Recently stumbled across this wonderful tidbit from memoirist and poet Mary Karr, writing in The NY Times about her process and fessing up to a some serious self-deception. An amazing example of how we edit our memories to justify ourselves:
And now, writing my own memoirs, I know God is in the truth. Only by studying actual events and questioning your own motives will the complex inner truths ever emerge from the darkness… The convenient sound bites into which I store my sense of self are rarely accurate — whose are? They have to be unpacked and pecked at warily, with unalloyed suspicion. You must testify and recant, type and delete.
Call me outdated, but I want to stay hamstrung by objective truth, when the very notion has been eroding for at least a century…
At one point, I wrote a goodbye scene to show how my hard-drinking, cowboy daddy had bailed out on me when I hit puberty. When I actually searched for the teenage reminiscences to prove this, the facts told a different story: my daddy had continued to pick me up on time and make me breakfast, to invite me on hunting and fishing trips. I was the one who said no. I left him for Mexico and California with a posse of drug dealers, and then for college.
This was far sadder than the cartoonish self-portrait I’d started out with. If I’d hung on to my assumptions, believing my drama came from obstacles I’d never had to overcome — a portrait of myself as scrappy survivor of unearned cruelties — I wouldn’t have learned what really happened. Which is what I mean when I say God is in the truth.
Update: Mary will be speaking at our 2013 Spring Conference in NYC!