Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Few Words About Writing

Just home from a very positive meeting - yes, it had something to do with that upcoming installation for FotoFest. Another piece of this installation with public roundtables is falling into place. We are lucky indeed. Though luck, it must be said, can come from pure perseverance. 2015 will be a year of perseverance.
Over a newly brewed cup of coffee, I just reread the memoir piece I wrote - and which was published in 2011 - for a collection titled 'Coping With Transition'. Not sure why I pulled this book from the shelf, but reading what I wrote and have not read for several years was an unexpected treat.
 The piece is really good. I remember writing parts of it as though the words were coming out of thin air. I wasn't consciously ordering words; I was transcribing whole phrases and sentences. Rereading reminded me that the book I am now contemplating, and for which I am writing a Creative Capital grant proposal - well, it will be as well written as this piece.
I remember when I gave a copy to my 96 year old dad to read. He had three comments, all of which I treasure. After the first page, he looked up and said, "Well, he isn't like (your husband)."
"No," I ansered, "Not at all."
He read some more and said, "Mary Margaret, you are a good writer."
And I said, "Well, it gets a little racy."
Dad looked me right in the eye and said, "Why not?"
More luck. How many women can hand their dad a memoir piece to read and have it totally accepted and praised?
In my seventh decade, I am writing the things I was meant to write and which will resonate and have an audience. I feel it.
At our meeting this morning, I said that there would be text with some of the photos we'll show in 'Finding Our Way'.  The text may appear unrelated to the image, but indeed the world described with those words was impetus for the picture-taking.
A few words of text are writ below. The words may make it into this book I am contemplating. I am pondering a title and it may be '1981'. This was the year I felt with every pore that our lives were changing. That was the year when Patsy and I began to rush off to the country on photo excursions that, for me, were respite. And honestly, using '1981' as a working title has absolutely nothing to do with Taylor Swift's new album '1989'.

"Actually, her marriage began to go downhill before their wedding day."

"The girls are lounging and laughing on the living room couch. All is confusion and movement, voices rising. I feel responsible for the sudden altercation, the punches and whines. This place appears to be their home, and this room their living space. I untangle them and set a course correction."

"I watch myself attempt to reshape 'me' into a more acceptable wife mold. Back in mid-1950s high school days, we scrupulously followed advice given in teen magazines to "Pretend he's smarter than you are," and "Let him do the talking." I never considered that I'd engage in such nonsense as a married women. But because I told my psychiatrist my goal was to 'to work on the marriage', I was following advice that sounded very much like those 1950s admonitions.
The small changes I made in my behavior did not lead to a more pleasant marriage. I often told my friend Sally I was trying hard to be good.
Finally, I said to my psychiatrist, "This isn't working. And the thing is, I know perfectly well that if I were truly being myself in this marriage, my husband would like me even less."
"Try being yourself," he answered. "You couldn't be doing any worse."

"I am the house. I am sliced ham and Swiss cheese in the refrigerator, every ready for sandwich making. I am shirts tucked neatly in drawers, potted plants that never smell of cat pee, pillows plumped and a tube of toothpaste with cap tightly screwed. Does an object with such attributes as these have a clitoris?"

"On reflection, was it so unusual that my marriage disintegrated, in some measure because I could not conform to 1950s images of women and mothers? I'd married a Mad Men before such men had been named. All the same, it was shocking to me when my marriage and those of my friends were torn asunder because of our new voices. Was it an aberration that I would meet, at this time of discovering parts of myself, a man who reveled in who I was and who was not frightened of me AT ALL?"

"She would write a book, about which they would say,  "It is the story of a woman gone mad."
And she would answer disingenuously, or perhaps honestly bewildered, "Really?"


Mom and me in 2006. Dad is just off camera to the right.

And mom, you didn't get to read that memoir piece, but I know you'd have loved it. Here is a hug to each of my parents. They always encouraged, said they were proud of us and expected my siblings and me to hone the talents they'd passed on to us. I think we have and are. Guess I am feeling a bit nostalgic and meandering today.

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