Anything but Oatmeal (New Essay Published!)

I’m delighted to have an essay in the debut issue of Lunch Ticket, the new literary journal of the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA program.

It’s actually an essay I wrote several years ago (how strange, like an artifact, to return to work from so long ago!) I sat on it for years. The essay centers on the relationship I have with my father – or one moment of that relationship.

Joan Didion once said, “writers are always selling somebody out.”

That’s a hard concept to wrestle with – or to admit. Is it true?

When I write fiction, I don’t have to worry too much about other people’s feelings; I imagine new characters. With nonfiction, I have tended to talk mainly about myself – tell my story, so as not to involve those who may not want to appear on the page.

The problem, of course, is that my story is very much tied up with other people. Our connections matter. To me, relationships are what make life.

So how do I tell my story without ever talking about the people who help shape it?

When I lived in New York, I used to write in a claustrophobic closet in my dad’s apartment. It was packed high with boxes: dark, windowless. It was actually quite a productive space for me – something about its cramped, unappealing nature made me focus intensely on the work.

When I left for Paris in my romantic flurry, I left reams of paper behind – unfinished drafts, scribbles, experiments. While cleaning out the closet one day, my dad must have found this essay. It was four years after the fact but it prompted one of the best conversations we’ve ever had. “I don’t know when you wrote that,” he said, “but I think our relationship started getting better after that.”

I think he’s right. I think just the act of writing helped me in some way, made me change, even subconsciously, my behavior. And then, even better, the act of sharing it (even if accidentally!) opened new pathways to communication.

But to share it more widely?

I’m not sure if writers need to ask permission. This is what we do. Write. But for me, I knew I had to ask my dad if he felt comfortable with me seeking publication for it. I’m a sensitive person and I try to be sensitive to others, too. He said even though he’s a private person that I should share it. My writing was for the world.

And this is another one of those gifts for which I am grateful. My parents support my efforts. I have never felt pressure from them to live up to any sort of preordained expectations. My path has been quite nonlinear so far; I have not made the most conventional choices. But if I’m seeking with truth, that’s all that seems to matter to them.

Write what you must, they both said. Go forth with our blessing.

Not everyone is so lucky, I know.

I hope in some way I capture what I believe: we are all flawed and beautiful. Imperfect and amazing.

Thanks for reading, this essay and always.

19 Responses to “Anything but Oatmeal (New Essay Published!)”

  1. 1 S June 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    such a beautiful essay Sion, I was truly moved, and your dad is right — he should be proud 🙂
    xx S


  2. 3 Foreign Tongues and Chocolate Tarts June 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    You grew up in Morningside Heights, too?!?
    Great essay!


  3. 5 Mem June 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story, it is heart-wrenchingly good. Continued success with your writing, and with your relationship…


  4. 7 twocherubsantiques June 18, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I thought this was so excellent. Thank you for sharing. It felt like the beginning of a book. I wanted to know the characters and what happens next.


    • 8 paris (im)perfect June 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Wow, thank you. It felt vulnerable to share it and I’m so glad it’s connecting with people. Much has happened since and I think it may come out in another form someday. Always happy to hear I might have the beginnings of a book! 😉


  5. 9 Amy Kortuem June 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Beautiful, Sion. It made me tear up a little bit. I thought a lot about my relationship with my own Dad this weekend and wanted to write about him on my blog, but I know he wouldn’t want me to. So I wrote everything in my head and made him strawberry shortcake and got him a funny animated card and hugged him instead.

    Maybe I’ll put it down in words someday.

    Thanks for sharing this and congrats on another publication.


    • 10 paris (im)perfect June 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      Thanks so much, Amy. Yes, it was interesting timing that this essay finally came out on Father’s Day weekend. I’ve had a complicated relationship with my father, but it has gotten so much better over the past several years. I was shocked at how healing it was to actually get some of this down on paper – and to talk directly with him about it (which I hadn’t thought would happen. There’s a reason it stayed buried under so much paper!)

      One way I know we have come leaps and bounds is that when I asked him if he felt comfortable if I tried to publish it he said maybe not comfortable, but if it helped with my literary life, I should. He supports and wants me to follow what I love. That felt so important to me and seemed very brave of him, too.

      It’s incredible how relationships evolve. To the point where we can travel together (remember my post on Prague?) and have a grand old time, laughing the whole time.

      Write your thoughts down on paper, Amy, not just in your head. You never know where the act of writing will lead you.


  6. 12 Lisa | LLWorldTour June 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Wonderful writing Sion. Made me very pensive about the similarly distant relationship, I’ve had with my dad. Recently, he too said he was proud of me. It was the 1st time I could remember. The tears wouldn’t stop. It didn’t turn us into that father/daughter duo I’d always dreamed of…but it was huge. Thanks for putting this out there. I can’t wait to read your book.


    • 13 paris (im)perfect June 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      What a huge moment, Lisa. Relationships are so complex and ever-evolving. Things don’t change overnight but it’s amazing to track these steps and see how far we’ve come. In my own case I can say I am lucky in that I always knew my father was proud of me. Our distance was for other reasons; it’s just that so much has always been left unsaid. It’s interesting to finally start talking and saying some of those things. I hope this is just one step for you and your father. And of course, he should be SO proud of you. You’re amazing!


  7. 14 Jennyphoria June 19, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Wonderful, wonderful essay, Sion. So honest and so well-written. Thank you for sharing. xx


  8. 16 Terri June 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

    What a beautiful essay! Kudos to your father for encouraging you to claim your voice. My mother, some years ago, offered the same. I’m thrilled to have finally begun finding writing blogs of a more literary ilk.


    • 17 paris (im)perfect June 19, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Thanks so much, Terri. Yes, that’s probably the biggest moment in our relationship yet – that my dad encouraged me to send this out. I would say I did believe in my voice, but my concern was also larger – how does it affect others? Must everything be for the public realm? What is sacred in a relationship? My friend Patrick Ross has a great discussion about all this over on his blog: (Yes, I stole that Didion quote from him, but come on, it’s classic!) You might like his blog, too, as it focuses on creativity and following an arts-committed life. Thanks so much for stopping by!


  9. 18 Sassy June 23, 2012 at 3:15 am

    Your essay resonated with me. I have been estranged from my father for years, and have no desire to rekindle the relationship. With the passing of time, one does begin to see situations and individuals in a different light. It’s freeing to be able to let go of some of the anger from one’s youth.


    • 19 paris (im)perfect June 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      I’m glad it resonated with you, Sassy. I’m sorry to hear about your estrangement from your father. You’re totally right – it is freeing to be able to let go of anger. Thanks so much for reading and visiting here.


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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