When you write a book and put it out there, you’re never sure of the response you will get, and further, never prepared for the feeling when you learn how your work has touched someone else. I can’t tell you how moving it is to get letters every week from parents who have read I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames and say, “Yes! Finally, someone that I can relate to! Your family is my family!”
I have always believed that we all want to be seen; to know that there are other people out there going through the same things. That we are not alone.
So far, that has been the best gift I have received from writing the memoir.
Being able to make people laugh in the process is like the cherry on top. I firmly believe humor is one of the few things that can be a great equalizer - something we all need in our lives.
This idea became ever more apparent to me this week because I received two pieces of correspondence that really touched my heart. And on the same day, no less. If I were any further into my pre-menopause journey, I’d have been a puddle of sobbing flesh on the kitchen floor.
First, from a woman whose recent journey has included cancer:
“I find myself thinking about your book when I want to complain about my Big C challenge and missing boob :) Thanks for giving me a different perspective.”
Needless to say, it was she who gifted me with an instant dose of perspective.
Hours later, this message from SPC Bradley Dorroh, US Army hit the “Waiting for Karl Rove” website, and it floored both Kat and I:
“I’m actually deployed to Afghanistan right now and came across your book, “I Wish I Were Engulfed in Flames.” I laughed my butt-hole off because I know my wife can relate to you on the ‘joys’ of raising two children, albeit mine aren’t autistic, though sometimes I wonder. Anyways, I read that one and had to have more, I’m almost done with “Waiting for Karl Rove.” You guys are friggin hilarious and thank you so much for keeping me entertained in this shitty place.”
Yeah, so Holy shit. Now I’m positively drowning in perspective. I’ve got perspective coming out of my ass, people. He was so grateful for the human contact from home, I realized that the next time I complain about anything, somebody needs to take me out back and pepper me with buckshot.
SPC Dorroh sent us some pictures of his life over there, and from home, “to show you we are real people.”
“Me and my daughter, the night before I left for deployment, we just had the "Daddy's going away talk."
“Our emergency eye wash station out here in Afghanistan...gotta love our ingenuity.”
“I took this picture of a CH-47D Chinook from the window of the one I was riding in. Told ya I get to do some cool shit.”
“…a beautiful site in such an ugly place. Reminds me of home.” :(
The big secret is that I write for me and rarely think about the “audience” as I write; I write what I know, I write what moves me, I write what I find entertaining. Sometimes, I write to figure out the world around me. But it is most certainly a selfish undertaking and I love doing it more than almost anything else in the world.
So, hearing from real people who have enjoyed something I’ve written almost makes me feel guilty. I get so much out of the process itself. But, my interactions with a woman dealing with cancer, and a young man serving in the Army will remain a constant reminder to be grateful that I enjoy what I’m doing, and I still get the benefit of these amazing connections I’m making along the way.