(Today’s) Thoughts on Trauma


From Rick Moody’s Demonology (the essay, published as nonfiction initially):

“I should fictionalize it more, I should conceal myself. I should consider the responsibilities of characterization, I should conflate her two children into one, or reverse their genders, or otherwise alter them, I should make her boyfriend a husband, I should explicate all the tributaries of my extended family (its remarriages, its internecine politics), I should novelize the whole thing, I should make it multigenerational, I should work in my forefathers (stonemasons and newspapermen), I should let artifice create an elegant surface, I should make the events orderly, I should wait and write about it later, I should wait until I’m not angry, I shouldn’t clutter a narrative with fragments, with mere recollections of good times, or with regrets, I should make Meredith’s death shapely and persuasive, not blunt and disjunctive, I shouldn’t have to think the unthinkable, I shouldn’t have to suffer, I should address her here directly (these are the ways I miss you), I should write only of affection, I should make our travels in this earthly landscape safe and secure, I should have a better ending, I shouldn’t say her life was short and often sad, I shouldn’t say she had her demons, as I do too.”

From the beginning of Lady Gaga’s Marry the Night music video (yes, I am actually doing this):

“When I look back on my life, it’s not that I don’t want to see things exactly as they happened, it’s just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way. And truthfully, the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it.

Clinical psychology tells us arguably that trauma is the ultimate killer. Memories are not recycled like atoms and particles in quantum physics; they can be lost forever. It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting and as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again.

It’s not that I’ve been dishonest, it’s just that I loathe reality.

For example, those nurses? They’re wearing next season Calvin Klein, and so am I. And the shoes?  Custom Giuseppe Zanotti. I tipped their gauze caps to the side like Parisian berets because I think it’s romantic, and I also believe that mint will be very big in fashion next Spring.

Check out this nurse on the right, she’s got a great ass. Bam.

The truth is, back then at the clinic, they only wore those funny hats to keep the blood out of their hair. And that girl on the left she ordered gummy bears and a knife a couple of hours ago. They only gave her the gummy bears.

I’d wished they’d only given me the gummy bears.”

A bunch of you probably know that I’m co-teaching a student forum called Writing Through Trauma (which has been a fantastic experience that I hope to co-repeat next semester), and so I’m constantly looking for new thoughts on trauma. The quoted passage from Demonology is not so new in that I’ve been thinking over it for a while.

I think the thing that I love about it is that it asks a question that drives me crazy: what is nonfiction? I think the answer that I’ve been the most satisfied with is: nonfiction does not intentionally break from the truth and it seeks to convey truth. Fiction, on the other hand, involves some break. The Lady Gaga quote also explores that theme. I think her take on it is that as long as the emotions conveyed are true, fact-checking is not really the point. I don’t really have a great conclusion for this, other than I think there are a lot of really exciting ideas in both of those quotes and that everyone should do trauma writing!

If how we define trauma is “something that shakes the foundation,” (my favorite definition thus far) everyone has experienced trauma. Writing about it is cathartic and therapeutic and worthwhile and if you’re inclined to write, do that. Write, write what scares you, write what keeps you up late, write what you’re thinking when you walk by yourself, write why the song that’s stuck in your head resonates, write constantly if you need to. And if you need to, then you know what I’m talking about.

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