“Write for an hour,” Antoinette instructed. “An hour?” my mind screamed. “What will I write for an hour? What needs explored this morning?”
When I signed up for that day of life writing I wanted to investigate the part of my exceptional story that demanded expression in my memoir. It has been a journey, a long journey.
It all began seventy odd years ago in Scotland with an abortion. To escape my mother’s judgement, I travelled on a train with my brand-new husband across the deserts of Iran. With fresh eyes, young and innocent I wrote a travel log of our honeymoon to Afghanistan. Back then my inner word was not a place I visited. It remained off limits unexplored, not worthy of my attention. A forlorn and forbidden place where if I dared to enter I would find demons filled with unspeakable shames and secrets.
A few years later, when I returned to London from a year teaching in India I wrote an article about hairdressing with Gujar women, high up in the Himalayan mountains. I thought it was brilliant and worthy of the National Geographic but when it was rejected by a travel magazine I filed it away in a box that I carted to my next destination, New Zealand. There I forgot about writing as I worked hard to become a Science teacher and compete with rugged Kiwi men in the Southern Alps. When a male friend awarded me the dubious title of an honorary male something within me rebelled.
After a year travelling to Europe, Africa and China, my husband and I moved to Australia. My life changed dramatically when I plunged into motherhood. But I did not want to forget the extraordinary adventurous life I had lived, the wild places and amazing people I met on those ‘once in a lifetime’ journeys. So I carved out space in my busy life to write. For two hours a week, I closed my mind to my babies; using my journals and photographs I recorded our adventures on my very first computer. What I really discovered was that while men often wrote books about their exploits scaling unknown mountain peaks, women were not acknowledged for their mammoth contribution, supporting each other emotionally, giving birth, miscarriages, and raising children.
In time I showed these descriptive travel writings - we went there and took a photograph - to a trusted mentor, Jack Shallcrass. His comment rocked me to my core, “But Wilma, how did your feel?” “Fine,” I replied – the one word I used for all my emotional states. Once again I pushed my writing files back into a box to be forgotten as I raised my family.
Becoming a mother did force me to explore my tumultuous feelings. I journaled about the awe I felt as my fully formed baby boy was placed on my stomach after fourteen hours of labor - love at first sight, his brown eyes, his perfect pixie face framed by a mop of dark hair gazed at me wide and alert. A miracle. Two years later the first sight of my baby girl sent warm waves of love and tenderness through my heart. Nevertheless as these little people grew, weariness, exhaustion, anger, frustration, boredom, despair, depression, hope, joy, play, compassion and love poured through my body, My journal became the place to take a big dump, pour what I judged as negativity on to the page. Still, it was more comfortable to be out than to stay unrecognized on the inside.
Years later, my athletic kids left home, my daughter in hot pursuit of her Olympic vision and my son following his dream to become a professional extreme skier and make movies all over the world. Meanwhile between more travels, playing in the mountains, my work as a Conflict Resolution Facilitator, I wrote a draft of my life. I showed this to a writing friend and author of many books. Once again her comment felt like a punch in my gut, “You need to do some writing workshops.”
I followed her advice attended week long writing retreats, a monthly poetry group and faced my inner critics with my supportive group called the Write on Sisters. When my repressed memories of loss and grief surfaced in my journal I honored my tears.
And in time I taught writing classes with the belief that teaching would help me learn what I needed to craft my stories. Oh so slowly I identified, my triggers, my feelings and found words, to show them on the page rather than tell them.
As a child I had been judged as stubborn. Now my resolve took on a new meaning – bouncing back with determination and persistence. On this path I built trust and wonderful heartfelt communication with my fellow writing buddies. I learned that great writing is building a feeling of trust and connection to my readers.
After I published my poetry book Entangled Enchantments I felt freer and lighter. I had found a place to process the painful deaths of my mother and sisters. A place to evaluate my life and discover what was important to me on my visit to this beautiful planet.
I now know that we all have stories locked inside – stories of adversity, struggle, and courage. My unique story, my own unfolding, the process of revealing my big Self to my small self is about the growth of me. Each step not wrong, not bad but necessary on my journey, not to perfection but to self-knowledge. In this happy day world of linear thinking and rationality where emotions and wandering are judged as wasting time, unacceptable or downright wrong, I can’t think of anything more valuable than trying to express my vulnerability, my authenticity and resilience on the page.
My memoir, “Circling the Edge – listening to the whispers of the wild soul” is a life-affirming story of overcoming life’s hurdles. As you read this page turner, and use the appendix “Meet me on the Edge,” you will reflect on your unique life pathway, glean and trust your own wisdom and become a courageous sage so needed in the healing of our world.