I’ve been reading Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightening: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft. It’s part writers’ manual, part writers’ mentor, part philosophy, part memoir. It’s a stay-up-until-two-am-because-you-just-want-to-read-another-chapter sort of book. It’s fallen into my life at the right time: my creativity is flowing.
This paragraph shot through my mind like a jolt of electricity: ‘Sense memories are a way to anchor us in the present and to open the past, to connect with it in a physical way, making it real and vivid. They help to cut through our “official story”, the one we’ve made up about our loves and told over and over until we’ve created a shiny impenetrable veneer over the authentic truth. Often these manufactured stories are some kind of diagnosis – I was an alcoholic, I am an adult child, I am an incest survivor, I am a compulsive eater’.
Writing techniques aside (and my creativity is on fire with the ideas she’s given me!), her point hit home. I’ve worked pretty hard to create my shiny impenetrable veneer over the pain of all that has happened to me. I have a diagnosis of PTSD, I tell people calmly. Yes, my ex wasn’t a very nice man. Yes, he was slapping me around, I say with the same oh-well-whatever detachment as if I were saying that he was a bit of a slob, or he had an unfortunate snoring habit. Yes, sometimes I get panic attacks, but I manage them, they’re not a big deal. Yes, things were pretty rough, but they’re better now, I say, with a Pollyanna red-rubber-ball bounce I don’t quite feel. Look to the future and all that.
The thing is, I’m learning how to let people in. I’m glad about that. I have wonderful friends (I think I’ve said that before) and I don’t like the idea that there’s a huge dark shadow in my life that I haven’t been able to share with them. While I’m getting better, what I still need to work at is being able to not only let people in – but actually let them in. Let them past the neat, pre-packaged shiny impenetrable veneer (I love Natalie Goldberg’s writing style!) and let them close to those tender areas that still hurt, as well as letting them close to those bright glowing areas of true happiness. Some of my friends have got in beneath the veneer, close to where it hurts, to where it glows. And the thing I’m realising: that’s ok. I can trust them there. It’s a good thing.
I guess they can stay.