Yesterday was a big day because Sue Monk Kidd publicly told every woman who ever second-guesses her story’s worth to get over it and embrace our SELVES. I was like, “Hell to the yeah, Sue! Sing it, girl!”
For context (and because I cannot say it any better than Sue), here’s exactly what she said:
“For the woman I overheard say she wants to write a memoir, but can’t help feeling it’s self-indulgent…
May I go on record here. Writing memoir is gloriously self-indulgent and I’m perfectly okay with that. Women have been told so many times to be selfless that it can actually feel uncomfortable when we attempt to search for one.
When I write memoir, I’m undoubtedly in search of wholeness. Maybe I’m trying to resolve something, heal a wound, redeem some part of myself that has been orphaned or lost, or give a voice to what has been silenced. Maybe I’m trying to step into my truth. Maybe I’m trying to reveal myself to myself.
But here’s something I didn’t expect. Writing memoir can also be gloriously other-indulgent. The process not only takes me into myself, it frees me from myself. When I manage to distill my experience into meaning and integrate that meaning into my life through the creation of a narrative, I make it possible to move on without all the preoccupation and unconscious pull of the experience. It’s the unexamined experience that wreaks the most havoc in my life and in my relationships.
The surprise is always this. The deeper we delve into our own lives, the more likely we are to tap into a universal experience. We find the portal to everyone.”
I think it’s safe to say none of us ever want to be seen as self-indulgent, selfish, or self-righteous. But in our effort to avoid those things, those “character flaws,” we are keeping parts of our SELVES hidden! And because it’s socially expected to remain partially hidden, to keep our vulnerable and less perfect parts in the shadows, we remain shut off from each other.
Because I share so much about me and my life experiences and my own insights, it’s very uncomfortable publishing these essays, let alone taking the leap to write a memoir, because I’m afraid of what others might think. But there’s a drive in me, a calling to reach through to others so I muster the courage to publish. I feel all of it, but especially those last lines in Sue’s message in my soul: “The deeper we delve into our own lives, the more likely we are to tap into a universal experience. We find the portal to everyone.” As humans, we have an inseverable connection to each other. And we connect through story. We don’t connect through charts and rules. We connect through our shared experiences. Even when the experiences aren’t identical, people draw their own connections to similar situations and emotions. Stories foster empathy and connection. I actually think it was Sue who once wrote, humans need stories like we need air.
So after that long setup, today I am grateful for my audience (and for Sue Monk Kidd). 😉 Without an audience, there is no sharing these universal experiences. Without an audience, there’s a portal to no one. If a writer shares a story and no one reads it, is it a story? 🤔 I’m grateful for every person who reads my essays. I’m grateful for every person who reads my stories and remains silent and doesn’t tear me apart. I’m grateful for every person who gently argues with me regarding something I wrote. I’m grateful for every person who reaches out and says, “I felt that,” or “You put into words what I have been feeling but never knew how to articulate. You gave my experience a voice.” And my favorite, I’m grateful for the readers whose eyes and ears are opened to a different perspective. Seeing something through a new lens, under a different light is empowering. I am grateful for you, the person reading this right now.