This blog was featured on 08/30/2016
The Most Personal Thing I've Ever Published
Contributor

You'd think I'd bared it all: In 2006, I published a book about my wedding, and the rocky, tumultuous and sometimes painful journey I took as a bride. But when my publicist for Wishful Thinking (the fabulous Crystal Patriarche, founder of BookSparks and now CEO of She Writes and She Writes Press) suggested to me that in order to promote my novel, which is about a divorced mother of two, I should consider writing some essays about my own divorce, I wanted to hide. With I Do But I Don't, the warts I revealed in my relationship were presented as humanizing, inevitable flaws in what I thought and prayed was a rock-solid, never-ending union. It is one thing, however, to air complicated feelings, raw emotions, and awkward moments, when, at the end of each chapter--and ultimately at the end of the book--resolution and a happy ending awaits. It is another thing when there is no happy ending. My divorce still causes me pain on a regular basis, primarily in the separation it imposes upon me and my children. There is no tying it up in a neat little bow, no "it's all for the best" sentence to punctuate the final paragraph. I realized writing honestly about my divorce made me feel exponentially more exposed, and far more vulnerable, than writing honestly about my wedding. 

Which is perhaps why, when I finally did write an essay about divorce (I could only write one, and will probably never write another), the only way I could get my mind around it was to emphasize the contradictory, unresolved nature of my feelings about it from the beginning, titling it simply, Divorce: Gratitude and Pain. It was so hard for me to write, however, that once I'd published it I wasn't sure I even wanted anyone to read it--it went up on the Huffington Post in March, and I didn't tell a soul. A few weeks passed before I mustered the courage to post it on my Facebook page, and when I did I almost wanted to take it back. But I'm so glad I didn't. I don't think I've ever written anything that elicited a more swift or powerful response. It turns out not everybody needs life to be tied up in a neat little bow, and compassionate, thoughtful readers will stick with you even if you can't offer them a happy ending. 

It wasn't an easy lesson for me to learn, but it's a wonderful thing to know.

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Comments
  • Cynthia Manick

    Beautiful essay Kamy!! Thanks so much for sharing; divorce is so complicated but your essay does a great job of balancing gratitude and pain. Good luck on your reading tonight in Brooklyn ;-) Greenlight is lucky to have you!

  • Stirring piece, Kamy... and incredibly brave and moving.  Thank you so much for sharing.  "They [children] are the center of their own worlds... not you."  Painfully insightful for a parent, I can only imagine.

    The hardest, most personal thing about me?  Well, I am not quite 30 yet, so there is, unfortunately, a better than fair chance that that opportunity hasn't yet presented itself.  Okay, that's a cop out...

    At the beginning of my senior year, I was kidnapped and held for six months.  Six long, agonizing months of brutalities and abuse most can barely imagine.  I am writing about that ordeal as well as my 'coming out' and being disowned by my mother in my memoir.  Every time I started a new chapter, it felt like the hardest thing I had every written.

    But it wasn't.  In fact, now into the third draft, I still haven't written the hardest, most personal thing that ever happened to me.  There are only a handful of people who know the circumstances of my escape to freedom... what I did... what I to this day tell myself I HAD to do... and there is a huge part of me that doesn't want anyone else to know... that doesn't want to share that with the rest of the world.

    The only problem is... it's part of the story.  It happened.  It is why I am here today.

    I haven't yet written the most deeply personal thing that happened to me... yet.  But I will.

  • I can relate to this.  When I wrote my piece for Vanessa Perry's anthology, I felt skittish about showing it to others. There's stuff in there I am not sure I'd hand to my mother to read.  I did want to make sure it was my best writing, so I needed to choose some fellow writers to share it with for the purpose of feedback, and I felt so exposed when I hit the "send" button to transmit my piece to them via email.  I am so glad that I did entrust such personal writing to them because the piece is stronger than it would have been without the insight of fellow writers. 

  • I know Laura, it can be hard. And not all writing is for the public. Some of us it is just for us.

  • Laura Cella Promoting

    I can understand.  Routinely I struggle with what to allow people to see in my writing - how much of any situation, how I really feel, the other people involved in it.  Ugh.  Sometimes I htink the only way to be published with no consequesces - self-induced and otherwse - is to do so posthumously. 

  • Cate I am also so moved by your perspective as a child of divorce -- please let me know if you share the essay with your dad, how wonderful that it might start a dialogue you didn't expect. And Catherine Hiller, I saw the NYT feature about you and "Just Say Yes" a few days ago, wow!! Congratulations. Very brave. I can't wait to read it. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/13/nyregion/after-50-years-of-smoking-marijuana-her-life-turned-out-nicely.html?_r=0

  • Thanks so much for these thoughts, all. It reinforces the leap I took in publishing it, and it's so gratifying to share it with this community, especially, where I feel so supported. I am so inspired by the bravery of everyone who commented here who has also shared the most vulnerable and difficult secrets and experiences of their own writing -- part of the mission of She Writes has always been to enable and champion those efforts, and to tell women's stories in particular. 

  • Sheila K. Collins

    Your essay was right on as far as I'm concerned. You did a great job of identifying and describing the realities of divorce when there are children. Well written and right on the mark. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rhonda Talbot

    As you know Kamy I loved it, I also understood all too well writing from the guts.  I've been maligned on some sites, Salon, etc, But the people that it connects with, makes all worth while. I love your writing and this is exactly the kind of thing I look to read, as do so many others.  xooxox

  • Janet Singer

    I certainly can relate, as my book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery details my son's and my family's struggles with this devastating mental health disorder. Even though it might be really tough, I think the more we share our true selves and our stories, the more deeply we will touch people and they will appreciate us making ourselves vulnerable and respond positively. At least that has been my experience.

  • Oh boy, do I relate to this sense of being naked in front of the world. I didn't sleep for several days after a New York Times health piece that profiled my 10 year losing battle through my 30s trying to conceive (and with it ran a companion New York Times audio clip )

    Even today when I listen to it I feel the same raw emotion. The "outing" silver lining? It gave me the courage to write Silent Sorority -- a memoir chronicling the little understand trauma and reinvention that accompanies failed fertility treatments. Like you, Kami, I have been overwhelmed by the women around the world who have reached out to share their stories in kind...

  • Great post, Kamy....I wrote an essay about being raped while traveling ("The Trip that Changed My Life," which starts out:  "I came home pregnant.").  I never intended to do anything with it, but, at the request of Rita Golden Gelman (Tales of a Female Nomad), I submitted it to Random House for inclusion in Rita's follow-up book, Female Nomad and Friends.  I never expected they'd want it, but by the time the galleys were ready, I was too far along to pull it....

    That's how my mom found out about the rape ...and the abortion.  It's still hard for me to read, but now that I'm "out," I feel a bit freer and lighter.

    I also write about my brother's suicide in my forthcoming book Living Large In Limbo:  How I Found Myself Among the World's Forgotten.  Not fun.  But definitely cathartic, and, hopefully, a touchstone for others with the same experience...

    Keep up the courage!

    Kelly Hayes-Raitt

    Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq! ...And a pre-publication discount!
  • Cheryl Rice

    Hi Kamy. Great post. I'm a deeply private/shy/non-revealing person who wrote and published a deeply private not-in-a-million-years-can-I-share-this-with-the-world-let-alone-my-family -memoir. But I did. And three of the many things I learned is 1) the truth will set you free...but first it will make you miserable, 2) as the therapist Carl Rogers said, "what is most personal is most universal," and 3) what readers want, even more than a happy ending is a real ending. And that's what you offered. Thank you for your truth.

  • Wow! Thank you for the HP article and this post. I feel your pain even though I am not divorced. I am, however, feeling the same sort of vulnerabilities that comes with sharing our inner most thoughts, trials and tribulations. My memoir is coming out in October and I get the hives at times and hyperventilate at other times anticipating what all my friends in my suburban neighborhood will think of me when it comes out. I haven't talked much about my childhood in the last twenty years. I have focused on being the mom to my two kids, and the wife and business owner. I have focused on being in the present moment. But I always knew I'd write this book, and having told my children and husband the story, I set out to write it. I didn't hold anything back and I lay awake at night wondering how the world will receive it. Probably without much thought. These types of things are always so much bigger to the person sharing them, than to the people reading them. I'm comforting myself with that thought these days. October is coming and I need my sleep. 

  • Lisa Thomson

    Great post, Kamy. As an author of a divorce self help book and a blogger, I totally understand your conundrum. I'm glad you were satisfied in the end, that sharing your story was valid and rewarding. No, there isn't a neat bow at the end of these kinds of stories and that's why people relate even more to them. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to check out your Huff Po piece.

  • Julie Luek

    I am on the raw side of going through a divorce, and although I'm older and my kids are almost independent adults, so much of what you said resonated with me, so I applaud and appreciate your courage. I still agonize over the consequences on my children. The guilt is horrible; the ability to look forward again and hope for my heart is redeeming. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I appreciate your willingness to poke at it a bit. 

  • Janet Hulstrand

    What a beautiful (and very wise) essay, Kamy. It's quite clear how hard-won the wisdom has been, and how the battle continues. Thanks for sharing from your heart and soul. I'm sure it will help many people going through similar (though never identical) difficulties. 

  • Catherine Hiller

    Thank you, Kamy for this. You write  "the only way I could get my mind around it was to emphasize the contradictory, unresolved nature of my feelings about it from the beginning" which emphasis animates the more interesting books upon any subject! I like to witness the writer's quest for clarity. Although I am mainly positive in the way I view weed,  my new  book, "Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir" also acknowledges "The Downside," which chapter immediately follows "Celebration."  (I have to change that SheWrites photo soon -- I haven't had long hair in 5 years!)