Writing memoir requires incentives and rewards

My last three posts this week about the emotional barnacles that attach themselves to us left me in a puddle, feeling soggy and spent.

Immediately after posting yesterday, I retreated with a tall glass of water to replenish the vale of tears that accompanied my writing and stared out the kitchen window. Could I sustain this five days a week?

There were still publishing and marketing tasks to be done and a life, which was threatening to pummel through my office door. Could I sustain this?

Yes!

This morning began differently. Instead of writing my blog first, I prepared and attended a Blog 101 Webinar by Jane Friedman, known for her popular blog about writing, reading, and publishing in the digital age.

I took her advice, sat back, didn’t take notes, and listened. As I followed her presentation on the computer screen, my confidence zoomed when I realized my blog had functionality and was marketing responsive, ha! Plus I already used a collection of widgets, and new what plug-ins were. I even felt savvy when I knew the answers to the other attendees’ questions.

Halfway through the Webinar though, she kicked it into high gear with the importance of understanding WordPress.com parent and child themes and Google analytics for our blogs. I resisted the urge to pick up my pen and take notes instead I chased after the information, much like I did as a kid when the water truck sprayed our dirt streets. It didn’t matter how soaked I got or even if I did get wet, the best part was the chase.

I wish it weren’t so…

but, there’s still some clinging residue even though I am tenaciously  dismantling a long-held belief–that everything I did as a mother came with an infertility disclaimer.

Warning: this woman has proven to be infertile by miscarriage(s), ectopic pregnancy(s), and failed adoption(s). We can not guarantee that she will   carry a child full term in any way. For more information, please visit http://www.stretchmarks.me

Is this just me or do other women feel this way?

Holidays suck for infertile women!

I still recoil when I spot holiday decorations and remember how I circumvented shopping altogether after I became a bona fide member of the infertility club.

Christmas festivities felt caustic and I felt invisible.

Chapter IV – January 1994 to May 1995

“By early December, as promised, I called a longtime friend from Santa Cruz that now lived in Cuernavaca, an hour or so away from México City, and who found us an apartment in her neighborhood. Marty played with her young son, as her husband was away on business a lot of the time, and Evy and I talked for hours on end. Watching my man inventing games and rough housing with her little guy was painful at times, but he seemed more at peace at the end of the day.

We explored the labyrinth of a city and walked everywhere until exhaustion led us back to the tranquil garden surrounding our temporary home and the company of good friends.

The festivities leading up to Christmas were mercifully low-key: no Frosty the Snowman or Silent Night on the radio or in stores, no Christmas tree farms or decorations, no holiday list or gift buying. Instead neighbors opened their homes for evenings of conversation, games, and served a hot fruit punch and crescent-shaped cookies. Some folks gave out small paper bags filled with oranges, nuts, and hard candy shared by all.

While we cooked Christmas dinner, I stood over my dear friend while she disinfected and picked out miniscule slugs from a head of romaine lettuce, a leaf at a time.

She leaned in and said, “You were meant to be a mother, you know. Marty and you are so good with kids.” I rested my head on her shoulder while tears streamed down my dress.

Was I? Meant to be a mother? I no longer believed that.”

What’s the big deal, just adopt. Yeah, right!

I’ve endured this insipid refrain long enough and can’t believe folks still use it,   as if infertile couples are compounding their lives needlessly when they could just head down to a nearby vending machine and scoop up a baby after picking up some take-out.

Just adopt!

There is no understanding attached to those two words. Whether you choose a domestic, open, private, or international adoption, the process is a bruising bitch to get through, even without the woeful emotions that accompany it, some of which you wear on your lapel, but others you camouflage and stuff.

Chapter XIII – June 1998

“…We traversed through Juárez in one big messy lane heading toward DIF, past an office building that looked like a giant egg. It was a bright spot amid the blocks of empty junk and weed-filled lots. My favorite was the string of jewel-painted shops where the owners signaled the start of their day by washing down the sidewalk. The sound of bus traffic and the earthy smell of wet desert dirt and corn tortillas flooded my memory with perfect summer days at the home of my maternal grandmother, Nachu, in Sonora. Now I’d create our own memories.

“We’re finally here.” Marty took my hand.

I clasped his hand. My throat constricted. My eyes stung. Could I really do this? On my own?

“I wish you would stay longer.” That was the closest I came to confessing my fear.

“So do I, but Jannette will be here soon. That’ll be a big help.”

My younger sister, who, seven years earlier, had commandeered an emergency team during my ectopic pregnancy, was coming out from southern Arizona to help with the boys. I hung on to that.

My heart felt like a bag of cement one moment and light as meringue the next. Why was I so scared of what I most desperately wanted?”

A journal entry…

Chapter VII – November 1997

“November 12th

Dreams were vivid. In one I’m hiking up a steep trail that turns into a sheer cliff, which forces me to continue to the top. I’m petrified when I look down and see the shore and water so far removed. I want to be on land. How did I get here? I keep repeating to myself. I reach the top and find it dangerously narrow. I don’t know how to get down.

In another dream I am happily pulling our huge naked baby in a wagon. Baby is grotesquely ugly, huge deformed head, face full of pimples and a mouth full of permanent teeth. I don’t care. It’s our baby. I am hauling the baby around in a jumbo-sized Radio Flyer wagon for the world to see.”

This infertile woman was remiss…

in omitting the authors who have most influenced me and my writing in yesterday’s post.

I still recall hanging on to every word Lillian Hellman read from “Pentimento”, in the mid 1970’s at The University of Arizona, thunderstruck that seemingly ordinary and routine childhood slices of life could be elevated to literature. Ms. Hellman ignited my curiosity for writing in the first person.

Everything written by Alice Walker, but primarily “Color of Purple”,  was pure fireworks of the imagination, and “Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou taught me the importance of elegance and non-capitulation within one’s life and dreams. Practicing it is another thing altogether.

Isabel Allende’s, “House of the Spirit” awoke my passion for fiction, and later “Paula” mirrored the depth of anguish from losing our daughter.

Angeles Mastretta hands down triumphs in fashioning kaleidoscope drama in “Arrancame la Vida”. It’s one of the books, I pace with when I’m taking myself too seriously.

I evolved as a woman and writer nourished by Barbara Kingsolver’s words. Mary Karr, David Sedaris, and Jeannette Walls elucidated the value of distance and humor in memoir and gave me the courage to fly my true flag.

In between the final two revisions of Stretch Marks,  I read and re-read “Daughter of Earth” by Agnes Smedley and Vivian Gornick’s “The Situation and the Story”. These powerhouses deliver the goods and are fierce proponents of truth in story.

I write with all of them close by.

Writing memoir is all about keeping your distance

I savor each and every comment I receive, and many times one of your comments is the spark that gets my fingers pounding the keyboard. A hefty portion of comments relate to  my apparent ease with sharing my story through an unfiltered lens.

It took over a decade of drafts, revisions, writing groups, writing classes, and rejections to get Stretch Marks here today. And as disappointed as I am that it has taken what feels like an eternity to publish, I have no doubt that this is the right timing. This is the story I wanted to tell but couldn’t, because I was either in the way or hadn’t kept my proper distance.

I grew up, got perspective, and got knocked around some more. The passage of time helped slough away most of the bullshit I’d attached to being infertile. Time allowed me to listen to the feedback from agents, editors, and readers. It helped deepen my compassion and improved my writing.

When I began to look back through my journals again a few years ago, without an agenda or goal, I was finally able to cry for the angry, insecure, frightened woman who spent five months in Ciudad Juárez freaked out of her mind.

Time granted me the grace to step aside and find my voice.

It wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it.

What we don’t voice about adoption…

I’ve been following a multitude of adoption blogs this year, because I’m curious as much as frustrated by what we do and don’t voice about adopting.

It seems that when we adopt, we benefit from a halo effect, but the shimmery glow comes with a constraint–adoptive moms are reticent to complain. Instead many of us go underground, we stuff our feelings, suffer in silence, all the while feeling guilty and inadequate.

Over the years, I’ve heard too many moms whisper, after they look both ways to make sure no one else is listening, “I never knew it would be so much more about adoption than just raising my kid.”

This is one reason why I am publishing Stretch Marks. I don’t just want to sell books, I want to start an honest discussion about adopting.

This infertile woman thanks you!

From the bottom of my corazón, 

I thank all of you for stopping by, reading along, and

letting me know how you feel about Stretch Marks

I’m quite ecstatic about my work with CreateSpace and L/M Press

to publish SM in paperback and Ebook, which will be available soon.

Again thanks!

Liz

I confess…

I am impatient by nature. How could I not be? A wiry Greek father and Mexican mother created me. I grew up waiting to use the bathroom, to get fed, to get a word in. I’m a late bloomer. It seems I wait longer than most. So I thought I’d done my time.

Well, I hadn’t lived in Juárez.

Chapter XV – August 1998

August 26th

“We continue to pop balloons and wait for Marty. Waiting has taken on a new meaning for me; it now has a personality: it’s the boring neighbor who comes to visit you at the wrong time of day and doesn’t take a hint that you want them to leave….

It’s after two in the morning; my heart is pounding out of my chest. Some random noise woke me up….

 I go to bed, but I can’t sleep. I wait for another sound. I wait for relief from my back pain. I wait for daylight. I wait for Marty. I wait for the judges. I wait for the petition. Wait, negate, late, mate, fate, bait, date, rate, gate, placate, exacerbate, investigate, emulate, masticate, escalate, fornicate.

I just want to go home with my sons before something does happen to us.

W = wallow                                   

A = anxious

I = impatient

T = tempest

I = inferno

N = neglect

G = gnaw