After writing all morning, I’m still thinking about those women last night on the rooftop of the Women’s Club, and how they responded to my disclosure better than I’d anticipated. I know it won’t always be that way and I’m grateful to them for their collective reaction. I’m so grateful I decide to send them an email thanking them:
Ladies from the Rooftop’
Thank you so much for our discussion last night! It was a pleasure to meet each of you, or to see you again. I was sorry I had to leave when I did, I’d have liked to get to know you all better.
I wanted to let you know what a gift it was to be able to share my story with you and to find you so supportive. It meant a great deal to me. Your willingness to suspend whatever judgment you may have and honor the effort it takes to go through this process really boosted my faith in the power of groups of women (not that faith was lacking, but I’ve availed myself of it relatively little in the past decade or more).
I’d been struggling for a couple weeks now. My topic is so complex and so charged that I’ve been wrestling with how to organize the complexity while keeping the story and the impact clear and direct. Finally, this week, I’d run into a complete funk – certain that what I have to say is utterly irrelevant, no-one will read it, it’s “too intellectual”, I’m wasting my time, and. . . well, you know the self-talk.
I absolutely had not intended to attend the networking event and ‘come out’. It just happened – I’d made a split-second decision to tell P. shortly before, in response to her asking about my memoir. Once that was out and we’d joined the table, I knew I’d feel like a coward if I refrained from sharing in front of someone who already knew. It would have set up exactly the kind of dynamic I am writing in order to change. Since disclosure is what the book is all about, its a leap of faith I’m going to have to get used to making anyway, but I couldn’t have asked for a better first time with random strangers.
I went home with my head swimming – feeling like, yes, maybe my story has value to others after all; like, yes, acting out of integrity really does feel better, clearer, stronger; feeling like, yes, there are people out there who can handle that it’s not a simple story, that there is no black and white. Intelligent people who will engage with the topic seriously.
In addition to your overall supportiveness, the content of the discussion also helped clarify some of my thinking. It affirmed that some parts already in the book that I’d been questioning do fit, and it gave me new insights into how to make some other parts fit. The conversation also told me “Ok, these are the kinds of conversations my book is going to prompt – these are the questions and reactions I’ll be dealing with.” And I found I liked that. I want those discussions. I am at home in them. I’ve yearned for them.
Lastly, in the panel discussion earlier, when the promotional lady talked at the end about defining what success would be for your book, I was stumped. I have all kinds of idealistic wishes (you know, world peace, ending world hunger, making a better world for women and children, reversing climate change, abolishing double standards) but really – what do I want my book to accomplish, aside from getting this stupid monkey of a secret off my back so I can be myself in the world again? Sitting in the audience I thought to myself “Ugh! I guess I need to figure that out too, don’t I?”. And that felt daunting.
But this morning, I realize I suddenly know the answer. Success would be that wherever I go, for the rest of my life, my book (whether read or only being referred to) prompts a good, thoughtful discussion that can encompass the topic of prostitution while also understanding it in relation to the topics that impact everyone – identity, authenticity, secrets kept and not kept, the politics of secrets, identity, gender, sexuality, power and money. If I could prompt and be part of frequent discussions like the one we had last night, that push the envelope on what it means to be a woman (in heart and soul and body) in what remains a man’s world, if I could model the courage and willingness to talk openly about highly charged, difficult topics – and the freedom that (I believe) comes from that willingness, I’d consider the book, and my life a success. That’s what I’m thinking right now. And you all helped me get to that.
So, again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
It really meant a lot to me.
I’ll let you know when the book is out.