It’s been three remarkable months since my last blog post.
Social and political changes are unfolding at a dizzying pace. We are learning to cope with escalating levels of stress. And while relentless chaos can be debilitating, it can also be an exceptionally fertile time of creativity.
The day after posting Claiming a Role in Global Evolution, I embarked on the mysterious journey of writing a book. The best way I can describe it is this: A Beacon Future grabbed me by my imagination, and ushered me through a doorway of intimate creativity and self-discovery. The last eleven weeks have been a fascinating ride, and in many ways it’s just beginning.
To the part of me who wondered if I’d ever really write a book, the fact that I’ve penned over 35,000 words seems miraculous! Each day brings new discoveries. I want to hurry up and see where all of this is leading me, and at the same time I want to slow down and savor the journey.
For the last two weeks, I haven’t written a word. There is a fearful part of me who wants to barrel ahead, capitalizing on the momentum, concerned that inspiration may vanish if I stop for too long. Another voice wisely insists that I pause. There is something I need to gather, and I am learning to honor my own rhythm.
During this pregnant pause, it seems like a good time to “report in” from the field, to share a bit of my progress and my passion.
Crafting those stories brought unexpected healing, illuminating the potential of memoir-writing as a tool to dive even deeper into the Great Story work we’ve been exploring and teaching for over twenty years at Lucid Living.
When I wrote the About page for this site just five months ago, I was excited about exploring what I call Transformational Memoir. The idea emerged after sharing a few vulnerable stories in an online writing class, and uncovering deeper insight around incidents I thought I had fully processed. Crafting those stories brought unexpected healing, illuminating the potential of memoir-writing as a tool to dive even deeper into the Great Story work we’ve been exploring and teaching for over twenty years at Lucid Living.
I embraced the opportunity, supported by this unprecedented time of isolation and self-quarantine, to dive into my past, finding new, creative ways to tell my story. I hadn’t planned to write a memoir, but suddenly it burned in my soul, calling me to the adventure. I’ve discovered magic in the alchemy of vulnerability, creativity and compassionate wisdom, leading to life-altering understanding and acceptance. For those drawn to the adventure, Transformational Memoir can be a thrilling path to the embodiment of a new paradigm of love and connection!
I’m more than a third of the way through the first draft, with twenty-one of about fifty expected chapters. Each story is an opportunity to visit a younger self, wade into the depth of her experience and meet her there. I’ve sat at the bedside of my six-year-old self as she cried herself to sleep at night. I’ve walked mountain trails with my teenage self, and re-experienced her sense of wonder in the majestic beauty of the Grand Tetons. I’ve felt the loneliness of my young adult, desperate to find her place in the world, performing for approval and running from her pain. Each scene, each story is part of a larger tapestry, rich with meaning just waiting to be discovered.
I’m finding startling new perspectives, making surprising connections between events, and revealing liberating insights. In fact, I’m having so much fun with it, and learning so much, I imagine eventually teaching a Transformational Memoir class, to support others in mining their stories. The teacher in me has so many ideas!
When done well, memoir is an act of trust, an invitation to enter the author’s world, to see them in all their humanity, and to learn more about yourself in the process.
Over the months of writing, I’ve also been voraciously reading memoirs. When done well, memoir is an act of trust, an invitation to enter the author’s world, to see them in all their humanity, and to learn more about yourself in the process. I’ve been generously gifted by the vulnerability and daring of countless unique voices in the last year, including Alicia Keys, Michelle Obama, Alan Cumming, Demi Moore, Glennon Doyle, Debbie Irving, Tara Westover, Sonya Renée Taylor, Valarie Kaur, and most recently, the magnificent and courageous Chanel Miller.
Her stunning book, Know My Name, beautifully illustrates the transcendent power of memoir.
Know My Name is a vivid, emotional journey through Miller’s experience as a sexual assault survivor, and the traumatizing task of persevering through the legal process of seeking justice. For years she was known to the media as Emily Doe, the victim of the Stanford swimmer who assaulted her unconscious body behind a dumpster at a frat party. Even with the legal deck stacked against her, the jury found Brock Turner guilty on all three counts. The story gained national attention, culminating in outrage at the judge’s apology to the boy’s father as he handed down a shockingly light sentence of just 90 days in county jail.
Miller’s raw, thirteen-page victim impact statement went viral, leading to a publishing deal to write her book.
How might things change if we learned at an early age to understand and navigate the culturally supported imbalance of power between genders?
As I finished reading her memoir on Sunday night, I marveled newly at the magic of sharing our stories. I imagined how empowering it would be if this book were required reading in teen sex education classes across the country. How might things change if we learned at an early age to understand and navigate the culturally supported imbalance of power between genders? What if we were taught full permission to have boundaries, and to clearly know what constitutes consent?
Chanel Miller masterfully brings us inside her experience, taking us on the mental-emotional roller coaster of her shock and rage, her anguish and doubts, her lingering fears, her fight for truth, and ultimately her profound empowerment as she reclaims her voice and makes the courageous decision to let the world know her name.
I set the book down and let myself weep. I wept for Chanel, for her pain and also for the gift of her strength. I wept for generations of women and men whose lives were altered in a single moment, or through repeated incidents of soul-crushing violence. What are the stories we tell ourselves when our humanity becomes invisible, our bodies exploited and abused, our hearts and minds struggling to process the overwhelming pain and shame? And how can we reclaim the narrative and forge a healing path?
It is no accident that Know My Name caught my attention this past week, and held me breathless from the first page. After weeks of joyful momentum in my writing, I’d become antsy about starting my next chapter. I’m embarking on the part of my story that is the hardest for me to accept. Just thinking about it makes my palms damp, my heart race.
As if on cue, the Universe brought me Chanel Miller, a Wayshower on my path, a tender whisper in my ear, as if to say, You can do this, Leza. You can wade into the messy, painful, shameful swamp and love this broken self. There are treasures waiting for you, and I’m right here with you.
It seems to me this is the gift we give one another when we share the deepest truth of our stories. We say I have walked this road and I am still standing. In fact, I am more because I faced it and learned to embrace it.
This is how we heal, by sharing our stories and falling in love with our own humanity through the intimate look at each other’s struggles, hopes, fears and triumphs.
I don’t think it is too grandiose to suggest that this is how we restore our humanity. So many of us find ourselves asking the question: How do we heal our divided world? Our stories hold the keys to understanding, to our collective freedom, and profound transformation. This is how we heal, by sharing our stories and falling in love with our own humanity through the intimate look at each other’s struggles, hopes, fears and triumphs.
When we dare to open up our most vulnerable emotions, and invite The Muse to guide our sacred path, Transformational Memoir works an alchemical magic. Our stories become a healing balm, restoring wholeness, and offering the light of inspiration to an awakening world.
It was serendipity to read what you have written about memoir since I am realizing that — for me — it is a profound way to know myself more completely. When I write about events in my past, I often see them differently and, I would posit, more accurately. I find it to be the most powerful thing that I am doing at this moment. Even though you are in the midst of writing your own memoir, consider taking us on the journey with you and starting a class even before your book’s completion! Let’s all do it together!
Leza Danly says
Thank you, Susanne. It’s actually a bit of magic for me to read your comment and be drawn back to this post. It’s exactly what I needed tonight. I will definitely let you know when I’m ready to lead the first pilot program. In the meantime, enjoy your writing and all it gives you!
I’m elated to read this blog post, which is packed with so much goodness. It’s an enjoyable experience to read about your journey and it gently pulls me to explore and take a deep dive in my own life. I can’t wait to read your Transformational Memoir and I’m already feeding the dream of taking your class. You have this amazing power of transforming the people around you, Leza. I love your spirit of sharing your gifts and taking everyone along for the ride.
Ann Walk says
It occurs to me that our Great Story IS a memoir, a collection of our pains, joys, sorrows….thank you Leza. Every time you write, it is exactly what I needed to hear!
Leza Danly says
Well, it’s an interesting topic, Ann, and yes, in some ways the Great Story can be a memoir. But I think it is bigger than that, and is actually raw material for many memoirs, each with its own revelation and point to make. What is thrilling and daunting about the creative process of crafting a memoir is selecting the specific moments and stories and insights and memories and then sharing them in a way that brings others on the journey. The hardest part is leaving out stories you want to tell, but that don’t serve the one specific story of a single memoir.
Directors talk about the heartbreak of leaving favorite scenes on the editing room floor if they don’t serve the main story. I think this is a similar process. I expect I will write more than one. 😇