My Spiritual Autobiography

Roy and I drove away leaving our daughter, Betty. We did not know when we would see her again. Daddy stopped the car beside the driveway of Central State Hospital near a pecan grove but still in sight of where we dropped off Betty. We were both crying our hearts out and Roy was having chest pain. He put a nitro glycerin tablet under his tongue. I knew he would soon have a splitting headache.

We hugged and cried and I spoke softly to him trying to calm him down. I had to get myself together and drive us back home. It was a long drive. Roy got in the back seat so that he could recline and we drove off. Tears were slowly streaming down our cheeks. We would stop in an hour to eat but first we both needed a Coca-Cola.

After getting gas and a couple of Cokes we left Milledgeville. Our daughter had been admitted to Central State Hospital. Roy had been deputized in order for us to take her and not the sheriff. Betty had been at Emory University Hospital for six weeks and the doctors had told us that she needed long term care. Having spent all of our money at Emory, we had no other choice but to take her to the state mental institution.

That morning before we left Richland, the sheriff, the probate judge, and our two local doctors had come to the house. Betty, Roy, my mother, and I were in the front hall when they arrived. We talked for a few minutes and Judge Barbaree deputized Roy. Granny took Betty to the kitchen and we all hugged and said our thanks and goodbyes.

Roy and I now had to get our things together and take our sweet little girl to the largest insane asylum in the United States, We had to leave her there and we had no idea if she would ever come home. We were so sad and scared. She had never been away from us except for the six weeks at Emory and we had rented a room from a nice lady and spent most of that time in Atlanta.

Note to self: Get written permission from friends and family to use their names. Keep it to the point but interesting. Don’t make it a self-help book but a rich account of my emotional experiences during a remarkably vulnerable time in my life. Make it uplifting and fact filled.

I have a lot of material and Carl Jung recommended writing a “spiritual autobiography.”

He wasn’t so interested in chronicling all of the external events of his life (where he was born, when he graduated, etc.), but his internal experience (changes in long-held assumptions, insights, including dreams), that marked changes in his maturing sense of identity and perception of the world.

Whether you are writing about yourself or other people, there is a common device that helps writers select and develop their material:

they organize the story around a CONFLICT (such as youthful naivete vs. more informed — and much different — adult perception) that exemplifies the point they want to make (the world stinks but nobody wants to know).

They select only the characters involved in the conflict, not everybody in town;

present only the points at which the conflict develops in intensity, not everything going on at the time;

then a turning point that drives toward the climactic event that determines the way the conflict will end;

then the aftermath — what happens to the characters who survive, or

when the resolution of the old conflict leads to a new conflict.

This sequence of events is most famously presented as a triangle symbolizing rising emotional tension:

CLIMAX (most intense event, determines how the conflict will end)

/ \

turning point / \ aftermath

/

stages of developing conflict /

/

Intro (setting, characters, conflict) /

Drawing a time line is the simplest way to organize a story.

Identify the climax, then build your narrative forward and backward as far as is useful.

For greater complexity, you can build in flash-forwards and flash backs for explanation, subplots, and symbols to unify the story.

The trick is to include these detours without stopping the action so long that the plot (and the reader) gets lost.