“If your psyche is a balloon animal and you squeeze to eliminate the cigarettes and whiskey, the crazy has to go somewhere.”
I’ve been sleeping with Abigail Thomas’ book Thinking About Memoir, hoping its secrets and genius will wrap my body and surge in my veins. I was introduced to her book Safekeeping in my Masters and since then, I’ve had this funny, or creepy, goal of running into her casually on the Upper West Side. Either that, or find her at some writing conference. I don’t know what I’ll learn from her that I haven’t already in her books, but when someone resonates with me that much, I just want to touch the hem of their garment.
So far, in Thinking About Memoir, we don’t get lectured and we don’t have a step by step guide on how to take skeletons out of closets. Instead, Thomas wants us to look under couch cushions, at the bottoms of purses, and in our shopping baskets. She admits to having a hoarding tendency. She peppers writing prompts in between uncovering shames and embarrassments.
Under prompts, she follows up with her own responses. For example, after the prompt: “Write Two Pages of Humiliating Exposure,” she writes,
My friend Denise tells me somebody told her, ‘Shopping is despair,’ but my daughter, Jennifer, says, ‘Shopping is hope.’ Hope gets out of hand. One turquoise ring from E-bay is not enough. I must have five. A single, second-hand Coach bag is not satisfying, I bid on seven. As I have implied, one is not a concept I understand. When I smoked, I smoked three packs a day. When I drank, well, let’s not get into that. If your psyche is a balloon animal and you squeeze to eliminate the cigarettes and whiskey, the crazy has to go somewhere.
Through Thomas’ crazy, we have a path to ours. It’s almost like riding a bicycle, first Dad holds the handle bars, then lets go…yes, this is a facile analogy, but in this case, we’re riding naked, overweight, with spider veins amplified, every embarrassing deed is written in sticky notes all over the bicycle and falls into hands of wealthy neighbors who you’ve been trying to keep out of your business for ages.
Living in Denver is certainly not getting me closer to that chance encounter on the Manhattan street with Abigail Thomas, but there’s always hope.