Monday, July 06, 2020

Of Truth and Words and Rude Epiphanies - ROW80 Round 3 2020 & Camp NaNo July 2020 Goals

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2020

I'm back.  And I'm committed.  

It's been a long four year hiatus struggling with conflicting priorities and personal drama that choked off my fictional storyworld like bindweed overtaking the yard, garden and house.  But I finally broke through the denial and excuses and woke up to reality and made the hard choice that will, as a side-effect, allow me to put writing back in the central place it always has been whenever I'm allowed to be myself.

On June 7th I gave up on my 41.5 year marriage because the only other option was to give up on myself.

The backstory for this can be found in the early posts with the Lifequake label but a succinct summary that hits all the emotional high notes can be found in these four poems written in 2013, 2015 and 2020 in this order:

Ed's an alcoholic who refuses to admit he is and I've been taking half or more of the blame for it for decades because I believed he drank to ease his anxiety which was high because mine was always hovering at panic levels. Or because being responsible for a legally blind wife was too stressful. Or because my infertility denied him the children we both craved.  I gave him a pass for his pathological lying because I believed he told his stories to 'protect' me or out of fear I'd freak out when confronted with bad news.  And I endured the random withdrawal of affection or communication as my just punishment for stressing him out.  

So I believed and so I behaved until this latest three week binge and withdrawal in the middle of the shelter-in-place pandemic rules, during a time my anxiety levels were the lowest they've ever been in my memory (in spite of the near apocalyptic current events) and in the midst of my months long accumulation of one triumph after another over the various deficiencies in my character that he'd named as most anxiety provoking for him.  This proved the falsity of the hypothesis I'd been operating under for over 40 years.  

I was not to blame for any of his choices.  Not this time.  Not ever.

About a week into last month's withdrawal I smacked my face into a hip-high bookcase bending down to pick up something I'd kicked into due to my visual impairment.  This gave me the opportunity to verify the truth of the metaphor I've repeatedly used to describe to him the pain his withdrawals inflicted on me.  I would say that I could not imagine a punch in the face could be any more painful.  Now I know for sure that is true and not hyperbole. Now I can testify that being emotionally and physically frozen out by someone whose 'love' is the center of your world is equally painful, equally cruel and equally unjust as a physical blow.  

By any other name it is abuse.

By no definition available in any dictionary or philosophy does this behavior have one whit to do with love.

Another epiphany related to how all this impacted my writing came to me while watching a YouTube ad about Joyce Carol Oates's Masterclass in which she is emphasizing the importance of being a truth teller to any kind of serious writing.  That you have to be willing to look fearlessly at even uncomfortable truths and not flinch at revealing them in your work.  I'm totally paraphrasing but the gist is there.  

I came to realize that there were two levels on which my refusal to face the truth of my marriage's dynamic was sabotaging my writing. The first level is in all the unconscious effort my psyche invested in not seeing the truth and the second level was all the conscious effort that went into protecting him from being found out by family, friends, acquaintances, employers and landlords.  The primary way I protected him was by keeping my mouth shut so that I never contradicted something he may have said when I wasn't present and this always devolved to shutting down the flow of words on paper and screen as well. 

It also resulted in my sabotaging all the relationships I had before marriage and prevented me from developing any other close adult friendships.  If you are always watching every word you think or say for potential booby traps you eventually learn to practice silence.  True friendship cannot thrive where truth is not welcome.

That doesn't even begin to touch on the aspect of being willing to speak the truth publicly once you are able to say it to yourself.  This post may be considered TMI to some and even completely inappropriate. Though I have had Ed's permission since 2005 the year my Dad was dying to share on my blog some of the negative impact his behaviors were having on my writing, I know there are those in both my family and his that believe that you don't air dirty laundry in public and might find some of what I share shaming to the family.

Even Ed might find some of what I'm willing to share now objectionable but since he is now completely ghosting me he is unlikely to encounter it. Thus it is far from my intent to weaponize my words to exact revenge on him. Or even just influence him in any way. He is neither the target of my words nor my intended audience.  

My entire purpose is to excavate my own soul and reclaim my own sense of self. So to prevent even accidental negative blowback on him I spend some minutes every day holding him in the Light of Divine Love praying for him to find his own way back to his own true self. I no longer feel any duty to be the one to rescue him.

This post is written for my writing community and any family member who might encounter it will just have to deal because I am through being silent about the central truths of my life.  I am through having others dictate to me what is OK for me to think, or say or believe. I am through protecting everyone else from their shame while taking it on myself in silent agony.

This is almost precisely how I felt in 1994 when I broke from the cultish funde church I was raised in when the Elders were splitting up extended families with excommunications over doctrinal minutia while quietly covering up domestic violence, child abuse and molestation perpetrated by those allowed to teach from the pulpit. I wrote in my journal at the time:
 all those sober Elders who appointed themselves our teachers, who point proudly to the missing Rev. before their name and the lacking Ph. D. following, are far from lacking in B.S.  Their head’s and heart’s are stuck so far up inside their hollowed out egos--that echo chamber where they hear nothing but the sound of their own voices, but think it God’s--they couldn’t see the light if the sun orbited their eyeballs and they couldn’t know God’s love if Jesus himself walked up and kissed them on the nose.  None of them will ever have any further authority over me, mind, body, soul, or spirit.  I would wash their feet in my spit!  And anoint their brows with the sweat of my pits!  They are worse than the blackest hearted crook.  They are hypocrites!  When they try to make out like they got God’s mouth in their ear, I want to ask how far he sticks his tongue in!
That's me writing as a fearless truth teller.  I need to find her again.  To own her again.

I thought that over the following decade I'd learned to think for myself but now I realize that I've never been able to feel comfortable with any conclusion I came to on any topic if I sensed any disagreement or disapproval from Ed.  I thought I'd repudiated my need to proselytize but apparently I still had a burning need to convince someone besides my own self of a truth before I could own it completely.   My husband became my guru.  Not by his conscious design but by default because I had not yet learned to own my own mind.

Now I have to go back over all that old ground all over again.  That is why, like with my last several NaNo projects, this ROW80 round is going to be focused on personal journaling.  There will be some stream of consciousness word flow but for the most part I'll be writing to a slew of topic or specific memory prompts I've collected in those recent NaNo files and will continue to add to as concepts or memories occur to me.  Some of those memories will be written using the same techniques as in fiction which I hope will re-enliven those skills and hone them for a near future return to my storyworld.

2020 Round 3 ROW80 and July Camp NaNo goals:

  • Sleep 7.5 hours Daily Minimum --  This used to be a major challenge for me but I've got it managed since mid March.  No more all-over-the-clock sleep 'schedule'. No more multiple day awake manic episodes.  And I've done all that in spite of going off anti-depressants over a year ago.  I switched to over the counter 5HTP, tripling the dose I'd been taking as a supplement for over a decade.  Done with med nurse supervision.  The process proved that most of the mood disorder symptoms were rooted in sleep deprivation fueled by anxiety which is part of the sensory information processing issue in Asperger's.   
  • Move/Breathe/Meditate 15 min Daily minimum  -- Swaying on the mini-tramp can include all three simultaneous.  There are a number of other ways I can do any one or combine two but it is essential that each one is included every day.  And this represents baby steps as it is barely a quarter of a healthy level of these activities.  Besides they have proven to provide a high yield return on investment as whenever I've practiced any of them it stimulates creativity, memory, and insight; lowers anxiety, and increases energy, stamina and a positive mood.
  • Storydreaming with note-taking tools at hand. 15 min Daily MInimum -- This is a technique I learned from Robert Olen Butler in the book From Where You Dream.
  • Read Fiction 30 min Daily Average
  • Read/Study Craft 15 min Daily Average 
  • Social network activities 30 min Daily Minimum (writing Joystory posts doesn't count only social reaching out like reading/commenting on other blogs, guest posts and posting to fb, twitter, pinterest etc) -- something I've a strong resistance to.  The autism diagnosis helps explain this but doesn't let me off the hook.  If anything it makes it more important.  Plus this is preparing the ground for future promotion once I'm ready to publish
  • 30 min Daily minimum engagement with a scavenger hunt though all my creative writing files including Joystory looking for better than shitty first draft scenes, sections, stories, poems and essays and edit, organize and make hard copies. --  It's been years since I've made clean copies of manuscripts in my portfolios and for most of the noveling writing challenges I've never printed hardcopy.  That is a lot of words to mine as between 2004 and 2015 I participated in more than one such challenge per year-- Nanowrimo, Junowrimo, Camp Nano, ROW80 and Sweating for Sven.among them.  That is a lot of novella length WIP just gathering electron dust.  A conservative estimate is over 20.  I've been wondering for sometime now if the neglect of these stories after the challenges were over is at least partly responsible for the storyworld's elusiveness over the last several years.  I'm hoping that this exercise in honoring their existence will cure my character's recent shyness.
  • To prep for self-pub: Gather all my poems into a single Scrivener file. Minimum one poem per day until all accounted for.  Adding new ones encouraged.  This will take most of the Round as there are over 80. See Poems by Joy Renee Portal.  Another exercise in honoring old work to encourage new work.
  • Personal Journaling 45 min or 1000 words whichever come first Daily Minimum -- This is the heart of the writing challenge.  The preceding provides the structure and the nutrients that nurtures and honors the work which I've learned over time must exist to ensure that this becomes more than just dabbling.  This is not intended for future publication tho I do expect that eventually material begun here will lend itself to development into personal essays for blog posts and new poems and stories.  This is what I've been doing for the last several NaNo and I'm hoping that the addition of the new willingness to seek and own my personal truth through this exercise will unlock the fictional storyworlds for me again by the first of the year if not in time for this November's NaNo.
  • 1 tell me a story:

    ruichan 7/08/2020 9:54 PM  

    My now estranged father is an alcoholic so I can partly understand what you went through. I hope the separation and writing (and your other self-tending goals) help restore a sense of who you really are and heal in its wake.

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