Compassion, that’s the big one. In this memoir of recovery, I am writing a chapter about my relationship with my mother as she aged and went blind. I need to love myself, so confused and trying so hard, love the little girl in me who was emerging then. And embody some compassion for my mother while also showing how angry I was at her. Do I have the largeness of soul today, in this moment, to write it fully?
It is odd how writing this memoir is different from everyday writing. Every day I write for enlightenment and I find out as I go. With the book, it’s research and assembly, swimming in the pieces, finding an order, refining—but the biggest compassionate step, it seems right now, is in the editing where I bring the colors out. This stage contains judgments on a very heart level. I need to hold contradictory feelings fully and safely, empathizing but with a little distance so I can describe them fully and fill scenes with sound, sight, words, body, emotions.
It’s one thing to write a journal entry just for me with total openness—though that took some learning, too—and it’s another to turn to a reader and gently explicate on all those levels—my old anger at my mother’s helplessness, my knowledge of her needs, my desire to be helpful, my inner child’s need and liveliness. But if I don’t have compassion and complexity, why write a memoir?