Perhaps the most basic reason I wrote a memoir about my life was to release emotion. Strong feeling was the fuel that drove the memoir along. I wrote to record past joys, pleasures, and friendships, but, I have to say, it was often the darker emotions like shame, grief, and fury that most urged me to write. Sometimes I cried as I wrote. Other times, I snorted or fumed. And sometimes I wrote out of humiliation. Smarting and cringing, I forced myself to write a description of the Sadie Hawkins dance I attended in ninth grade—the one where the boy disappeared. Perhaps my motive was, initially, in some portion revenge (though I didn’t name names), but really—understanding now the selfishness of youth (my own included)—I wrote it to clean myself out: to expose my shame to the air, where it could be cleansed, where it could disperse out over the sea, sink into the deep ocean of humiliations experienced by all the people in the world. (It is true that we have a compulsion to return to the places of our greatest hurts, the scenes of crimes, in order to understand them, or try to re-do them. To roll back that tape and play it again, revised—or, best yet, to let the tape unfurl in the wind and sail away.)
Perhaps the keenest emotion that was present while I wrote was yearning. As heir, like all children, to my parents’ internal conflicts, I wrote with all the fullness of my covert father’s unspent yearning: his yearning—forced undercover by his job—for genuine feeling, for the complete story, for justice, for cleanness, for transparency, for truth. Beyond, I wrote to express the melting butter yearning of every young kid—the yearning for goodness, requited-love, and work-rewarded that moves through everyone on this fine and pulsing planet, the yearning of all the world.
And there was yet another kind of emotion that was pushing this writing of mine: my love for my family, and especially my father, who, not-long-ago, left this world. Upon my father’s death, up-wellings of love for him, and for my whole past, swirled into the surges of grief, forming a roaring tide of need—to write.