Hashing out my stories

Monstrous wings

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Thrym’s Wedding Feast in the Elder or Poetic Edda, W.G. Collingwood, ed. 1908, p. 127

I’ve had a short break from writing this memoir and listened to some audiobooks – memoirs that others have written, in order to get a feel for how different people see their lives and how they relay their stories. I can be quite anal at times, but found myself feeling lost in the stories that flooded up from my subconscious – struggling to put them in order, trying to figure out how to structure the memoir and what format to use. Should it be a dream like kaleidoscope along the lines of a surrealistic novel? Should I break it up into a collection of poetry, or even create a saga or edda-like monstrosity that takes the reader on a crazy voyage? (I don’t think my life has been that fantastic!)

I’m very mindful of not allowing this to be one of those poor pitiful me “I will survive” stories, but then I had to face what my motivation was to write it in the first place.  I have, of late, been struggling with the idea of getting older. I hate that I’ve passed the forty year mark, although I don’t know what I expected – to stay young forever? If I’m honest with myself – I really don’t want to go back to when I was twenty – or thirty. I’m emotionally and financially in a much better place now. Would I like to have my youthful appearance back? Sure – who wouldn’t? So is that what it is? Fear of aging? Probably.

The idea of death creeping up is not a nice thought. However, I resolved my fear of death in my twenties. We will all die and that is that. I also realized a long time ago that death can come at any age so there’s no point worrying about it – better to live your life like there’s no tomorrow, and so on. No, what really gets to me is the idea that time is running out and I haven’t achieved all that I assumed I had set out to do. Writing this memoir has been wonderful for so many reasons, but the glaringly obvious thing is that there is still so much that I want to experience and do – and most importantly, that after all is said and done, I AM NOT WHERE I THOUGHT I WOULD BE WHEN I WAS YOUNG!

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I could comfort myself with thoughts such as – “Well, who is!?” or “Whose fault is that!?” It sounds defeatist to say that I am disappointed with myself and my life. I am grateful that I am not living in a war torn country or that I did not have anywhere near as bad a life as a lot of people do. If I’m going to be negative, I would say that I am ashamed of some of the things I’ve done and that I’m embarrassed, sad and full of regrets.

But if I’m going to be positive I would say that I am proud of who I’ve been, what I survived and how I made people feel, what I’ve accomplished and how my life evolved. After all, it’s all about perspective. I remember when I was fifteen and at my grandparent’s house for my birthday. My Uncle, who was coming down off a heroin habit, gave me a card with an inscription that read “Ah, the Sweet Bird of Youth, flies too fast!” At the time I didn’t get it, but as the years rolled on, I could hear those words, spoken in his cracked voice, and I would smile ruefully to myself.

All of a sudden, here I am, punishing myself with regrets over what I could’ve done better, what I should have done by now and what I should not have done at all. But the lesson learned is not to continue to squander any more time, that every minute counts and that there’s always a chance for redemption. I have to remind myself to count on the prize of forgiveness, respect and humble pie – all wrapped up in the bundle of wisdom. This memoir doesn’t have to be perfect – it can’t be perfect.

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It will be a mess of hairy arms and legs and crooked teeth gnashing against the pretense of high heels and perfect lipstick. I zigzagged my way through my life down dark alleys, along pristine hallways, through self induced poverty and flatlining in the world of the middle class. I butted my head against the pricks and became a prick and back again, kicking and screaming.

Like the memoirs I have listened to lately, I’m not going to worry about format. I’m not going to worry about whether it’s chronological or in any kind of proper order. If I want to break out in song or poetry – good! If – like my life – I want to zigzag, so be it! I have to learn not be timid with the things that belong to me. I just have to put it out there, warts and all and let it fend for itself, like a mama bird kicks the baby out of the nest. I pray for monstrous wings!

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Picture: Ally McGurk/Solent News

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