I study the photograph from four years ago with me standing next to a tall red rock in the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. It was unusual for me to take my solo journey in April, but that trip was planned around the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference. On that Monday afternoon, I was full of anticipation about pitching my memoir, Saved by Sedona to a literary agent. I didn’t know that the next day I’d develop acute altitude sickness.
I could barely make it back to the guesthouse from the Cog Railroad that had traveled up Pike’s Peak to 11,500 feet, the summit for that day due to high winds. Finally nestled under the covers of my bed, my body ached with fever and chills. Why does this have to happen to me now, God, I muttered. Will I be well enough to participate in the conference? I slept that day and most of the next, sitting up for brief periods to finish writing that had been put off until the last minute.
Early Thursday morning, I managed to drive across town to the opening session. I was exhausted but determined to go through with the seven-minute pitch. When I finished, I was stunned when the agent asked me to send my entire book proposal. It seemed that everything had worked out and my goal had been reached. That must be why I was led to come here, I thought and felt like one of the winners when I sat at the agent’s table that night at dinner.
I floated on that feeling when I returned to North Carolina. Two months later when dealing with my mother’s sudden illness, I received a rejection letter from the agent. While I knew that wasn’t unusual, that disappointment came at a difficult time. I comforted myself by saying if it hadn’t been for the April conference, I wouldn’t have been able to take my solo journey. My summer break was spent with Mama in hospitals and rehab facilities. I tried to rest in God’s timing for when my memoir would be published.
Three years later, when my summer journey took me to Kentucky for a two-week writer’s residency, I immersed myself in studying memoirs. It came to me in that little house in the country, that I’d only told half of the truth. While I’d been honest about my cancer experience, I’d not shared about being fired from my job at The Research Company. My shame had prevented me from telling everything, from acknowledging that some days the job was harder than cancer treatment.
Looking at the red rocks in the picture takes me back to that first pilgrimage to Sedona. There I felt God’s presence, the still small voice inside leading me, healing from my cancer and the struggles at work. I didn’t know then that I was also being prepared for the valley ahead.
At my recent conference of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’, a publisher spoke about memoirs.
“Your book’s not ready until you’re on the healing side of the journey,” she said. She gave examples of rejected manuscripts that described the pain of the life-changing event but stopped short of the healing resolution.
Since Kentucky, I’ve gone back and slowly worked through the scenes at The Research Company — both on paper and in my heart. I’ve grappled with what part I played in those struggles, and where I needed to let go of my anger. Looking back over the years, I see a path that has been forged toward the healing side of the journey. Now I’ve rewritten my memoir, this time with the whole truth.
I look forward to the future when that manuscript will be a book on the shelf.
(Additional pictures posted on Author Facebook page– Saved by Sedona)
How About You?
What experiences have you had that made you feel you’d reached your goal only to be disappointed that you weren’t there yet?
Were you able to look back and see why it wasn’t the right timing for what you desired?
As you look forward, how can you use these experiences to help you rest in the timing of how things progress in your life?