This morning I did not have a blog in me. I've been holed up writing all week for a mini-deadline to my editor that was due on September 30. I feel like the last drop of water has been wrung out of the word washcloth of me. So I trolled through some unfinished blogs and found the start of one written at the end of August. Essentially it said exactly what I am feeling right now. Since this seems to be a theme, I've spruced it up a bit, so I have something to send out. Not just because I have promised myself to do this every week, but frankly because I need the company. Feeling vulnerable is a lonely row to hoe. Feeling vulnerable with the rest of you who are turning up the dirt of your own lives so that you, too, can keep trying to sow the seeds of joy, feels a lot more hopeful. So, as ever, thank you thank thank you for being on this journey back to joy with me. See you on the road!
Here's this morning's short-but-hopeful offering:
I've been thinking a lot about the connection between vulnerability and joy. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure." That pretty much captures my life these days. I signed up for this, but sometimes I forget that.
Allie and I have been living on the road -- well, since she came into my life in early March. 26 states and the District of Columbia she and I have been to or through together. This week was Connecticut. It is a very beautiful state -- but it's been cold and rainy. Summer is finally over. October, my busy season, has begun. And I am struggling with this book about joy. So although I felt grateful all week for the immense beauty with which I have been surrounded, I found myself feeling unusually vulnerable. Even for someone who lives on the road. It's this book. I keep feeling like it should be a joy to write about joy. The writing itself is always a joy. But what I'm writing about feels really really hard. This is supposed to be a memoir. And I didn't really get that. Get what writing a memoir meant. Get what writing a memoir feels like.
The whole idea of writing a memoir makes me really really anxious. Not because I am reluctant to share the stories of my life. I've always thought of myself as a storyteller. But that's because I see my whole life as stories, and as such I try to craft them to serve what I hope will be some higher purpose. To write a good memoir, however, requires -- to paraphrase Mary Karr's brutally honest assessment of the genre -- a willingness to poke at your own innards. Poke seems pretty tame actually. To me, most days writing memoir feels like full-monty disemboweling.
I used to write biographies. They're easy. A person is born, they live, they die. There's your plot. You fill it in with the facts, make a few salient observations, and you're good to go. Not to mention that a biography has the added merit of being about someone else.
Writing a memoir is like volunteering to go into solitary confinement while watching a movie of your whole entire life screening 24/7 on your cell walls. Writing a memoir is like volunteering to choke up a 50-year-old hairball every day, over and over again. And then having to clean it up. Writing a memoir is like volunteering for some B-movie truth serum experiment that goes horribly awry while Vincent Price warns the audience world that you have now become a danger to humanity. Oh, actually that last one isn't a metaphor. That's truly how I feel every day writing this book about me and my famous family.
So why, you might be asking, am I writing a memoir if I am so terrified of the genre? Well, to tell you the honest truth, I didn't really think I was signing up to write a memoir. I thought I was going to write an inspirational book about someone who was a workaholic, who decided to find joy again in her life. Yes. . .that person was me. But I didn't focus on that. I sort of thought of that person as a character in a story -- and I'd be writing about *her*. It wasn't until after I'd excitedly signed my book contract that the word memoir actually sunk in. Particularly the first two letters. Me. I had just signed a contract to write a memoir about me.
I love to write. The best days are when the words, the ideas, the images just channel through me, type out my fingers, onto the page. Sometimes I go back and read something and think to myself, That's good. Those are the parts I didn't write. Then there's the mud wrestling. With myself. My demons. Dead people. Trying to get all that and all of me out of the way so the good stuff can come through, even if the good stuff is all about the hard stuff.
This kind of mud-wrestling writing makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Cue Brene Brown, whose words seem to be on my SOS Speed Dial these day. Vulnerability and joy, says Brene Brown, are twinned within us. She writes, "Now I can lean into joy, even when it makes me feel tender and vulnerable. In fact, I expect tender and vulnerable. Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn't come with guarantees -- these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy."
So, instead of writing more, I am going to share with you something that always seems to help me. Listening to Brene Brown's smart, wry, wise, honest, and always helpful and hopeful work on the power of vulnerability and the courage it takes to show up to our own lives.
I hope you find as much joy in the power of her words as I have. See you next week!