Sometimes we just need a swift kick in the butt to get motivated again.
For me, that proverbial kick came from a meeting with my memoir/writing coach Patti Hall.
She’s here on the west coast for a trip and we had the chance to meet up for a drink and brunch while I was visiting Whistler for the night. (By the way, if you haven’t stayed at the Chateau Fairmont, I highly recommend it.)
Let’s back track: about three years ago, I decided I want to become an author. Yes, just like that. After receiving a positive response to a query from a publisher, I started writing. I was connected to Patti through a colleague and we began working together. I’d write, she’d provide feedback and help me make my writing more meaningful for the reader.
I had a lofty goal of finishing my manuscript in six months. In reality, I had a better chance of becoming a brain surgeon than I did finishing nearly 80,000 words in 180 days, but I tried nonetheless.
Somewhere along the way, I got distracted. School picked up, my marriage ended, I moved across the country and worst of all, I started doubting my story.
My memoir is about my Dad’s death and how I coped…. Or, well, didn’t. When I first found out he was in a car accident, I was optimistic we’d be taking him home. My Dad was a survivor – surely a single-vehicle car accident wasn’t going to be it for him.
Sadly, it was.
‘Taking him home’ took on another meaning – a year and eight months to the day after he died, my sister and I stood on the river bank in beautiful Loch Lomond Scotland and scattered his ashes where his parents’ remains were also laid to rest. Born in that beautiful country, he always said it was his true home and that one day, he wanted to return there for good.
|My Dad’s final resting place|
In that year-and-a-half from his accident to when we went to Scotland, my life was in constant chaos. I was 24 when he died and thrust into the position of making decisions about whether he was going to live or die when all I wanted to do was go shopping with my friends. I wanted the innocence and ignorance that came with being a young adult but in a split second, it was taken away from me with a single phone call. I grew up in an instant and also took on the role of protecting my younger siblings in the absence of my father.
I ended up taking care of them and completely ignoring myself, which resulted in my catapulting into depression and trying to find solace at the bottom of many bottles. I spent months drinking, crying, going through his things and torturing myself with AC/DC – one of his favourite bands. I’d bawl the entire way to work each day and end up pulling over on the side of the road more than once on the drive home because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see. At one point, I just wanted to die – I couldn’t imagine it ever getting any better.
During this same time, I got engaged and was trying to plan a wedding, my grandfather’s health was declining most certainly because his heart was broken after burying his only son and I was in the process of changing jobs.
Then five months to the day he passed, I received something thatchanged everything – letters from my Dad’s double lung recipient and family members. They spoke of the incredible impact my Dad’s gift of organ donation had on their lives. While they reiterated how my Dad saved their family member’s life, they had no way of knowing their letters had also saved mine.
Over the next 18 months, I got my demons under control, became an advocate for organ and tissue donation, sharing my Dad’s story – a way of free therapy, I suppose – in hopes of encouraging others to make the same choice he did. His story was shared in three countries, entered into a film festival in the states and appeared in several major papers. During the same time, I got engaged, I got married, I enrolled in university to finish my degree and I was finally able to take my Dad home…. in a nutshell.
Fast forward two years to Sunday when Patti sat across from me on a patio in Whistler and listened to me talk about how I didn’t think my experience was good enough or would mean anything. My Dad’s been gone four-and-a-half years now, although it feels like yesterday most days, and so much has happened – my ex separated and sold our house, I moved in with my sister, I moved across the country, I got my first place, I met someone new…. All things I would have never imagined happening a mere two years ago.
I shared with her that I was terrified I’d spend all this time writing something that no one would give a shit about, especially since so much time had passed.
“Alyshia, your story deserves to be shared.”
I’m not sure what about those seven words motivated me, but I suddenly feel like I can tackle it again. Maybe it’s my impending visit to Scotland to “visit” my Dad this summer, maybe I’ve just gotten to a place where I feel relatively stable for the first time in a long time, maybe it’s just because I want to – need to – write.
So, with Patti’s support, I’m going to try this again. It may not be the greatest story ever told and it may never make it to the desk of a publisher, but it’s my story and damn it, I owe it to myself to write it… one page at a time.