Love is an unreliable lens through which to look at a person. The same can be said of vacation. The viewer is left with a romantic memory of an experience, bereft of all its glaring imperfections.
Memoir writing has caused me to confront my romantic notions of Ireland and to be brutally honest with myself. I look at the pictures I took during both of my trips and think of some of them – that was such a good day. I wish I could go back there and relive that moment. But then I put pen to paper and I remember that a photo just represents one moment, and it is suspended in a perfect grace in which the before and after are unknown and irrelevant.
I now question the past – before and after the shutter clicked. How happy was I really? Why, when I returned from vacation, did I feel like one of the crumbling ruins scattered across the Irish countryside? Why did I allow myself to travel so far for love only to lose it? Maybe I was looking for something I never really had in the first place; was my experience really as perfect as I remembered? Finding answers to those questions can make for some great writing. However, the process is painful to the writer.
Memoir can be summed up in an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” I am in a perpetual state of Ireland. I don’t want to be, but in order to write about it, I have to continuously think about it and examine every last detail and all of my actions. And I fall in love with the same person, over and over again with the sad knowledge that my heart gets broken. Who, except for a writer, would voluntarily subject themselves to so much pain?
Some people pay for therapists; I write. And through the therapy of memoir I discovered the error of my thinking: Ireland hurt me because I held onto the microscopic pixels of memory like they were living things.
As I write my first book The Parting Glass, I am learning to be thankful for my Irish experiences and the opportunity to learn from the past instead of wallow in it. I love that I can now view my photo albums with the full color spectrum of reality.
6 thoughts on “Before and After the Shutter Clicked: Memoir is Therapy”
Thank you, Steffany. 🙂
Lovely Jolene…you’ve captured a deeply important process. I love the honest introspection you share. Thanks.
Memoir takes us to so many places.When I look at photographs It’s like the power of scent. I can put myself into that place and time. Thank you for giving me something to think over and good luck with writing your book.
Thank you for your visit, unsouthernbelle (great name, btw), and for your thoughtful comment. 🙂
Agreed. Writing memoir allows us the space for introspection and learning new things about ourselves throughout the process.
So true, Lorraine. When am I going to get to read yours?? 🙂