November 2, 2014 by genelup
Cheryl Strayed and I both wrote memoirs when we thought our worlds puked on us. Her book, “Wild,” was a New York Times’ Best Seller, was praised and promoted by Oprah and was made into a movie featuring Reese Witherspoon.
My book, “My Life Shattered, then it got worse…until,” hasn’t done that well. Actually, I’m still waiting for my first review on Amazon. Her book has a one-word title, and mine eight words. I think I’ll change my title to “Shatter.” Maybe more people will read it.
Cheryl was devastated when her mother died and that began her tailspin. Her marriage collapsed mainly to her having extra-marital affairs. She got hooked on drugs. She felt her siblings and stepfather abandoned her and she was left alone in her grief. She felt she didn’t have a family support group. Her husband seemed to be a nice and loving man, and she crapped all over him. Cheryl, at age 26, decided to get out of her funk by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from California through Oregon to the Washington border. Over 1,000 miles.
It certainly wasn’t easy; her hiking boots didn’t fit right and her toes turned purple and six of her toenails popped out. She mostly hiked alone, through extremely hot weather and freezing rain. The experience hardened her to face her demons and defeat them.
Cheryl was totally honest telling her story with many flashbacks of her screwed-up life. When her mother was dying, someone suggested she pray. Since she had no basis of religion, her prayer, minus any mention of God, used the “F” word. However, later in the book, she really wished her mother had brought her up with some sort of a religious experience.
Reading her book you might think she was a nymphomaniac, a drug addict, and an ungrateful bitch. Walking the trail she described having sex with a guy she met along the way. She also met people who encouraged her to take control of her life in a positive, meaningful way. While walking the trail, she learned she could forgive herself of her failings and things she regretted doing and feeling.
My world collapsed (maybe I should re-title my book “Collapse”) while living in Chicago in 1967 at age 29. When I asked my girlfriend to marry me she said “No.” Weeks later, my boss fired me from my good-paying job in corporate public relations. Actually, he said the company was downsizing, and I was officially “laid off.” I then tried to sell vacuum cleaners and I delivered pizzas to pay my bills. I closed many bars and I became a drunkard.
I dropped out of society in late 1967, became a vagabond, or some may say a hippie, and bummed and thumbed Europe and Morocco for nearly a year. People would pick me up on the highway, take me home and feed me and put me on my way again. I got stoned in Morocco, and was caught in Czechoslovakia when the Russian tanks came in to occupy that tiny country. I dated a Spanish girl. I really liked her, but our cultures snubbed any permanent relationship. An attractive American girl I met in Paris wanted me to travel to Monaco with her. I basically would have been her sugar-daddy. Other romantic failings. I sold my blood for extra money. I still drank heavily, fell into debauchery. I was a mess, just as Cheryl was. It wasn’t until I got back to the United States that I was able to restore myself to my childhood faith.
My story is about a young man’s life unraveling, and the journey that put it back together. Cheryl found hers in a humanistic way; I found mine when God gave me a second chance.