In my new memoir, Shamrocks: A Memoir of Mothers, I bare my soul.
I tell the story of my family, of my mother, my grandmother, her mother, and so on… but really, their stories boil down to mine, and even further still, to my children’s. In the book, their stories are woven around mine. My story of coming-of-age, marriage, motherhood, miscarriage, mental illness. I don’t hold much back in Shamrocks.
So when the other day the book was given a one-star review by a stranger, it really threw me for a loop. What in the world had I done? I had shared my very being with someone who didn’t care for me more than to throw a one-star at it. I’d shared my heart and soul with the world, and the earliest responses that I have received thus far from readers have been disinterested at best, dislike at worst.
I admit, it knocked me down that day. I let that one-star review reflect not only on my book, my work, but on myself. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I came very, very close to not publishing Shamrocks numerous times. In fact, the book was originally due out in March 2018, but I didn’t release it until March 2019 because I was so afraid and hesitant to share it. And, ever since it went live, I have still considered pulling it many, many times. I’ve wanted to pull it so badly, to hold it to my chest, and never let anyone read it ever again.
But We Need to Share our Stories
I woke up from my second nap of that day (the one-star review day) with my 7-month old son Silas still sleeping against me. Holding him, I knew I had to make a decision. I could let myself become a slave to what others thought of me, or I could find my worth somewhere else – somewhere it truly belonged, in who I was created to be, in myself.
Too long have I been concerned with other’s thoughts. But I knew that, I remembered that, the moment I finally took a deep breath and hit Publish on Shamrocks, I did it for no one else but me. It’s my story. No one can invalidate it. And not only is it my story – it’s my family’s story. My mother practically co-wrote it with me. It’s her story, too. Was I going to let this one-star define her story, too? Absolutely not.
Why We Share Our Stories
In my Storybook Ancestor presentations, I read aloud my children’s picture book, When Mother Read Aloud, to groups of children, along with a mini-workshop on family history and storytelling. This book is also a memoir, written by my great-great-great grandmother. And in my presentations, I share with these young people that my ancestress may not have thought much of her life at the time. She may have even thought her life was nothing extraordinary – she was just a simple pioneer woman. But, she valued her story enough to sit down and tell it, even in just a few pages, so it would be preserved for the world.
And now over 90 years later, we have more of a glimpse of not only her life, but what life was like for her family, and for early pioneers in Indiana. Through this example, I encourage the kids in these presentations to do the same with their story, and their family history. Even if they think their story doesn’t mean much, tell it. You never know how much it may mean to someone down the road, and how much you honor your family and ancestors by telling their stories, too.
What It Means To Share our Stories
Sharing our stories can build others up. It can encourage others. It can show others with similar struggles that there is hope. Sharing the stories in our family history can show our young people that they come from strong men and women. We learn from our past – for better or for worse, we learn from those who came before us. Even in Shamrocks, though I honor the women in the book, I don’t shy away from sharing their struggles and setbacks. It’s how we learn as human beings. We learn from those around us, and from those who came before. And even if our stories don’t resonate with every person, they’re still worth sharing.
So, share your story. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. Share your story.
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