Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I just completed the book Wild (Oprah's Book Club 2.0 Digital Edition) by Cheryl Strayed. It's about a girl who starts on an 1100 mile hike across California and Oregon and through all the rough terrain in between. last I found myself, bootless, in the summer of 1995, not so much loose in the world as bound to it. It was a world I'd never been to and yet had known was there all along, one I'd staggered to in sorrow and confusion and fear and hope. A world I thought would both make me into the woman I knew I could become and turn me back into the girl I'd once been. 
At the end of her journey, Cheryl evolves into a woman with the skills to take on the rest of her life. It is a beautiful memoir. Beautiful indeed. I believe this is the type of book I will write. I'm excited by the idea of turning my memories and thoughts into a published memoir. I am sure that my struggles and my epiphanies will be of use to many a lonely reader.

Up until late last night, I was at about 90% done with the book. I just could not keep my eyes open to finish off the final 10% of the book. So this morning I woke up super early to enjoy and relish the final pages of this wonderful memoir.

Cheryl's journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins after having experienced the loss of her mother to cancer, the fracture of her family after her mother's untimely passing, and the demise of her marriage because of her own infidelities. If there were any a time for Cheryl to do some soul searching, it would seem that those three things I mentioned were ample material for her to embark on a path of enlightenment. Her path led her down (or up) a physically grueling hike across some of the most beautiful scenery in the West. I say "beautiful" because as I read the book, I googled all the images associated with the places she mentioned. The images ignites my sense of wonderment in relation to all the natural wonders on this beautiful planet.

I can certainly relate to two of the most difficult things that Cheryl endured. First is the demise of her marriage. I have blogged about my first marriage on many occasions. Second is the loss of her mother. Though Cheryl had a very nice relationship with her mother. My relationship to mine was littered with my selfish, unapologetic brashness of immaturity because of her old-school parenting. I wish I could take back so many years of me keeping my mother at a distance. But I know that she understands my frailties and can see everything from a much more grand vantage point.
One of the worst things about losing my mother at the age I did was how very much there was to regret ...The thought of my youthful lack of humility made me nauseous now. I had been an arrogant asshole and, in the midst of that, my mother died. Yes, I'd been a loving daughter and yes, I'd been there for her when it mattered, but I could have been better. I could have been what I'd begged her to say I was: the best daughter in the world.

I wonder if Cheryl's words are having an effect on me.
Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. The radical aloneness of the PCT had altered that sense. Alone wasn't a room anymore, but the whole wide world, and now I was alone in that world, occupying it in a way I never had before.
I often feel like ALONE is a place I want to be. I want to be ALONE to follow my own paths and dreams and to bring my life into a peaceful alignment. I want to become the person I must authentically and genuinely be. As women, some of us take on the heavy burden of caring for everyone except ourselves. I no longer want to be that woman. But how does one UNTANGLE from all the burdens that have been heaped upon our shoulders? Cheryl quotes her mother:
"I never got to be in the driver's seat of my own life," she'd wept to me once, in the days after she learned she was going to die. "I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I've always been someone's daughter or mother or wife. I've never just been me. 
So who am I? I still don't know. I want to make choices independent of my "role" as wife or daughter or sister or friend. I want to make choices that fit who I am, authentically.

Needless to say, Cheryl Strayed truly has a gem on her hands. I'm thankful Oprah resurrected her Book Club. I look forward to our next read.

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