I am finding it interesting to see how many days I am taking in avoiding writing a memory for the book that has to be written. My own book writing rule is that I am going in the order of my childhood for the first time in my life. I will not allow myself to skip ahead. I cannot write forward without first writing this age 10 memory that I seem to be doing a very good job avoiding!
An idiom comes to mind, “plumb the depths (of something).” Etymology of the expression is based on plumb line (a cord with a heavy piece of metal attached to it, used to measure the depth of water under a ship).
Well, that certainly seems to apply!
I am thinking about child abuse survivors who find in their adulthood that they (me) seem to have a collection of certain memories. Like dead butterflies pinned through the head to a board, these memories don’t seem to change much over time. Perhaps their colors fade like laundry left too long on the line in blazing Arizona sunshine. But the gist and body of each of these memories remains whole and intact.
Flashbacks common to PTSD are often full of more sensory-related information than a survivor would ever want to know. These are the multiple-dimension memories, not the 2-D flattened faded butterfly pinned to a board kind.
I am talking about trauma-abuse memories. Sweet memories can be a problem if they stir longing and grief of lost happiness, true, but it is the memories of abuse that concern me for they ALWAYS contain unresolved trauma at their core.
This memory that is staring me in the face from when I was 10 is a wide memory if I let it be. It covers a span of at least three weeks’ worth of time. I of course don’t want to spend time NOW reliving these three weeks! And yet I don’t seem able to open my can of proverbial paint and splash out a quick image of this ‘thing’ so I can move on in my writing. This memory must have some unplumbed depths to it that I can’t quite imagine – but know are there.
My experience currently must still be about preparing to ‘deal with’ not only the memory of what happened the end of that May in 1962. It must also be about me preparing myself to deal with myself NOW as I face who I was as a child at that point in my 10th year of life. This is not a memory of something I can gloss over. This is a memory of depth. This makes me think that ALL of the childhood trauma memories we have in our collection have depth to them that we rarely, if ever, find a way to PLUMB.
Yes, we can ‘tell’ them. We can ‘recite’ them. We can mention them. But do we plumb their depths? By not doing so, is that what keeps our power bound up in these memories?
Children do not have the power to truly comprehend what happens to them unless there are caring people around them to help them work their way through their troubles. This is no different from what researchers have discovered about adults who experience trauma – of any kind, at any age. Attachment relationships of quality heal traumas. We know that. But how many of us get to tell anyone, I mean REALLY get to tell anyone, about what happened to us SPECIFICALLY when we were traumatized as children?
I guess I will learn more about this process as I work through preparing to face this age 10 memory of mine. A dear old-time friend of mine called today and asked me to tell her the ‘story’ of this memory. I did describe it to her – and she cracked up! I mean REALLY cracked up! Of course I did, too. How could such an experience be funny? What is it about the very fine line that must define the difference between tragedy and comedy?
“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion,” I can hear Dolly Parton say to her friends in Steel Magnolias. I didn’t get near the tears today talking to my friend, but we sure did hit the laughter. Was that depth or surface? I do not know. But I will know more once this memory is brought into my book writing soon, very soon.
As it is I know it wouldn’t take very much for me to reach my hand out in space and time to run my fingers over the surface of the table in my memory. “Not yet,” I hear myself say. “Not yet.”
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