I’ve been learning a lot about memoir writing lately – perhaps because it’s my genre, the category of writing that gives me life and tells a story and frees my voice to be its greatest self. Perhaps it’s because I dropped my iPhone, sending the front into a sparkly spiderweb of crackles and an inside that doesn’t work, so I don’t stare at my screen half nearly as I used to.
Instead, I do my homework: I read about the art of memoir writing, and then I try to put what I’ve learned to use.* I get to know other memoirists through their stories, and I notice how they tell a story, how it’s not at all about the chronological sequence of events, but it’s about what’s behind the events that have happened.
Every so often, like last night, I get together with other writers – and in the scariest and most vulnerable sort of way, we put our hearts on the line. We share what we’ve written and we try our hardest to open our ears to feedback. We scribble furiously in the margins of Word documents, and as each of us brings a different set of gifts and perspectives to Marcy’s living room, we take seriously the input our friends have for us.
And then a little slice of amazement settles in, because as I walk away from the corner of 43rd and Cabrillo, I’m reminded that I don’t always get a say in how the world of relationships works (which is probably a really, really good thing).
Because sometimes friendship is like arriving at middle school for the first time; we’re so scared to walk down the long hallway by ourselves, and we wonder if everyone is staring at the pimple in the middle of our newly acne-filled forehead. We shudder at having to commit to memory the 38-19-26 locker combination, so in a rush, in a flurry, we leach on to the girl sitting in the desk next to us and we hope she’ll be nice. And she is. In an act of sheer survival and utter desperation, we picked a friend and it worked.
But sometimes our friends pick us.
Sometimes when people invite us in, truth be told, we don’t really feel like we fit in; they don’t exactly seem like our people, but they keep on sending emails. The invitations keep coming, and in response, we find yourself saying Yes, yes, okay, every once in awhile. We keep on showing up, even if it seems like they have a language all their own, even if we wonder if we’re better suited somewhere else. But it’s not until the night’s over that we realize we were exactly where we were supposed to be, that we fit in all along.
And that’s a good thing to realize.
It makes me wonder if I’m the only one – if I’m the only one, who, as a woman in her mid-30’s, still struggles to feel like she belongs. Because to be invited and welcomed in, to feel in the know and an intimate part of the group, that matters. At the deepest soul level, I think it’s what every human craves. We want to be known and understood, just as much as we want to be made to feel that the words we say, and the thoughts we express, and the stories we tell have significance.
So, what can you do today to help others feel invited in?
On the flip side, how can you accept that you ARE welcome, that your presence DOES matter, that you are a part of the group you sometimes feel like an outsider in?
Because this, this is important.
Happy Friday, friends.
What about you? Do you ever still feel like an outsider, even as a grown-up? How can you make others feel included and valued and welcomed in?
*My favorite as of late: Beth Kephart’s Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir0