When I first began writing my memoir about infant surgery a little less than ten years ago, I committed myself to this project because I felt emotionally unfinished about my surgery. There was more to learn and grow from, and I had to do it no matter how scared I was–and believe me, I was. I decided to travel into the scar on my belly, if you will, like Alice down the rabbit hole; I wanted to come to terms with this material once and for all.
In order to start this process, I made a series of pastel drawings, which were by no means pretty. These pictures were raw. Lots of reds and yellows, blacks and blues. I often slashed at the paper rather than drew. I felt angry and reckless. At times, I felt murderous rage. Ultimately, I broke through something; I was ready to embark on the long journey home.
Writing The Autobiography of a Sea Creature, I came to understand a dominating belief I had held since infancy–that I was broken. I feel ashamed writing this. Certainly my surgeon, my pediatrician, my mother and father, the rest of my family, and my teachers would not have wanted this for me, but it is true. Despite being saved and told that I was “as good as gold now” or as my pediatrician put it, I had gone from “a plug nickel” to “miracle baby,” I believed deep down that I was still broken and unfixable–damaged goods. What treasure I had unearthed, for as painful as it was to acknowledge and accept that this was one of the beliefs that had driven my life, ultimately this knowing delivered me.
Of course I was not broken, for I had fortunately healed perfectly, but it was an idea that I had to unlearn and replace. This process has taken time. Wouldn’t it have been nice to take a pill and wake up self-loving and capable? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to flip a magic switch and be transformed? But no, the insidious habits of self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-loathing had taken their toll and so the healing has been happening over many years.
Beliefs control us. These beliefs are often hidden deep down. Uncovering them takes determination and a certain amount of grit. Ironically, it also takes a fair amount of self-worth. One must feel worthy of the quest–to deserve the riches one seeks. And above all, one must trust one can do it.
On this memoir journey, I also discovered another belief that I had held since I was one or two years old. That the pyloric stenosis might return and that I’d only be safe after age 50. Crazy, right? Right! Lying on the examination table, I’d heard my pediatrician tell my mother that I could have trouble when I was 50 (This scene is showcased in the Prologue to Sea Creature posted to my blog under Pages above). Whether I misheard or misunderstood what he said is irrelevant. It took me until the age of 50 to feel safe enough to write the memoir!
Beliefs can kill. Knowing what we believe about ourselves in the depths of our souls is the key to liberation. Then we can change. We can transform self-hate into self-love and reap the riches we deserve in this life: health, wealth, creativity, loving relationships, freedom. I’d had a degree of success in life before I wrote my autobiography, but there was always something nagging at me. There was always something tapping at my back. Wait a minute, it seemed to say, you forgot something. Remembering has made all the difference.