Story telling from Australia
I’m writing a memoir, not because I’m famous but because the publisher thinks I have a story to tell. If I’m honest, so do I. But there’s the rub. Honesty.
My instinct as a writer is to hide behind half truths and self-deprecating humour, to create amusing scenes that will make people smile even as they turn the page and forget what they just read.
I have no trouble writing about Broken Hill, especially at this time of year when it’s less than a week into spring and temperatures have already hit 32 degrees. Red back spiders are breeding under the watering system, the almond tree is cloaked in blossom, brown snakes have been spotted on the golf course and the open-air swimming pool remains stubbornly closed. See? Easy. Revealing something about me – and my disastrous relationship history – is more challenging.
Several years ago I spent two weeks at Skyros, a holistic holiday centre on a remote Greek island, and for three hours a day I was in intensive therapy, trying to make sense of relationships and why mine never worked. There were other classes on offer, like creative writing or film making, but ‘understanding relationships’ had my name written all over it.
At the end of the holiday we were encouraged to perform a ‘stretch’, something that pushed us beyond our comfort zones. Conquering fear was a big theme. One young lawyer chose to roll down a hillside covered in gorse bushes to prove she didn’t have to be so uptight all the time; John, a gentle man recently separated from his wife, painted his fingernails bright red; someone else sang a solo.
My stretch involved getting up at breakfast to tell the participants I thought they were all exceptional people. I said they were funny, generous, warm-hearted and talented, and they were. That was the easy bit. When I got to the stretch my throat closed as surely as if I’d swallowed a mouthful of superglue, and even now tears rise at the memory of trying to admit, out loud, that I belonged with such a group of people. I struggled to accept I might also be talented, generous and warm-hearted, discovering along the way the truth of that old adage; you can’t love others until you learn to love yourself.
Before leaving Skyros we were encouraged to write a letter to ourselves and leave it behind. The centre manager promised to post the letters several weeks later. I’d almost forgotten the exercise when a familiar letter addressed to me, in my handwriting, dropped through the letterbox one morning.
“Dear Me,” I read. “I never knew therapy could be so much fun.”
My stretch now is to finish writing this memoir…and to have fun doing it!