I’m always on the hunt for the tiniest clues leading me beyond slick facades and behind the closed doors.
I have to resist asking the overly intimate details about random people’s daily routines, their childhood drama, or their relationship struggles. Starting a sentence with “This might be TMI, but…” never makes me squirm and only causes me to sit up straighter.
I’ve doubted my ability to ever write a memoir for this reason:
The publishing industry demands a story arc. Honesty is valued only if it’s within the parameters of a tightly wrapped transformation.
I’ve never understood why we must somehow find a way to stamp the hero’s journey over our unique pathways to becoming.
Don’t we do violence to our tender timelines of existence?
The general format we are trained to look for in every story is this methodical, logical stream of events:
- a call to leave the familiar and subsequent refusal to step out
- a threshold crossing
- facing tests and enemies
- a major pivotal moment and crisis situation
- then an eventual walking back
- and the great return, sharing our insight and elixir with the world
My life as it’s unfolding right now cannot be bound into a 300-page book with covers. My story isn’t marked by a monumental return to home, but a spinning around a Center.
Who wants to read about someone who circles around to the same struggles, turns up to previous lessons they thought they had learned, conquered, and buried long ago? These stories don’t necessarily make it onto the big screen or best seller lists, but they are certainly our quiet realities.
I want to welcome these repetitive, dizzy spirals as necessary steps in my sometimes gradual, sometimes drastic, but always constant evolution.
Therefore, I refuse to believe my worth rests on having a cinematic storyline and my life needs to fit into chapters I’m not ready for. I’m flushing my hope of a polished fairytale ending and instead aiming to finish the journey looking a little different than when I began.
I’m giving myself the freedom to walk in any direction, even when it feels backward. (Can any step be backward if we open ourselves up to an ever-expanding narrative and Universe?)
Please don’t wait until The End to obtain your prized elixir, when it already exists within you.
Be generous with the juicy magic you’ve uncovered from The Middle, this is the sweet nectar we’re all secretly craving.
Here are three guides I admire for emerging from the unknown, half-painted picture of their lives and inspiring us all to fumble forward into our version of the hero’s journey.
No. 01 The Middle of a Diagnosis // Glennon Doyle
I’m not a person who compartmentalizes at all. I don’t know how to do this work where I’m bringing my whole self to it and not share this. And maybe if I waited a year I’d have a better perspective, but I also just think in a year I’ll just have a different perspective, and not necessarily better. And I also like the idea of talking about things more when we’re in the middle, the messy middle of it.
I’m alive. I’m in the middle of it. I’m here.Glennon Doyle, from her recent podcast episode on We Can Do Hard Things, “Glennon’s Diagnosis & What’s Next.”
No. 02 The Middle of Writing a Novel // Alastair Humphreys
I’ve written a novel and it’s terrible. You can read it right here, if you’d like.
If you read books about being a writer, you will be familiar with the writing advice to just get on and write a terrible first draft. Give yourself permission to suck, the theory goes, and you free yourself up to get your book down on paper.
But what if your first draft is so terrible that there is no hope for it? How do you know? The answer is: you don’t. All you ever read are finished books. Not only that, all you ever read are finished and published books.
There is a huge amount of work to be done before I would dare to call it a finished book. But I have decided to share it with you anyway, exactly as I’ve written it, in its rough and ready form, as an encouragement to you to have an idea, commit to giving it a try, and then get on and begin it.from Alastair Humphrey’s newsletter, he made public the first draft of his novel
No. 03 The Middle of Perplexing, Difficult Life Issues // Kelsey Baldwin
I am in the middle of it. And it’s lasted longer than I thought it would, but I’m beginning to learn that the nice, soft landing doesn’t always come when you think it will. … The middle can actually be the best place to start. The middle can be the beginning.from the introduction to her book, Strong Girl Brave Girl, Kelsey Baldwin
How do you feel about revealing those seemingly unfinished parts of yourself?
What hope and companionship have you drawn from others who have shared their perspectives from the middle rather than from the end?