“She insists, however, that her goal is not redemption but self-acceptance, not a catalog of regrets but a clear view and welcoming embrace of experience in all its forms.”
– A.O. Scott, NYTimes review of the movie adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild”
I think I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild in one sitting. I generally gobble up memoirs, and most particularly, achingly honest memoirs written by women who genuinely allow the reader IN. No-holds-barred honesty. Pair that with a tale of self-discovery through the physical pain & suffering of a solo endurance adventure and I’m completely sold.
The other night I was talking with some mom friends at the curb while waiting to pick up our sweaty teenage boys from practice. One mom loaned me Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis, the woman who broke the overall thru-hiking record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. Soon we started taking about Wild. Another mom piped in: “UGH!! I HATED that book! How could anyone make such STUPID choices??? I could hardly read it, I was so frustrated with how irresponsible she was!”
I was kind of speechless. I actually took her comment personally! Why was that??? Everyone has their right to an opinion and it’s just a book right??
I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Here’s what I think: I think many women (and men but I am a woman so…) tend to walk around with this fear…this fear of “What if?? What IF she/he/they REALLLLY knew me? WHAT IF I GET FOUND OUT?? What if all my shameful/dirty/ugly/horrid/embarrassing stories and secrets, fears and feelings, somehow showed themselves to the world…What then??”
Honestly when my friend made that comment about the book, my first reaction was to nervously giggle to myself.. “wow. ummm, if she knew half of the crazy ridiculous stupid choices I have made in MY life – her jaw would be stuck to the ground!”
In the end, that conversation wasn’t about me. Or my friend. There isn’t one cookie-cutter way to be or live in this world. I can only say that my life has improved exponentially since I started telling the truth. To myself and others. I have been able to move beyond a lot of the shame and regret (still working on it) by simply not sugar-coating or hiding. It is a daily practice and I often screw up.
In a roundabout way, all this truth-telling brings us closer. It can sting and be hiiiiighly awkward. It can bring up old icky feelings. It can make you want to run for the hills. Thankfully, it becomes easier with practice.