While writing about writing is still writing I thought I’d describe what else I’m writing. It's a memoir made up of short stories that aim to capture the humour, heartache and universality of changing directions, missing clear signs and making and repeating silly choices. It tracks the adventures and misadventures of my heart, on road and off-road. I know it sounds a bit self-helpish but that’s NOT the intention.
Books that examine the nature of human relationships through the personal travails and ultimate triumphs of people whose claim to expertise is having gone through crisis after crisis after crisis and popped out the other end moderately self-aware or convincingly so anyway, often fall into the category of “self-help”.
They are joined on shelves by the whole Psy family - psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts - who have degrees, publications and chatter to back their advice. But somehow in this mish-mash of helpfulness the experiential folk, the DIYers, also get held out as a model or tool for fixing broken people. A bit scary really. In terms of self-help, regardless of authorship, I would argue the “self” part is accurate, the “help” part is questionable, and the ability to transform the lives of others is spotty at best. Trust me, I’m not trying to help!
I’d put a memoir like mine, a book by someone with no formal helping credentials whatsoever (unless a pathological calling to worry about everyone I care about, and check in on them repeatedly counts) under the category of “self-indulgence”. I hope that were anyone, beyond curious friends and friends of friends and acquaintances or (God forbid) family, to read this that they would get a laugh, a few cheap thrills, too much information about me, and the little flash of recognition that is resonance.
‘Right on’ to the chick who ate, prayed and loved, then wrote about it, and to the many who purchased tickets to far flung places in search of self-discovery and the “dude” – I use the term in the most ambiguous gender sense possible - that comes along with the trip. I hope everyone had a memorable time. Holidays can be good. But one should be wary of loading them with the expectation that they'll overhaul your life. Look out, you might run out of money or steam after the ‘eat’ part is over then come home fat and unenlightened which could be upsetting. It would be to me.
The stories will point to places I went to and loved, places I spent time in, felt miserable, but returned to anyway, and things not to do because like the carnival fun house, the ground underfoot moved in different directions, mirrors reflected distortion, and what was meant to be fun, was ultimately nauseating.
The good news on the relationship trail is that there can be learnings along the way if you care to look. I happen to walk right by but the opportunities come around again. That’s the beauty of repeating stupid patterns. Thankfully there’s the odd click, the odd “hey that really hurt the last time, perhaps I should give that a miss this time around”, before I tumble into the next pot hole. Hopefully this memoir will point to what’s funny about being pathetic - the absence of humour being for me a kind of death.
I like to think I’m engaged in the sport of extreme personal growth - the back-flips, balance beam and sheer rock climb of the partnered and un-partnered psyche. Better buy myself a harness or a helmet.