As I move forward in working on the second phase of my memoir, I find myself frustrated at times trying to piece it all together into something that is worthy of reading.
Without giving too much away, Insane Roots: A Memoir ends as I am entering high-school. My mother has disappeared again, only this time it was without me. The next book (working title: Dear Mom) will pick up the story right where it left off.
I have struggled with how to go about putting this next manuscript together for months now and up until a few days ago I have had no real direction. I’ve had the working title for over a year now. It was created over drinks with a friend mine. I was telling her how hard it was to decided what I should put in the first book and what I should save for the next.
My original plan was to end it when I find out my mother’s real identity, but that would only take the reader up to me at age nine. That would not fill up the pages and there was so much more I wanted to tell about the time after that and how I processed it all.
So it was decided that ending it just before the first of my mother’s solo disappearances instead was a better idea. This would bring us up to high-school when I started keeping a journal to my mother to let her know what was happening in her absence. Looking back, I realize that this was my main coping mechanism for the feelings of abandonment and insecurity. I started every entry with “Dear Mom” and then proceeded to pour my heart out onto the pages that followed.
As soon as I told my friend this story, her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “That’s it!”
What a great idea! I can lay out the second book in the series as a letter to my mother. I still have the journals, so I would have something to reference. Which would be a welcomed convenience from writing the first one based on the vague recollections of myself, others and my mother’s public records.
I still love the idea, but my mother was missing for four years the first time and I worried that the audience would grow tired of the depressing journal entries of an adolescent girl after a while. Not to mention, it would leave out what my mother was doing during the time I was writing in my diary pleading for her to come home.
For months now I have been going over and over it in my head. Then one day last week, I was sitting on my porch reading and it suddenly came to me!
I thought, “At one point my mother told me the whole story of what she was doing during the times she was missing. Granted, I am sure it is not all of the truth, but partnered with a little research, I am pretty sure I can piece the majority of the truth together.”
Once I had this realization, everything else just fell in to place. I figured out exactly what I wanted the lay out to be and I no longer feel overwhelmed by the project ahead, but rather excited to see it all come together.
The story will follow the two of us (my mother and I), in time as we both lead completely separate lives. I will still use the journal style for my entries, but then I will share a glimpse in to what my mother was doing during the same time. I have already looked into much of what she has told me and I have found a surprising amount of truth in her recollections.
Before our most recent falling out, my mother and I did grow closer than we had been in a very long time. We talked almost every day and she opened up to me more than she had in the past. I was really starting to trust her again.
Perhaps that is why it hurt so much to take such a strong leap back after we had come so far. Those who have read my first manuscript describe it as “emotionally” charged. I think you will find this next chapter of my life even more so. When it begins, I am older and I have had more time to really process who my mother is and who I am because of it.
As a young child, I was very resilient. I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on around me or how the actions of my mother would impact my life in the future. I simply just took it day by day. I was blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life who stepped in during her absence and this too had a great impact on who I have become.
At the time I was living with my mother’s adopted parents (the people that raised her). They were terrified that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps. After all, it’s in my blood to be bad right?!
They meant well, but it created an additional struggle for me to pull myself out from behind my mother’s reputation. I was never trusted, always questioned and rarely ever heard. From their perspective, I was their responsibility and it was up to them to see to it that I turned out right! The general rule of thumb was that if my mother was allowed to do it, I was not. Once I proved myself, they let off a bit.
Now I’m not saying I wasn’t a naughty teenager, I totally was, but the point I was always struggling to make was that I was not my mother. The frustration in trying to make this point clear has followed me for a long time.
The struggle to overcome my mother’s reputation is one that has great importance to the story. My mother’s actions during my early childhood would leave anyone questioning the definitions of what is right and what is wrong. Most of the intent behind her behavior was rooted in providing for her family, but as a result she was hurting innocent people. From a child’s perspective, you don’t see the latter part of the story. To you, she is a good mother who always provides.
Then one day you grow up…and you realize that the person responsible for defining your moral compass had a skewed definition themselves. It was in this moment, when I decided that I would never again rely on anyone else to define who I was. Only I should be trusted with such a task. I shall find my own truth.
~ Thanks for reading 🙂
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