Dancing the Event Horizon


Blogging a memoir is almost, for sure, slow suicide.  And I swear to God— if it’s not the death of me, it will, at the very least, make me old, make me crazy crazier, make me something I don’t want to be.

graphic by Patrick Spence at http://www.stopthesanity.com

It’s gonna drive me to the brink, beyond that delicate barrier between “then” and “now”—which I guess it’s meant to do—has to do.

But I’ve decided I don’t like to go there—go “then”—peer into the muck and mire of my sometimes depressed, sometimes manic past.

Do these memoirs really help people in the present, anyway?  Do readers really benefit?  Is it really worth the effort?

My partner Sara and I have been discussing these issues over the past several days—discussing my potential book about recovery from bipolar disorder—and this blog, in which I’m testing the waters—tip-toe-ing around the edges of the story, trying not to get my feet wet—

Or so Sara insists.

She says that I’m not trying hard enough—not doing the dirty work of delving deeper than the surface—not forcing myself to swim in darker waters.

And I suppose she’s right. I’m practicing the fine art of avoidance, and this post is a prime example of that maneuver.

So forgive me, folks—

I’m guilty as charged.

I don’t want to deal with the drama that was my past.  I want a story to tell that is less personal, less intimately exhausting—maybe another international assignment for Sara—maybe a story about our efforts to settle again in another crazy place on an equally insane planet—a place different from the madness that was then, from the boredom that is here—that is now.

However, my partner does disaster response—so it’s always tricky wanting work for her—dilly dallying around the edge of dire and all that.  But dire is dramatic.  And sometimes I fear drama feeds my dysfunctional self—as long as it’s not my personal drama—memoir-related—bipolar-driven drama.

However, craving adventure for adventure’s sake is a god-awful motivation—especially when one knows that drama might mean disaster-related misery for someone else.

But maybe it’s not adventure I crave as much as a simple break from memoir—maybe I don’t so much desire drama, as I desire less personal drama.

Whichever it is, I’m far from loving this aspect of myself.

Whether I’m too lazy to do the difficult work of memoir, too weak to relive a painful past, or too in love with the drama-driven life to simply settle for the here and now—none of it is good.  None paints a pretty picture of who I happen to be.

So what I’m wondering is this—

What dysfunction do you like least about yourself?

What behavioral event horizon do you dare dance around or near?

44 thoughts on “Dancing the Event Horizon

  1. I’m the grown child of two alcoholics. I dance around addiction- always. In and out of rehab centers for “family weeks” of other members of my family, no family history because we’re all dead of alcoholism before we get old enough to have cancer or heart disease, alcohol kills us all- usually before we’re 55. I can give everyone a hard core evaluation of most of the 30 day programs all over the US. Where has that left me? I only trust myself. I only trust me to take care of me and my family. Addicts and alcoholics only lead one down a road of constant broken promises and let down which filters in to every other relationship one has. Even now, at 46. So, I expect nothing from other people, make them laugh so they think I’m offering myself, instead I give nothing.

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    • I have alcoholism in my family, as well, which is why I don’t drink–at all–ever. It scares me. Addiction, once it grabs hold of a family, is hard to kick. I know. I’ve been there–family dysfunction out the ass!

      And, I’ve noticed over and over again that the funniest people I have ever met have had some connection to alcoholism. It’s uncanny. Now I understand how it is that you make me laugh. Both my brother and sister are so damn funny–I don’t know how they do it. I’m the only serious one in the family–but, God, nothing attracts me like humor! I’m sure that’s why I love your blog so much!

      Thanks for sharing this, Emily! Thank you–thank you!

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  2. Kathy, don’t beat yourself up over this. Memoirs are hugely beneficial, but, like anything else, not if the downside (whatever that is) is too high a price to pay. You may come back to it, or not. Re your question: I have friends who have been in long-term therapy, and I have always thought that there are some issues that can be over-analyzed, to the point of being destructive. Some things are better left alone.

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    • And–I don’t plan to drop it, actually. I could never really do that. I know memoirs benefit. I suppose I’m just complaining–moaning and whining. I feel better haven gotten it off my chest. Maybe I’ll only do a post a week or so related to the past–not feel like I have to do it every day. I think that’s all I’m saying—————— Thanks, Renee!

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  3. Kathy,
    I was going to say, maybe you need to give yourself permission to do both, write the occasional memoir related post and write about other things as well. But I see that you already told Renee that. Just remember to take care of you and that we support whatever you choose.
    As for your question, I think I dance around a lot of things, and I feel my dancing feet twitch just trying to give an answer. I rarely discuss a family that seems to have completely fallen apart, or my own battle with self-doubt that borders on self-hatred. But, at the same time, some of those things come out in my writing, and I am slowly learning to heal.

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    • I think I understand from reading your blog that we dance around some of the same issues, Lisa! I’m with you, my friend! Just dance with joy that you get to dance at all–right?!

      Oops, forgot to mention–I’m not going to quit–maybe part of what I discovered it that it’s impossible to produce 5 memoir posts a week–too much work involved. If that makes ssense.

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  4. I agree with Lisa. I know from my personal experience, the lightbulb came on when I allowed myself to blog while also writing the dissertation. Work on the diss has been horrid and difficult, but knowing that I’m “allowed” thirty minutes every day to write something fun and creative has really helped me swallow my medicine, as it were. This is what I’m learning about writing: it is imperative that you find out who you are as a writer, forgive it, and embrace it. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting a futile battle and might even begin to resent the process in the first place.

    As for a personal dysfunction that dislike about myself…that would be my crippling need for perfectionism. And I don’t mean that in a backwards “my weakness is actually a strength” way. No, no, my weakness is a total-body weakness. I want to be perfect so much that when I receive criticism, I tend to beat my critic to it and destroy the ethos of what I’ve done. My diss director knows this about me (we’ve worked closely together since 2004), and at our last meeting, she interrupted my self-depracation and said, “No, no, wait. I was going to say that I liked that part. It works!” It was a strange moment. Sort of like being told that you’re a good person after a lifetime of believing the opposite. What she doesn’t know (but probably suspects) is that it took days to write that section before it was even good enough to show her so that it could be criticized. In many ways, seeking perfection seems like the best dysfunction to have. On the outside. But the inner turmoil and the physical illness (acid reflux, headaches, insomnia, depression) hardly make up for the so-called “perfect” product in the end.

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    • OMG–I have the same issue with perfectionism, Amanda! It’s tough–because, at least for me, my perception is so off–what I write is actually better than I think it is. But I fully believe, during much of the writing process that the work is pathetic. Maybe that’s why blogging helps. I get so much more immediate feedback. It’s really a form that works for me in that regard. Put ,me alone in a room for months with no audience and you might as well call the men in the white coats now! Ha, ha!

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  5. I think taking the memoir in small doses might be key. Write when you can, push yourself, but for every time you push yourself remember to let your brain/heart/spirit rest a little. Easy goes it 🙂

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  6. Kathy-

    I started reading your blog several months ago when you were writing about Haiti. I was intrigued and quickly sucked in. Your topics were just what I was looking for. I must have caught just the tail end of your stay in Haiti which I was hugely disappointed about, and honestly considered “unsubsribing.”

    Thank God I didn’t. I look forward to reading your posts each and every day. There is not one single day that I skip it and while I haven’t gone through the same things you have, something rings true to me in just about every blog you write. (I will admit though that I’m a “foodie” and started to get slightly defensive yesterday for just a split second until I got what your point was — LOL)

    I was glad to read your comment above that you were just “complaining” because I would hate for you to stop at least dipping your toes in the water. I understand that “swimming” in the dark water might not be easy or possible at all times, but I certainly hope — for your readers’ sakes if nothing else — that you’ll keep going. You are shedding light on issues that are hugely important, not to mention intriguing.

    I love the idea of you putting your “toes in” at the edge and Sara wanting you to “swim.” Maybe it really is like getting used to cool water. Some people jump straight in (crazy!) and others take their time, letting one part of their body get used to it at a time until they’re fully comfortable. Going along with that metaphor, how about I offer this advice: remember that the only reason you are even remotely thinking about swimming is because it’s nice and sunny outside. The water may be dark and cool, but the weather is great. In other words, you’re in a good place and you’re safe.

    When you get a book deal, I’d like to pre-order. Please. 🙂
    Dana

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    • It’s really great to hear from you, Dana! I was about in the same boat when we left Haiti. I had so much more to say and expereince. My disappointment was enormous. I imagined people might unsubscribe and rightly so.

      However, I also knew I had this other story to address in the meantime–so I had a direction to go. But now the blog is becoming too focused on the past, and I don’t think that works well. I think I need a bit of balance. Especially since we are likely to be going someplace else sometime soon. There will be a whole new story to tell.

      I think you comment about entering the water is really helpful–really, really helpful. I shared it with Sara and she was quite struck by it, as well. So thank you—-

      I really appreciate your sharing! Thank you, thank you, Dana!

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  7. If you elect to write the book, I am certain that it will provide a most interesting perspective…but it shouldn’t be started until you are ready to write…not anyone else.

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  8. Hi pal,
    Last year, I took a mindfulness meditation class and I often remember one of the exercises…it said that while meditating, don’t fight or be afraid of thoughts that come in because whatever is there is already there. Fighting them or avoiding them or burying them don’t make them go away. I wonder if that applies to dealing with the past as well. It’s already there, delving into it will take away its power to threaten.
    I’m not sure what dysfunction I like least about myself–maybe how much I let things and other people bother me. I can easily fixate on things that bug me and they can fester. Meditation helps with that. When I manage to do it!

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    • Ah–great insight, Sarah! Writing a memoir may, indeed, be a bit like meditating. I hadn’t even thought of that. But, I know what you mean–it is HARD to let go of things that bug me too! Great to hear from you, my friend!

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  9. Every word you put out there is a part of your memoir. Every picture you paint; every poem you create, is part of your memoir. For everything you share with the world comes from you, and thus reflects you. We all are constantly creating the memoir of our lives. It is an ongoing process. Just because the method of creation is not always as we might prefer, or even what we specifically aim for, does not make it any less a description of who we are. You may have a specific part of your story that you wish to share, but that does not mean that when you diverge from that part of the story you are sharing any less of what makes you you. If anything the diversions complete the picture for the reader, creating a 3-d image instead of just a photo. From my perspective, you are doing it right!

    Ironically, I can’t easily answer the question about what I am dancing around, because I am too busy dancing around whatever it is 😀

    Keep on keeping on!!

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    • Sorry, you last comment made me laugh out loud–I KNOW what you mean! You’re dancing as fast as you can, right!?

      But, yes, such great insight, Steve. It is indeed all part of my memoir–all of it is important. What an amazing analogy about 3D as opposed to 2–so, so true. I totally love that idea! Brilliant insight, again, my friend! Thanks so much!

      (You always manage to share the most amazing insights. I don’t know how you do it! You should be a therapist, if you aren’t already!)

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  10. I really relate to what you’re saying, Kathy. I have so much going on in my life outside the happy go-lucky 2Summers that everyone reads about in my blog. But I don’t know how to go there, or if I even should.

    When I first started this journey, I thought my blog would an ongoing personal memoir with some travel-writing mixed in — an Eat, Pray, Love kind of thing. But I gradually realized that writing about what happens around you is much easier than writing about what happens inside you, especially when you’re audience is made up mostly of strangers. At this point I’m afraid I might shock, dismay, or even disappoint people if I started writing about what really goes on in between the fun tourist trips.

    At any rate, this comment is supposed to be about you! I really enjoyed your Haiti posts and I love your memoir posts too. You have to do what feels right for you but I hope you find a balance that works. And I must admit that I can’t wait for your next disaster adventure!

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    • My God, Heather, what an important insight! It really is hard to write about what’s going on inside–isn’t it! The Pray, Eat. Love thing is amazing. I would love to write a book like that, but, gosh, it takes a lot of courage to reflect so openly–maybe guts–in my case, maybe stupidity or insanity! But I think people crave that kind of writing–that kind of honestly. Not easy to do, not always advisable, but, when you do–so, so powerful!

      I have to agree though–I sure as hell am looking forward to that next disaster adventure. God, I’m on tip-toes with anticipation. Feel like a little kid!

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    • Okay–I lost my many paragraph long response here–so I have to try to recreate it.

      First, you are absolutely correct. Writing the “Pray, Eat, Love” thing woudl be amazing, but not easy for sure. It is, indeed, easier to write about what’s going on around you than about what is happening inside. That’s a huge insight!

      Sometimes I think it takes courage to write like that, sometimes I think I’m nuts to be divulging these things (the more likely scenario). However, I think people crave that kind of honest, reflective writing. We don’t get a lot of it.

      On the other hand, I have to admit that I too am way, way excited to know what our next disaster assignment will be! I’m on tip-toes with anticipation. Feel like a little kid!

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  11. Kathy–
    I think that delving too deeply–if it’s painful or bothersome or too hard or creates panic–is a great sign that…maybe you’re not ready.

    that’s ok. 🙂

    None of us “needs” you to write it.

    You need to write from…wherever place you are…you know?

    I enjoy your posts…BUT, not at the expense of your sanity/comfort…

    The words will find their way out, as they are meant to…when they are meant to…if they are meant to.

    in the mean time…don’t should on yourself.
    😉
    blessings
    jane

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    • The thing that amazes me though, Jane, is how much better I feel about it even having just admitted my frustration. I didn’t even realize what a huge weight that was in and of itself.

      I don’t think I really risk insanity from writing this–that was probably an exaggeration on my part. It is very, very difficult to keep going, though. I really hadn’t thought it would be so tough, but it is!

      You are right–I shouldn’t should on myself–ha, ha!

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  12. Kathy,
    I don’t think you should torture yourself. While your posts are riveting, so are other things on your mind that you write about, non-memoir related. I tend to agree with Jane – maybe you’re just not ready for that pain.
    I have an idea.
    You know how you can write drafts but not publish them? When you feel like it, why don’t you write memoir-related posts in draft form only. You are still creating them, without baring your soul to all of us. How would that make you feel?
    Personally, I suspect I am hugely dysfunctional, though not to the untrained eye. There are so many bigger issues in my life I don’t dare touch with writing – just not comfortable putting my problems in a public arena. I leave those thoughts in my head, lacking the courage to do anything else.

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    • What you’re suggesting, Deanna, makes so much sense. It sould be exactly as you indicate. The weird thing is that it’s not. The writing is the painful part–the sharing the easy part. I know that doesn’t make sense. But I’m so glad you made this suggestion, because it helps to think about that distinction-to know which part I actually struggle with. I didn’t even understand this until I read your comment and thought about it, so THANK YOU! Thank you so much!

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  13. Hmm.. I *thought* you were already delving quite deep into your past and memoirs based on the posts I read, but I guess I have no idea just how deeply your experiences run! No need to force it, Kathy. Be gentle on yourself and on your memories! There’s no sense undertaking a project that will break you– take it in smaller doses (or none at all!), and you will simply bend like a tree in the wind. It’s OK.

    Even posts like these– the ones full of self-doubt, uncertainty, and anxiety about the daunting tasks that comprise One’s Memoirs– are technically part of your memoirs, too. Every post, every page, and every word of your memoirs does not have to contain An Event From The Past. The story about your *process* of writing is just as interesting as the “content” of the story itself. Everything you’ve written so far is beautiful, Kathy, and everything you will write– be it about your past, your present, or even your dogs (whatever!!)– will be great, too.

    I support you just as you are.

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    • You know what, Dana–I thought the same thing! It doesn’t get any deeper than I have already gone. The more I think about it though, I think Sara is talking about my struggle to sustain that kind of deep swimming. It’s like I dive down–deeply–and come right back up to the surface again. It would seem important that I be able to sustain that depth–but God, that’s asking for a lot. Sometimes I think Sara can be harder on me than anyone–expect more of me–as she would herself. However, I don’t know that it will be possible to write this story that way. It’s too damn intense.

      But, yes, everrything I write is part of my memoir–it’s all part of the same story. Good point! Thanks so much for mentioning that!

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  14. Maybe write it all down – every last sordid and painful detail – but approach it as if it’s a private diary that will never be read by anybody else. Then, later, you can reevaluate whether you want to turn it into a memoir for the masses. Just a thought.

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    • It’s a great thought. However, what’s so weird is that it’s the writing it down that’s painful. Once I do, I expereince relief in sharing it. So, that’s what makes me realize I have to share it, as that’s the only part that feels meaningful–if that makes sense. And I find that very meaningful.

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  15. Pingback: Really don’t know what to call this! | The odd ramblings of a mind that does not quite fit

  16. Well, I know you didn’t ask my opinion, but I think if writing the memoir is creating such stress for you, then you should let it go for a while. It seems you are trying to force yourself to write it, but you’re finding no sense of satisfaction from the effort. Maybe now is not the time. Maybe you don’t completely abandon the project, but just give yourself time to come to terms with it. Or… maybe Sara is right. Maybe you just haven’t dug deep enough yet. Only you really know, deep down in your heart. (Hug!)

    What dysfunction do I like least about myself? I don’t talk. Yes, I ramble on endlessly on my blog, but face to face, I have a horrible time getting the words out. Case in point. My husband acted like a jerk tonight (somewhat normal spousal-level jerkishness) and deserves to hear why he was being unfair. Instead I’m giving him the silent treatment and insisting that nothing is wrong when he keeps asking me. And we both know that’s not true. But we won’t talk about it. We’ll just sleep it off and ignore it until the next time.

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    • I love to hear your opinion, Terri! Actually it has helped to step away just for a few days. But I know I won’t give it up. It’s ultimately more meaningful than not–this she says after a few days’ break!

      About your particular dysfuntion–that’s my Sara’s as well! So you are in good company, my friend! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

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  17. Oh Kathy. I was about to comment, tentatively, on your posts about food, eating and particularly women’s relationship with those. I say tentatively because I could go off on one about it and maybe not in the way you would think and I don’t want to alienate myself or sound cheeky. I have often pictured myself standing at the top of a mountain and shouting at the top of my lungs “Is there a f***king woman out there who wants to talk about ANYTHING other than dieting or their weight?” See, I’ve probably alienated you already and of course I need to explain that more – frustrating in a comment box. Then, you post this!!! It must be a good sign when I want to write so much in response to something – do I detect a little deflecting here?!! Maybe my behavioural event horizon I’m dancing around is women and food 😦 It would need to get in line though because I also have 50 odd years of living with low self esteem that is both paralysing and dysfunctional as well very very hard to change. You know you are neither weak or lazy and you say neither paints the picture of who you are so, being the artist you are, just paint the picture of who you really are. It will be pretty enough.

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    • Oh, Penny, I LOVE your honesty, my fiend! You have not alienated me at all. I love to hear lots of different perspectives and I have grown to respect you so! Women and their food issues can become tiring. You are right about that, actually! But thanks for suggesting it’s my artist self that expalins this. That may be true! Again–thank you for sharing how you honestly feel–that’s what makes for really great dialogue–that’s how we learn from one another!

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  18. I love how your post is always just the beginning of a long, thoughtful dialog with your community. The only thought I still have after reading through the conversation is to wonder what your self-observations are as you embrace and avoid the memoir work. There are obviously times/memories that scare you more than others. Can you look at that? And I’m imagining that your ability to disidentify with them comes and goes. Can you watch that as well?

    I’m thinking the avoidance may be just as rich and worth mining as the actual facts and events of your life. If not for the memoir, then for your peace of mind.

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    • Wow–what a great insight, Sandy! I hadn’t thought about the desire to avoid the project being a subject in and of itself worh mining! Why had that not occured to me? Thank you, thank you–that is likely the case. And this is one of the things I adore most about blogging–my readers are priceless! My God! Your feedback invaluable–so often the journey of blogging is indeed about this dialog. Hugs to you this Sunday!

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  19. While you and Sara may think you’ve been “tip-toe-ing around the edges” of your story, I have found reading some of your posts quite harrowing. Having gone through a couple of bad years myself, with many of the same problems (albeit from a different cause), I sometimes feel like I could have written some of the passages.

    As to talking about my own dysfunctions . . . mmmh, it’s not even easy for me to confront my demons. All I will say is that I come from a scarily similar background to Amblerangel. I have the same low expectations of people, and am only really close to a handful of people. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to write with the same sense of humour as she does.

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    • I know migraine pain is debilitating and that without relief pain causes our brains to do “weird” (for lack of a better word) things. I’m sorry these posts have been difficult to read, and I totally understand your not reading them for that reason. I can only say that I am so, so sorry your expereince has been similar. I can’t imagine adding pain to the challenges I’ve faced–so my heart goes out to you. And, gosh, sorry to hear about your background, as well. Of course it would be difficult to trust–trust would seem so counter-intuitive! Hugs to you, my friend!

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