I’m So Glad You’re Here is the story of a family disrupted by a father’s mental illness. The memoir opens with a riveting account of Gay, age eighteen, witnessing her father being bound in a straitjacket and carried out of the house on a stretcher. The trauma she experiences escalates when, after her father has had electroshock treatments at a state mental hospital, her parents leave her in a college dorm room and move from Massachusetts to Florida without her. Decades later, when Gay and her three much-older siblings show up for their father’s funeral, she witnesses her sundered family’s inability to gather together. Eventually, she is diagnosed with PTSD of abandonment and treated with EMDR therapy?and finally begins to heal. I’m So Glad You’re Here is Gay’s exploration of the wounds we carry from growing up in fractured families stay with us, they do not have to control us?a reflective journey that will inspire readers to think about their own relational lives. Drop In with us!
Pamela Gay is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award in creative nonfiction and an Independent eBook Award for her memoir Homecoming, which combined text, image, and sound. An installation based on this memoir and sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) included artifacts. Gay’s writing has been published in Brevity, Iowa Review, Paterson Literary Review, Midway Journal, Monkeybicycle, Grey Sparrow, Vestal Review, and other literary journals, as well as two anthologies. Gay is a professor emerita at Binghamton University, State University of New York, where she taught courses in flash memoir and flash fiction. She lives in Upstate New York. Her memoir, I’m So Glad You’re Here is published by She Writes Press. See more at her website pamela-gay.com.Leave a comment for radio show guests
Have you ever stopped to think about yourself and your story? If someone were to write your memoir what would it say? We all seek some level of authenticity but have trouble removing the labels and finding our whole story. Welcome to Dropping In with Diane Dewey. In this program we’ll explore diverse stories on identity to help determine what is truly yours. Now here is your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In, everyone. It’s a turning point moment here in the Northeast. The leaves started to change color, and both here and elsewhere, it’s time for a change. The ability to process past trauma has everything to do with our ability to change. So today our guest Pamela Gay, Professor Emerita in Creative Writing flash fiction flash memoir, Binghamton University and author of, I’m So Glad You’re Here. A Memoir published by She Writes Press in May, is going to help us work through this. Welcome Pamela.
Pamela: Thank you, Diane.
Diane: So we’re going to dive right in to the idea of writing about trauma which is what you’ve done in, I’m So Glad You’re Here. We will be set with trauma. We have a generalized trauma right now from the news and ongoing pandemic, a fear that no one’s going to come to help. If a wildfire or hurricane destroys our house, or if another fellow man gets shot because of the color of his skin, but a traumatic event, fragments into shrapnel like shards that remain in us. And I wonder because you know from this Pamela. Talk to us about writing about trauma from a cellular memory.
Pamela: Very challenging, very difficult and I avoided it for a long time. The book just came out 2020. But I was just thinking today back in 1999, I wrote the opening piece that I have here called Turkey Day, which is a very riveting account of that trauma experienced at age 18.
Diane: Tell us what it is. Tell us what happened on Turkey Day so that our listeners know.
Pamela: Yeah, I wonder if I could just read an extra premise so they hear my voice? I won’t read the whole thing it’s not that long.
Diane: Sure. That would be lovely.
Pamela: It would be just an excerpt.
Diane: That would be great.
Pamela: The whole thing or just an excerpt?
Diane: Just an excerpt is fine, I think.
Pamela: That way, hear my voice and okay. So Turkey Day. I was eighteen and home from college and Thanksgiving break, it was my mother’s birthday. John F. Kennedy had just been shot, and my father was being carried on at a stretcher. His arms strapped to his side, his elbows locked, his body bound in a straitjacket. Then some kind of stretcher like a furrow and a sealed his eyes, the only part of this body not restrained, they couldn’t restrain his eyes to black dots flickering the light darting wildly back and forth. They carry him out the door, and my mother follows pausing in the doorframe, to ask me, “When I watched the turkey?” And nodded, “Yes, I would watch the turkey, not TV.”
I sat on the gray kitchen linoleum project against the cupboard next to the oven and listen to the turkey hissing in the dark hot oven fat dripping like sweat from its headless body, memory of my mother is doing a flap skin over its neck cavity to keep the stuffing in. This dead turkey, this day my only companion. My mother had asked me to watch the turkey but I couldn’t see the turkey, I sat in the dark alone so alone.
There was no window for viewing. I opened the oven door and sat cross by watching the turkey. Then I turned off the oven. After a while the turkey stopped hissing. I remembered the turkey had colored in second grade each feather a different color. All this feathers spread like a peacock, a happy Turkey, not a Turkey beheaded for the oven. And then I’d be sad, so sad, my father and my mother, Jeff Kay and the turkey, turkey day.
Diane: Thank you. Thank you very much. That was beautiful. I think now that we have this very sensory image of you sitting there that hissing, the smells, the watching of course vigilance is something that happens when people are traumatized. I wondered if you, these scenes when you reimmerse yourself. You commented about how you wrote Turkey Day, more than you know two decades ago. I wonder if you feel as though you couldn’t have distilled those images until now, in terms of what they meant to you?
Pamela: Oh yes, yes, that’s true. And in fact, in 1999, when I wrote an earlier version of this. I wrote it in third person as if it didn’t happen to me. I brought it in third person, and I now of course have it in first person, at the beginning of my memoir, but in the process of writing this memoir. I tucked this new version, revised version of Turkey Day very sensory into the middle. That was in the middle.
And then I was sent a workshop with writer Danny. Danny Shapiro, and she was talking about this, it was a memoir writing workshop and she was talking about the importance of grabbing the reader’s right away, especially in a memoir. And here I had this tucked away. And that resonated with me, I bravely I came home from that workshop, and I moved it up front, right, upfront.
Diane: Which is great. Because it is, as you say, riveting Danny Shapiro is the author of Inheritance and that memoir is perhaps in its 11th printing by now. It is a chord of force as well as yours, is I think, I’m So Glad You’re Here. It opens with this riveting account, but then it also weaves in what I would call very tender and very innocent family scenes. So the reader is now being carried with these flashbacks from you and I just wondered, we store trauma, not just in our heads. And ultimately you realize that. What kind of experiences did you have from Turkey Day, from sitting and watching the turkey?
Pamela: It’s not just that sitting and watching the turkey, which is was horrific. It’s that was the childhood home that I grew up in for 18 years. So, my mother, my father’s done was put into a mental institution. And given 28 shock treatments which wasn’t right to do, but that’s what they did in 1963. Anyways so, after he had the shock treatments. My mother packed up the house and moved to Miami to Florida where my much older 12-years older sister lived at the time, she just packed everything up and left and left me in a college dorm room.
I can remember her driving away, and I was still, I didn’t realize I think I had some kind of a breakdown standing there’s some trauma, like, really hit me because I felt abandoned, and I was essentially diagnosed with PTSD of abandonment. I don’t know what it was there like if Turkey Day existed and then I don’t know if anybody still is traumatic, obviously because my mother. Why does my mother go out the door and leave me there? A childhood friends who just read this book said, she cried because she said Tammy, as I was called. I left six houses down from you.
Why didn’t your mother say, “I want you to just turn. Let’s turn the oven off and then I’m going to produce somewhere else, and I’m going to go.” But as you see at the end of the book. And this came from writing this memoir. Now, I realized how traumatized my mother must have been, that is not something she would normally do, she would have thought to get me out of the house. Why would we, nobody’s going to eat the turkey. So, the whole process is complicated, complicated.
I know, but you see the abandonment is to what I’m trying to get up. I didn’t know that I was traumatized afterwards, as I went through my life, and got busy. I went to college and I was going to go on with my life and so on, but it’s saying something now close to what you were bringing up. It was stuck in my body, literally stuck in my body. I could in my heart, in my stomach sometimes, as the years went by, it wanted that trauma wanted out. And what was different. What was not helpful was when I realized that there was something but I didn’t really even know what it was, I didn’t know what was that was stuck.
Diane: Of course.
Pamela: I was given drugs, to try to reduce the anxiety and feel I was diagnosed with PTSD of abandonment. And then, it was released. That writing helped me release to a further level writing through it.
Diane: Right. And I think that people will appreciate this, who have experienced abandonment by a parent or both, and also the parent and appreciate the pain that you were in which you leave very clean, your language is very spare, and there is a kind of dissociative quality that almost mimics what it’s like when you’re going through it. You’re carrying on in a robotic way, right?
You just carry on, and so to speak to us because you just touched on the idea of writing as a therapeutic tool, it does, writing does create a cohesive personal narrative of our lives where we can link up emotions and specific events and then, maybe, as James Bennett Bakker says, “Have the power to take control of how these emotions and events affect our lives.” Was that your experience?
Pamela: Oh yeah. Yes, definitely my experience, I’ve been around a few. What more you would want me to say there?
Diane: Well I wondered, if while you were writing for example, means, how was it for you to revisit these scenes? Did you, were you triggered emotionally? How did it work?
Pamela: Oh yes. Definitely, very often. I would get triggered and just looking at the different chapters, I mean, going and looking at the chapter going downhill and my father was dying. Finally, I think he lived to be 93 and everyone came for the funeral but before the funeral, I was there in Florida. And went to the nursing home where he was, and sat with him, and writing that was really, really triggered a lot for me because my mother wasn’t coming over that day, and when the siblings came, and it just brought up a lot then, when I was sitting with my father.
I grabbed a piece of a napkin that I have in my purse or something. And I wrote this, I’ll read just the beginning. “Maybe I write to keep from crying. I am alone. I am at my father’s side. I am filled with tears. He is breathing hard. He is wild with death. His mouth open. His teeth rotten. He’s in pain. He struggles. He stares at me out of a skeleton closet. He makes cries. His hands go up and down. How can a man so dignify, so dignified. He has scared my father.
He looks like a child’s nightmare of a scarecrow. I am alone with him. I am upset with my mother for she would not come. Is she awaits my sister’s arrival? My sister won’t be here until much later. My mother won’t leave a key or know Jesus, they’ve come a long way to see her. I wonder, how she cannot sit with my father? She’s the only one he responds to now. And why would he want to die alone? I did not understand. I can’t bear that now. And so I speak to this page. Should I ask for the feeding too? I do right, he would get feverish now my mother’s behavior is strange that she would just leave and go to lunch. Where are the doctors? I feel like throwing up, a nurse comes in touches my shoulder, tears floods at the human touch. How can I leave him? He doesn’t see me truly. He doesn’t seem like that.” Okay, so that’s what I wrote. There’s an example of me as a writer, in terms of all this, this trauma and everything surrounding it just, it helped me get through that but it also triggered it brought up everything.
Diane: We’re in the midst of it.
Pamela: I couldn’t like that.
Diane: Yes, there are accounts where you’re going very deep into the pain of it and to the reliving of that abandonment, again you’re bearing up, you’re bearing everything up alone.
Diane: And the thing that I found remarkable about you as a writer and a voice, is that you don’t harbor bitterness. You are the one that has a really intact relationship with both your mother and your father and you do reach a point of equanimity and understanding, eventually where your mother was coming from. You danced all the way around and looked at her life and her trauma, which might have been intergenerational.
Before we started Pamela, you mentioned that you were going into production for an audio book of, I’m Glad You’re Here, which just is something we would really welcome. I wondered if, why verbal expression is even more powerful, reading the work aloud and we hear it in your voice the tremor is still in your voice processing it with others, and reading it aloud. How that further enhances the overall effect of the healing effects of writing? Do you find that when you give this readings?
Pamela: Oh yes. Yes, definitely. The healing effect for me probably, has come across, and also for people listening, and maybe they would have the courage to write right through or write about, or just write about some traumatic experience. I wanted to go to what you were bringing up about the, I’m gonna say about the ending. I think I’ve done something unique here usually remark memoirs, written from one point of view, I guess is my story had this trauma and you just brought up about how I bring in other voices, that there’s some empathy there that came through writing this memoir from revising, revising.
And even with my mother, I have, I always felt close to my mother I had compassion for her and her growing up what I knew about it. This kind of, let me just I’d like to go to.
Diane: We have just a couple moments, I’d like you to stay with that thought of finding compassion, we’re going to take a commercial break and be back. But I want to address this idea of finding compassion which you did, by allowing yourself to have the perspective of other people. And what you just touched on the writing of the memoir itself. As you know, did you kind of have that when you finished the experience of sensing, like that was therapy for me to do that? Did you have that sense?
Pamela: Yeah. Yes, definitely, definitely, therapeutic my ending is called Greece, Renewal and Hope. And I liked that I was able to end like that. I mean, you might call this a relational memoir, I came across that term from Paul John Egan, that’s and a book he wrote a relational memoir, because I’m writing about myself in relation to other members of the family. I grew up in particularly in relation to my mother. Writer Carolyn Stephen and I’d like this quote from her, “Children are always episodes in someone else’s narrative.”
And I’ve got quotes throughout that to kind of guide the way and that, that’s as I wrote, I really wanted to open up my siblings were that they lived in a different time in my parents lives. I was born much, much later. And so, what about my mother, my mother felt abandoned at age five. My mother died and I won’t go into that story here but, yes, I can be. But the thing is, I can have comparatives, I have compassion for my mother, I just go with that one. I have compassion with my mother.
Diane: I think. Yes, Pamela I think you sought to understand each person in the family dynamic.
Pamela: Oh, each person, definitely. And my compassion doesn’t take away from what happened to me is like, I mean, I can understand us and I think that’s an important point to make, it didn’t, it wasn’t right, what was it just because I have compassion for my mother or my sister, you know, it doesn’t. Because I still had, I guess I’m getting at self-compassion. I agree to have self-compassion as well. Do you see what I mean?
Diane: Absolutely, and I think that to feel that self-love for what you experienced. The thing about this book, I’m So Glad You’re Here by Pamela Gay, is that it is chock a block full of nonfiction tidbits including my favorites which are the recipes, which come in, but we’re going to do is very astute. And we are going to cut to a commercial break now but when we come back, we’re going to find out how with levity, Pamela Gay. God from the funeral parlor to Flounder Florentine and how to make it? Don’t go away. We’ll be back with Pamela Gay on Dropping In.
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You are listening to Dropping In, with Diane Dewey. We’d love to hear from you if you have a question or comment about the show, send us an email to DDewey@trunordmedia.com. That’s the letter D, Dewey at T-R-U Nordmedia.com. Now, back to Dropping In.
Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Pamela Gay, author of an exciting new memoir, I’m So Glad You’re Here. And we’re so glad you’re here, Pamela. It’s so interesting and meaningful, that you shared your resolution to trauma, your experience of trauma, and without being a spoiler alert, there is actually a therapeutic resolution at the end and we’ll talk about that. EMDR Therapy, which is a sensory experience as well. Pamela has written a book that includes, I would say both lightheartedness, tenderness, depth, and everything in between.
And before we left for the break, I mentioned Flounder Florentine and also that Flounder Florentine recipe I actually am going to be using it. So great that you add a little levity and here’s what I think is so lifelike about it not just that you jump around and dip into memories and then into current, back and forth the way our minds actually work, but that you shift gears, between the very deep, and the very surface so here’s just a little passage about, again, the passing of your father, but it goes.
My father died on Friday evening, November 17th 1995. The viewing was Sunday the 19th, the funeral service Monday, the 20th, my sister and her husband and my oldest brother Doug and his wife did not come back to the house after the service to eat, and share memories, which was devastating for my mother. Then we go on, the five of us ate the Flounder Florentine that I made, following a recipe from the Moosewood restaurant, a longtime vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York.
I made an exception to my vegetarian diet, as did the most would. So there, I mean, we have a chance to giggle, we have a chance to breathe, we have to see the lightheartedness in even the grimace situation. I wonder, when you’re thinking of these saving graces, levity and humor, did you feel them at the time? Was that your experience you were observing these things? And were you kind of telling yourself inside jokes to get through it?
Pamela: In part, I think I had more fun writing it later like the way that I did, it was pretty serious, then at the end of it mother’s sitting there and then everybody didn’t gather together. So, I do. I don’t think I put this in that. No, that was another time I’m getting the scene next step. I’m going to say something about my sister, but she wasn’t there. Another time when I broke up something very serious. I did this throughout I think was it my time there that that weekend. But I captured it here. I think it’s really in the writing later that I can show readers. I think at the time I was just stuck in it really.
Diane: Right, right, it was traumatic.
Pamela: So, it makes sense. It was some kind of, yeah just and I saw my mother sitting there. It just broke my heart.
Diane: Yeah. And I think that you also gained perspective, you gained wisdom, and insight, and also perspective and some levity, about the situation also when you view it in hindsight, there is beauty in that. And I think the other part that makes this such an authentic memoir and I would urge people to read it. It’s very helpful in processing, any kind of dramatic situation and who doesn’t have one, is that you are very aware and allowing for fallibility of memory, you talk about.
I allude to this because you just mentioned, well there was a scene and my sister and I’m not sure and of course, that’s how we think, and the beauty of your memoir, is that you are generous, and you’re vulnerable you allow us to know that you thought your brothers were there when your father was taken out in the stretcher, you thought they were there but it turns out they weren’t. And this humaneness, this humaneness Pamela, it’s really, it really makes this very real.
The other thing that was startlingly intimate and authentic to me. I listened to the oral conversations with your parents, it’s on your website, Pamela/gay.com, for homecoming with your mother playing the piano and your parents singing Noelle. Through that, I really sensed your love for them, and how is it for you to hear their voices, like that?
Pamela: Oh, and I made it into an installation also and an art gallery and I put the different writings, writing really up on the wall. You could walk around the room and read them like pages, which you could then sit down and open this suit case and put on headphones, and you could hear my mother’s voice just what you’ve heard. People sat down and I, and listen to this, and they had chills they had that. I saw people weep, they had tears as I sat down and listened to it. My mother playing the piano.
My father singing Christmas carols and sending this to me on a tape. Fashion Tape. Yeah, so.
Diane: It’s incredibly beautiful. I felt like I was eavesdropping. I felt like I was in an intimate family setting and eavesdropping and your mother is playing and she’s saying, “I don’t think we got that right.” She’s a perfectionist. She wants to get it right and it’s just it’s so tender. I’m not at all surprised that people weep, or wept and I love the idea that you did it as an installation because I think you are kind of a multimedia artist.
Diane: You’re thinking in all dimensions. It reminds me very much of a Louise Bourgeois installation where she’s collected all of her mother’s Shalimar bottles the perfume.
Diane: An they went. Have you seen it? It’s incredibly tender. I think it’s the opposite of what happens when we shut down. When we are robotic when we’re disassociating because we’re going through a traumatic time, you’ve like really reconnected and teased things out some of the scenes, still feel very raw, but you have also been able to telescope back by now and showed us the perspective.
I’m going to give listeners a little bit of background, you are, as we mentioned, Pamela Gay is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award in creative nonfiction and an Independent eBook award for a Homecoming, which combined text, image, and sound. It’s an installation based on this memoir and sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and an included artifacts as you mentioned, the suitcase.
Gay’s writing has been published in Brevity, Iowa Review, Patterson Literary Review Midway Journal, Monkeybicycle, Grey Sparrow, Vestal Review, and other literary journals. She lives in Upstate New York and we’re broadcasting actually from the Hudson Valley, your memoir, I’m So Glad You’re Here, is now out. And I wondered Pamela, since you’ve done this and now have afforded yourself the time to investigate. Will there be other memoirs, or is there other material you’d like to study or share?
Pamela: I’ve avoid. I don’t think so. I’ve just sent out a collection of very short flat splash pros of flash pros with some flash memoir. I’m hoping to put a chat book together about 50 pages that kind of thing. I’m interested in working with the flash more. I don’t want to do another memoir, a memoir that I know some, some people wondered about why decades later? I moved from the trauma, aged 18, and then decades later to the family funeral, I’ll call it. What happened? I divorced. What happened?
Well, I thought I would try to put that into this memoir, but it took over, because I actually ended up marrying someone who then had developed, I’m going to say, a mental illness, into the marriage. He got what we call bipolar severe bipolar disorder, which, I guess, weights and then comes out maybe in your 30s. And so it was very traumatic and I felt abandoned again. I had to leave because there’s a domestic violence. I had, we had two children, I had to get out of there, and then I only realized in through writing this and thinking more about it that that was a kind of abandonment because I had plans we had our family.
This is 10 years into the marriage, and I had to do that so I didn’t want to include it here because I tried to. I wrote 50 pages or more, but it took over this memoir, and it’s not one I would want to write. Because I have adult children now, and I didn’t. It’s just too painful to go into, but it’s interesting because my mother didn’t know my father that mental illness ran in my father’s family and she learned that six months into the marriage when she was pregnant. My sister, but I didn’t know this until 10 years, and two children into the marriage and it was a different kind of mental illness, my father within there was no domestic abuse. To answer your question, I don’t want to write that, I don’t I need to. Look where I am at the end of this with grief, renewal, and hope. I don’t want to go back to that thought and trauma.
Diane: I understand. I totally understand. And I also believe that you’ve gone into flash memoir flash writing just explain to listeners, the brevity and also if I may insert here. This compact memoir, I’m So Glad You’re Here is a dream come true to read because it’s approximately 150 pages, it ends with the letter from your mother explaining how she learned of your father’s mental illness six months into the marriage and how she was disappointed in herself for throwing things for getting angry.
But, so here you have a very tight memoir that is the sink and as you say stays on message on point to deviate from that it’s something else, but what is for listeners and, when you were talking about your publications. So these are the top journals brevity, these flash fiction journals, these are the top in the literary world. Define it for us, what that genre is?
Pamela: It’s a flash fiction and flash pros used to be called “short, short story,” like Hemingway wrote. He wrote a flash pros, but it was called the short, short story then in fact, he named that. The one I’m thinking of a very short story. So I taught flash fiction flash memoir and I’ve limited the word count to 750 words and that’s pretty standard. And what I really like about it, I think, I’m a photographer, too. So, I’m trying to micro fiction that’s another main that comes up for the short ones because of the feeling of immediacy and intimacy, and I like to move in and on a scene to zoom in like a photographer, but going where a photographer can’t go. See what I mean?
So I can, in the 750 words, I can really zoom in and bring you there, and it’s actually a story that takes no talent, of course, we work together like that every single word matters, whereas in a 300 page novel, you can get away with some runaway whatever.
Diane: Fluff, runaway fluff.
Pamela: But everything, right?
Diane: Yeah, I love it. It’s like fluff, but I love the snapshot idea. I love the zooming in, very tight and moving back out again. And also, look, we’re in a situation now where our time is very compressed, it’s very strange times to be able to read something that moves you. Like this memoir moves me, I’m So Glad You’re Here. It’s a real contribution because it’s understanding of our situation and our attention spans and our ability to, you know, it’s more our lives are much more episodic.
I’m not even sure it’s just children who are episodes in someone else’s narrative, you know, we’re all episodic. And, so now we’ve got you, with the themes, zooming in and zooming out. You had the exploration of the wounds that we carry, growing up in fractured families. And can you just, we have a couple minutes before the break, but many people experience intergenerational trauma, I guess, but I’m asking you. Is something that we can actually start to heal from if it’s still recurring in some way? Or how does it finally get exercised?
Pamela: I’m glad that you brought this up. I remember meeting some people in my yoga class, two people really wanted to read the book because they said they were around their aging parents with siblings and everything. Their siblings were acting like this, this happened and they didn’t want, and that person just didn’t resolve this, and somebody else came over and they started telling these stories, and they didn’t. They were so glad to hear that there would be a book about that brought this out in the open because you just stopped it like, kind of like, well that’s the way my sister is.
And it’s important to process this somehow and move on and I think maybe we don’t like to tell other people or even ourselves, like what have I just got over. I’m doing this for now, but we really all need to try to process in some way, for one of the better word, process. For me it would be writing but I thought this was a good book also for sibling relationships. Because there are a lot of problems there with, with many siblings, and they felt the process.
Diane: You’re not kidding. I mean I was an only child, and there were a couple of times where I thought to myself, well this is one of the few occasions. I’ve been very glad to be an only child. We are going to cut. We are going to get to a break but I do want to leave us with this idea of, we’re going to find a certain sense of processing. I think processing is precisely the right word because even when you’re telling a story verbally, you’re getting it into the prefrontal cortex, you’re getting it into language, you’re shifting it over to the left brain, and even more so with words, some of the paradoxes in this in this book, I’m So Glad You’re Here are so profound. And one of them that we’re going to delve into when we come back from the break, is how your father Pamela preferred daughters? Something I found so intriguing, preferred his daughters over his two sons, and we’re going to take a look at that very curious and not all, not typical situation. When we come back on Dropping In, with Pamela Gay.
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You are listening to Dropping In, with Diane Dewey. We’d love to hear from you if you have a question or comment about the show, send us an email to DDewey@trunordmedia.com. That’s the letter D, Dewey at T-R-U Nordmedia.com. Now back to Dropping In.
Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Pamela Gay, having a very interesting and insightful conversation. Concerning around her new memoir, I’m So Glad You’re Here. And I think the title captures something that you mentioned during the break, Pamela is, it’s Invitational. I’m so glad you’re here. Well, I’m so glad you’re here. You know, I think even going into the story, as you were mentioning, it’s Invitational because you’re sharing yourself, you’re making yourself vulnerable in the book, you’re showing the underside of family dynamics.
Not everybody wants to go there. But look, all of us experienced some tensions, and by sharing, it lifts all boats, right? It’s a tie that comes in that lives all boats. You’ve had that experience, right, of hearing that from people. What kinds of things do you hear?
Pamela: I thought that they couldn’t put it, that they just read the book right on through they couldn’t put it down. I’m hearing that they, such as the lake, they just felt drawn right in all the way through. And so the page turning, I’m hearing that.
Diane: It’s wonderful.
Pamela: But so much more, and I would encourage listeners to go to my website, Pamelagay.com as I have there some reviews, perfect reviews and comments by other people. And then on Amazon. There are a lot of good reviews so you get different responses, but everybody seems engaged and likes the form. And I think that fits in with what you were talking about, especially today. I just wanted to say something about the title, I’m So Glad You’re Here. I originally called this, The Family Funeral or something like that.
Diane: Sorry. It’s not invitational, it’s not as inviting.
Pamela: No. And, but that’s how about another earlier workshop. I made it a short story, and I’m going back to my voices, a short story was in third person, and I called myself Veronica and I wrote the weekend of the funeral. But I see, but that was protective that I had to go through that. Before I could use I, and then a writer friend of mine, read that and if somebody think and she said, “Pamela, I like that…” But if you’ve got, if you go first person. You’re going to find this opens up really opens up, and I bravely did that.
So, I’m talking about the stages, I just couldn’t. And then also in that workshop, when people went on. Everybody read it was third person everyday stuff this is really well written. They liked it and everything, and they said that they turned to me in the workshops, “But we hate her sister, we really hate her really.” Blah, blah, blah. And I thought, well. Oh my god. Something’s really wrong here, and I didn’t want it to work like that.
And you can see what I’ve done with that, even opening up that sister because I love. Rebecca Solnit I quote her, and I like this quote. Really there are so many stories. So many stories, okay, I’m telling my story, but I wonder I can open up a little bit see my sister’s story a little, not that everybody has a story. We don’t live in a world right now of much compassion. I hope I bring that in the audience, especially for the end.
Diane: I think that you do and I think that the way in which it’s not slobbery compassion, like, “Oh I feel free for you, I feel your pain.” It’s exactly, it’s exactly the same, it’s this concise, I want to know their story. I want to know that person story. I want to take the time to hear their story, and I really I just applaud that because I do agree with you that it’s in short supply. Now, we think we have to be lavishing some sort of smothering words, but it’s really about.
No, I’m just going to go to that person’s history, that person’s perspective where they were in that point in space in time. Your father we were mentioning him, what a beloved character, he was. And he somehow, and because you mentioned this book is about family dynamics, I’m So Glad You’re Here. And the family dynamic of him, focusing on you girls, and you in particular Pamela it seemed to me we’re felt kindred spirits, the garden that he planted as your wish in the shape of heart with the colors you wanted, I mean, just so endearing. How did that come about? Usually men, like my sons.
Pamela: Yeah, yeah. Well, my mother told me that my father paid more attention to me than any of the other children. But I came along much later, my siblings went through what were born before World War Two the Great Depression, my parents experienced. I was born after World War Two, so much later I was almost raised like an only child. My father did read to me he paid a lot of attention to me and there wasn’t fighting like my siblings must have experience.
My mother just kind of gave up, it was eerily quiet, but I personally attached to my mother. I used them, use them you know like the word umbilical cord was like attached by an invisible umbilical cord or something. She would be sewing, but she was present. She was present, but sort of absent, present I suppose because she was, it was hard for her all she went through.
Diane: It makes perfect sense, and the sense of quietude, which I carry with me as an only child in the sense of solitude and solid solitaryness it does come through in your voice. And I appreciate so much that you peel back the layers of yourself, to go into the first person become brave and really understand how you fit into this microcosm this family. At a certain point and this I want to give this spoiler alert to readers. It’s not just that the book is a page turner and is greatly engrossing and engaging.
It’s that there is at the end, if we’re absorbing trauma as you say, you know what it feels like, your heart is racing. Your stomach is turning, your head is hot, your ears might be coming, I mean, things are your palms are sweaty. So naturally, you’re going to end up having some kind of physical or physiological remedy for trauma and in the end, it seems like you felt relieved to learn of your diagnosis of abandonment and PTSD. And then what happened from there? How did you resolve it?
Pamela: Well, I did have in a 20. I think I had the same. I haven’t think I have 28 EMDR, meetings, whenever I got to talk about it. But it wasn’t talk therapy, I just, it was the EMDR those deep and makes you feel it and it was very hard the first few sessions. But I gradually got more release partway through when I was getting those treatments. I decided to go to a movie just by myself one night something about Spotless Mind, I can’t remember the beginning with the title.
Diane: The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey, one of my favorites.
Pamela: I know, but I then just part of the synopsis and I just thought, that’ll be good for tonight and I didn’t read the whole synopsis unfortunately, so I went there. And then it shows that how to forget someone in the relationship you’ve been in and the relationships over. And then they put like the electrodes over the guy’s head like this, and that’s what I saw my father’s head for shock treatment that’s what they do. And I would, I couldn’t move. I was alone in the theater. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t, I got triggered, and it was awful. I don’t know how I found they got out of there.
I did and I brought it up to the therapist afterwards we went into EMDR and three EMDR she said, “You got triggered, but once you go through this, the rest of the EMDR sessions, what’s going to happen is that you are not going to get triggered, you could tell the story.” I’m telling you the story now not triggered.
Pamela: Because you process them without word processes it, and that’s what this will do for you. And it did, it was so relieving. I didn’t want that to happen again and again, it was keep coming up, you know, abandonment in relationships and everything. It’s abandonment even with a husband, I had to leave, I still felt our family was, I had currently do something different. So, then it kept coming up but that relieved me. And then you know writing.
Diane: The writing of it as we talked about, yes the therapy of it and Pamela.
Pamela: Grief, renewal, and hope is the last chapter on, and I bring up I’m so glad you hear my mother’s voice. But what am I? What can I do now? Look back, and then I answer my question that I raised for myself. I look back at the past with forgiveness and compassion, including self-compassion. That’s a really good mindset.
Diane: It’s also, it’s momentous and we just have a couple of minutes left of our show.
Pamela: Can I put a plug in for my mother Vermont Indian Pudding, the other recipe?
Diane: That is a wonderful recipe with molasses.
Pamela: You must make that. Oh my god.
Diane: It’s a marathon, it takes like five hours. It’s probably takes longer than reading the book when you’re really compelled like I was. EMDR, for those who don’t know is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. And it works on PTSD, anxiety, depression, addictions, and more. And it is a conversation between the left and right hemisphere, I just, we have a couple of minutes until the close. I wondered if now, you describe yourself. And this can be a yes or no. But were you described yourself as still life frozen at times in the book? And because you were experiencing things you couldn’t process that’s the definition of trauma that which can’t be processed. If you were a painting now, would you be a still life any longer?
Pamela: If I were a painting now?
Diane: Yes. Still Life is a painting, so are you still life or more in motion and frozen?
Pamela: I think more in motion now. Yeah.
Diane: That’s good. Okay. We’ve been speaking with Pamela Gay, that makes it all worthwhile, that your emotion your sawing that’s wonderful. What a pleasure it’s been, you can find her on Pamela/gay.com. Instagram, inner Hebrides, and Facebook. Thank you so much Pamela Gay for making time for us. Thank you all for listening and until next week, be safe, everyone. Be aware, and do your healing do your sharing and read Pamela’s book, I’m So Glad You’re Here.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8am Pacific Time, and 11am Eastern Time, on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.