“Through my identification with another girl who could write what I couldn’t begin to think, I discovered a way to break out of the socialized story into something else, something new … my own voice. I began to see how the story that gets one person through offers a map that gets more of us through. And when we reveal details that we think are excruciatingly personal, we discover the universal.”
Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story.
There is nothing like reading about another person’s journey through life to get you thinking about your own. In the last couple of months I’ve been reading memoirs as a way to nourish myself as I make my way putting my own story on paper.
I read memoir to learn how others navigate the slick, shiny surface of a frozen pond, the choppy waters of a summer storm, and the deadly tornadoes of a desperate mind. I take heart that I am not alone and that others have tasted similar sorrows and the same joys that I have. By immersing myself in another’s personal story, I discover new ways of loving my own life and being comfortable in a challenging world.
Two memoirs that I’ve recently read and that stand out for me are, Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, and Don’t Call Me Mother, A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness, by Linda Joy Myers. Both are greatly influencing me as I work my way through reams of blank paper, telling my own unique story.
These two stories are as different as night and day, but what they have in common are mothers, and individual journeys through grief and acceptance of loss, during which both authors discover themselves and their own power to give voice to who they were and have become.
In both memoirs, brutal honesty and courage rule out what could be dark, lifeless memoirs about victims of circumstance. But these are inspirational as well as universal and healing. Not all of us can take on the wilderness as Strayed did to find herself, or the stubborn revisiting of the past and family that Myers put herself through. But through them we can all find our own ways to bring our stories to life, finally living in peace and acceptance of where we’ve been.
In her story, Strayed, revisions her life and losses as she limps her way along a strenuous wilderness trail, finding wholeness in her bruised and battered body. Myer’s narrative follows her from abandonment to breaking generational patterns of abuse and becoming the mother that she always wanted to have.
Both books were impossible for me to put down and I can easily see myself reading them again as I move along my own path. For those who are interested in stories about personal growth and are written by women who found their way past major challenges, I recommend them highly.