This Saturday I will be Kiran Nazish’s guest on an Instagram Live with her organization Women in Journalism at 9 AM PST. We’ll be talking about parental separation, the power of listening, how writers reach hidden spaces, and my forthcoming memoir When She Comes Back. I hope you’ll join us! Please head to @womeninjournalism on Instagram and click on the icon to attend this Live, this Saturday morning 11/21 at 9:00 PST. Hope to see you there!
I hope you made it through election week and its current aftermath in one piece. If this year were a roller coaster I’m thinking it would be the Oblivion in England:
or maybe the Stratosphere Infinity in Las Vegas.
It was a week of late nights, choppy sleep, and disquieting dreams for many of us and I had the sensation of perpetually bracing myself for the next drop. Like, if I didn’t personally hold on tight or keep checking the news and calling loved ones, I would freefall out and crash to the ground. I’ve loosened my grip a little now and things feel better. I have a bit more mental space for writing and talking to guests for the podcast.
Last week The Start Literary Journal published “Alone in A Group” an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir When She Comes Back about a night I got separated from my friends by a pack of kids who had no intention of letting me go. You can read it here.
This week on the podcast in episode 52, What A Father Leaves Behind, Samuel Burwell tells the story of losing his father, becoming a parent himself, and the work he is doing in Philly to keep his dad’s legacy alive.
Inepisode 51, The End of Perfection sisters Dana and Sharon Sberro joined me to talk about hitting emotional rock bottoms several years ago and their realization that their mission had everything to do with normalizing the challenges most people face and offering a platform to celebrate our imperfect selves.
Hearing my guests’ stories reminds me again and again how many of us have learned to cover up the parts of our life or selves that worry us. Parts we think make us different or feel too scary to admit, too difficult to trust another with let alone the world.
I know this firsthand. I find those aspects of myself that I worried about when I was younger, the wobbly jellyfish parts that seem so different from how I thought I was “supposed” to be, are still there.
And once I started to realize they weren’t going away and that maybe the people who love me the most already knew about those parts, I let down my guard a little bit. Then some more. This is still a work in progress for me but I know now that I really have no choice but to be who I am. I’ve always been here, it’s time to be on my own side already.
Also—it’s never too late to start.
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The first piece I drafted when I picked up writing several years after becoming a mother was fiction. I drew heavily from actual events but never thought of telling the story without changing locations, situations, and names. I think I thought that I would be cheating at writing if I used so much of my real life. It seemed to me that true artistry lay in making things up and leaving no trace of their origins.
Also, it took me a while to accept that my personal history might be worth writing about. I could easily argue that my voice wasn’t important, my story wasn’t unique, I didn’t have it so bad, and so on and so on. When you’re looking for ways to discredit yourself or your experience or convince yourself not to do something there’s a lot of reasons you can find. But after learning more about memoir I began to see that no one will remember your experience the way you do. Only you know how it affected you then and how it continues to reverberate in your life. Our perspective changes over time. As our lives accumulate, so does now we understand what happened to us. That’s why getting it down is important. That doesn’t mean you should write about something you’re not ready to write about but if it’s making its way to the surface and catching you off guard it might be time to explore it. Even if no one else ever reads it. You never know what you might discover. 🧡
I used to think I was too big. Like too tall, too chubby, too “much”. When we moved to Seattle when I was 4 I had a thick Israeli accent, a big personality, and a sense the way I did things was the right way. But before that I lived on Kibbutz Lahav and knew practically everyone there. At 3 years old I could walk home from The Childrens House where we slept at night all by myself, and stop by neighbors’ homes and ask for snacks. I was the largest kid in my age group, the clothing in the communal bins was often too small for me, and I consistently ate the most. But, I had the sense that I was fine the way I was. My size, my height, my way of being was who I was and there was nothing I needed to change.
Something happened when we moved to the States, or my new neighborhood in Seattle at least. I felt how different I was; how out of place. My parents were also displaced and nearing the end of their marriage. I absorbed what was around me and what wasn’t anymore. I think that’s when I decided 𝘐 was what was wrong. I was what didn’t fit in. It’s a feeling that’s been hard to let go of. Amazing how those messages (whether heard or felt or assumed) can stay with us.
How about you, what message did you absorb about yourself that has been hard to shake?
One of the gifts of doing my podcast is interviewing so many remarkable people and hearing about their experiences and what they’ve learned, to be able to listen to their stories from childhood and adulthood and understand what they went through and then somehow overcame. Every conversation renews my faith in our resilience and our power to change.
I’ve wished more than once that becoming brave was only about acknowledging what we’ve faced. It’s hard enough to acknowledge the truth of our experience let alone have to dig in and do more emotional work. But again and again in my conversations with my guests and also in writing my memoir I’ve seen the gifts of vulnerability, of taking off our armor so we can break the cycle.
This week on the podcast Heather Vickery of the Brave Files Podcast and author of 2 gratitude journals joins me for episode 47-A Coming Out and Into Power Story. About 8 years into her marriage Heather had the realization that she was married to the wrong sex. She and her husband were great parents to their four children but she knew something in her intimate relationship with him didn’t feel quite right. As the truth became clearer and clearer, she understood she’d have to harness her courage, follow her heart, and live her life authentically.
Last week Britt East joined me for episode 46 to talk about overcoming a childhood of abuse and isolation and unhealthy adult relationships to become the man he was meant to be. Britt’s new book is A Gay Man’s Guide to Life.
Next week Quan Hyunh who was formerly incarcerated in California joins me for episode48 to talk about losing his father at a young age, the death of another gang member at his hands, and his new book Sparrow in the Razorwire. I hope you’ll tune in wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
During this turbulent and unsure time I believe stories can light the way. Stories can heal.