Writing a memoir is like getting undressed – very undressed – for friends, family, and strangers. I’ve never been one to want to do that, yet I have (written a memoir not gotten undressed). How did I ever end up here?
For years I’d share stories of my childhood and all I’d hear was, “Wow, you have to write a book.” I never wanted to. I’d offer anecdotes about my mother (Mimi) and people would find them funny. I’d tell tales about my father (Danny) and people would shake their heads in amazement. “Write it down,” they’d offer, again and again. I still never wanted to. I knew I could make people laugh – or gasp – with my recounted episodes, but I didn’t have the need to capture it all on paper (or computer).
And then one day I did. At that point I’d been sharing the stories for years – in self-help programs and with therapists and friends. I’d realized my childhood wasn’t just weird and a bit crazy, it was actually kind of “not good.” So I decided to write it down, to go from beginning to end (or at least till now) and offer it up. Because, I reasoned, if by sharing my story of finding my Way Out I could offer hope to others, then it would all be worth it.
I am often asked if writing my memoir was therapeutic. It was and it wasn’t. I’d been telling my story for long enough at that point that it wasn’t healing to put it to words. It wasn’t a huge cleansing. That being said, as I pulled out old journals and did my best to recount my memories, I found a wash of emotions I never would have imagined. I felt gratitude. And even delight. I’d write about things that happened during my teen years, while I was still in the Unification Church (the Moonies) and as I pulled away, and even though those experiences still haunt me at times, the anger and anguish that I’d carried for years was gone. I felt only appreciation. And a sense of awe. I’d write about my parents and the crazy things they did, and I’d know that they’d done the best they could with what they had. They’d even, I realized, made the choices they made, choices I would never intentionally make with my kids, because they thought the things that they were doing were in my best interest.
I realized that all those experiences had made me me. And as over the years I’ve come to love – and at times like – me, I realized that without all of that I wouldn’t have this. I wouldn’t have the me I am today.