This is the Introduction to my memoir, The River of Forgetting
I didn’t intend to become a writer or an artist. I didn’t in-tend to grab at an early retirement offer and leave teaching, a job that I loved. I certainly didn’t intend to find out about childhood incest.
These days I spend my mornings writing poetry or fiction, or painting abstract canvases. Those days, I got up hurriedly, checked my to-do lists, grabbed my briefbag already loaded with student papers and lecture notes, and headed off to the office.
I would not have moved from there to here without the raging crisis in the middle. It began with an unsolicited memory from age three. After the first memory came, I wrestled with doubt about whether anything at all had happened to me as a child.
I didn’t intend to spend several years immersed in the wa-ters of my psyche, but my emotions left me no choice. My lifelines were my therapist, my friends, and my creative outlets. My therapist taught me to listen to the voice of the little girl inside me who had been molested and who felt intensely abandoned by both parents.
Currents of ancient emotions swept through me. In therapy and in my daily life, I crawled through thickets of mistrust and bogs of shame. I was enraged at people who trampled my boundaries. And yet I functioned well at work and kept up friendships. Slowly, my focus shifted away from the misery and need of the child inside me. As I began to trust my therapist’s love and acceptance, I gained a sense of being a sturdy, worthy person who had already survived the worst.
I wouldn’t have called it creativity at first. I simply needed to write in my journal every day, keeping track of my feel-ings as they swirled. I’d sit at the kitchen table and let my pen race uncensored.
But words were limiting, too. When I was abused at ages three to six, I didn’t have words for what happened. Fifty years later I needed to involve the wordless, unscientific parts of my mind in the work of recovery.
I took up pastels and scribbled dark, angry pages full of red and black. And I took my body-memories and reactions to the dance studio to act them out.
Other people have written moving stories of childhood abuse, detailing the trauma of their early years. Although I have plenty of childhood memories, I do not have clear recollections of the abuse, only fragments and body memories. It’s the adult experience of healing, with all its human messiness, that is the core of this memoir. Because it focuses on self-discovery, love, and creativity, I hope this book will also be useful to many individuals with differing backgrounds who undertake the inner journey of self-knowledge.
I am still my mother’s daughter—the persistence and dis-cipline, the stubbornness. I am still my father’s daughter—the quest for something more, dashing off on new projects, the inventiveness. But I am my own daughter as well, the beloved creative child.
This is the story of my transformation.