A Look Back at the Process
Writing my memoir, What Kind of Love is This?-Finding God in the Darkness was hard, much harder than I expected. I often became exhausted physically, spiritually, and emotionally. While the memoir focuses more on hope, redemption and faith rather than detailed descriptions of the abuse that I endured, it sometimes left me raw. I thought I had processed all the baggage from my childhood but writing my life as a story around a specific theme has peeled away more layers. I discovered that showing my readers what happened differed greatly from telling the story. Telling allows me to create some distance and describe events like a narrator of a documentary. Showing puts me smack in the middle of the events. Those scenes brought new insights and understanding to aspects of my childhood that carried over into my adult life. My hope is my readers will see and feel the scenes through the eyes of the child I was rather than through the eyes of an adult recounting past events.
The biggest revelation came early in writing.
I realized that writing the memoir transformed memories from a slide show into a feature-length movie. I entered the center of the action and experienced nuances of events that were left out years ago when the memories surfaced. I discovered I still have grief work to do for the child that had no voice and suffered in silence. I gave her a voice through the narrative, and she spoke loud and clear. Her message was one of struggle to find hope amid the despair and loneliness created by my family. While I struggled to understand who Christ was and how He interacted with me, I found hope through my faith in Christ.
Writing the memoir has also brought an element of joy. Several times, I smiled when I realize where a habit originated. Some seem rather silly, but they show the power of childhood experiences. For example, until recently, my kitchen décor comprised 80s’ style grapevine themed everything. I didn’t know why I liked grapevines, but the themed décor brought comfort to me. Then, I recalled escaping the chaos of my home by spending time in an old grape arbor in our backyard. I encountered Jesus in that enclosure, which kept me sane during the time we lived in that house. Perhaps, subconsciously, the grapevine themed kitchenware provided that same comfort. (Yeah, I know that seems silly, but it made me smile.)
I also realized that I could not complete this project on my strength.
Early in the process, I created a group text with four women that supported me through prayer many times over the last several years. Each time I began writing I sent the message, “writing now.” I briefly described goals and specific requests for the writing session. When I finished for the day, I sent the message, “done for the day.” Knowing I had four powerful intercessors praying for me while I wrote encouraged me and gave me the stamina to complete the session.
I revisited self-care throughout the process as I tried to balance writing my story with getting enough rest, eating well, and taking care of other essential activities. Sometimes I wrote longer than I should because I felt an urgency to be done with it. I realized I can’t just be done with it, because that shortchanged the frightened, yet very strong little girl showed me parts of our story that I had not attended to. I recognize the need to take breaks, take naps, and listen to my favorite hymns frequently to stay grounded.
The process did not send me back to the darkness of my early days of healing because I know the physical, emotional, and spiritual signals to prevent that from happening. I have tools that keep me in the present. I have friends and family who pray for and encourage me. I was not alone in this process. I did not relive the trauma, instead I gave a voice to a very strong young lady who never gave up and who trusted Jesus to keep her soul safe from destruction. If you embark on a similar journey, be careful to rest, have a support group, listen to your body, and pace yourself.