Sunday, September 1, 2013

Reconciliation to Myself: thoughts on fictionalizing the self

The first major creative piece that I wrote was an attempt to recount and then understand my own decent into anorexia. The piece, entitled “Hope,” was written as my final project for a class on autobiographies. To add to the mayhem, I was concurrently going through my most vicious relapse. As part of the assignment, I was required to attach a more specific genre to “Hope”—for “autobiography” includes a wide variety of subgenres. My chosen subgenre was that of scriptotherapy. In their book, Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson include the following description of a scriptotherapy:

A term proposed by Suzette Henke to signal the ways in which autobiographical writing functions as a mode of self-healing, scriptotherapy includes the process of both “writing out and writing through traumatic experience in the mode of therapeutic reenactment” (xii). Henke attends to several twentieth-century women’s life narratives that focus on such childhood trauma as incest and abuse, which adult narrators—for example, Anaїs Nin and Sylvia Fraser—record in order to both heal themselves and reconfigure selves deformed by earlier abuse. Some theorists, however, dispute that writing is always a form of healing from abuse or loss. (279)

Although “Hope” was initially an attempt to heal from anorexia, it also opened the door to addressing the sexual abuse that was deeply hidden in my past.

I have written much since (and even before) “Hope,” and, although not all of my writings are attempts to self-heal, the motivations of self-awareness and healing are never far-removed from any outflow of my pencil or keyboard.

I am finding this to be painfully true in my most recent writing attempt. For this piece—which I have not even begun to formally write—I am fictionalizing four different parts of myself. More specifically, I am fictionalizing myself at four different stages of my life. This task is proving to be extremely difficult—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

While working on my characters, I have discovered an extreme revulsion to one of the girls. This, naturally, means that I have a revulsion toward that part of myself—which, although a “past me,” is still very much a part of who I am today.

The theme of this past week—as per a sermon series by the pastor at Union Center Christian Church—has been “I am reconciled.” It was easy for me to assume that the end of this phrase is “. . . to Christ;” however, while discovering this aversion to part of myself, the following end can also be added: “. . . to myself.” This is difficult for me to swallow.

As a writer, I must make this unwanted character come alive to my reader. However, this cannot be done until I can see through her eyes. And seeing through her eyes is the last thing I want to do. (This isn’t helped by the fact that my third character hates her—I am much better at seeing through this third character’s eyes.)
A further realization was made a few days ago: reconciliation is not possible without forgiveness; and forgiveness is not possible without grace. Can I have grace for this girl that I am so angry with? Can I forgive her? Can I reconcile myself to her?

Today, in church, was the closing of the series (as well as the focus on reconciliation). As part of the closing, we were to take communion and then receive a name tag that says, “Hello, I am ____”. The blank had a few predetermined options: more, special, important, loved, reconciled, and free. I thought about which one I wanted. I wanted “Hello, I am loved” because of a previous writing encounter I had had with God (see my post “The Song”). I was consumed with the moral dilemma of whether or not to specifically choose this one—the other option being: close my eyes and reach in blindly. When it came my time to receive my tag, I was surprised to find that they were being handed out—I would not have a choice in which one I received. I received communion and then put out my hand to the smiling woman. When I looked down, I was pleasantly surprised to see the words, “Hello, I am loved.” I walked back to my seat thinking about what God had taught me a few weeks ago. But as I was remembering this, God shoved my unlovable character into my thoughts—I had not been writing this new piece at the time of the love theme. Suddenly, I was forced to apply this love to her, as well. If God loves me—all of me; past and present me—then He must also love this fictionalized me that I was struggling to love.

Can I love this girl? I ask myself. I admit that I certainly cannot feel love for her in this moment. But perhaps, I can allow God to show me His love for her. And then there is the one thing that I can and must do for her: give her grace.

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