I am a writer and artist. Sometimes the art gets put on hold while I write. Sometimes it is the other way around. From my early twenties I always knew I would write a book, but I never dreamed it would take this long! How long? Well, to tell the truth, this year is the thirtieth year since I began. Oh, I did finish my first manuscript in February of 1989 – all 856 pages of it. That’s what novice writers do: they have to include everything! Often it is because they are too close to their subject. And I had written about getting out of a marriage that was destroying my health and happiness and how rebuilding a yacht after it foundered on a sandbar helped me to rebuild my life. I had a lot to say. The publisher at Doubleday suggested a rewrite to tighten it up. That’s when I began to discover the story I hadn’t told.
Natalie Goldberg who wrote her first book on writing, Writing Down the Bones, told her agent after it was done that she now wanted to write her memoirs. His reply, “You’re too young to write your memoirs. Wait until you’re sixty. Write a novel.”
I confess, I was too young in my thirties to write my memoir. Having never processed the deep grief of losing my mother at thirteen when she disappeared out of my life three years after my parents divorce, and the negative impact of one of those ‘wicked’ stepmothers one reads about in fairy tales, I was wallowing in a confused sea, rudderless, at night, no way to navigate. Lost. I had to go through that painful grief process that got stuck when I was thirteen. I had a lot to learn and a lot to reflect upon. And it has taken thirty years.
Since I am now in my sixties, it is time to get on and finish it. I still have a lot to say. From my age-sixty-something-vantage-point, I can now write about the outcomes for children who have many adverse childhood experiences that later impact their health, relationships, happiness and sense of well-being, and their ability to find meaning, peace, and love in their lives.
Just to give you an inkling about how childhood trauma can impact a person’s life, the following is a TED talk by Nadine Burke Harris on ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences that include:
- recurrent physical abuse,
- recurrent emotional abuse,
- sexual abuse.
Growing up in a dysfunctional household:
- with an alcoholic person or a drug user;
- where someone was in prison;
- where someone was chronically depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal;
- where the mother was treated violently;
- where the parents were separated, divorced, or in some way lost to a person during childhood.