I have written 3 memoirs and done author readings to countless audiences. You’d think I’d be a pro at speaking about my own life. But recently, I surprised myself.
Each month, 2 members of the public art gallery board to which I belong are asked to give personal presentations so we may all have a better understanding of each other: who we are, the lives we’ve lived and what talents we bring to the board. Everyone takes it seriously and much work goes into each presentation.
For me, the challenge wasn’t what to put in but what to leave out. My projects in the television industry, writing, and the community have won so many national & international honours that the choice, in the end, was easy. Leave out most of it; focus on just a few items; read a couple brief excerpts from one of my books.
So what tripped me up?
I spoke very briefly about my early years in Jamaica and our family’s homes and gardens there, sometimes reading from A Good Home, my first memoir.
I mentioned, almost in passing, a painful sacrifice my parents made for the betterment of their children.
Reference to my own years in high school (a tiny girl in a land of giants) was equally brief. Then I mentioned my first children’s book, Myrtle the Purple Turtle, and how it came about because my younger daughter was bullied (age 5 almost).
For all my alleged smarts, all the outstanding achievements, I didn’t realize that the combination of those 3 events in one presentation would hit me in the gut, right in front of an audience.
In the early years after A Good Home was published, I protected myself: I stayed far away from discussing anything to do with the car accident, the PTSD, and the pain that bedeviled my life. My audiences knew that and cooperated.
This time, though, I was tripped up by older memories – recollections that I didn’t expect to trigger such strong emotion. I didn’t cry but that’s only because I was ‘doing the duck’ thing – calm on the surface, paddling like hell underwater.
Am I sorry I included those mentions? No. So, what did it teach me? I’m not sure. Because if I needed to, I’d probably do the same thing again. Except that I’d probably space them out, realizing that these were still painful memories. And I’d have a glass of water nearby.
I hope you’re having a great week,