“Be brave enough to break your own heart.”
As my friend and fellow writer, Beth Gilstrap wrote poignantly in her guest post last week, when Cheryl Strayed, at the AWP Writer’s Conference, read aloud a letter to her younger self, we wept. In one moment, Strayed took an auditorium of strangers and bonded us together for a moment of recognition, of empathy, maybe even (if we allowed it) revelation.
This was also how I felt when reading her memoir, wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I cannot do this book any more justice than the beautiful reviews already written about it, but I can tell you that this is one of those books that will make you cry, will break your heart, and will make you love (hopefully yourself) a little more.
As a reader, this is my favorite review of the book: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/28/books/wild-by-cheryl-strayed-a-walkabout-of-reinvention.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
As a writer, I love how this review shows what makes wild so effective from a craft perspective: http://billanddavescocktailhour.com/bad-advice-wednesday-what-i-learned-from-wild-guest-post-by-richard-gilbert/
As you can guess, this upcoming move to Africa has me in daily panic mode, wondering if I will get everything done in the remaining eleven weeks before we board that plane. Today I was frantic. Kurt emailed that the company needed copies of our passports immediately to get the VISAs going. I knew where Kurt’s was, but I didn’t put mine back in the “Important Documents” folder after returning from Vietnam last May.
I finally found it buried under some clothes in the bedroom (because that makes the most sense?) but in the process of searching, stumbled across a long-forgotten document given to me by Mom. It’s not exactly a will, per se, but a simple list of policies and contact information. She gave it to me (to each of her children, I think) only a year or two before she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died. The information is no longer relevant, but the note that accompanied it took me out of commission for the afternoon.
I’m telling you this because we always think we’re through things, until something comes up that makes us realize that healing is forever. And that’s okay. I would rather take these moments where I plummet into grief, because they remind me I’m alive, I love, I long, and I’m stronger because of it. Mom was so pragmatic (if somewhat dramatic) in leaving these little notes around. I now do the same thing for Kurt, torturing him with little morbid notes of “just-in-case” practicalities. I wonder how many more he will find someday.
“Understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again and again…”
When I read wild, it was a couple years after Mom’s death. I opened the book knowing it included Strayed writing about the death of her own mother. (Strayed was only 22 when she lost her mother.) I worried I wouldn’t make it through the book, but faced down the fear. I’m so grateful I did. But this book is about so much more than losing a parent, something we all have gone through, or will. The memoir is about so much more: discovery, courage, reinvention… The fact that the entire memoir follows her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (having little experience even hiking at all) frames the work, as the New York Times writer suggests in his review (see link above) as an epic “walkabout.”
Meeting Strayed after her beautiful reading and discussion was the highlight of the conference for me. I have loved this woman since I first read her work and taken strength from her words in both wild and her advice book, Tiny Beautiful Things.
I am so excited to give this book to one of you, and I hope you take from it all the love and beauty, heartbreak and inspiration that it gives.
HOW TO WIN THIS SIGNED COPY OF WILD BY CHERYL STRAYED:
I’m going to make this very easy to enter. Comment below on one beautiful thing about one or both of your parents (whether they are living or not). Make it uplifting, and happy. What is your one favorite memory? What quirk do you love/hate? (That morbid practicality was my love/hate.) Does a certain food, place, person or event remind you of your mother or father (in a good way)? Each person who comments is entered once into the drawing for this book. Good luck, friends!
(You’re always reading about me and my life. I’d love this little insight on you!)
Bonus entries. Donate to vida between now and next Tuesday. VIDA is a grass-roots organization which “seeks to explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women through meaningful conversation and the exchange of ideas among existing and emerging literary communities.” Donate to VIDA and you will get 3 additional entries for the book. Make sure you email me proof of your donation ( marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com ) and comment below after you’ve donated.
Deadline: Next Tuesday, 26 March, 5pm!
P. S. Above quotes are excerpts from Strayed’s book, Tiny Beautiful Things, Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. You should get this book for yourself, for someone you love, for everyone you love.