Our world is constructed by the words we use in our conversations and in our thoughts. The word made flesh… from thought to spoken word… solidifies. The words that are spoken the most often are the words that build our story. On this concept I stand.
The biggest hurdle I faced in writing Junebug, my first novel, was myself. The worry about the truth and who’s truth to write. I skirted around the words for years. Telling and retelling my story in hopes that someone else would take the responsibility of putting the words on paper, after all, I never claimed to be a writer. With all my upheaval at home I feel lucky to have actually graduated high school. No college or fancy letters behind my name. In spite of all that, every time I sat still, that old familiar voice would ring loud and clear… Write your book.
“Junebug” was the hardest, easiest book I’ll ever write. Easiest because it’s me. I’ve spent nearly every waking moment trying to make some cohesive sense out of the events that created my childhood. I have looked at them from every angle imaginable. Trying with all the grit I can muster to make the pieces that I’ve been given by them fit together nicely. They don’t. They never have…never will. Somehow, the words “based on a true story” freed me of the tethers of their truths. They allowed me to create June and tell her story. Finally finding a way to put it over there, in a different framework, created a separation. I could look down with wonder at young June’s courage and ingenuity. I was able to see all that was right versus all that went wrong.
The words began pouring from my head.
Each morning I rose early. Still dark out. The quiet. Nothing was stirring. No car sounds. A steaming pot of coffee at my finger tips. Candles burn with my favorite scent, patchouli. I sit before the keys of my brand new computer, my fingers could barely keep up with what I was seeing, the constantly moving reel of June and her adventures. It was as if I were in a bubble, no room for worries and insecurities. The scary part came in the stepping out of the safety of my cocoon and releasing her to another. Another person with ideas. Another person’s opinions…opinions of me. In its essence, that’s what will be judged. It’s my story, about me. A story that has been devalued from the beginning, from my beginning. Now it’s all on paper, in black and white. For everyone to see… for them to see. Fear. I had moments when I felt like the six year old little girl… being questioned. My truth being questioned.
No one back home knew that I was writing.
Nature has always been my salve when the thoughts get over whelming. As a child I had a cliff and my animals. We’d hang out and I would sort things out… or drift away. I’ve duplicated that spot many times over. High above the tree tops. With all the rumblings running through my head came my need to hide away in the country. I slip away to a comfortable little cabin. The weekend forecast is beautiful. I’m excited to do some hiking. The dogs have room to stretch their legs. A sacred Indian sight is close by. My plan… take the dogs, hike up and meditate.
It never takes long before it all begins to speak.
Here I am, in the middle of nowhere, no people for miles and miles. Everything around me is perfect. In sync in every way. The landscape is beautiful. Rolling hills sprinkled with trees and a pond right out front. The thoughts about the family and their reactions were banging up against each other in my head. Can I, in reality, take this one last step? I argue back and forth with myself, with God. The turmoil that churns through my insides is seemingly displayed in the environment around me. I begin to hear thunder in the distance, grey clouds begin rolling in. I decide to hunker down and wait it out. Trapped inside, hiding away from the churning wind and rain, the closer I get to falling into the abyss of panic. Unlimited scenarios play out in my head of what may happen when the family catch wind of Junebug’s existence. The swirling wind picks up speed with the thoughts of losing my family for good. That train slams up against the reality of “what will I actually be losing.” I haven’t talked to any of them in years. Just like a child, I glimpse the hope of things maybe being different. “Somehow, some day, they will know me.” The feelings in my belly grow stronger. I walk from door to door, window to window, amazed to find that it was sunny on one side of the cabin and stormy on the other. I slowly open the door and cross the threshold onto the front porch. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, instantly dissipating some of the activity in my stomach. The dogs and I find ourselves out in the middle of the field as if I were called. Head tipped back, I am mesmerized by the sky. It was as if a line were drawn right down the middle of the cabin. If I turned my back to the storm you would never even know it was happening. The sky was blue… Big puffy white clouds… But the instant that you glanced that way… it was in. The twisting darkness.
I read somewhere that our brains take in 200 billion bits of information per second and the average person is capable of opening only 40 bits. The 40 bits that we choose to interact with create our existence.
Note to self… open the 40 bits of sunshine!
Junebug is released and the lesson plays out before me. Our first big event is coming up. I’m called into the realm of social media. I take this step with some trepidation, knowing that within five seconds my mother will take note, the book will be ordered putting the train in motion. Her response, uncharted. I receive an email a few days before the event. She wants to support me. She congratulates me and has words of praise around the quality of the writing. She likes to write as well. She takes the stand that Junebug is an accurate and vivid description of our lives in that house. She finds the timelines to be a little off in places and wants to make it clear that the man who claimed to be father, is. Although she still holds to her alibi of ignorance, that she just didn’t know… her reaction is unprecedented.
But… does this change anything? In my search for forgiveness I read that true forgiveness can only be gained if all parties take full responsibility for their actions. Jesus’ luke warm? “I’d rather you be hot or cold, luke warm and I shall spit you from my lips.” The act of taking no action is, in fact, often the biggest action we will take. The act of choosing not to see, not to see me. How can she know me at all, if she tuned out the events that created me? The events that have overshadowed my becoming.
Rumblings from the cheap seats.
My father has two sisters and one brother. The youngest of the sisters, very frank and outspoken starts talking. I begin to receives a smattering of texts from her only daughter warning me of the brewing storm. I let a day or two go by and hear that she has been making calls to my brother, stirring things up. “Don’t answer the phone.” I’m cautioned by my cousin. There’s talk of my father’s health and what this will do to him. They all huddle around him protectively. Again, the out of sync feeling. It’s hard for me to understand. I didn’t realize that I still had any attachment to where they put their concern. Yet here I am, in the familiar arena of -How could they? Why would they choose to stand in his corner versus mine? Even with what each personally knows of the situation, why? I make the decision to send my aunt an email. Concise and to the point, I lay the cards on the table. She had little interaction with me as a child, she and her family lived in the city while I was in the country. Miles between us. And unless she has the gift of clairvoyance, she really has little or no idea what happened in my bedroom all of those years ago. She quickly bowed away. In an odd way, after a moment to digest, I like to think these women are silently rejoicing that someone finally said it… It’s their story too.
Then came the conversation with my brother…
It began on the right note, all the right words were said. “I really want to support you in this, Cherie.” But, I could feel it, the disparity between his thought and word. I ignored it. I wanted so badly to believe. We lived that, us, together. If the three of us could stand side by side once more my prayers will have been answered. After all the niceties… the familiar picking. Going through the story bit by bit with a fine tooth comb. I begin to feel the familiar feeling. Like the little girl on the witness stand. A team of lawyers circling, slinking trying to find whatever detail to trip her up. Be it the color of her dress, what time of day. Details that matter little… there they lay their doubt. Triggers are tripped that I didn’t know were still there. The shrillness creeps into my voice. My words come out in insecure torrents. Suddenly with a flash in my minds eye I see I am looking directly into the storm. I take a step back, physically, and begin to laugh. Apologize for my reaction and make mental note of the buttons he so easily pushed. How easily I fell into the familiar trap… The hurt of his choice still present but much less debilitating.
I make the decision one more time to walk in the other direction.