You read that out loud in class?

December 13, 2015 • Posted in careers/jobs for people who are blind, guest blog, memoir writing, Uncategorized by

That’s Regan, today’s guest blogger, peaking out of her hood at a Chicago bus stop.

It was a lucky day for me when Regan Burke turned up for one of my memoir-writing classes. A civil rights activist, Regan was a White House staffer during the Clinton presidency and has colorful – and moving – stories to tell. She files away unusual words she hears and cleverly shoehorns one or two of them into each essay – you’ll find one here in her guest post about the value of honesty in memoir-writing.

There’s a Lacuna in My Story

by Regan Burke

Sometimes I email the essays I write for my memoir classes to a good friend.

She tends to find my work imprudent and irresponsible.

”You read that aloud in class?” she’ll ask. “Yep,” I answer. “I did.”

I have a strong motivation for writing the truth. A book by Dr. Howard Schubiner called Unlearn Your Pain caught my eye a few years ago. Dr. Schubiner treats chronic pain psychologically through fearless writing, and after completing his prescribed writing exercises, I joined a memoir-writing class.

I knew assignments and deadlines would encourage me to delve further into the unfinished emotions that may be the genesis of my pain. After six months of writing, pain from my severe spinal canal stenosis disappeared completely.

That’s not the end of the story, though. I still have arthritis and fibromyalgia pain that can be mollified by narcotics or surgery. Instead, I choose bibliotherapy. Writing is my journey to a higher quality of life.

In conversations with other memoir-writers I find some of us worry we’ll run out of new stories to write. The weekly assignments help, and often the prompt brings some emotionally painful incident from my past to light. I don’t always want to write about these first thoughts consequences of my alcoholism and drug addiction, mean sisters, non-parenting mother and father and my own non-parenting. However, since I have proof that bibliotherapy works, it is essential to force myself to sit with my MacBook and coffee plunking out stories.

Some of my writing classmates have asked me how I can be so honest in front of our groups. Writers in class were once anonymous faces, but as happens in the passage of familiar time, we are now interesting companions curious to hear each others’ next 500-word installment. I have trusted them.

Don’t get me wrong. If all my short memoirs were put in chronological order, a reader of the work might wonder if something was missing. “There’s a lacuna in your story,” I can hear my friend say over coffee. “What about THE MEN?”

No matter how many weekly 500-word memoirs I turn out, there will always be holes, i.e. THE MEN. I will never be honest about the men in my life, even the dead ones. This may prolong or even deepen pain in my knee joints but there you have it. No men stories.

I considered starting my own 12-step-type memoir-writing group where we adhere to honesty and confidentiality. But if I’m not writing about THE MEN in one group, I’m not going to in another. I don’t trust my own resilience to withstand the anticipated embarrassment, shame or judgments.

The class Beth teaches is on break now but my other memoir-writing class led by Linda Miller at the Center for Life and Learning continues. Our assignment this week is to write a “big story.” Obviously my only “big story” is THE MEN. The hole goes unfilled. And as I write this, I drink coffee and ice my knees.

Darlene Schweitzer On December 13, 2015 at 9:31 am

Reagan this is a beautifully written and with a wonderful description of how Beth’s Memoir classes sincerely have a therapeutic effect on many of us who have the privilege of attending one. Thank you for sharing!

bethfinke On December 13, 2015 at 9:50 am

And thank you, Darlene, for sharing this comment. I’m the one who is privileged – I get to hear stories from you writers in class every week.

Darlene On December 14, 2015 at 9:13 am

Thank you Miss Beth! You are the best!

Regan Burke On December 13, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Oh my gosh! Thank you so much Darlene. I’m glad to meet someone who knows what a privilege it is. Here is a blog where I publish my essays. Please sign up. I need more subscribers!

Darlene Schweitzer On December 13, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Thank you!! I would love to signup for your blog. I really miss hearing your stories since I’m in another class now, so this is perfect! You are one amazing writer and tell your stories beautifully. I’m excited to know you have a blog!! Thank you!! Have a wonderful Holiday season.

Diana On December 13, 2015 at 9:39 am

I love this essay. So honest and funny.

bethfinke On December 13, 2015 at 9:44 am

Diana, your comment is a testament of how well Regan’s writing reflects her personality: she is an honest woman with a great sense of humor.


Regan Burke On December 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Thanks, Beth. I really really really love to laugh and what a compliment to know my writing makes people laugh.

Bethsclasses On December 13, 2015 at 12:09 pm

I love this story. thank you. Sharon Kramer

Regan Burke On December 13, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Sharon: thanks for the compliment. I’ll have to go look at Bethsclasses for your work. Sign on to my blog if you like:

Mel Theobald On December 13, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Whoa…double whoa!!! In reading Regan’s essay, I had to step back and take a deep breath. Then another. Her line, “Writing is my journey to a higher quality of life,” took me to another level of existence. Does anyone else believe in ‘love at first reading?’ Thank you Regan for your unfettered honesty.

Regan Burke On December 13, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Mel: what an exciting, lovely comment. I’m floored at this appreciation. Thank you so much. Sign on to my blog if you like. Let me know what you think:

Cheryl On December 13, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Regan, you’re a highlight of my Thursday mornings. My eyes often widen and my jaw may drop a little, but every 500 words you share with us are captivating. Who knows what 2016 may bring…..”lacuna”?

Regan Burke On December 13, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Cheryl: Thank you for this generous comment – and for “getting” it.

Pamela Walger On December 13, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Yes so the guy wouldn’t be punished by the Russians?

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone

bethfinke On December 13, 2015 at 10:48 pm



stacyrb On May 2, 2016 at 8:09 am

Hi Regan! I’m going to look for the book “Unlearn Your pain” Love your essays!!!! Thanks xoxox

bethfinke On May 2, 2016 at 10:27 am

Stacyrb, Thanks for commenting here, and make sure to check out Regan’s own blog

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