It’s a funny thing that happens… at least to me. When life is bumping along, kind of ordinarily-like, I feel less desire to write. I chalk this phenomenon up to a continued struggle to recognize and appreciate the “gray.” I am drawn to the black and the white, the drama. Something awesome goes down? I have lots to say! Having a rough stretch, a particularly nasty day? Even better. I can write an anthology. It’s the everyday, the “normal,” I find myself somewhat speechless. Huh.
But that’s where I am at currently. Moving along, taking care of things, trying to take care of myself. Putting down and picking up the cards of day-to-day life.
This doesn’t mean I am not chock full o’ gratitude. I am. Here’s how sweet my existence is today. I can sleep in until 11 am on occasion. I just took a long bubble bath–something my mother did all the time and I never understood…until now. I am sitting on a comfy couch, feet up on the coffee table, listening to funk and writing on my laptop. I spent most of yesterday reading. Life is spectacular even in its ordinariness.
What I am getting at is that I’d like to share the stories of others with you today. I am memoir junkie, a sucker for narratives of loss and salvation, a devotee to tales of recovery. All kinds of recovery, not just that of addicts and alcoholics.
In fact, just last night, while my man friend read his book, I decided to watch Girl, Interrupted. I’ve read the book, of course, years ago, but I’d never taken the time to watch the film. If you haven’t had occasion to pick up the book, I highly recommend it. It’s the story of a young woman struggling with mental illness in the 1960s and her bizarre adventures at McLean Hospital (incidentally one of the premiere treatment centers for eating disorders and addiction, as well as mental illness–my mother spent some time there).
As for the film, well, check it out if you have the stomach and time. Personally, I turned it off with about 20 minutes to go. Not because my man friend inquired, “why are you watching that?” as the ladies of McLean screamed and kicked and refused their meds… more so because I wasn’t enjoying it. It bummed me out. I loved the book; I kind of hated the movie.
Anyway, this led me to thinking about other stories of recovery I’ve recently appreciated. Again, I am a devotee of this genre… I frankly cannot get enough. Whenever I hit the bookstore, which I try to avoid if I can muster the self control (ha!), I leave with at least one new memoir.
Here are several recent reads that I fully intend to reread:
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. A beautifully written tale of the insanity that is growing up in poverty with mental illness and addiction. The tortures of the alcoholic family system. Having to prepare meals for oneself at age four. Setting fire to the kitchen. Upping and moving whenever the gig was up. Family members chasing each other around with knives. That kind of inspired stuff. I joke, but the story is oddly uplifting. ‘Cause people can and do recover from just about anything.
I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can by Barbara Gordon. Given my penchant for alcoholics and memoirs, I was shocked to find this only last month. It was written in 1979, two years after I was born and it’s fucking incredible. A sophisticated and educated woman’s journey from numb Valium addiction through cold-turkey induced psychosis to one day at a time free from anti-anxiety medication. This story reminded me why I developed an intense interest, bordering on obsession, with societal stigma around mental illness and addiction. Think of how it is today– there are many enlightened people out there (and a fair share of bigots too)– and then imagine how a woman could ever regain her composure, stature, and professional prowess after several stints in mental institutions back in the 1960s, 1970s. Remarkable. Empowering. Powerful.
The Night of the Gun by David Carr. This book makes my own must-read list. Not just because it’s engaging from the get-go, the kind of engaging that keeps you up far past your bedtime because you literally can’t put it down, or because it’s about a recovering crack addict and alcoholic. It’s also set, primarily, in the Twin Cities. The author lived not far from my old stomping grounds in Uptown Minneapolis and frequented at least one local watering hole I’d enjoyed myself. But that’s not even the main draw for me. Rather, it is Carr’s pensive yet frank musings about memory, the art of memoir, and how all humans (not just addicts) necessarily recount their stories in ways to find the sense in them. What’s really true? How do we know? Anyway, I appreciate his willingness to challenge his own recollection of his life and dig the investigative journalist approach to his own story.
Now I am going to kick back and read part two of The Hunger Games trilogy. My man friend’s daughter gave me the first volume to read and now I am hooked. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend and taking some time to appreciate the seemingly mundane, daily happs of life. I know I am.
Peace and love.