I leaned forward in the shower, to shave my legs this morning, dislodging a hymn I haven't heard in some time: The Lord Bless You and Keep You. I think that's what it's called, and it came rushing back in harmony, all four parts. I'm certain we sang this at the end of devos - sans the red hats, devotionals held every Sunday night - and I am standing in a parking lot, near a Joy Bus, on a trip to Mexico. My friends are on either side of me and now I recall I once knew this song in Spanish too, but memory is tricky.

Beneath the surface lies everything.

My cousin came to visit last December, arriving on my birthday and joining my family for coffee.

No. That's not right.

I could have written this post last year, if the story was just that simple.

My cousin came to visit, this is true. But the rest is difficult to tell, because it's the stuff I try to keep out of my blog. The side of the family that requires a flow chart.

This is not my cousin's fault; it isn't mine. But our shared Grandmother charmed seven men into marrying her - one twice - and the rest is part of our shared history.

It is tangled and messy and painful. A graphed tree; splinters.

My Dad was the youngest and grew to be a kind, decent man, intact. For his sake, I haven't written about his family here. I've been warned not to speak poorly of the dead, but long ago I chose to speak truthfully about her. I chose to view her graciously, to see my Grandmother for the flawed woman that she was, most likely mentally ill and untreated. But the collateral damage is sweeping.

I heard my older cousin's voice, and it's the voice of the young woman braiding my hair. My memories of my many cousins are scattered, like characters in a book I knew once upon a time.

She was playing with my hair and I could feel her grief even then. It was the last time I saw her, or so I believe, before she was rescued and raised by her father. Somewhere warmer and safer.

I don't know why exactly, but I haven't kept in touch with her. It's been a year this time around and I am ashamed.

I couldn't finish my novel in 30 days. I am not writing autobiographical novel, not ostensibly anyway, but the stories I keep private, that aren't mine to share here? They keep informing my fiction, coming out. Bits and pieces of thoughts and images, not facts, but impressions sifting through my words.

I couldn't finish my novel in 30 days because I wasn't emotionally prepared for the emerging characters, making themselves heard.

I am uneasy. What is mine to tell?


I have often wondered this very thing. How do they do it, semi-autobiographical fiction writers (and anywhere in between and beyond)? How do they decide when they are stepping on toes, breaking foot bones, and when to allow the truth to be told, though masked in fiction. This would be very hard for me.
Jodi Anderson said…
That's such a tough question.

By the way, I have never attempted NaBloPoMo, but have considered it ... and writing something (for me, more) autobiographical.

JCK said…
It sounds to me that doing the exercise of writing was more important than anything. You unearthed emotions and thoughts that you weren't expecting. Some of the best stuff comes like that. Whatever you decide - whether to put it aside, write what feels comfortable or not, I applaud you trying and taking the risk.
Nora said…
You's talking like a WRITER there, Lisa. Good for you.
Shana said…
Under the guise of fiction, it's all yours to tell. Your readers won't know where the lines are.

You just wrote what I've been wondering.

Sometimes PROMPTuesdays prompt me to tell something that becomes mine to tell. I reach into my head and take it. From my head and through my fingers, it is mine. As I bore witness to it, as I lived with it, it became mine to tell. That's what I've come up with. So far.
I, too, give you credit for the attempt girl.
flutter said…
all of it is yours
holly said…
this is exactly why i chose to write amusing stuff about people who aren't me. not at all painful. i am too chicken to delve into the closet that holds my skeletons. they can stay there and rot.

shaving your legs dislodges hymns? i want to hear more about *that* process...
~Swankymama said…
"Beneath the surface lies everything."

WOW. You just don't know how that hit me today.

It is so deep and moving for me, expresses so much that I want to say.

Thank you!
Uneasy indeed. There's no easy answer to that one. It's a soul searcher of a question.

I didn't finish nano either. My characters hijacked my fantasy novel and turned it into a teenage romance. Gag.
natalie said…
i am not a writer, but i run with is my experience that the lines's all yours. your to tell however you want. and maybe someday someone will pick up your book and say, 'hey that sounds like my story...' maybe it will be, maybe it won't.
Anonymous said…
My friend you have a true talent for writing... It draws me in. Thank you for that.
Kristen Courter said…
Check out "Musicophilia" by Oliver Sachs sometime...fascinating section on why the brain dredges up musical memory at the oddest times. And how that music holds the key to these vast details of our past we had no idea was still in there. Writers should always work with a playlist of songs from their youth playing on iTunes!
lapoflux said…
Tough question that... I had a whole idea for a novel in my head (not that I can write) revolving around my family and even when I thought of ways to change things... yeah, they would all still have been able to recognize themselves (libel suit anyone?)

What if you tried to write it out and decide afterwards what to cut out? Or maybe just putting it all out there would clear some room for non-autobiographical stuff?

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