, examining possible pasts and futures, and wondering, in the end of it all, if I will ever feel anything other than distaste for most of humanity again. Much of it is not ‘nice’, some of it is angry, and for that I make no apology. A lot of it is sad, which overrides the outrage like a wheel running over footprints in wet mud, holding the shape of fury only long enough to be overwritten by grief and guilt. Sometimes I wonder what might have been.

A lot of the time I am grateful for what I turned out to be, and occasionally I am both ashamed and full of longing for a past where the option to disappear into the void was a real and lasting possibility. Writing memoirs is not for the weak, or those that lack a cast iron stomach. The coulda, shoulda, woulda’s of it all have reduced me to a rumbling queasiness. I can’t help but think there was something I missed, something I messed up which would have given me and my children a better outcome. Of course that feels churlish from this end of things.

It is not that I am ungrateful, I am certainly not that, but sitting here knowing my subsidy runs out on September the first is making me both intensely happy for the last year I have spent in my pretty little apartment in the bad part of town, and also terrified of the future without it, and without The Boy, who is now rapidly growing into a young man. He needs me still, but one day, sometime not so far off, he will waltz off into his own life and I will miss him, and that, I think, will draw a line under a lot of things which I dare not mention here.

It is not that I am too nice to make bleak predictions. I have never been one for niceties. When I was a child I would, in a vague foreshadowing, insist on giving some of my pocket money to homeless people who stood on the street with cups in their hands and nothing left in their eyes. I don’t know whether in my childish innocence I saw my own future spread out before me and had pity on my own sad self, or if suffering digs suffering and even then I was forced into some kind of empathy with those downtrodden and sorry individuals who roam with no place to stop.

No, I never cared much about propriety or being nice, or painting the world shades of happiness and joy, painting over the misery and the suffering. I never did get my regulation pair of rose tinted glasses to stare out of at a world around me that I always saw as unfair, unkind, cruel, unjust and dangerous. The outward show of decency, politeness and manners in my world always did hide the brutal reality of how people were behind closed doors. My eyes were forced open to the injustice of it all, and they never allowed to close again.

Even now, as I write, I am checking my words for evidence that might irritate and anger people. Even now the injustice which I am meant to suffer and that stifles me creatively, alongside the exhortations to be ‘nice’ and not ‘mean’ makes me quite unable to say anything at all. Every time a new word drops onto the white of a page I wonder just who I am going to piss off next and what damage they could do to me. I try and write these memoirs and am left hobbled by niceties, and strung up and tongue tied by a desire not to make anyone angry with me, berate me or worse, do something that could risk my child and I and any kind of future we might have together as family. It is quite ridiculous when I think about it. Me, one of Freedom’s most virulent devotees, tongue tied, untwisted and rendered harmless.

I suppose I should be grateful for the early education in silencing, cruelty, prejudice, and unfairly directed hatred, I should thank those people who had control of me early on in life for not letting me live under the misapprehension that people were essentially kind and decent and wanted to do good. However, when surrounded by people who have not been grubbing round in the suffering trying to catch a break for an entire lifetime, it can get somewhat tiring. You see, seeing the world as it is, is not seen as a reasonable and justifiable way of life, but instead some kind of insanity or evidence of damage.

This can get both infuriating and tiring. It feels as if most everyone else is dancing around blithely unseeing, happily ignorant, hopefully delighted in most everyone around them, while all I see are phoneys, entitled blow-hards, fakes and hipsters, slavers, racists, pimps and torturers. I check myself every morning for signs of the insidious diseases of the psyche and rapidly deteriorating artistic integrity, and berate myself every night for being such a waste of breath and space. After all in this climate where everyone has to be nice, nobody can have an opinion any more, that all the edges have to be smoothed off everything, and no one can just write or speak reality without being sent for immediate cancellation and re-education, niceness is everything. Who gives a jot about integrity? My very few friends, and family come to mind, but I always hope I never have to shout too often that what I say does not include them. Worrying about other people stifles me. I want to write for eternity, to blow the cobwebs out from a few minds, not to please nor to to assuage.

I suppose there are those people in San Francisco, who belong to the fashionable and nice elite that might give a passing thought to the whole mess. They must care about something. Though, I doubt somehow that it is integrity that is their bag. They shop at Whole Foods and Lululemon, they never swear, their children are all preppy and pressganged into the best private schools in the district, that somehow the parents still manage to cadge a discount on the fees for, and they exude all the privilege and wealth, all the snooty nose up in the air entitlement of those who know they won life before they even got started. I bet their memoirs are going to be boring as hell when they get to the other end of life, get really embedded into middle age and the struggle for nice stuff that keeps the decent masses busy for a lifetime.

It is not that I look down on those who live lives of belief in the goodness of people and the essential justness of the world, no. It is simply that their world and mine do not gel, we do not mix. I am the oil on top of the water, pooling there in a greasy puddle, leaving traces of my slippery survival however many times I dip myself further into the clear clean aqua. Not even soap will wash this film of bad knowledge off my skin. It is written through me like rock. This is the kind of dirt that doesn’t come off in the swimming pool of polite society.

Modern culture means nothing to me, and it can’t possibly because I am not part of this mess. I did not so much abdicate as was thrown out and forced to look on at events from the outside looking in. I didn’t leave the herd, I was never part of it. Much of what passes for modern culture, with all the judgement calls, all the fashion nonsense, all the deterioration of freedom both artistic and physical, all the devotion to the ‘Gram or Twitter, or belonging to the Hive Mind which insists that everyone thinks the same, and chooses a set package of attributes.

I don’t care if I am old fashioned, because, to steal a phrase, modern life sucks. I would rather be real, be me, and write like me, than end up sitting here silent and not writing anything because I am trying to write to please others. If I am going to get these memoirs written it means not thinking about what anyone else thinks of me, including if they consider me mean, unkind, dumb, dull, stupid or old fashioned. To be frank, I feel like putting down the pen and saying to hell with it all.

I guess I am doomed, but hey, nothing much changes on that score, being doomed is pretty much par for the course.


  1. clcouch123

    You’re right. Writing memoirs is not for the weak. (Before I forget, I liked how you use “pressganged.”) I guess it might be disingenuous to believe that writing is for self-expression only. It is for that, but it is also for reader engagement. But we need to be real, which is one of the qualities I like about your writing voice. It comes across as real–old-fashioned, uncomformed, or something else. There is authenticity and a directness in your work that is unsublimated by conventions or expectations. I’m tense over your upcoming deadline. Who doesn’t need a decent place to live? I wish I knew the system or were rich, but I don’t and am not. Still, I like your work and hope for the best for you, not only your work. Your writing’s strong, not because you’re invulnerable but because you are, imperfectly as the world is imperfect, indomitable. Sorry if I ramble.

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