Friday, November 28, 2014

Through the Fires: Writing, Life and Motherhood

By Alicia Ogg

I started reading and writing when I was 4-years-old. I used to make little books, mostly about my cat (c-a-t being the first word I ever wrote). I still have some of these books, which my mother would cut and staple together for me to read to her. My creativity was always encouraged and realized; as I got older, it was something I took for granted. I've written in a journal since the age of six, using it as my safe place to organize my thoughts—a form of catharsis and therapy.

Photo of Alicia Ogg - Mom Writer
In 1995 when I was 14, my home burned down while all of us were sleeping. I'm the oldest of four and everyone was able to get out safely, but I couldn't stop blaming myself for putting the clothes in the dryer before I went to bed, the cause of my family's loss of all of our possessions and home.

I lost almost all of my writing in the fire. My mom did find a box that had some of my art and some of the little books I'd written that had been stuffed under the bed and between other things, so it was protected, so I still have a peek at what I was like. After the fire, I separated my life into two sections—it was always “before” and “after” the fire. I feel like I lost a huge part of myself, and while I've been able to gain some of it back, I've lost so many memories from not having my early journals available. It still makes me sad, especially when I hear of others who go through situations of loss. Writing helped me get through it and have an avenue to express myself.

Writing notebooks of poems was my way to purge my teen angst. I was then diagnosed with clinical depression as a sophomore in high school. I felt that I was unlovable and even if I ever found someone to marry me (did I even want to be married?), I would never bring children into this horrible world to suffer so much pain. I was hospitalized for two weeks because I couldn't think about anything except death, although the actual act of dying terrified (and still terrifies) me. All I remember while being there was writing and drawing pictures to pass the time.

I'm ready to revisit my past through writing and am in a much more objective space now that I'm older. Writing for me has been a private act for the most part, although I've never had trouble telling others about my experiences. My hope is that letting others read about my circumstances will help them in some way, moms particularly.

When writing or painting, my biggest concern is that I won't be able to translate my thoughts and feelings as explicitly as I want to, to get my meaning across the way I want. College was spent learning that no matter what you do, you can't control what someone else will get out of your art. My concerns and excitement about putting my writing out there are sort of one in the same and for me depends on the reader's reaction or response.

I recently tuned into NPR when they were talking about memory and new findings about how they've actually formulated a drug that can erase things that you don't want to remember (at least in mice for now.) The more often you revisit a certain memory, the less real it becomes. Each time you're actually just revisiting the memory of the memory of the memory. While listening, I felt glad that I had written down my past while the event and feelings were occurring because I always have a fresh, original memory to go back to. Sure, the meaning changes depending on age and circumstances, like reading 'Catcher in the Rye' when you're out of college vs. 12 years old, even though the words are the same.

Since having children, two boys, one just turned five and the other will be two at the end of January, time has flown by. When I had my second, I couldn't believe that my older boy had ever been that little. You think you're going to remember every single moment, but in two years I'd forgotten some of the things I went through during pregnancy.

Photo of Alicia Ogg and her children
You can call it 'mommy-brain' or 'pregnancy brain,' but the reality is, you can't remember every minute of every day of your or your children's lives. If it's true that you're just remembering a memory of a memory, I think it’s important to write down experiences when they’re fresh in your mind.

I'd always send my friend (what he found to be hilarious) emails about all the weird things I was going through during pregnancy, or the funny things my boys do and say, so I go back and read those, too. It doesn't have to be a lot, just little tidbits can jog your brain into going back to that day when he said his first word or she started to unzip her own coat, or that weird thing your baby's been doing in your belly that makes your kidneys feel like they're in your throat. I'm so glad I've documented my life and my kid's lives through writing so I have those memories preserved.

When Alicia Ogg isn't keeping her almost two year old from climbing on top of the piano or into the bathroom sink (and her 5 year old from encouraging him to), she likes renovating houses, watching Netflix and reality TV (guilty pleasure) and creating art through writing and painting.  Currently a SAHM, she holds a BA in Art History and Studio Arts from the University of Pittsburgh and studied Aboriginal Art History at the University of Melbourne, Australia.  Working in areas of customer service since high school; ranging from checkout clerk and barista to a store manager, Alicia enjoys talking to people and relating to others through experiences.  She hopes her writing will encourage all moms to write and share their stories.  She currently resides in Arlington, VA with her three cats, Hammy, Weasel and Wickle, her two boys, Liam and Xander, and her husband David. Follow Alicia on Twitter @shimmeree23 or email her.

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