Memoir again


In a way I have been writing pieces of a memoir for years on this blog. Indeed, I have been recording my life and sharing it publicly, and at many different points I thought that I had a story to tell, one that would resonate with other readers. Recently I have been thinking about why I have not yet taken on the challenge of putting all the pieces together and fashioning out an organized publication. Most memoirs that I read and enjoy, tell a story of memories and resilience in the face of adversity, which come in various forms including difficult or abusive childhoods, catastrophes or life tragedies. I have no doubt that many people who write memoirs also work through issues in their life, dealing with grief, or trying to understand how their lives panned out. 

In therapy, and in this blog, I work through my issues, deal with grief, and understand how and why I made the life choices I made. At times I even marvel at my resilience in the face of various adversities, and how I become more aware of why I have done the things I did, or how my relationships developed. Indeed, I have uncovered most of the family myths and secrets during all the years of self-work, and have allowed myself to confront some of the most painful situations. I am even able to understand how the past affects my personal or professional relationships in the present. There is no doubt in my mind that this type of self scrutiny has helped me become more confident, self actualized, and empowered.

Today I no longer have a need to create a formal memoir. My story is not more unique than so many others out there. I feel fortunate and grateful that I have been able to survive and, indeed, thrive personally and professionally. These realizations have given me a new kind of patience, acceptance, and inner peace for my life going forward, and I am developing courage that will help me formulate different stories as I enter older age. 

Here, for example, is a short one: In June I was visiting my 98-year-old mother in Israel. The two weeks were filled with all kinds of complex feelings: sorrow at seeing her large and vibrant life fading away, amazement at her lucidity and wisdom, pain at remembering some of the ways I wished she had noticed me when I was young. During the last week of my visit, my mother wanted me to know the name of one of the flowers she especially likes. My mother was always an avid gardener. I learned to love gardening directly from her through her enthusiasm as she shared wonder and delight about this or that flower, creeper or different colored leaves of plants in her yard. Now that she is bed-ridden and unable to physically tend the earth, her carer gardens for her according to her instructions and ideas. Outside the window of her bedroom is a piece of land full of exotic plants and flowers – some in pots and others directly in the ground. As I walked through the garden, I was filled with wonder and love at her energy and enthusiasm even at this grand old age of 98 years. During that last week together, she wistfully mentioned the one type of flower in her garden, and longed to remember its name.

Yesterday I visited a dear friend in Princeton. It had been a painful couple of weeks for me as I transitioned to a new position at work, and after I had finished setting up my new office, my friend offered me comfort and support in her home sharing a fine lunch of quiche and salad, including a desert of tiny mini-eclairs filled with luscious cream. When we had done eating and talking, we looked through her large windows into her garden. She pointed out some new flowers she had planted recently – daisy-like in bright oranges and browns – and she named them: Gaillardias. Instantly I remembered the flower my mother had described to me in June, and marveled at how she had longed to remember its name. I said to my friend, "I will buy some this week and plant them in my garden in my mother's name."

As I write this, I smile and think of how grateful I am to my mother for modeling such a love of plants, and especially for how much comfort I received yesterday from discovering the name of one of her favorite flowers.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Don't let go … live it through!