Two years ago I signed up for an online memoir writing class with Nancy Aronie. Nancy gave us a prompt, then fifteen minutes to write. Because there were over a hundred participants, she split us into smaller zoom rooms and encouraged us to read our stories aloud to one another. I was put in Room #2. Six people who had never met before, each of us zooming in from six different parts of the country.
When it was my turn to read, I felt overwhelming fear and a sense of shame about my writing piece. Who am I kidding?, I thought, I’m no writer. I am not special. Why would anyone care about my little story?
But I was there, I had committed, and I’m a “good” student, so there was no going back.
I lifted my paper and read:
“Coffee,” she says. “Of course, coffee.” I say. . Little did I know then that these would be the first two lines of my memoir. . When Nancy’s workshop ended, one of the women in Room #2 suggested the six of us meet again the next week on our own. We all agreed. I volunteered to host the zoom. We met the next Tuesday, same time, the Tuesday that followed, and over a hundred Tuesdays since. . I spent decades thinking my story didn’t matter enough to share it. “Forget the story!” I even taught my yoga students, “It’s not what happened to you, but how you choose to rise above it!” I insisted. . But I was wrong. So very wrong. . Re-visiting memories and writing has been healing. The many drafts of edits have been healing too. Working with my amazing publisher and project manager, even more so. . But the most transformative part of the past two years has been sitting as six beautiful strangers in zoom Room #2, sharing aloud, in our own voices, and listening to one another’s stories with our whole souls. In every one of their stories, I find pieces of my own. And not feeling alone in our stories is what heals us.
As beautiful as life is, it is equally heart-shattering.
None of us go unscathed. Sometimes our entire life is tossed into the air like confetti. Sometimes our only choice is to see how the pieces scatter and fall to the floor (often in slow motion) to be collected and collaged into some new version of self— made from old bits of paper and new tape.
Sharing our pain points can be a powerful and uplifting tool for connection. Our most vulnerable experiences may contain the nectar someone else needs for healing their own. What parts of your story have you been hiding? What would happen if you bravely shared those parts?
My mantra for 2023: Tell your story, don’t dwell in it.
PS- I'll be sharing snippets of my forthcoming book: A Smoke and a Song (August 2023, She Writes Press) on my socials and here on my blog in the months to come. I appreciate your support and love. It is all very scary, but I'm here for it!