A year ago I started an Master in Fine Arts program in creative writing. I’d left Christian Science officially two years before. My first workshopped article was a piece I had written on all the wonderful strangers who had helped me with car trouble. The piece was meant to be inspirational and uplifting. It had a very happy ending. I did mention in the piece that my father had died and I felt lost when it came to taking care of my car because he had been a mechanic and always looked out for me in this way. I was twenty-five when he died a grisly death of untreated colon cancer under Christian Science care.
When I was having my piece workshopped the teacher asked me why I felt it was necessary to have a happy ending. He told me I was completely wrapped up in magical thinking and that I needed to dig deeper in order to have a story and not a string of anecdotes. Essentially he told me my whole life was an anecdote and not a story. I was shattered. I told him there was no point in not having a happy ending. Who would want to hear or read about things that aren’t resolved in a harmonious way?
Then he told me that although the appearance of my story was happy, it was clear to him that underneath I was suffering greatly from unresolved grief due to my father’s death. My father’s death was three decades past, which added to my shock about this teacher’s statement. It was a very uncomfortable discussion for me because I had shut Dad off after he died, always believing I had no right to mourn because my father had just ‘passed away’ and nothing had really happened to him, according to my religion. I have since written a chapter about my fathers death, and the writing was therapy for me. The guy was correct; I was—perhaps still am—a mess.
I left the session in internal chaos, realizing I had nothing to write about because I had always been taught by Christian Science that my life should be treated like a testimony at church, with the final words being: “I am so grateful for Christian Science.” Over the next few days I realized I needed to look completely differently at my past, to revisit these experiences I had shut away and put aside with Christian Science. The whole conversation was a revelation. Now I see that everything about Christian Science is anecdotal, and there is a big difference between anecdotes and stories.
My thesis has ended up being about my journey away from Christian Science, and through writing it I am discovering truths about myself, my upbringing, and the difference between what I think now and how I thought when I was a gung-ho Christian Scientist.
I don’t believe I knew just what I thought about all that until I wrote it down. Writing is therapy. It really helps