Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Your Body Keeps the Score

The title is reference to a masterful book by Bessel Van Der Kolk. He researches and discusses the endless spectrum of awareness we can experience about where in our body we hold trauma, in particular. With incredible stories from his own experiences as a therapist, and plenty of personal, readable discussion, it's one of my new favorite books. Incredibly life-affirming.

And it is good these kinds of resources exist, because it can be quite intense to unlock trauma in the body. Even if you don't have a history with "Trauma" (capital T), simply going through childhood gave you enough experience with separation, isolation and individuation to cause disturbances and neurotic habits that often persist in your body without your conscious awareness.

Last weekend I co-taught a program with Sasha Lasdon of Integrated Eros called Write From the Hip. It was a powerful experiment in doing simple movements involving the hips and pelvis, then writing from those experiences. Many of the participants found not only sex and sensuality arising, but also vulnerability and anger. For quite a few, it released something in them they would have never found not paying attention to those sources.

Embodied writing is crucial, especially in memoir. Not only does your body keep the score, it also keeps the story - the whole story, not just the single layer that may exist in your mind only. Keep exploring, deep into your body with people you trust. Explore EMDR, TRE, Somatic Experiencing Therapy; do yoga, walking, exercise. Find what your body has to offer to your writing and you will find all the layers you need to make your story strong.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Short Memoir Film and Memory

(Still from I think this is the closest to how the footage looked)

A friend shared this short film, called I think this is the closest to how the footage looked with me, after I posted on Facebook on Sunday (Mother's Day) that no matter how much I want to try and celebrate all the awesome moms I know, Mother's Day is almost always unbearably hard for me, even nineteen years after my mom died.

It brings me back to the movie Halving the Bones, one of my favorite short films on memoir and memory, and The Stories We Tell, a full-length feature exploring a we-moir of a family who finds out about a mom's secret life after she dies.

I cannot say enough about these movies. And as I am still recovering from Mother's Day, I won't. Please go watch them, and keep exploring these topics in other genres. Sometimes film - including a tiny movie made with a coffee grinder as father and door handle as son - communicates better than any written word what remains and what gets lost when we try to document the important things that happen to us.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Spectrum of Memoir

There's a long spectrum of personal writing out there, and I like to think of the word "memoir" encompassing it all. A lot of what I discuss here isn't formally memoir - essays are technically not memoir, though collections like Brenda Miller's (see a list of them here) really play with that line. Technically, a memoir is a book-length project covering a particular era or theme of one's life. But one of my mindful activities is re-defining memoir.

Autobiography holds down the far left end of the spectrum of memoir-like writing. Autobiography is something book-length that famous folks write, or what used to formally be called "memoirs" - note the plural. Unless you are a former president or athlete, chances are no one is going to read your birth-to-death story. So most of the rest of us write something to the right of autobiography.