“There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of your night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
This morning I printed out what I hope will be the final draft of my memoir, a project I’ve worked on for seven years.
As I wrote my story long buried memories pushed their way out of the abyss onto my fingertips. The keyboard became sticky with The Past, and at times my heart was close to bursting remembering all the details again. I kept writing so I could let go of The Past – not hold onto it.
Through the writing of my story The Past turned into wisdom and I expanded into someone I never knew I could be. Someone who accepted things as they were, who put down her sword, who stopped flailing and instead leaned into the vastness of her life. As Anais Nin wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
At a workshop at a writer’s conference I shared what my memoir was about. When the class was over I overheard two women talking about me. “She’s so lucky she had such a tragic childhood,” one said. “Yeah, she has so much good material to work with,” the other said.
We’re powerless to change our past, but we have the power to change our future. There’s a premise that every seven years all of the cells in our body are replaced with new ones, and we’re no longer the same person. That’s how I feel after finishing my book, a book whose message is no matter what obstacles are in the way, we can, and must, find our way back to joy and take the risk to blossom again.