There’s still time to pull the plug. Should I? It seems that barriers keep cropping up. Is this a message that I should heed? I admit I struggle with this journey I’ve chosen. Writing a memoir is heady stuff. When I first started on this journey, my attempts were half-hearted at best. I felt I should at least try to get some of this information down. Even though I will never have children, isn’t this still important information for my biological family, especially my nephew, Anton?
When my attempts later accelerated and I allowed myself to feel that rush of excitement, I had to discern what I wanted from this book. My dear friends Leslie and Deb asked me point blank what my intentions were–“Bob, do you want to sell a million copies and become rich or do you want to sell a hundred copies and touch a hundred lives?” I had to sheepishly admit that I wanted the latter. I say that I sheepishly admitted it because I didn’t want to sound like some self-obsessed savior. But that is the truth–part of the truth. I also want it to do well. But if ten people tell me that they have been changed then I can die a happy man. And the irony in all this is that people are already telling me how my story is impacting them–for the good. So I guess I’m on my way.
Yet, still I grapple. In determining to write this book, I had to make the wrenching decision to overturn all the rocks and show all the slimy things underneath. We all know life is not pretty, yet we also determine how we will edit ourselves even with those we love most. I’m going further than that and I grapple.
Since I first started sharing my adoption story with people, the unanimous response has been, “You should write a book.” In the early years that was implausible. I was an undergrad at Oregon State University and my journey had just begun. There was little to write about and certainly no social media available to chronicle the journey. Now, hundreds of millions can conceivably read this. And still I grapple.
Why am I exposing my family and our lives to microscopic examination? My parents were beautiful, loving, Christian people. Am I besmirching their good name and reputation by overturning the aforementioned rocks? I worship the ground my brother walks on; will he be hurt? He’s already read the manuscript and wasn’t happy yet he has somewhat begrudgingly given it his blessing by telling me he’s proud of me. Why am I exposing myself and risking rejection and judgment?
And then tonight. I was watching an episode from the classic TV sitcom I Love Lucy. In this particular episode, the principals are excited about an upcoming trip to California where Ricky is to be featured in a film on the life of Don Juan. Lucy’s mother wants Ricky to give the head of MGM her book. It is about her family. Ricky rolls his eyes. You can see where I’m going with this.
Immediately I felt the same thing. Is God talking to me through I Love Lucy? I know it sounds silly. But hell, people have seen Jesus in a tortilla. This waiting causes a person to question and to grapple. And the roadblocks don’t help. Is this Someone’s way of telling me that this must be done right and that the exact time is later?
What if it’s all for naught? I always cling to my editor’s words. We had never met, only communicating via email. I agreed to hire her and I emailed her my manuscript. When she was done, she told me that her normal approach was to read a chapter of an author’s book, mull it over, and then go on to another chapter before she started to edit. But mine, she said, captivated her. She couldn’t put it down and she read it in two sittings–the sign of a compelling read. She told me she wanted to know what happened to these people; she had to keep going.
I was immensely gratified by that. A handful of people I know have read the manuscript and they’ve loved it. However, author familiarity can color opinion. It’s a fact. While I appreciate their accolades, it helps to have an objective viewpoint.
After my dad’s death in late October, I had to rewrite the epilogue–and have it edited. My editor received the epilogue at Thanksgiving. According to her, she had a house to clean, dinner to prepare and grown children on the way, but she couldn’t stay away from the epilogue. She devoured it and it made her literally weep. Her final comment? “Bob, you have to publish this book.”
But doubts creep in. They swirl in my brain. Sometimes I read the manuscript and I think it’s a piece of garbage. Other times I read it and am convinced it’s a masterpiece. Such is the response of Italians. Always passionate, never an in-between. Is that good? Is that bad? Time will tell.
Yet I know this, no matter what the response is to this book, I did it. After nine years, I finished it. The dream would be that I can finally pursue my, well, dream! To do something that compels me and to have it resonate. To touch someone in a way they needed, but didn’t realize. In a way they weren’t prepared. To create something that will change one tiny corner of the world no matter how insignificantly. And if it results in happiness or forgiveness, is that really insignificant?
But the potential costs haunt me. Honesty has a price. I’ve experienced that firsthand lately. People oftentimes claim they want honesty. But when they get it, they throw it back. Kind of like catch and release trout.
Sometimes pain is more bitter the second time around. Sometimes seeing your life in print is unnerving. There’s something almost permanent about writing; it gives something an almost eternal bent. Something that can’t be erased, that can’t be taken back. Something that must be faced.
I’m not grappling anymore.