Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Crier

Tonight was my first writing class.  I got a little nervous when I checked the registration website and saw the comment "must have a work in progress".  Shit.  I'd forgotten about that.  Oh well.  I figured I'd wing it and make it up as I go along.  I arrived at class 5 minutes late because, even though I knew parking was going to be a bitch and I live like 5 minutes away, I still didn't leave early enough.  Nice start.  There's maybe ten people in the class.  Diverse crowd.  I'm not the youngest, but I'm close.

One of the first tasks, before we've even formally introduced ourselves, is to spend about ten minutes writing about a relative or a friend that we feel strongly about.  There is no hesitation before selecting my mother as Exhibit A in this exercise.  This topic will easily provide ten minutes of writing fodder.  I've so got this covered.  My pen is moving furiously for the full 10 minutes.  At the stop time I've filled about a page and a half of my notebook.  I'm feeling good.  I had no problem writing something.

Our teacher/facilitator/leader says it's time to introduce ourselves.  Oh, and here's an idea...she asks why don't we read what we wrote?

Holy.  Shit.  Is she kidding?  I just vomited ten minutes of angst over my mother on the page.  I haven't even given anyone my name.  She wants me to read this?  I'm totally screwed.  How on earth did I not see this coming.

But then she says we don't have to.  Phew.  Close call.  I'll hang back from being the first off, and raise my hand somewhere in the middle. 

Except that every single person, without exception, reads what they wrote as part of the introduction.  At this point I'm totally struggling to focus on their names because I'm realizing that, if I read this, there's a pretty solid chance I'll cry.  Now, I'm not a very public crier, so this is freaking me out a bit.  As each person introduces themselves I'm mentally steeling myself for this experience.  I can do it.  I can do it.  I can do it.

Okay, my turn.  Starts off good. 

She always closes the door.  I never really understood that.  But the message was clear.  Do not disturb.  Visitors not welcome.  Don't feed the animals.  What did she do behind that door for so many hours.  For days.  For years.  For my entire childhood.  Soundless or on the phone with someone she could let in.  One of my earliest memories is one of living in the house with the chocolate-colored carpet.  As if the silence in the house wasn't gloomy enough. 

I'm about a third of the way through and my voice is getting a little shaky. 

Me, maybe six or seven.  Needing something.  Love.  Attention.  A meal perhaps.  So I wrote a note in my childish script. 

But then I'm steeled.  I can do it.  I can do it. 

Neatly folded, tiptoeing to the door.  A careful calculated slip under the 1/2 inch between the chocoloate carpet and that damn door that might lead me to my mother.  Did she hear me in all that silence?  It would be 25 more years before the isolated silence would have a name.

Oh fuck.  I can't do it. 

Manic depressive.  Bipolar.  I only knew it as the force that pulled my mother from me and pushed me into the role of caregiver.

I'm so close to the end.  But I can't.  The tears come. 

At eight, when my sister was one.  At thirteen, when she was eight and my brother one.  At thirty-one, when she's twenty-hour and he twenty.

And, to top it off, a nice big sob right at the end.  Jesus Christ.  I'm totally the girl that cried in class during introductions.  Goddammit.

No one makes a fuss about my mini-breakdown, and it's on to the next intro.  It allow me to wipe the snot from my nose while the next few people introduce themselves.  Classic.  Afterwards, one of the guys from class said this one reminded him of his last writing class - it was like group therapy.  Somehow his acknowledgement of my emotion is actually comforting and I leave class proud that I wrote something so personal and shared it with strangers.  This is totally going to come up in therapy.  If you were given the same assignment, what would you write about?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

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