Monday, December 16, 2019

Stories to Share

How can you write about all that stuff?
Doesn’t it feel weird to share your secrets?
I couldn’t do it.
You’re so brave.

In one way or another I’ve heard these questions and comments from readers since the publication of my first memoir. My response has been, I’ll admit, a bit flippant, perhaps even rude at times.

Such is the nature of memoir.
That’s why it’s called memoir.

But through the years I’ve thought a lot about the truth behind both the questions/comments and my responses. There is no doubt that memoir writing involves honesty, a bearing of the soul in search of personal understanding and universal truth. It is the telling of truth that readers connect with, the universal human experience that truth touches.

I’ve come to understand that my comfort with memoir lies in another, perhaps more deeply buried belief. We all have buttons – expressions, comments, behaviors – that set us off. Understanding where they come from or how they are formed is likely found in the field of psychoanalysis. One of my buttons – or triggers, though I dislike that term – is when someone says something along the lines of: That’s just the way he/she is. People don’t change.

I don’t share that belief. I never have. People can and do change when they mindfully make the decision to do so. As Leonardo Shaw points out in this interview a friend shared with me recently:

“We all have within us, at any moment, the power
to transform the quality of our life.”
—Leonard Shaw

I am not the same insecure girl I was in high school, or the same young woman making so many mistakes, so many errors in judgement, or even the same young mother grappling with first family tragedy while struggling to build a new family of her own.

We change when we choose to be self-analytical, to question our past and work to build new patterns of behavior. It’s hard, time-consuming, continuous work. The work of a lifetime. But it is possible. So when people ask in ore form or another if I’m not embarrassed to tell the secrets I share in my memoirs, my response has changed. Now I say: I’m no longer that person. People change.

I feel compassion for that younger me, but I am no longer her. She helped me become who I am today. She gave me stories to share.
I hope you enjoy these stories of my years working as an undocumented teacher in Mexico City in the 1980s and reconnecting with the women I knew during those turbulent years.


Darcey said...

Arlene I appreciate your honesty so much. I know people change as well. I have seen miraculous changes in people and feel renewed hope. For me I realize I have to have an open heart. If I’m stuck in my own truth, I can never see the need for change. Thankful for opportunities that bring change! ❤️

arleen said...

Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Darcey. Hope and an open heart are both so very important.