I love Twitter. If I didn’t love it enough before, I love tons now. Yes, this is another post about Twitter, but also so much more.
About a week or so ago when Oprah announced she would be kicking off her new book club 2.0 I read about her pick, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and decided it was something I wanted to read, too. I tweeted to two friends who also love to read and asked if they wanted to read along and then have a wine night to discuss the book. An informal book club of three.
We continued to tweet a bit about our plans and soon, Oprah (ok, ok, so I know it really wasn’t Oprah, but one of her social media specialists) sent me a message thanking me for tweeting about the book and the book club. They asked for my address and lo and behold, the gift arrived today.
When the FedEx woman rang the door bell, I wasn’t even a little embarassed to open the door in my pajamas after 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. I was just excited to get the package inside and open it. Logan and Charlie followed at my heels as I shrieked, asking, “What mom? What is it?”
Not only was there a signed copy of Wild, but also a little note signed by Oprah herself.
When I explained to Logan what it was, he said, “Congratulations, Mommy.” Sorry, Oprah, I don’t think he gets just who you are. At least not yet.
Now, I am not one of the psycho-obsessed Oprah fans. Don’t get me wrong, I think she is an amazing, generous and intelligent woman but I am more drawn to her work. I love stories and love how she has used her medium – television – to bring these stories to life. She isn’t afraid to ask tough questions and she doesn’t breeze over someone’s story, but tries to get to the nitty-gritty details that I often wonder about. I tend to her like her stories about regular people more so than those on celebs. I tend to Tivo her shows on topics I am interested in and save them to watch on a Saturday night. (Yes, I know this is a bit pathetic. I’m a single mom, what do you expect me to do on a Saturday night?)
Even though I am not so star-struck with Oprah as others, getting this note and book totally made my day. I think partly it has to do with the way the book has resonated with me. (I am already halfway into the book, since I had bought it on my Kindle.)
I have really connected to Cheryl’s story because she makes me feel a little less crazy. Let me explain. The book is memoir about a difficult time in Cheryl’s life, after her mother died quickly from cancer and she divorced her first husband. Struggling with grief, she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone. With minimal, if any, real hiking experience. Yes, Cheryl has balls.
As someone who was hit hard by grief in my 20s, I can relate to Cheryl’s need to do something drastic and something physical to help her find her way through it. Throughout the time when Nolan was sick, I became an avid runner. I have always run on and off for years since high school, but never really stuck with it. Usually something in life would come up, causing me to break my stride and it would take me some time to jump back in.
But when Nolan was sick, and I was shuttling him back and forth to chemo treatments, doctors appointments and Houston for a clinical trial, and caring for an infant, and working full-time, and managing our household and cooking as many homemade organic meals as possible late on Saturday nights, I managed to run at least four times a week. Granted it was on a treadmill and usually around 9 p.m. at night, but I did it religiously. I had to. (I chose to run, she chose to go on an insane hike. See why I felt less crazy?)
The treadmill had been moved to my parents condo two minutes away and was sticking out of a large closet, so when I ran, I literally stared at the wall inside the closet in the spare bedroom. It really didn’t matter what I looked at because the goal was just to run. To push my post-pregnancy body to the point where all I could think about were my muscles burning, my lungs heaving for more air and the sweat dripping down my face stinging my eyes.
I would listen to a few songs on repeat, over and over. It became a kind of meditation, a time in the day when I didn’t have to think, yet the only time that I could really think, because my thoughts were clearest when I was running. I would think about all that I had to do when I got home to get us all ready for the next day, and think about Nolan’s current state in his treatment. It is the only time I thought about the fact that he might die.
Everyone asked me how I had the energy and time with all that was going on to run. The answer is, I don’t know. A lot of people thought I was doing it to drop the baby weight, but I honestly couldn’t have cared less if I got my abs back or could fit back into my pre-baby clothes. I did it for my mental sanity. For the feeling of mental clarity that can only come when your mind is forced to focus on something else – like your body being pushed to physical extremes.
As I deal with his death and continue to try to build this new life and move forward through it, I am constantly drawn back to running and other things for the same reason. And I believe this is what drew Cheryl to the trail.
At one point in the book, I think it was about three or four weeks into her hike, she begins to worry that she is not dealing with all of the issues that had set her out on the journey in the first place. Then she realizes, in her own way, she is doing just that.
Another striking point in the book is how she leaves one life, her old life, including marriage, family, job and state to strike off on a new one, albeit she doesn’t know what that life yet will be when she is hiking.
After I lost Nolan, some people expected me to go back and pick up life where it had left off. Life goes on, they would say. And some people are able to do that, able to pick up the pieces and stitch them back together so they are whole again and move forward. I could not do that. I know that his death has altered me, for good. I kept waiting to feel like my old self again and then realized this was my new self. My old self died with Nolan, and just like I can’t get Nolan back, I can’t get that part of myself back, either. I am different and the life that we once had is forever gone. Now, two years later, I am still trying to figure out what I want my new life to be.
Reading Cheryl’s account of how her she had to end her marriage, leave the state and set out on this journey to find her true self so she could build her new life was comforting in knowing that death has done this to someone else, too. It made them feel so altered and changed that there was no going back for them, either. They had to take off in a new direction and strike a new course.
Of course, in my mind I always knew there were others who have gone through a similar circumstance. But it’s something else to read about it, to feel it, to connect to it. Especially when someone is so open and honest, baring it all for the world. Yes, Cheryl sure has some cojones.
Are you reading Wild? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts.