Back in the '90s, there was a hip-hop song, "We're All in the Same Gang". It was a collaboration of West Coast rappers that promoted anti-gang violence. The message of the song is that we are all fighting the same battle so why fight each other. The relationship between women can be as precarious as gang-affiliations. If a new sister enters the arena, she is an enemy first until proven otherwise. I may be getting a little too deep but that has been my experience. Moving from city to city, I have been the new girl more often than not.
Saturday, I participated in a newly formed book club at my new church. My novel, Ruth's Awakening: A Love Story, was selected as the first book. I was a little nervous about this meeting. As a writer, I consider my novel my baby. I am very protective of it. I had to overcome the self-doubt that others would find the story as good as I thought it to be. Plus, I am the new girl. I was not sure what to expect.
We met at a local bakery. I handed out an agenda created to facilitate the conversation. In no time, everyone was opening up, laughing and talking. The characters in the novel became a mirror by which some attendees could see their own experiences reflected. The experience was revelatory.
I learned a few things during our book club discussion.
We all need to be heard. I truly believe that every woman has a story to share. The summation of her life experiences is greater than its total. The mistakes and triumphs arc to create your unique rainbow of experiences. If we can learn too freely share those experiences, it can help a sister get through a similar storm.
We all need validation. Validation is when you ask, "Am I crazy?' Someone responds with, "Girl, no. I have experienced that, too.' I put a lot of my own angst, questions, and hopes in a book form. I created characters that loosely mirrored my life, friends, acquaintances and family. I added some drama for creativity but the fundamental questions of friendship, love, life and death are universal.
We are not alone. Back in the '70s, The Main Ingredient released a song, "Everybody Plays the Fool." The lyrics are so on-point. Sometimes you break a heart and sometimes you get your heart broken. There will be a guy who loves you and you do not love him. You will love someone who only wants to be your friend. You can be the fool or someone will play the fool for you. It happens to everyone. Why do we nurse our hurt alone? During our discussion, it became evident that we are not alone in this search for love and understanding.
We are really fighting the same battle. My main character holds on to the hope that a long lost love will become the man that she has created in her imagination. The conflict happens when reality does not match our expectation. The internal battle begins. Do I let him go? Maybe he will change?
I was pretty into a guy who was not that into me. For some reason, I had blinders on. I mistook his friendship for something else. I started to hang out with a girl who exhibited the same behavior toward a guy. I found this so repulsive. I was like girl you are to fly to be chasing some guy. Then it hit me like a big flying bag of manure. lol I was also pretty pathetic. She was my mirror. She helped me identify a flaw that I was incapable of seeing in myself.
Ruth's Awakening: A Love Story is that reflective surface. The book club is a perfect venue to discuss the issues in the story that are also issues within each of us. Having the freedom to openly display and discuss our feelings is cathartic, reflective and healing. I never expected all of this in a book club but I am glad to have it now.