As leaves fall and pad California hiking trails with soft blankets of ocher and crimson, we whisper prayers for rain, but know bare branches are also necessary for rebirth and growth.
Walking on one of these mountain trails last week, I recalled words by Mark Matousek in a recent memoir writing workshop: “Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.” In the last six months leading up to and after the publication of The Coconut Latitudes, I’ve been forced to live outside of my comfort zone, to let myself become visible, and to share stories long held secret. In short, I had to surrender, and become vulnerable.
I’ve had to release the idea of appearing “perfect” when speaking in public or reading aloud to strangers and friends alike. Of course the ego still thinks it’s in charge. But what happened in surrendering, in becoming vulnerable? Nothing bad, and much that was surprising, such as the book launch party at Book Passage. It was a mind-bending experience with over 120 people packing the bookstore and buying a record number of copies. Overwhelmed by the love in the room, I forgot to be nervous when I got up to the podium. I recalled something else Mark noted: “When people read your story, they’re not reading about you, they’re reading about themselves.”
So far, my encounters with readers near and far have validated Mark’s assertion. Readers have introduced me to their struggles and their victories. I’ve reconnected with people lost since childhood, and have met individuals who poured out their own amazing and stunning tales. Most heartening, I’ve heard from my sister’s friends—who’d been kept in the dark about her past. It turns out my story fills out the missing pieces in their friendship with her, and keeps her closer to their hearts than before.
Everyone’s stories shape their past and color their present. Whether still hidden away in the fallow ground of winter, or getting ready to burst into the light, all stories matter. Often we manage to find a completely different truth when we dig deep enough below the tales we’ve told ourselves to survive. But it requires letting go. As we surrender to winter’s arrival, beneath those bare branches and fallen leaves, our roots continue to grow and gather strength. My wish for those who yearn to tell their truth—surrender to the quest.