Monday, July 28, 2008

Thoughts I Normally Keep to Myself

In general, I try to keep these postings short and breezy. But this morning I've decided to open a window into my deeper thoughts and feelings by sharing a bit of my journal. I could condense and edit for clarity, but I'm afraid that if I don't print the entire entry, I'll excise the most revealing and perhaps most helpful parts. If you read all the way through, you'll see the connection to late blooming.

Dear Diary,
(Just kidding!)

Last night I watched on Netflix the conclusion of Season 2 of Six Feet Under, along with writer/director Alan Ball's commentary. He talked about how repressed the whole cast of characters is with their feelings, what WASPS the Fishers are. Even when David expresses his fears about his brother Nate's upcoming surgery, Ball loves the poignant scene but thinks David should be weeping the way he does with his lover Keith later in the episode--that he needs to let out and excavate his emotions.

A few thoughts about all this:

One: In examining how I structure sentences, it's interesting to me how many dependent clauses, buts, and parenthetical thoughts I use. (TB used to say that my most interesting thoughts are in parentheses.)

What does this have to do with Six Feet Under? It occurs to me that perhaps I, too, am incredibly repressed, so much so that I didn't pick up on this major theme as I was watching the show. The characters and the way they express themselves seem normal to me. I see Ruth as my shadow self, insecure and even passive-aggressive at times. Ball, however, doesn't judge her. He thinks that his characters are the most beautiful when they're the most vulnerable. As they reveal their true feelings, everyone around them is propelled forward.

I rarely show my vulnerability in its raw state. I hide it within the parentheses. No wonder I'm having trouble telling a story. To write a novel is one of the most vulnerable things one can do. First, one must excavate one's own heart to understand the feelings of another and bring a character to life. And then, ultimately, one must allow one's work to be read and judged by others.

So what am I repressing? What feelings do I hide from myself and others? Do I need therapy? ACOA? (It amazed me to hear Ball speak so highly of the latter. To me, at least the Brenda part of me, 12-step programs seem so tedious.) Maybe my issues are not that big a deal. I'm just human. (That's the position I've always taken.) But playing the devil's advocate, what might I be repressing?

Anger at my father? I have such complicated feelings toward him. On one hand, he is the most likely cause of my control issues. (I love my house, but really, does it have to be so neat?) He constantly scrutinized me, f-----d with my head. I was never good enough, honest enough, smart enough. I never felt safe in my own house except when he wasn't there.

As I write this, I want to yawn. No new revelations here. What good would it do to yell now? Where would the rage land? Right back on me. And besides, my father was also a product of his upbringing. I truly believe he did the best he could. I truly believe he loved me. I have a lot of him in me--his fire, his drive, his warmth, his humor.

But back to repressed emotions. Pretending this page is a dear and trusted friend (as my teacher Suzanne Hoover suggested I do as I draft my novel--to write as if to a non-judging, dear friend who is hanging on my every word), what would I reveal?

Well...I'm afraid I don't have the talent to write a decent novel. Fair enough. I might not. But, and here's the rub, what will I do with my life, with the next forty+ years, if I don't write? I don't have the all-consuming interests my mother has. I'm not an avid gardener or a painter. I want to live a life as large as my spirit, as I say in DG. I want to be a novelist, but I want it to be easier. I also want to continue speaking, but ethically I can only keep doing this if I'm practicing what I preach. I adore teaching, but it's confining--or at least it has been for me in the past. . . .

Regardless of being a so-called authority on late blooming, in other words, I'm really not all that different from many of the people who write me through my website.

I keep coming back to my novel.

Problems with the novel: Voice. Mine is stilted. Hence the trusted friend advice. Plot. Mine isn't twisted enough. I've been avoiding getting Catherine [my protagonist] into trouble, avoiding putting her against the wall.

Just like I do with myself.

Note: Since I posted this entry, I've edited it several times. I couldn't help myself.


  1. I am proud of you for opening up and sharing such a personal part of your life, of yourself.

    At thirty seven, I felt trapped in the choices I had made in the previous years. Finishing college and building a solid career would have been much easier before my children were born, but that's not the path I chose. I am now a single mother of three and run a very time-consuming business from home, but I believe it's never too late to live your dreams. Recently, I submitted my first article for publication.

    I don't want to look back when I'm 100 years old with regret and wish that I had spent the past 63 years doing anything besides what I'm doing right now.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I'm proud of you, too! Speaking of not wanting to have regrets, I often do what I call "the deathbed test." I ask myself how I would feel on my deathbed if I had or hadn't done a particular thing. With my novel, I know I'll regret it if I don't finish (and publish) the story I have in my head.