Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.” ~ Brene Brown
Owning My Story: A Memoir Moment
In the eighteen years I have been working on memoir, I can attest to the fact that, if done right, it can be terrifying. By done right, I mean a commitment to the raw, ugly truth that would much rather stay burrowed in the recesses of my psyche—the poor choices, the lack of insight, the denial that kept me from dealing with an abusive husband or an addicted child in a healthy, life-affirming way.
It would be much easier to skim the surface of my memories rather than face the hard realities of my flaws and vulnerabilities.
And our memories are distorted by the passage of time. Memoirist Mary Karr referred to it as a commitment to the “essence of the truth”.
But, as memoir writers, we have a contract with our readers to present the truth to the best of our abilities with candidness, honesty and depth. The specific details of an event may not matter as much as how that event impacted you.
In order to move forward with my current work-in-progress memoir, On the Edge of Hope: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Son’s Addiction, I have to own my story which includes my part in his addiction. I have to be willing to face the ugly parts of my truth and keep digging deeper by taking the reader along with me as I process–and try to make sense of– the challenges.
Those cringeable moments when I stood by wringing my hands rather than taking action:
Why didn’t I act sooner? Why couldn’t I control my son? Why did I keep hoping it would get better when all evidence pointed to it not?
Like this scene from On the Edge of Hope:
One day, I met him in front of the Amana stove as he staggered into the kitchen. I looked into his eyes and knew he was far away where I couldn’t reach him. He was slipping away right in front of me. I grieved the loss of that sensitive, caring little guy who stood up for his friends who were bullied; the one who held so much promise for making a positive difference in the world.
“Where are you Brian and how can I get you back?” I cried, terrified and helpless as I grabbed his slumped shoulders and shook him. He looked beyond me, hollowed-eyed, and didn’t answer, then turned away and went to his bedroom.
I leaned on the stove and sobbed as he lumbered up the stairs.
There were many helpless, hopeless moments when I wished I had taken action sooner. But that’s part of the story I have to own. The messy, uncomfortable part. The part I’d rather not admit but know I must in order to move on toward that “brave new ending”.
Once again Brene Brown sums it up in this quote:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
By owning my story, I have the chance to rewrite the ending. In shedding a light on my own story, perhaps others can find their own light amid the darkness of addiction. I hope so.
How about you? Have you owned your story? If so, what have you done to make that happen? Do you have any tips to share?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
“A Time of Love and Fear, Book 5 in Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series by Alice Orr”
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Janice is the author of Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance.
October, 2017 Newsletter: Monthly Updates, Memoir Musings, Max Moments:
“Wrapping Up Harvest Time”
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