Monday, February 27, 2012

Forgiving Yourself Sideways (2.27.2012)

I am taking a writing course at The Loft (https://www.loft.org/). The course, Going in Sideways: Practical Strategies for Writing Memoirs, is my first wobbly step in the direction of the memoir I've always wanted to write about raising my son, Sam. I have wanted to do this for years. Now that I am actually trying to put words on paper, I understand why I have put this off for so long. Remembering has been very emotional. The teaching artist who is guiding our class tells us that this is not unusual and that the act of capturing such memories, any memories, can send a tsunami of unexpected emotion flooding your way. And that has certainly happened.

Like today, I was thinking about the time before Sam's diagnosis of autism (when he was still a toddler) and he actually had an admissions interview at a well-respected Montessori school in Wilton, CT. We arrived early on the morning of the interview and accompanied Sam into a large classroom learning area along with two of the Montessori teachers. They watched as he ricocheted from one learning activity to another, never standing still. Blocks. Books. Sand. Crayons. Back to books. Balls. Pegboard. Blocks. During the 20-minute session, the two teachers exchanged glances. Once. Twice. Ben and I just watched. We didn't understand. We were new parents and barely understood what was expected of a Montessori toddler much less what the glances meant.

As I was sitting at my desk today thinking of all this, I suddenly became aware of a very sick feeling in my stomach. I had to take a moment to catch my breath. Recalling a memory from 20 years ago which still held this much power made me feel a little sorry for myself. For all of us. That's the truth. There was so much we didn't know. So much we didn't even suspect. So many dumb things I did as a parent that I should've forgiven myself for, but never have.

Remembering how this all unfolded in the classroom that day reminded me: at the time I was doing the best I could. I had to recognize that at the time I didn't have the luxury of a leisurely stroll through what my emotions were or weren't, or what it might mean or not mean, because when I left the Montessori classroom that day, I went back to the urgent and all-consuming, full time, real-time job of being Sam's mom. I had to keep going.
I am finally starting what I've put off for so long. And I feel like I now have the tools I need to push through some of these memories, tackle them to the ground and experience them -- front, back or sideways -- with my critical side on mute and my heart engaged in telling the real story.

7 comments:

  1. Lovely piece. Keep writing -- your work is compelling. - Jocelyn Hale, Loft Executive Director.

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  2. this is very powerful post as well as a powerful experience you're going through. i can't wait to read it!

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  3. Oh, Denine, you know I know your story. I am not sure if you can ever put your critical side on mute, but by telling the story from the heart, you will be able to speak to your truth which is what we need to hear. I have tried so many times to write our stories and have come across similar barriers, but you have inspired me - thanks!

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    1. You and I can't go on Oprah anymore with OUR book, but we can still write them...and inspire each other. Don't you have a few chapters started somewhere??? I thought you did...:-)

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  4. *hugs* I am one of those people who is constantly replaying moments over and over, so I feel your emotional tidal wave pain. I'm sure the book will be wonderful, can't wait to read it!

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  5. hi, came across your blog and saw you are from ny, where in ny? wondering.

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    1. Grew up in Poughkeepsie. Later on, NYC. How about you, Anonymous? :-))

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