They Help Us To Do The Hard Things

Esperanza and I were talking today about our love of a good memoir. I’m taking a hiatus from reading so I can focus on writing, but as I write more profiles I’m thinking: what makes these stories so compelling to me? Because each person I profile I admire very much. And I’m wondering, why we are so drawn to certain stories?

Esperanza is reading two memoirs I recommended, by two bloggers actually. The first is “Heaven is Here” by Stephanie Nielson. I’ve talked about Stephanie’s blog before (NieNie Dialogues: I’m a fan) but the book is something else entirely. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, once upon a time there was a beautiful young mother of four children, married to a handsome loving husband. A Prince Charming if you will. She was, as Esperanza put it, “so, so happy”. She’d created art out of her own life on her blog, and the beauty she generated from her cooking, decorating and photography led to acclaim from Martha Stewart Magazine and Conde Nast. Stephanie’s blog was inspiring to many women who aspired to be the kind of devoted mother and wife she was. Stephanie attributed her approach to life to her deeply held Mormon beliefs. In 2008, she was truly living the dream. She had everything.

Which is why what happened next was so shocking. She and her husband were in a terrible plane crash. They survived but their friend who was also in the plane did not. Stephanie was burned over 80% on her body (including her beautiful face) and was in a coma for 2 months. The pain, the injuries, the horror: it’s almost unimaginable. Yet, she survived and thrived and eventually even gave birth to another baby, Charlotte. How? How could you recover, mentally and emotionally from such a thing? In the book Stephanie credits her Mormon faith with much of her recovery in every way, and also her love of her family.

In the book, she attempts to hike a local trail to mark her recovery and gain a victory of sorts, even though every movement hurts. On the trail a child she has never met cheers her on, relating the message: “You help me do the hard things.”

The other book I recommended is “Bloom” by Kelle Hampton. Kelle’s a fun-loving photographer and mother-of-one whose world is rocked when her second child, her daughter Nella, is unexpectedly born with Downs Syndrome. The book tells the story of what happend next with honesty and sincerity. Kelle relates the depression she felt immediately after Nella’s birth and then the fierce embrace of her daughter and the decision she made to celebrate the “small moments”, the triumphs and the beauty of Nella’s life. Kelle eventually creates her own pretty unique approach to parenting: one of optimism and expecting the best of a situation, not the worst. The gorgeous photos help to tell the story as well. Kelle’s gang of girlfriends (she calls them “the net”) are at the root of how Kelle adapts to her new reality. Their love and support and words of wisdom are really at the heart of what allows her to fully embrace her new role as Nella’s champion.

After discussing these books with Esperanza, we decided we seek these stories out because they are about women dealing with hard, hard things. Life is full of hardships. It just is. So we seek out words of wisdom from those we think perhaps have answers we don’t, the key, so to speak of what is resilience. And how we can develop it on our own.

What stories speak to you, and why? Do you seek out memoirs?



Filed under Project Dreamcatcher, writing

6 responses to “They Help Us To Do The Hard Things

  1. Gail K

    It depends on the topic, but I do like memoirs and enjoy reading them. Thanks for these suggestions.

  2. Memoirs, biographies & autobiographies are probably my favourite kind of reading. : ) I tend to go forones about well-known people (celebrities, politicians, historical figures, etc.) — but occasionally I stumble onto a gem by an unknown writer that I love, or one that’s got a lot of buzz. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed is a good example, These both sound interesting!

  3. “Wild” is really good. I definitely recommend it.

    As you said before, I think we are drawn to these stories because we want to watch people overcome impossible difficulties. I know that I feel more secure in my belief that I can withstand major hardships because I’ve “watched” so many women in this community come away from unimaginable loss and suffering. It takes a long time and the pain never really goes away but eventually people get to a place where they can survive, or even thrive. When I was pregnant with my daughter I was sure losing her would be the death of me. I literally feared I would be wholly destroyed. My fear fostered an anxiety in me that marked that pregnancy in a really negative way. In the three years since that pregnancy I have read countless blogs and have digested so many stories of women who have survived the losses I worry I couldn’t survive. Their stories have absolutely changed my outlook on life, or better said my outlook on my self. I now have faith that I can live with the terrible sadness of losing someone I love and that I will be able to carry on, somehow. That belief in myself has made this pregnancy a much more positive experience and I am so grateful for that.

  4. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked to Stephanie Nielson in awe. Her story inspires me – it makes me want to be a better person. I totally agree, there is so much to be gained from these stories. And I am just so grateful these women have been willing to share such personal pieces of their lives!

  5. Wow, what stories. I really like reading memoirs and true stories or books based on true stories. It makes it more real. Right now I’m reading ‘Pink for a Girl’, about a couple struggling with unexplained infertility. It’s one of the few books in that category that doesn’t end with baby, somehow.

    And I agree, it is inspiring and helpful to know that you can survive so much and still find a way to live the best you can with what you have.

  6. I am one hundred percent a memoir/biography girl. I’ve TRIED reading fiction and for the past few years I’m like; if it ain’t real, I’m not interested. The first book is on my amazon wish list, and if someone who knew me in real life was looking through it they’d be very confused. I’m a swearing like a sailor atheist, what in the world is that book doing there? I found her after her accident, but years ago, and I went back and read her entire blog. What shook me to the core was the happiness, JOY and gratefulness for her life and family that she’s ALWAYS had. It’s “easy” to be grateful once you’ve almost lost it all, but to start out life that way, man, that is something special.

    I’ve never heard of the second writer, I’ll have to check her out.

    I don’t know why I can’t read fiction books about triumphing over demons but it’s all I read about in non fiction. I guess I need the real life hope.

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