Someone who was my very best friend when we were children and teens (called Vivian in Book One) started reading the book, then stopped when she got to the hard parts. A year later at my request, she did read the rest, and praised the writing style, but never commented about any of the content, the story itself. She’s a great person, very perceptive, wealthy and successful. I took a different path that led to much less monetary success and much more adventure and wild beauty, and I wouldn’t change any of it.
I think it was uncomfortable for her to read about what I was going through back then as a kid when my family was falling apart, and as a young woman in a desolate marriage. It’s possible that now my truth is embarrassing and even repellent to her. I am the black-sheep, the po’ white trash of our peer group. She was probably shocked at the painful truth of my birthmother’s alcoholism when I was eleven, and me stealing food from the grocery store and eating the discarded produce at the loading dock behind the store.
I am not ashamed of those things. In my long life since then, among my several careers I was a caregiver in an always-overwhelmed hospital emergency room. I have seen other souls in trouble, by the thousands. I know that people do what they can. I don’t blame my birthmother for her addiction. I know it was not her first choice for dealing with the hardships of her life that were so painful and so many. I don’t devalue her for her mistakes, or devalue myself for taking whatever means I could to feed myself and keep my spirit alive, as a child, or as an adult. My story gets rough, it isn’t pretty all the time, but there are incredibly brave and beautiful times too.
Another longtime friend (called Lois in Book Two) read the first two chapters of Book One for me when I asked her to be a beta reader and give me some feedback. She marked two minor typos and said nothing more. No comments about content or any sort of meaning in the story. She didn’t get it. She too is a person who is quite well-off in the traditional model of success. She didn’t need it. I reminded myself that this doesn’t mean that nobody will get it, or that nobody will need it.
After my initial disappointment, I wondered, Why don’t these intelligent, kind and honest women get it? Why don’t they see anything meaningful here? And the answer that came from the Wiser Voice Within said, “Maybe it’s not so much that they really can’t see, but that they don’t want to see.”
I know too well: the truth is dangerous, and often painful. As I look back from a distance now, it seems embarrassingly obvious: these friends don’t want to know the person that I am, they want me to be forever the person they knew, or thought they knew, back when. Victory is not about that. Victory Is My Name is an adventure tale, a mystery story, and a love-letter to Life.
I love this latchkey kid from the not-so-great side of town. I admire her resourcefulness, her survival instinct, her courage and grit. I respect the young woman she became who tried so hard to do things right and then was used and abused for her innocence. I respect my absent alcoholic birthmother whose life fell apart while the trap of alcohol made everything worse. The truth is, millions of good people have made the same mistakes. I know, as you know, that even now these things still happen to many of us, and we hide it in some sort of undeserved shame.
When you write your truth, no matter what it is, you’re going to find that some of your friends or family will not be able to embrace it, or even accept it. This is not your fault, or theirs. And this is not a reflection of your writing’s value and worth to the waiting world. To write from Life is a calling, not a job, not a beauty contest. Write anyway. Tell your truth anyway. You know you must. And share it whenever and wherever you can.
Nonfiction narrative and memoir writers out there in the world: Take courage, take faith, and take honest pride in your gift. Not everyone will want it. You aren’t here to do it for them, but for your own spirit’s calling. Write for the many more who do need it, who have made mistakes while honestly seeking life, just like you.
Victory Is My Name, Book One: The Burning Barrel
Paperback 288 pgs ISBN# 978-0-9841730-9-9
E-book ISBN# 978-0-9841730-4-4
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