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Catherine Sevenau
Rude Awakenings
Catherine Sevenau

Unleashing the flying monkeys

I imagine it’s no coincidence that my writing began when I was 53, the same age my mother was when she called it a day. Nor that it took me five years to write our chronicles, the same amount of time I lived with her when I was a kid. I have a suspicion she’s had a hand in the whole thing, directing from the ethers, enjoying having her story told. She would have LOVED all the attention. My father, on the other hand, would have cautioned me to keep much of what I wrote behind closed doors. He was a private man, of the generation that didn’t discuss affairs of the family, money, or sex. Dredging up some of the stories was a cross between Groundhog Day and post-traumatic stress syndrome. It’s amazing how long the shelf life is on the defining moments that smack us as kids. They’re like Wonder Bread: always fresh. I made it through my childhood, and then I lived through five years of writing about it, which was at times as anxiety producing as experiencing some of it the first time around. My right shoulder froze, then my left, my stomach wasn’t happy nor was my sister, and I had three computer crashes. In the last crash I lost my motherboard. Now what are the odds of that? I didn’t even know a computer had a motherboard. I put the manuscript away for five years, picked it back up again, fiddled with it for a few more years, published two other books in between, and then decided to post the full family memoir as an online serial. I spent two years re-editing, adding photos, and uploading a chapter every three days. It’s now 17 years from when I started, and this book is done. I should get an award, if only for persistence! The last chapter posted on the 50th anniversary of my mother’s death, another instance of synchronicity, and yet she continues to show up in my life like a bad Hallmark card. I’m continually bowled over how I manage to recreate her in so many of my relationships. The bane of my existence and my greatest teacher, she is a gift that keeps on giving. Journaling about my childhood and family was an act of love. Turning it into a book, an act of faith. Reworking it into a tale that was coherent, an act of perseverance. Publishing it was either an act of trust or an act of hubris. It’s not an autobiography. It’s snippets and sketches and vignettes, strung along a timeline well before I came along up until I’m the age of twenty, kneaded into tales from complicated and sometimes messy lives. It’s a story that transformed the holes created by chaos and heartache in our family into a sense of wholeness. The experiences from my childhood shaped me; they gave me the work I needed to do to wake up, took me to the places where I had to stumble to find my gold. I’ve spent most of my adulthood overcompensating for my young wounds, which I suppose was my way of healing them. My ego makes sure I get seen and heard (though at times in inelegant ways), I know it matters that I’m here, and that I do make a difference. If I hadn’t been so tweaked in feeling invisible and not cared about by my mother, I imagine I wouldn’t be so driven. A combination of choices, karma, and synchronicity delivered me to my doorstep today. I don’t have to know how I got here, though a lot of that got sorted out in the process of writing Through Any Given Door, I simply know this is where I am now. When I pay attention and stay on the path on which I’m pulled (a complete act of trust on my part as I have no sense of direction), I end up where I’m meant to be. Generally it takes me a while to get there, and I often don’t like what it looks like. Sometimes I’m anxious, other times fearless. At times I’m in a snit and then I’m over the moon. Life can also be hilarious, and then, there are times it just isn’t very damn funny. So that’s pretty much how my life shakes out, and really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Well that, and the Hokey Pokey.    
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