Vulnerability on Steroids

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

Henry David Thoreau

Uffda! (Norwegian for “Yikes!”) This business of writing memoir is even more audacious than I thought it would be! My emotions from one day’s writings to the next are all over the map. This has been a calling of the spirit, and I should not have assumed that that meant it would be easy-peasy.

I have to be in training, in turns out, because this is a marathon, and I am no athlete!

I signed up for a 12-week online course called “Memoir Writing, Ink.” I plunked down some convincing cash to learn about this challenge that I thought I knew. Of course, I’m finding out, after three weeks, that I knew so little! Who knew?! The course is pure gold!

Memories of eighty years of life are so massive that even finding some organizing principle is well beyond my capabilities right now. So I am being taught to think in small chunks for starters.

“I grew up with nearly perfect parents. Really, they were models of all the best that humans can be. My intention was to be like them. I also grew up with my nose in movie star magazines, dreaming of being almost as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor and becoming June Cleaver, complete with heels and pearls. I was writing the story of my future as if I would have control over it and live it out perfectly. And be happy.” A 90-word Chapter 1.


The memories that are showing up now are coming at me faster than I can absorb their contours into my aging mind. Every day I am faced with the next challenge of writing even a sentence, let alone a paragraph, let alone a page or two! How do I write the truths of any one of these? These 80 long years of memories? How is every sentence not mundane and boring and convoluted when looking back over so much time? Let alone, speaking the truth of the past as I can see it now?

How do I write about how my life did not turn out to be endlessly happy and unflawed?

Those young, dreamy scripts, of course, failed all of us. The good news was that we were still the writers of our lives. We were the only ones who could draw from the well of our own imagination to find who we were yet to be. And that was both good news and bad news. The bad news was that each new script was hard to find, let alone write. It took grit and longing and the deep, deep well of courage to see ourselves both in hindsight and as we were now – as incomplete and unfinished, but with the promise of becoming real. The good news was that although it was hard, we did it anyway.


So that’s where I am now. Reviewing and reliving all the old scripts and finding threads both common and new. Finding what mattered and what didn’t in the long run. Where my vulnerabilities got in the way and where they led me. It’s fascinating and painful; it demands honesty and integrity. It’s ultimately worthwhile.

Re-finding the past and seeing all the scripts – every word – with 80-year-old eyes and heart is already planting new seeds of understanding- and forgiveness – and compassion that might not have come any other way.

Elizabeth Taylor gorgeous I am not. Perfect mom, June Cleaver, I was not. But the new scripts that I have had to write over decades past have brought me closer each time to who I am and who I might yet be. And most importantly, to a real and more lasting peace of spirit.

And so it continues. On paper this time.

And I’m very okay with that.





16 thoughts on “Vulnerability on Steroids

  1. I think the advice from Bill above is so crucial: “Write from your heart.” It sounds so simple, and yet, it is so true. Looking back, it might not be the big moments of our lives that were so ‘important’. Sometimes, it was simply an ‘ordinary day’ that became extraordinary…we saw something in a new way, felt something we had never before experienced. It is always our feelings that tell the stories of our lives…we remember the tears, we remember the laughter. The pages of our lives are marked by our heartbeats.

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    1. “The pages of our lives are marked by our heartbeats.” Oh, my, they are, aren’t they!! Bill has been a mentor for me for nearly 3 years, and there is no doubt that he has been God’s messenger for me so often. He keeps me on track and keeps me from getting discouraged. Your comments have also been so eloquent and on the mark, Linda, and I have so often found encouragement from them. I am indeed blessed by many amazing writer friends thanks to this blog! We are family! Thank you for your steady encouragement and good words!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have felt deeply inspired by you, Martha! You have been through so much in these recent months, and yet, you keep showing up and staying true to who you are. As you write your memoir, celebrate all the little victories along the way. Celebrate each page and know that many of us are cheering you on, looking forward to your completed book. I don’t know if you are writing it all in chronological order, or if you are writing ‘slices of life’ from different ages. Whatever brings you joy, do that. Whatever makes your heart sing, do more of that. Later, you can go back and delete something you don’t want. Nothing will be wasted; everything will bring forth more words, more stories, more of a legacy that only you can tell. May God bless you on your journey…thank you for sharing your life story, for inspiring others, and for simply being your beautiful self. 🙂

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  2. With your writing skills, I have no doubt that your memoir will turn out just fine. But it is interesting how memories invoke even more memories, and I’m sure it’s emotionally challenging to think back over your life and compare what you knew and how you felt then with what you know and how you feel now. But my guess is that this will ultimately be a very good thing for you, and also for your family long after you are gone!

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    1. I’ve been an introvert from the start, and we love doing these deep dives! And yes, comparisons of what was with what I now see from a distance is quite a journey and not without its painful unearthings. But I have been incredibly blessed, unlike so many others. Writing memoir can be transforming, I am told, and I’m already feeling some of that. So I continue…

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  3. Everyone is unique in his/her own way. The image I see in your profile picture is more beautiful than Liz Taylor. I don’t know about you as a parent, but I’m pretty much sure you did a great job as a mom. You seem to be a kind person, and kindness is one great quality to pass to children. Oh, and as it happens I’m reading your post on July 4th. Happy Independence Day! 🌼

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jo. We are indeed each unique, and exploring just what that means has been a lifetime’s work. We introverts thrive on that, though, so I guess this is the next phase. So far, so good.

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  4. Thank you for the update on your memoir, Martha. You’re making wonderful progress. (And, of course, your prose is exquisite.) If it helps at all, I like to think of a first draft as gathering my raw materials. Once I have my five-foot pile of clay, then I can start molding and sculpting it. That, and I lock the Editor in My Head in the closet and say, I’m not letting you out until I’ve finished the first draft.

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    1. Oh, Elizabeth, I love your earthy response to the dilemma of the first draft! That image of a big pile of clay, waiting to be sculpted, is just what I needed. I think…I think…I am beginning to get past that scowling judge of my first drafts that has hung around, and this image will help me be both realistic and hopeful! Thanks for the encouragement!! I’m getting to know that Editor and shall lock her in the closet as well! She is growing wiser, but she needs to learn her place in the total scheme of things!

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      1. Oh, I’m so pleased, Martha! The reason I decided to mention it is that when I started using the analogy with my writing process students, they responded as if the weight of the world had been lifted from their shoulders.

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    1. Elizabeth! It’s so good to hear from you, dear friend! Ya, June and Liz were our north stars back in the day. How far my generation has come! Thank you for your blessing! I have watched you Sunday and Wednesday, and being real is you as well. We all know that.

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    1. Ellen, it’s SO good to hear from you! Thank you for your encouragement! I hope that your are doing well and walking around with (relative?) ease these days! I think that we two share that “can do” attitude about not giving in easily to setbacks! Be well! And thanks for reading WHG!

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  5. I’ve always read your blog as a kind of memoir, today mixed with a lot of where you came from. In fact, I think you’ve been writing your memoir for a while now…only now it has a new mysterious name—memoir—along with words like chapters, and beginning, middle and end. Learn all the wonderful new stuff that comes with this new craft, but also keep it simple and just do what you’ve been doing! Write from your heart!

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    1. Ah, as always, Bill, you bring words of wisdom. I hadn’t thought about memoir as having been here all the time. But I guess it has to one degree or another. The temptations are there to try to be “more” and to change what is to make it “best.” But you have the best advice of all…write from your heart! Thinking of John O’Donohue’s “For the Artist at the Start of Day.” And counting on you to keep me honest with myself!

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