Standing naked in front of strangers (and other occupational hazards of memoir writing)

photoThis morning I felt terrified. Reviews of my book are starting to come in and the words are laser-imprinted on my heart. The positive, the negative, the apathetic, the completely untrue (apparently, Publishers Weekly thinks I'm a mother of SEVEN!)--all of it pierces me. I can't stop hearing the reviewers' words in my head.... "Somewhat predictable...Clear and compelling."

"Girl at The End of the World adds to an important line of ex-fundamentalist survival stories...Most importantly, though, these memoirs amplify the once-voiceless among us, and no matter how painful, unbelievable, or bitter the accounts, they require us to listen." 

The reviews are only just beginning and already I'm freaking out.

Writing a memoir is like stripping naked, baring your most private secrets and hidden stretch marks. Reading the reviews is like having strangers walk by and comment on your nakedness. 

This morning I wanted to hide under the sheets and not come out until all the people stopped staring at me. Instead, I practiced something my 12-step sponsor calls "contrary action."

I got out of bed, showered and brushed my teeth. I even flossed! I began feeling a little better so I did my hair--letting my natural, wild curls flow freely. I put on makeup. I smiled at myself while I applied red lipstick. Red lipstick always helps me feel strong and courageous.

And then I put flowers in my hair. Because I wanted to remember my true self--that wild, romantic, flowers-in-her-hair poet traipsing through the dewy grass with her arms full of books and her eyes full of stars.

By the time I was done placing flowers in my hair, I felt very myself. I felt very ME. And I loved my me.

I went in the backyard and walked barefoot in the grass still wet from morning dew. I read some poetry. I looked up at the blue, blue sky.

I felt happy. So, I took pictures to document the moment.


I am becoming comfortable with my nakedness--both physically and through my writing. Yes, I am flawed--yes, I have cellulite and stretch marks and old scars from where my twenty-year-old self gouged angry gashes into her tender flesh. Yes, my nakedness is not magazine-pretty. It is not airbrushed. But it is very, very me.

And that is how I wrote the book.

I wrote my me. I let you see my pain, my scars, my flawed coping mechanisms.

The only way I could write this book was from a place of self-acceptance; loving myself as the scared little five year old, loving myself as the desperate and passionate fourteen year old, loving myself as I found the courage to leave the cult, loving myself pregnant and loving myself post-partum.

The only way I can stand naked in front of strangers and let them comment on my naked story is because I rest in the greatest Love. God found me and God's love gave me the courage to love myself.

My childhood trained me in harsh self-rejection and self-abandonment. God's gentle love  is helping me love the person He created me to be. And no matter whether the reviews are positive or negative or apathetic, *I* am proud of myself. I love what I wrote. I love the woman I've become.

I gave you my whole heart. How predictable of me!