Everything in my life seems to be moving and changing so rapidly at the moment it’s been hard to communicate where I’m at. When people ask how I am, it’s an hour-long conversation minimum and one that requires me to dig into the nitty-gritty and go deep.
I’ve been opening up so much lately, crying over the phone to friends and family, meeting a counsellor each week, and conducting my own emotional analysis, I feel both mentally and physically fatigued. I’m attempting to break through the walls I’ve built up over thirty-six years to uncover the truth, and in the process, emotions are leaking and spilling all over the place. Without my protective shield, I feel about as vulnerable and naked as ever. But I’m convinced to rebuild myself authentically, I have to break down the original foundations first.
Just as my injury slowed me down two months ago, recent events have pulled the mental rug out from under my feet too. I was desperate to secure somewhere to live when I returned to BC and ended up renting a cottage in the woods for the summer despite several red flags. The dream turned sour fast (thanks to the mentally abusive landlords and countless rodents), and eight days later, my friend Dave had to intervene and move me out.
Moving to an isolated cottage was an example of my extreme behaviour, choosing something out of the ordinary like hiking the length of America, paddling wild distances, or hopping from place to place to find or distract myself from whatever’s missing in my life. When I asked my counsellor why crazy shit always happens to me, she told me about people who perpetuate their own shame cycles by putting themselves in unfavourable situations. Oh my god, I thought to myself. I’m one of those people. I’ve been doing this to myself.
This revelation coincided with receiving feedback from my editor Betsy in New York regarding draft five of my manuscript. She had a lot to say, sixteen pages in fact, pointing out not only what was missing from my story, but all of the red flags I’d ignored during my hike along the PCT. It was an expensive counselling session, and although I was horrified by her feedback, she was absolutely right. She’d highlighted everything that was missing from those 300 pages, which I’d been unable or unwilling to admit.
What’s missing from my manuscript is the ‘why’. Why I was on the trail in the first place, why it was so crucial for me to reach the finish, and what motivated my decisions along the way. I know I have a compelling plot, neither Betsy nor anyone who read my blog would argue that. But the external plot isn’t enough. The story lies within the internal struggle, the belief I had going into the trail that was either proved or disproved. I haven’t allowed the reader into my head enough, and it’s because I didn’t know the answers to all of those questions until now.
Once the horror of writing a memoir for five years without a story subsided, I felt little regret. Memoir or not, Betsy’s feedback has allowed me to uncover the whys of not only the trail but the reasons behind so many major decisions in my life that led me to the trail in the first place.
So over the past two weeks, I’ve been reading a book called Story Genius recommended by my friend Sue, immersing myself in Betsy’s feedback, talking to my counsellor, and reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I’m on an introspective acid trip, rummaging through all sorts of emotional baggage to see things from a different perspective.
What I’ve uncovered has been immensely rewarding, and without the memoir, it might have taken me months or even years of therapy to reveal this much. If I’m going to rewrite my story, I’ve got a long road ahead. But after sifting through the rubble of draft five, I’ll see what I can salvage before deciding if I’m going to return to mile zero and start hiking again from page one.
For those following my writing journey on YouTube (apologies for my recent tardiness), this video captures my initial reaction minutes after reading Betsy’s sixteen-page editorial letter.