In my dreams of Pittsburgh these days, I am always lost.
Night after night, I wander the same streets and have some variation of the same experience. Inevitably, I’m lost. Invariably, I search—always trying to find my way back to my parent’s house on the north side of town.
The reason for these dreams is obvious. In writing a memoir, I sift. I sort. I wade through a slog of memories, attempting to build some sense of meaning.
Clearly, this writing isn’t easy. In fact, it may be the hardest work I’ve ever undertaken.
Sure, psychotherapy was tough. Bipolar disorder, an ongoing struggle. But this? This is a creature of another kind.
The dive is deep. The water, cold and dark. The journey, one I take alone.
I feel a sense of urgency to complete the project and wonder at how the story is unfolding, revealing itself, sometimes in slips and slivers, other times in larger chunks.
And sometimes this sense of wonder compounds the feeling of urgency, making me believe this writing task is one that needs doing soon—needs doing now.
My partner Sara says I put this pressure on myself—that I don’t need to finish in any particular time frame—that I can choose—that I can set my own pace.
But my experience is otherwise.
In my mind this story has a life and time-table of its own—is a being in its own right—one that wants—one that grows—one that demands my doing in the short term.
And, surprisingly, the more I write, the more the urgency grows. It doesn’t diminish, as I’d expect.
It seems there’s an energy behind this telling—something that fuels it—something outside of me and what I want or feel.
I do its bidding. I obey. I write.
And still I wake up having spent the night lost on Pittsburgh streets.
But at least the wonder keeps me company in the process. At least I have a sense of amazement that the more I write, the more I get. The more I remember. I hadn’t anticipated that.
I’m surprised that this story lives and breathes in me—demanding that I tend and honor its process.
I’m surprised how it forces me to see in new ways, especially in the dark—how I’m learning to adjust my eyes to the dimming—to this inevitable loss of light.
Finding my way in the dark demands a singular way of seeing—a willingness—a steadfast commitment to accept whatever vision or version of myself the darkness itself demands, whoever it says I am—whether I like her or not.
And walking with my eyes closed is every bit as difficult as you might imagine, since in some ways the need to guess becomes a guide—the hint, the squint, a substitute for sight.
But actually seeing in the dark—finding your way through the thick underbrush of who you thought you were and who you actually are?
There’s magic in that mining—magic in that miracle of making and being made, magic in memoir emerging.
Note: If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir and blogging about growing up in an organized crime family. (This post, though not about the mafia specifically, is part of that series.) To read one of my mafia-related memoir posts,”Kids Make the Best Bookies,” click here. If you are interested in reading any of my protected posts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or let me know in the comments below, and I will gladly share the password with you.