You can tell the academic in me is on home turf when I start talking about structure and function, about la lengue and la parole, about emic and etic. ( Note: This is a most semiotic post.)
I have been writing posts non-stop this month. These past week has seen a lull in my posting. So I failed at Na Blo Posting Mo. There needs to be Na Blo Wri Mo. Writing is distinct from posting. The thing versus its label. Maps and territory. Process and praxis. I have written some personally significant pieces over the last couple of weeks, but they require rumination and reworking before posting them or works derived from them. Some things are just too raw to share. They are elemental pieces. These need to be crafted into examples of the thing rather than the being the actual thing. But it has to be real. A real example. I think I am finding my way into being able to write about my life without bleeding ink all over the page. I think personal writing is about allowing others to connect with enough of your experience that they can emote their own stuff all over your stuff without having to own it completely. That, too, is about the thing, versus of the set that contains all the possible permutations of those things, versus an example of one of those items in the set that is not the raw, essential thing itself.
At one point I also had some concern about creating ill-will, or embarrassment, within my family should my personal writings be discovered by them. I do not have to worry about that any longer. My natal family is no more. All but two of us are gone and the other person besides me cannot assimilate new information. I attended the funeral that no one thinks about attending until the experience unfolds. The the body in the casket had belonged to the last person I knew well, who knew me well, as child. The solitary, isolated childhood, being the youngest of five with a huge space of 9 years between four and five, and being born to parents in their forties, as well as being in a family with a genetic predisposition to cancer that was apparently triggered by many of the agro-chemicals that were used on the farm before awareness of the carcinogenic nature of them eventually became known; these all contributed to my experience of what is not talked about prior to the event. A cultural taboo.
My eldest brother who lives does so with an impaired memory. Traditional old folks senility at age 75. He knows who I am, and I cherish that recognition, but his being the eldest of the five kids with me being the youngest means the 18 years between us created a family relationship more akin to that of a niece with her uncle than a little sister and brother.
My parents and all the siblings I remember living in our home when I was small are gone. I knew this feeling a few years ago when severe dementia took hold of the youngest of my brothers. Great care at the VA hospital, next to the military cemetery where his body now lies, allowed my brother to recover a bit and regain some of his mental functioning. But that initial experience of knowing that all the shared memories of youthful home and family were hit me hard back then. I grieved. But then there was a reprieve, and some of my brother returned. So when he actually passed away this month, I had already had time to accept his inevitable outcome. But I had not realized how alone I would feel, how strange it would be when I was only person from my natal family left to attend a memorial service for another member.
Sometimes I feel like I am twenty years older than my peers. Being sandwiched between generations was years and years ago for me. Now I am watching my sibling pass on. A nephew has already passed on. Most of my friends are not in this stage of life. Many still have vital active parents. I think this is exacerbated by my husband not understanding the impact of this phase on me. He was an only child. His father passed away when he was 16. His mom died when he was 30. He cannot quite grasp this family connection thing. Even dysfunctional families are family. Looking back on what should be with you is just weird. The anthropologist in me would say that I am emerging from a liminal phase.
I think I am coming to terms with this new state of being. I have written a great deal about it. I am just starting to post about it. I may pre-date some posts so they are in a sequence that makes sense.
And that is okay. My writing friends will understand if I cannot complete this Nablopomo. There will be other opportunities.
Lisa at GrandmasBriefs
I can only imagine how difficult the transition must be with family members passing on. It must feel odd in so many ways. I’ve been fortunate and have lost only a step-dad and my father-in-law, no CLOSE relations yet.
I fully understand the writing vs. blogging consideration. I have always considered myself a writer, had a full-time job as a writer, then editor. Since blogging, writing blog posts has killed my writing. There’s a huge difference between the two. I’m working at blogging less and writing more.
I am so sorry for your losses, and for that lost feeling you are experiencing.
I remember after my grandmother’s funeral having to pull my mom away from the cemetery as she said, “I can’t leave my family here. I am the only one left.”
It’s a lonely feeling, Nancy, and that desolation is echoed in your words. My prayers are with you and your loved ones, with the knowledge that you have power in your writing, evident in this post (and others.) You have a lot to say and we’re waiting to read it!
BTW, you know there is a NaBloWriMo (or whatever the heck they call it), right? One of these days I’m going to head that way myself.
Thank you for your words. I understand what your mother meant. NaNoWriMo, yes, I tried writing my memoir as a novel this past April… and failed again. But sometimes failure is okay. Activities change in priority. Taking care of myself as best I can, usually meaning de-stressing, so I can do what I have to do and want to do remains a priority… so NaBloPoMo dropped from Must do, to Should do, to Nice to do.
Oh my, you did it again Nancy…filled in the words that I have been struggling to spit out ” I think personal writing is about allowing others to connect with enough of your experience that they can emote their own stuff all over your stuff without having to own it completely.” Perfect, just perfect….
I believe that making dates match the moment in time instead of the moment you hit publish is a great idea. It is like creating a journal in the moment and then being able to go back and put it in perspective as distance allows you to step back and gain that perspective…if that makes any sense at all. Whether it does or not, I love this piece and am looking forward to next installments, in whatever order, post-rumination.
I thought “emote their own stuff all over your stuff” was rather a icky-inducing image, but thank you for understanding and even saying that you wanted to say the same thing. I still think there has to be a better way to say it, though. Let’s keep working on it.
Lois Alter Mark
Oh, Nancy, life has to take precedent and I’m so sorry for your loss. The reasons people write are different for all, and although I hope you keep posting because, selfishly, I love to read your work, it’s more important that you just write whenever/however you need to.Your writing is beautiful and important, and I always feel honored when you share it with us. xo
Thanks so much Lois, but I would love to be able to write something light and inconsequential, or even grossly sentimental. But raw is where I am today. It might be different tomorrow.
I think the whole point of NaBloPoMo, at least for many, is to get into the habit of sitting down and writing every day. It seems that you’ve done that.
We all measure success differently. Let this be yours. I, for one, understand.
I look forward to some of the pieces that will emerge from this month’s exercise!
I would love to be able to write regularly, on a schedule, but I’m just not a scheduled writer. The exercise of writing every day is a good one, and it can increase discipline, but I am not sure it can actually improve writing. Practice does that, but I am not sure the practice has to be every day. Sometimes a day off and a margarita can help a lot too!
Your distinction between writing and blogging is spot on, right on the money. Even though I post daily, I do not blog daily, if that makes sense. I write daily, but no post goes up before its time.
You certainly have a different life experience than mine, and I thought your comments on the changes in your family thought-provoking. They’ll stick with me a while. Thank you.
“Thought-provoking,” why, thank you Carol. I am not sure there is a higher honor that saying that writing is thought-provoking. I get the blog v. publish distinction too!
Nancy, I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a sibling. Recently I was caregiver to my sister after major surgery and I couldn’t help but think how devastated I would be without her in my life. Please don’t feel you’ve failed at NaBloPoMo. You’re writing and that’s the main thing, regardless of whether you clicked publish or not.
Thanks for the encouragement, Linda, I do not feel like a failure though I failed to complete the task. I sincerely hope you never have to experience the loss of your sister.