Who inspires you? What is it about them that lights a spark? Why?

Sometimes we’re inspired to change a complacent pattern. Repetitive routines dull our senses. Sometimes, we’re not living up to our potential, but the tigers in the jungle of our mind hold us back: fear, insecurity, self-doubt, shame. Uncertainty can become a storm on creative waters, pushing us toward the temperate climate where we’ve become comfortable, sated but not fulfilled.

I’m inspired by women. Brave women. Curious and unsilenced women. Women who feel life’s injustices and reach toward that fracture as a place of strength. …


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After another death of a black human, there is nothing I can say to express my emotions in a way that is meaningful enough. As a white woman, I have the privilege of education, health care, financial security, and a non-prejudiced gaze from people in positions of power. I have never been threatened by violence from a stranger. Nothing I say can compare to the voices of colored men and women who reap the trauma of inherited oppression. …


We are in the midst of adaptation. Depending on our location and level of risk to coronavirus, change has disrupted our lives in various degrees and durations of intensity. Urban areas are impacted much more heavily, terrifyingly so, by the virus’ ability to accelerate rapidly. But Montanans have been under official Montana shelter-in-place mandates beginning March 20th, and the number of known cases in our county indicates a much slower growth trajectory than in other areas of the state. Missoulians are luckier than most.

But I want to talk about adaptation. My two daughters, ages seventeen and nineteen, are home from school and their schoolwork is mostly done from their bedrooms behind closed doors. I trust that they are responsible humans and can navigate classwork without my assistance. They wake up at noon. It is my belief that their natural rhythms are stretching out the kinks after years of leaving the house for school at 7:30 a.m. They take solitary hikes or bike rides in the afternoon. They stay up ungodly hours, but I don’t mind. For the first time in their young lives, they have the opportunity to be accountable for their work while managing their own time. …


One of my favorite benefits of writing is the tribe of strong and smart women who surround me. Some I know in person, but I have also met many amazing women online through the shared experience of trauma and the familiar pain of the breakdown endured before breaking through. We are a growing number of voices whose decision to share our truest and most agonizing stories bind us with empathy, compassion, and courage. By spilling the secrets we dared not tell in one life, we shifted the mindset from being controlled to having control. The mind is at the mercy of its most dominant influence. …


My husband and I just had a conversation about education. Coincidentally, I just spent the past three days driving my daughter back to Spokane, WA where she attends Gonzaga University. Besides the terrible snow on the interstate which caused me to spend one extra night in a hotel, education has been on my mind lately and also a large theme in our family life.

I have a Master in Education and a B.A. in French. For the past five years, I have taken many online writing classes, and as often as possible, local memoir writing classes. Right now, I’m taking an online writing class through Hedgebrook, a women’s writing retreat on Whidbey Island, Washington. The focus of the class is writing with vulnerability which requires shaking off every inhibition or negative portrayals, especially of the self. Of course, we aren’t supposed to say unkind things about others, but writing employs different rules. As long as the narrator is the most honest person on the page about her own shortcomings, she can say whatever truth she needs to dissect. Memoir is an investigative form that requires tough introspection. …


OK, I know I don’t divulge too much about my writing project(s). The reason is: The status changes every day, every minute, every time a new idea seems like a good idea. (Seemingly too often, the good ideas aren’t as amazing as I imagined they were at 3:00 a.m.)

The craft of writing is a whorl that can only flow one direction. Fight it, and the resistance takes you down. Go with it, and you will inevitably end up somewhere unexpected but the ride was free. The process hates control freaks. …


Next to me is a photo album open to a page with a large black and white photo of four women at the beach at Catalina Island outside of Los Angeles. The ‘swimsuits’ are long black dresses. The date of the photograph is documented as the late 1890’s.

My husband is deep in a project of scanning his family history so that these precious and fragile inheritances can remain intact and accessible through online media. The job is tedious but rewarding. …


Yesterday, I had the first fraught meeting with a new editor over the first 30 pages of my memoir. Through our respective computer screens, we came to know each other via the discussion of what wasn’t working for my story. Sending my competent-but-not-effective work to a stranger would have scared the Hell out of the old me, but there comes a point when you have to let go of fear, especially when the creative world is calling your name.

“Play with your story,” the editor told me. …


Five years ago, my world split open with the truth of a family betrayal. As a child, I was the daughter to blame, insult, and punish for the problems the adults could not or did not want to handle. Growing up, I heard every name and accusation, both verbal and insinuated, from siblings and parents alike. I was an embarrassment, an idiot, a delinquent, a loser, a pain in the neck, selfish, too sensitive, dramatic, lazy, a problem child, weak, nasty, ungrateful. I ruined the family.

I was the family scapegoat.

Scapegoating* a child is more than verbal abuse, which serves as a gaslighting technique to break down the child’s self-esteem. Often accompanied by emotional neglect and physical abuse, she is the adhesive component of a dysfunctional family system so that adult accountability can be avoided. It is a role so crucial to the dysfunction that betrayals are denied, destroying the victim’s trust in her own perception. Starved for approval and normalcy, she learns to suffer for love. …


Trigger Warning: Content contains sexual violence/trauma

The author Jessica Stern has been a huge influence on my writing work. She has written many books on terrorism (which I have not read, sorry, Jessica), but her memoir continues to inspire me with a single line. She wrote, “This is the worst impact of severe trauma: the victim loses faith in the evidence of her own senses.”

When I read this, I practically lifted my butt out of the chair with elation. Somebody finally understood me!

My story is not Jessica’s. Her memoir, Denial, A Memoir of Terror reveals her journey as an expert on terrorism and her resilience to fear despite the extremely dangerous situations she willingly immersed herself in. Her investigative questioning to understand this resilience lead her back to her teen years when she and her sister were violently raped in their childhood home. As an emotional response to endure the incident, young Jessica willed away her fear. Afterwards, there was no memory of the event, as the trauma blocked her perception from her reality. She went on to live with a depleted sense of fear, which would explain her later obsession with danger. …

About

Barbie Beaton

Creative Nonfiction Writer, Memoirist, Obsessed with Growth, Beauty, Courage

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