if we’re lost, how can we lose?
While editing this zine, it seems that the most common remark I’m noting to myself is: “you said that already.” I wrote the drafts in huge chunks, like intensive six-hour writing days every few weeks or so, where I’d start with some handwritten or voice memo’d notes I’d made during the down times as I’d remembered particular stories I wanted to tell, and many of those stories would end up referencing a handful of choice overarching themes which then contained the same repeated phrases… I’m struggling a bit with this for a few reasons: I don’t want this to ultimately read like a laundry list of grievances, I don’t want it to read like a compendium of shit-talk — partly because I live in a small town and while it’s one thing to write this knowing that I will change all the names and this will be mailed out to people who don’t even know me, it’s a whole ‘nother mess to consider that a lot of local people will probably read this, and I’m scared about it even though one of my inspirational mantras is Anne Lamott’s quote, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I’ve been reading Mary Karr’s memoir, Lit, which is about her own descent into alcoholism and subsequent recovery. She writes in a very casual way, often inserting parenthetical comments about whether or not she’s remembering an event correctly or if she was too drunk at the time or projecting her own emotions backwards onto the scene, or if her recollection would match her now-ex-husband’s version. So I’ve been feeling some kinda way about unreliable narrators and what is actually important here — the “facts” or how I feel about them now? When I talk about how it’s rare that I recall a pleasant memory from that time, is that unfair? (& to whom?) Am I the only person who can recognize that while I may be smiling in a lot of pictures from that time, my lips looked tremulous and my eyes were sunken and nervous and my skin was paler and I was too skinny?
& mostly I don’t want it to make me out to seem like a helpless victim but this is sort of cognitive dissonance-y. I always railed against the idea of victimhood despite having explained to people things like, “did I really have a choice available to me when one time I said I was moving out and while I started packing he went out and then came back and said he’d bought a gun at the pawnshop down the street?” (This turned out to be a lie but I didn’t realize it at the time.) & I was very stubborn, I didn’t want to think of myself as a person who had been trapped, manipulated, trained to act a certain way, forced to sublimate most of myself — I told myself again and again that I was staying because of love, because I was being brave, because patience is a virtue, and because I was a “strong woman” who knew how to handle his outbursts and suffering and violence and torment. I think that admitting or acknowledging that in some ways I might have been a victim would imply that I had no control — and I don’t mean control in the sense that, say, “if I do x, y, z, then he will stop drinking,” I just mean no control over anything: my actions, my thoughts, where I wanted to go, who I wanted to talk to, what I wanted to do, how to tell if someone was telling the truth… One “realization” I had during an argument was that I perceived the alcoholic not as a person but as a series of behaviors, and now I’m feeling like that could apply to me as well — not a person but a series of reactions. & again, in AA they say alcoholism is a kind of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” Now I think that I was being the same way, even though I was mostly sober during those times: so what the hell was I thinking?