I have been absent for the last two days on my blog, but I took some time to really enjoy all that California has to offer. I went sailing on Saturday, and tomorrow, I’m going to blog about that experience, because it was so amazing and important, strangely, to my writing.
But today, I went paddle boarding with Heron and some friends. We went down to Newport Beach, and we went into the bay. On the way back, surrounded by hundreds of boats with names like Claire De Lune and All That Jazz, I looked out before me, and I saw the Saddlyback Mountain, the mansions plastered along the hills in Newport and Corona Del Mar and even Laguna Beach, and I remembered how amazing and wonderful and immense California is. Whenever I need a moment of freedom, of nature, of something bigger than myself, the ocean, the mountains, well, it’s all there. Today, I was lucky to be alive. I was grateful to be living in a state I had been dreaming about since I was a kid.
On the way back, we stopped at a little shake and burger shack on the PCH between Bolsa Chica and Sunset Beach. It’s a tradition now. They have the most amazing shakes I have ever tasted. Heron and I also ate some french fries covered in Feta, and I had a cheeseburger, and she had a veggie pita. It was a wonderful day.
Now to change gears a bit. When I came home from paddle boarding, and I wanted to do some work. And just about twenty minutes ago, I turned the final page of Augusten Burroughs’,” Running With Scissors.” Recently, someone who read my book and offered some advice for revision told me that there were a lot of similarities. And now, as I turn my novel into memoir, I feel amazed, stunned, really, that someone had already written a book I have longed to write. It’s a book that spoke to me in so many ways I hope I will be able to explain.
The memoir is about a young boy growing up in Amherst, Massachusetts, and dealing with a mother who has a mental illness. At 12, his mother dropped him off at her psychiatrist’s house, and he was supposed to live with the doctor. It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful book, which is famous and maded into a movie. I grew up in Massachusetts, and I also have a mother who has a mental illness. While there are many similarities, there are also many differences.
But what was the same is a sense of feeling trapped and the inability to fathom the difference between sick and normal. Here is a few lines that resonated with me: “The line between normal and crazy seemed impossibly thin. A person would have to be an expert tightrope walker in order not to fail.” When you grow up with someone who has mental illness, it becomes difficult to understand the difference between normal/happy and sick/manic. It becomes difficult to understand why some people need to go to a hospital and some people get called eccentric. And it becomes nearly impossible to gauge people’s reactions to illness, to strangeness, to the image of the mad-raving lunatic against the patient who needs help, the family member, etc.
Well, Burroughs nails this tension. He nails the inability to understand, as a child, what is real and what is imagined. What is someone having a psychotic break and what is fantasy. I don’t know if I have expressed myself fully, here, but there is something magical in Running with Scissors. Something that just works. And I want to steal it without actually stealing.
Here’s another line: “So why did we feel so trapped? Why did I feel like I had no options in my life when it seemed that options were the only thing I did have?…I worried that my feeling of being belted into an electric chair was due to some sort of mental illness.” Another great moment in the book .
I learned so much from reading this book in terms of structure, movement, time, style. Oh, it’s hard to put my thoughts into words right now; it’s an incredible book. I will try to explain this more later, but I think I just need time to think about it.