...I come to realize that writing memory, writing what we remember, is a creative act. We interpret facts about the past in order to reclaim them, make sense of them... Sue William Silverman, Fearless Confessions
I've considered this post for weeks, now. Wondering if it is worth writing, wondering if telling this truth will somehow make me less of a memoirist, less of an author. But fact is fact, and this truth isn't going to change.
Three weeks ago, an online account containing nearly 15 years of emails, text, writing, blog posts, and documents was deleted without my consent. The provider stated it was due to "inactivity," which is in part true -- I haven't sent a message from that account in perhaps years. It existed as a record of a time in my life when many things occurred and many things needed recording. As a writer, it was my virtual shelf of old journals, the place that tracked my growth from woman-child to woman to a new woman, a more whole self.
This account also contained the emails, the blog posts, the writings from the time period of my current book project, the sole repository for this information. And now, this information is gone. Unrecoverable, as the error message continually reads.
For a week after this deletion, I cried. I spent 30-45 minutes every day attempting to answer obscure security questions created by 19-year-old me, and begged anyone and everyone I know connected with the email provider to ask questions, find some answers. I tried desperately to reach a human, not just an automated system, to explain my situation, to ask them to look in server backups, to track down this data.
It had to be there, somewhere.
After a week, I stopped crying. I shut down my heart, attempting to maintain detached and calculated in my approach. I still spent time each day trying to access the data. I still asked around, but with less fervor. I let go of the panic. I let go of my personal martyrdom. I let go.
As a child, I meticulously documented my experience. Journals scratched in crayon, looping letters in scented marker, pages torn from magazines and glued into composition notebooks. Somewhere there is a box, a record of the few remaining journals that have not been burned by time and memory and the pain of the truth. But this email account was a modern journal, an electronic record of love and loss and the shattering truth that I kept hidden in those emails for years.
And now it is gone.
It has been gone. From my daily life, because the email was not in active use, it's true. But not in my memory. It is stored in file folders and boxes in my personal cognitive library. I don't need words on a screen to travel down the road of a whirlwind romance, a hasty move across the country, black eyes and bloody noses and fingers crushed under the weight of lies. I don't need an ancient blog (my very first) to show me the detritus of daily life struggling with memories too huge for one woman's heart.
In the American West, the Bureau of Reclamation was established in 1902 as a way to provide water to a region with varied, and sometimes limited, natural supply. It supported homesteading, mining, and the expansion of the US population westward. Now, the Bureau of Reclamation provides clean water and hydroelectric energy to millions through water management and regulation.
When I lived in fear, in lust, every day, I drank this water. When I romped on the beach with my abusive partner, I raced against the shifting tide of this water. When I showered with my tender lover, her skin red from the heat, I rinsed with this water.
I have the facts. They have never changed. But seeing them now, without the lens of digital breath, I can reclaim them. And from this reclamation, I can breathe new life into my weary heart. I know the truth. I know the memory. I know the story of a hundred lonely nights, of days spent racing to anticipate her words, her mood, her hand against my skin before impact. Now it is time to take it all back, the memory and the words and the truth of all this.