Cheryl Strayed is on tour right now to support her newest publication, Brave Enough. I was Lucky Enough to get the chance to see her during her stop in Pasadena. I was also lucky enough to spend the evening with my cousin, Evelyn. (Read the post I created from a comment Evelyn left on one of my earlier blogs here.) Evelyn is someone you’ll get to know better very soon, as the star of Creativity Corner. She is a stellar artist. I can’t wait to share her talent with you.
Cheryl started the evening by telling us how Brave Enough, which is a book made up entirely of her quotes, came to fruition. She said that her U.K. publisher approached her about putting the book together. Cheryl took the idea to her U.S. publisher, who also liked it a lot. The part I found so interesting was that Cheryl said she had to take some time to figure out what meaning the book might have for people other than it being a book of words and phrases she’s used over time, what meaning it might have on a deeper level. That’s when she thought of childhood favorites, of books that inspired her to take a pen to her skin and to write words and phrases on her arm. She then asked if anyone in the room had been tattooed with a word or phrase from her book, Wild. Sure enough, there was one person. (I kind of wish it was me. Oh well.) The girl sitting to my left had had the word “unfolding” tattooed on her inner left wrist. And here’s why Cheryl is so fucking cool. She acknowledged that the reason the words mean so much to people is about their own journey, their own meaning, not hers. The girl sitting next to me nodded her head as if to say, Yep. I'm on my own journey of unfolding, but you helped me attach a word to it. Super fucking cool. I can't even imagine how it must feel, as an author, to know your words impacted a person enough to have them permanently imprinted on her skin. And for someone as successful as Cheryl is, she came across without an ounce of self-absorbtion.
After the "lecture" portion of the evening, Cheryl moved on to a Q&A session answering questions the audience had written down on 3×5 cards.
Here’s my favorite:
Q: What’s your favorite word?
A: It’s a tie between fuck and love.
Ha! She rocks her authority.
But this is when my ears really perked up:
Q: What’s your biggest struggle?
A: Being the person I want to be. Remembering all the stuff I’ve told other people to do. To be generous and open and also to know when to set limits and to say no. The dark struggle to be the best self I can be. (Read my recent post on struggle here. And my post on remembering here.)
Here’s why I’m filled with gratitude: Because people write books that can and will save your life. Because people who’ve got their shit together as much as Cheryl Strayed does—and let me tell you, this woman has got her fucking shit together—will say that her biggest struggle is being the person she wants to be, remembering to do what’s right, and to take care of herself by setting limits. And because she helps me remember that healing is not a one and done. We don't get over the trauma (whatever it is) and then just move on. We learn how to carry it with us, and yes, then also we learn how to move on.
Cheryl ended the speaking portion of the evening (before sitting down to sign a book for every single person in attendance) by saying that the struggle (I might say, difficulty) is to be the person you want to be. Find a way. OR, quit your fucking bitching and accept that you are who you are.