Writing my truth about reunion has been exceptionally difficult. Surprising, even. When I go to write about something painful, I find that although I can remember how I felt, describing how I felt is a whole lot harder. I have the benefit of working with a writing critique group and their help has been priceless. Whenever I think I've really "gone there" emotionally in my writing, my critique group comes back with comments that it's not enough, I need to go deeper, and get all my gory, icky innards on the page in order for the reader to be able to feel what the narrator (i.e. "me") is going through.
Part of my issue was that I knew Kate would be reading my writing. That was the point - I would tell my side, she would tell hers. We would write it separately without reading the other's part, but then eventually put it together. And, a few weeks ago, that's what we did. Because of the conference presentation, we had to read each other's side to coordinate the presentation.
I had my trepidations about what Kate had to say about me. After all, I was 22 when I first came out to Portland to live with Kate. At that age, I was that ever-so-desirable combination of being both self-absorbed and clueless. Not the best part of myself that I want to project to the world. But, I know that is true, it was who I was, and I wouldn't be who I am now, without having been there then. In order to tell the story, Kate needed to write the truth of who I was then.
Finally reading it was surprising. I wasn't offended by the less-desirable descriptions of my behavior or my embarrassing actions. In fact, I found those were the things I wanted to hear MORE about as a reader.
But I was more afraid for Kate to read what I had written. Thinking badly of someone else or feeling hurt by them is not something I like to talk about. But here I had to lay it all out there. I was afraid it would hurt her. When we met she was in a phase that was anything but motherly - staying out til the morning hours playing music, having the party come back to her apartment afterwards... you can get the picture. It was great in the terms of a college-grad coming out to stay in Portland with someone fun, but maybe not the best set-up for a reunion with your mother.
So when I read it my sections for the presentation for Kate, she listened, and she didn't fall apart. In fact, she seemed rather serene about it. She was annoyed at some of the things she had done that I had described, but didn't seem bothered that I had put it out there.
I started to understand what my writing group had been telling me. Describing the experience externally - telling the reader what happened, describing the scene, even getting into what you thought, is nothing if you can't get to how you felt. And not just surface feeling, you have to get to the deep dark ugly feeling that you don't want to admit, even to yourself...and then you have to tell it to the world.
But, now that I know Kate can handle the bad things I say about her, I think the world will be able to handle the bad things I say about me. I just have to get there myself, first. I think our final round of revisions will be about getting down there, into the dark matter. And, that will be what makes the story good.