Is it brave if we were just living?

A week ago, I finished my fourth book. Wrapped it up with a bow and sent it off to the typesetter. Jodi Brandon and I have spent hours in this manuscript, editing and writing. What started as a chronological record of the formative years of my life has turned into my blood, sweat, and tears laid bare on the page. 

As I sit here preparing to share this book with the world on March 11th, I find myself considering the two groups of people that will read it - those who know me well and those who don't. Those who know me well will find stories that I've never told them within the pages of this book, because as vulnerable and public as I am, there are still pieces I kept for myself. Those who don't will meet the real me, the me that has been to hell and back and stands before you today an incredibly strong and scared woman, all at the same time.

When someone hears the story of my childhood - the abuse, the heartache, and everything I went through before I was old enough to even drive a car - often the first thing they say is how brave I must be. Brave. That's a funny word. 

Is it brave if I didn't know any different? Can I truly be considered brave if my frame of reference told me that my childhood was "normal" - until it wasn't? 

As we approach March 11th and I prepare my heart and mind to finally put these stories out into the world, I find myself circling back, considering different parts of the text and how they might impact the reader. I'd like to share one here with you. 

This is my author's note, the disclaimer that sets up the nearly 30,000 words you'll read as you devour my story one page at a time: 

I never planned to write a book about myself. I always said I didn’t have enough of a story to tell to fill a compelling number of pages. My life story requires that one suspend disbelief; it rests safely nestled between absolute insanity and plausible deniability. Yet here we are. 

The stories contained herein are told to the best of my knowledge and memory. Names are changed to protect the guilty (unless the guilty have given permission to be thusly exposed, in which case they are at your mercy, dear readers. Play nice.). 

The stories contained herein are also only a slice of my life (and there wasn’t time or space to include all that has happened so far). As of this writing, I sit tenderly filled with the hopeful potential of more years left to live than those lived thus far. I have not yet learned all of life’s lessons, nor do I pretend to be omnipotent, psychic, or any other form of a know-it-all. This book is not meant to be used as a guide for life and is written for entertainment purposes first. God save the person who derives actionable advice from the life I’ve lived.

Now that I’ve included far too much language to disclaim away any responsibility I might have for how you interpret the words within, let’s get on with the show. 

Even in this author's note, I disclaim any idea that I am somehow brave or strong for experiencing what I've experienced. How often do we do this? How often do we reduce our life experiences to a postmark, a flippant comment, or a shrug of our shoulder. It wasn't that brave. I wasn't that strong. 

Let's stop doing that, together. Okay?