I was thinking of this question during my run…which is usually when I do my best thinking! What is it that makes someone a good memoir writer. Or maybe I should even go a step beyond and say a great memoir writer. I came up with one word…actually several, but I think the number one reason why someone is a good teller of their story is that they are willing to be vulnerable. You see, I have many students who come and dip their toes in the water of memoir and test it out. They see the good in the leaving your legacy part of the story, but when it comes to really looking at yourself and holding the mirror up and seeing their true reflection they run away. Vulnerability is never easy, it is something that I often struggle with. It is not easy to be the first one to say “I love you,” or “I am hurting right now, will you listen to me.” When we are vulnerable we are capable of getting wounded. When I think of being in a vulnerable position I remember back to the family cat we had named Cliff. He was a huge black furry cat with green eyes. At the time we had Cliff, my son Kent was around 5 and Kristen was 3, and Kurt was around 18 months old. Cliff was such a comfortable cat around my kids that he would lay in the middle of the family room on his back and let the kids jump back and forth over him. Now that is what I would call a vulnerable position!
But bringing back vulnerability to our writing…it means willing to let go of who you thought you should be in order to see your complete authentic self. As I look at my students who come in each week and share their stories many times I have heard them say…”Wow, I never thought I would ever tell anyone that story.” As they share and cry and open themselves to the release it is really what makes them so beautiful.
It is necessary to be vulnerable not only on the page but in real life. Most people walking around numb vulnerability, but what makes it hard is that we live in a vulnerable world. Whether it is getting called into our bosses office, or waiting for the oncology doctor to give us our report on their findings, we are vulnerable.
We cannot selectively numb. We may try to, but what happens is that when we try to numb vulnerability, grief, shame, fear and disappointment, we also numb joy, gratitude and happiness.
What happens next is that we are miserable, and then we are looking for purpose and meaning and then we feel vulnerable so we try to numb. (How do we numb? Shopping, alcohol, sex, drugs, etc). This becomes a vicious cycle because the more afraid we are, the more vulnerable, the more vulnerable, the more afraid.
If vulnerability is stopping you short from telling your story, please consider attending my workshops. You will be nurtured in a safe welcoming atmosphere. There is no better time than the present to write and leave your legacy!