I’m writing my first book-length memoir. It’s something I thought I would never, ever write–that I would never have the stomach for.
But I am writing it. I feel compelled to write it. It’s called “What Brought You Here,” and it’s the story about my leaving Ireland at age 24 to come and live in the U.S. The title derives from all those times when someone heard my non-American accent and inquired: “Oh, what brought you here?”
The story is, of course, about much more than just a set of economic drivers or the adventures and misadventures of my early years in America. This book is the proverbial long and complex answer to that very short question (what brought you here).
I’ve just drafted and printed the first 50 pages. I have no idea if it will ever get published.
Last Monday, I flipped back through the “easier” stuff to write and insert a really difficult scene. How difficult? I, a woman who (mostly) breezes through the transatlantic airport departure lounge completely dry-eyed, sat here at my computer weeping.
Then, this morning, almost a week later, I got up, made coffee and tackled the second-most difficult scene. As soon as I began to write Difficult Scene 2, I instantly sank into another bout of melancholy.
Surely this is a kind of willful psychosis? Surely, on an ordinary American Sunday, a day when the sun is shining through my writing-studio window, it would be easier and healthier not to revisit or revive the past. To simply stay in the present?
But for better or worse, I’ve written both scenes. In doing so, I’ve committed to typed words one of the saddest and loneliest times of my adult life.
Writing these scenes–actually the whole book so far–has taught me that sometimes, we commit our worst acts of cowardice, our most heinous acts of negligence against ourselves.
So I’m done. I’m free to get up from this desk and go about the rest of my normal American Sunday.
Or am I?