Thursday, July 7, 2011

Writing to Cope With Life Changes by Ann Carbine Best, Guest Blogger

It is my great pleasure to host Ann Carbine Best as she celebrates the release of her memoir, In the Mirror: A Memoir of Shattered Secrets. I'm a great fan of Ann's blog so you might want to pay her a visit whenever you can. You'll find links to reviews of her memoir, learn what's going on in Ann's world, and read her book reviews and author features.

Ann grew up in Salt Lake City and now lives in Virginia with her daughter. A grandmother of seven, Ann sets a great example for those of us who have reached a certain age but still strive to learn more, do more, and keep moving forward no matter what happens.


Writing to Cope With Life Changes by Ann Carbine Best, Guest Blogger

Thanks, Pat, for hosting me today. I like the topic you suggested: How I coped in the face of disaster and how writing helped me work through the emotions.

By now, many of our followers, especially those who have read my memoir, know that my first husband left me to live with a man (first disaster); that I remarried a man who committed suicide (second disaster); and that two of my three daughters were in a catastrophic accident (third disaster).

This sounds like a major soap opera, but when I wrote the memoir, I did it from a calm place in my mind. It was emotion recollected in tranquility, a tranquility achieved partly through my faith in a personal God and partly from my lifelong love of creative writing. I did keep a sporadic journal, but mostly there were stretches of relative calm when I wrote scenes I would later use in my autobiographical thesis for my M.F.A. degree from George Mason University, and ultimately in my recently published memoir.

There’s something about “seeing” a scene on paper. It’s as if you have taken the experience that the words symbolize from deep within yourself and put it “out there” to create a kind of distance that helps you deal with the psychic pain. It’s difficult to explain, but if you’ve ever been in a dark place, you can probably sense what I mean.

One of the most awful emotions from the first husband years--the first part of the memoir--was fear. In fact, I titled one of the earlier memoir drafts From Fear to Faith. The nadir occurred one afternoon when I plunged into a debilitating fear of eternity and of the God I had believed in all my life. I dramatized that low point in a scene that one of my followers, Clarissa Draper, quoted in her review of my book.

Larry came naked into the room. He opened a drawer, pulled out his underwear, put it on, and looked at me.

“What’s wrong?” he said.

“I don’t know. I’m terrified.”

He sat on the edge of the bed and touched my leg. “Why?”

“Years ago, a long time ago, I was with my parents and brother and sister, and we were going around the Point of the Mountain, and I suddenly had this fear. There was all that space with no beginning and no end. I was frightened and pulled back and the fear went away. But today I was staring at the sky through the window, and I thought how I can’t comprehend God. I can’t comprehend anything. I can’t comprehend living forever.”

“Can you comprehend dying forever?”

“No.” That was worse. I pulled my knees to my chest and cried out, “Do you understand? Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever thought about this?”

“Well, I’ve thought about it,” he said, “but it doesn’t frighten me. I know I can’t comprehend infinity with my finite mind.”

“What will we do forever? What if we get so far and there’s nothing left to do? Eternal boredom.” I moaned and leaned back against the pillows.

The fear was so acute that one day I began taking some of Larry’s valium, and some more, and some more. I think I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted to float away for a while. I wanted Larry’s attention. I wanted him to be with me and not with his gay lovers, whoever they were. I know now that I suffered from severe anxiety through weeks that were psychically dark and painful.

However, as writer Annie Dillard says, “If you want to live you have to die.” Paraphrasing Ms. Dillard I say, “If you want to have joy, you have to suffer.” I suffered but then took the steps that would bring me back to the light; back to my faith in God and myself.

I wasn’t alone through all of the disasters. There were always people to help me. They were God’s hands. And there were words, my words and the words of others, that helped me put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.


Ann, thanks so much for sharing your story with us. While journaling tends to be a private form of writing as therapy, memoir is a huge undertaking because it's intended for others to read. I have a lot of respect for those who can open up their lives as you have.

For readers of memoir, In the Mirror is available in trade paperback from the publisher, and is also available in ebook form for Kindle and Nook.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Ann.

Ann - Thanks for sharing the way that writing helped you to cope with the tragedies you've had in your life. I know exactly what you mean about distancing oneself form sadness by putting it on paper. It does have that effect, doesn't it? Your writing style's captivating, too :-).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Amazing strength to write this book, Ann. Maybe we can't imagine it, but I'm pretty sure we won't be bored in Eternity!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thank you Patricia for hosting Ann,
This book sounds wonderful to read, I have heard about it before and I wish Ann all the best.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Hi Patricia for some reason you were one of many that was "Unfollowed" when I had trouble with blogger, I have now rectified it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's a lot to handle in one lifetime.

Karen Walker said...

This is a very powerful post by a very powerful lady who has written a powerful memoir. Thanks, Patricia, for hosting Ann. And Ann, thanks for sharing your gift of writing with us so we can learn from your life lessons,which is my belief of what memoir is all about.

Patricia Stoltey said...

It's amazing what one person can experience and still soldier through to an emotional and spiritual victory, isn't it? Ann teaches us to be brave and to be strong.

Glynis said...

Ann is an inspiration to all. Not just for writing but how to rise above challenges in our lives. Her memoir is amazing. Thanks for hosting her today, Patricia.

Summer Ross said...

Pat- Thank you for hosting.

Ann- This really hit home for me "There’s something about “seeing” a scene on paper. It’s as if you have taken the experience that the words symbolize from deep within yourself and put it “out there” to create a kind of distance that helps you deal with the psychic pain."

So much truth in that.

KarenG said...

What a great post this was, Ann. You are such a brilliant writer.

Pat, I love the look of your new blog! And I'm impressed at how professionally the links and information for In the Mirror appears at the bottom of the post. Very classy! I need to visit you more often, your entire blog has changed since I last was here!

Michelle Fayard said...

Thank you very much, Patricia, for letting us have the opportunity to learn more about Ann. She is an author who has the gift of making you feel as if she's a good friend you’ve known all your life. The words in her book will encourage and inspire anyone who is struggling with heartbreak.


Marlena Cassidy said...

Patricia - Thank you for hosting Ann as your guest blogger.

Ann - You are such a beautiful writer and thank you for sharing your pains and triumphs with us. You are a true inspiration and a reminder that out of the darkness there comes a bright light.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, friends, for your comments. It's true we all have trials, some much worse than mine. I'm just grateful for all the help I've had and still have along the way. And Alex: That fear of forever--I just keep reminding myself that an infinite mind will be able to comprehend eternity, so I now just focus on the moment, which is sometimes plenty for us to deal with!

Old Kitty said...

Oh no!! I'm on chapter 27! I am so sorry about Tom, oh dear. He was such a lost soul and no amount of love could help him. Oh dear, I am so sorry.

You know what I sense reading your memoir, Ann? A passionate fortitude even as walls crumble around you. Amazing!

Thank you Patricia for hosting the ever so fabulous Ann! Take care

Nas Dean said...

Thank you Patricia for hosting Ann.

This book sounds wonderful and inspirational to read.

I wish Ann all the best.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

I am glad to read more from Ann, whose memoir I too read and applauded; not the tragedy but the survival through. It brings me here to another blog about writing and books, two things I so enjoy. I will return.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Ann, thanks again for being my guest today. Your post gave us a lot to think about.

And thanks to everyone who stopped by, and a special thank you to those who left comments. I hope to see all of you here again, and I'll be dropping by to visit your blogs as well. KarenG, your kind words are much appreciated.

Hilary said...

Hi Patricia and Ann .. another insight - this has to be an enlightening book for all of us - many of us have times in our lives when we'd like to float away ..

Hi Patricia ... I agree with you - re Ann being brave enough to open up her life to us .. it's a challenging thing to do .. and so much can be learnt from Ann's process.

Enjoy your weekends .. cheers for now - Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks for being so willing to share so much of your journey with us, Ann. You tell it very poignantly.