The Memory Project

I write about my past in order to rebuild my present. I dredge my brain for what scraps remain, until I have enough pieces that something coherent emerges. When it does, I seize it in words like an lepidopterist pinning a recent capture to a cardboard tag, where it flutters briefly and then dies. Where it can then be studied.

—”The Window Bangs

One of the things I use this blog for is piecing together memories into a more coherent picture and narrative than previous ones I have been able to retain, even as many of the events themselves were occurring. You are welcome to follow along with me.

Dates reflect the key time period discussed in the piece, rather than the publication date (in some cases, the two are one). Most of the posts below are prose; a few are poems.

I have tried to mark all trigger warnings as appropriate.


Childhood thru College: The Stage Is Set

The force that through dark tides draws an ocean (before my time): Family traditions of violence and silence began long before I was born.

NSFW Mad Libs (age 11): Sometimes kids can be real jerks. Especially when you’re the outsider.

Bodies Are a Car Door (adolescence): Puberty sucks for everybody.

Of Mice and Menswear (high school): My father struggles to be parent to a girlchild.

King of Pentacles (high school): My parents go through a rough patch.

Is this too a rape story. (May 1989): Sometimes, entire lives are made and unmade in the decision of a single moment. This is one such moment. [TW]

The Window Bangs (May 1989 – present): Fuller context for the events described in “Is this too a rape story” and their ripple effects over time. [TW]

Rising with Her Red Hair (Aug 1989): The summer of 1989 ends with my father screaming at me for hours. [TW]

Into Marriage, Into Divorce: The Die Is Cast

Where The Girls Were (young adult): Revisiting memories from my (sorta) baby-dyke days.

Mental health professionals: Misunderstanding self-injury since 1991 (early 2000s): I review my history with therapists, centering on the individual I worked with for several years in my early 30s. [TW]

The Taste of Ice (May 2002): I come close to finding a permanent solution to a temporary problem. [TW]

Confessions (2000-2010): I meet my soon-to-be husband while on a leave of absence from graduate school, where I have been studying memoir.

Emily Post must have skipped that chapter (~2009-10): By the end, my marriage really sucked. [TW]

Safe Words (New Year’s night, Dec 31, 2010-Jan 1, 2011): The ex and I reach an irrevocable end. [TW]

Not Vanilla as in Ice Cream (post-divorce): I continue thinking through the dynamics of what my relationship became.

2012 – 2013: Hitting Bottom

October 7, 2012 (Oct 2012): I come to the end of myself and start the long journey back. [TW]

A Horse’s Pastry Chef (Dec 2012-present): Returning to life involves baking—a lot of baking. And sometimes pastry cream.

In which Dr. Asshat misdiagnoses the queer chick. (July 2013): I visit a new shrink. It does not go well.

and the body endures… (Nov 2013): I mark the end of my last long-term dissociation with a new piercing.

In Which I Talk Shamelessly about Masturbation and about masturbation and other words I am forbidden to say (Winter 2013-14): I explore—once in prose and once in verse—the strange aftereffects of my prolonged exposure to sexual coercion and violence . [TW]

2014: Making Sense

The heart I hold tightly within my chest, tightly holds me back. (March 2014): I give myself permission to start writing again.

Dear Uncle R. (Spring 2014): I explain my perspective on marriage equality to my Christian uncle.

My mind is filled with voices. (April 2014): I begin putting my abusive marriage into the context of longstanding family patterns. [TW]

Face and Scar (April 30, 2014): The events of my 18th summer continue to have ramifications. First, the story I needed to tell myself about this night. Then, almost nine months later, a fuller account of how this evening actually ended. [TW]

Diagnosis (June 2014): I identify something important. I keep it to myself.

2014: Visits and Insights

So that happened./”Reconciliation” (Aug 2014): My father and I work to rebuild our relationship on a new footing.

American Family Gothic (Sept 2014): I learn something from my mother I wish I didn’t know.

We Have Nothing to Fear But Love Itself (Aug – Sept, 2014): Separate visits from each of my parents shed new light on my childhood. [TW]

Regarding Mothers (Sept 2014): My mother and I discuss a letter she wrote me the previous summer.

BEST. BIRTHDAY. PARTY. EVER. (Oct 5, 2014): I start a new tradition.

Red Dresses (Nov 2014): While on a healing visit with a dear friend, I contemplate the significance of writing/making art.

Rethinking Pie (Thanksgiving 2014): I reflect on what has changed, and what endures, in my relationship with my mother since the events of October 2012.

2014: A Retrospective (New Year’s Eve, 2014): I finish out the year in a much better state than I was in a year before.

2015: Letting Go

Our Last Conversation (March 2015): I write a pensive final letter to the ex: “Because you no longer matter in my life. And I still do.”

Curiouser and Curiouser (March 2015): I get a head cold—and realize I finally feel well.

Portrait of the Statue as a Young Girl (June 2015): I look back over the lessons of my childhood as an act of unlearning them.

I Had No Idea (Aug 2015): In the midst of a terribly stressful time, I realize something wonderful.

Reparations/Reclamations (Oct 2015): I decide to sell my wedding ring.

2016: Finding Peace

This marble column, gleaming (Jan 2016): I continue working through my diagnosis of Depersonalization Disorder (DPD).

Palimpsest (Apr 2016): In the aftermath of self-injury, I work on making peace with my scarred body.

Deconstruction of the Poet as a Young Stenographer (Apr 2016): The rediscovery of an old piece of writing prompts me to reflect on the role of art and the incremental nature of healing from trauma.

Body Lessons (Genealogy of an Orgasm) (May 2016): I revisit the question of what made masturbation so frightening in the first months and years after my divorce. [TW] (published at The Manifest-Station)

Fcuk Pretty (June 2016): I confront a family legacy of body-shaming and find a new way to see myself, along the way.

The Autobiography of E. Alice Isak (July 2016): I contemplate the meaning of “voice”—and how giving and receiving love brings forth our very best selves.

Recovery Is A Staircase (Aug 2016): I take another giant step forward.

Home Improvement Project (Sept 2016): My latest round of inner-demon-battling finally winds down.

Cold Hands (Nov 2016): I work on being appreciative of even small signs of improvement.


Within Every New Beginning Lies an Ending (Jan 2017): And that’s a wrap.


Love Letter, Unsent and A Father’s Daughter’s Hand Firmly Grips the Pen (Feb 2017): Goodbye, mom and dad.

# # #

Hi, and welcome to the bottom of the page!

I’d like to invite you, if you feel so inclined, to leave me a note in the comments below—or to drop me a short email—and say hello. Please feel free to invite me to visit your home-on-the-web too, if you’ve written something you’d like to share.

I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,


Facebook: E Alice Isak

Twitter: @alicesfolly

Email: coffeeandablankpage (at) gmail

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