Most people that know me will assume they know my answer to this question. We Bought a Zoo is my favorite movie of all time. I watched it for the first time after I had completed My Year of Hugs but that wasn't significant to me at the time. I certainly did not associate the two nor anticipate that the movie expressed the inspiration I feel for choosing to go on hug journeys.
The first time I watched it with my family and I cried like a baby at the end. The second time I watched it by myself and I cried like a baby at the end. I was a bit embarrassed when my husband came home at the tail end of this viewing to find me crying (sobbing, to be honest) by myself on the couch as the credits rolled. "Why are you crying?" All I could express in that moment was, "I want to buy a zoo!!" He chuckled and said, "no, really?" I became emphatic. "no really, I WANT TO BUY A ZOO!"
I truly believed that is why I was getting so emotional. That embarked me on my path of animal healing and a desire to one day have a healing farm, but that is a story for another day.
I have watched the movie countless times over the years and I never don't cry. The thing that has changed is my curiosity around why. Sure, I want to surround myself with animals but I felt something deeper stirring within me.
As I was drafting the first iteration of my memoir, I rewatched it as I do when I want to feel inspired or hopeful or just plain happy. As I once again found myself grabbing for the tissues at the end of the movie, the connection was made. I was crying not because I want to buy a zoo, but because I choose people.
If you have not seen the movie, there is a scene at the end where the zookeeper and her niece are sitting on a bench enjoying the fruits of their labor as the opening day of the zoo unfolds quite successfully. The niece turns to her Aunt and asks, "if you had to choose, would you choose animals or people?" They both turn in the direction of the people they love and begin to chuckle as the niece acknowledges, "yeah, me too." Not only had they both found love, but they found community.
That moment gets me every time because it's the truth of how I feel as well. Animals bring me the greatest joy. I have a passion for offering them healing. They inspire and teach me every single day.
But, people? They are what make life worth living. They make my heart swell in sizes I didn't even know I was capable of. Even though they may escort me to depths I am not sure I will survive, they also elevate me to heights I didn't know exist. In the midst of it all I find myself and stretch myself to the point that water leaks out of my eyes and I feel I will burst with love for all of humanity, myself included.
Every time, I choose people.
MYOH - My Year of Hugs. It's the journey that began it all. Many of you reading this joined me on that adventure. Many of you have no idea what I am talking about and my dear reader, this post is for you.
My Year of Hugs came about in 2011 and was a year in which I decided to embark on a daily adventure to hug the people I encountered throughout my day, whether they were friends, acquaintances or perfect strangers. I wanted to share love and appreciation for those who were in my life including the grocery store clerk, ups driver or anyone else placed in my path. But, the reach was too small in my mind. I wanted to be able to hug people who were outside of my limited physical reach so I chose to blog about it as well in an attempt to virtually hug people too far away to embrace.
Every day I would gather up the courage to ask the people around me for a hug and end my evening writing about who I hugged, how many people I hugged, and my thoughts about it all for 366 days. (I got a bonus day thanks to the leap year!)
Why did I do this? Well, I have answered that question numerous times and I am pretty sure the answer has been different each time. It's one that I have continued to ask myself ever since that year ended. Ultimately I hope to have the most accurate, satisfying answer for you in the memoir but perhaps, it will prove to be an ever evolving, multi-faceted answer that continuously leads all of us to a greater understanding of human nature.
And, it's a shit show. Great way to start out the blog, huh?
Actually, it's exactly what it needs to be. Apparently, this is the way it typically goes. There is a reason why Anne Lamott calls it the Shitty First Draft, or as we like to call it in our book writing group, Raw First Draft. That feels more accurate. It's a getting down of the ideas, concepts and things that are burning inside, aching to be given voice. Ultimately in my case (as in many author's cases) about 90% of it is unusable for the purpose of this memoir.
Rather than feeling defeated, I actually feel relieved. Those concepts are no longer rattling around in my brain taking up space. I now have room to allow for the true direction this book wants to take. I have clarity where there was just chaos before. My dream of this book being a great big hug for you; a feeling of coming home makes so much more sense now.
I am still terrified. I am afraid I won't do the book justice. I am afraid I will disappoint you, my reader. I am afraid I will get in to the 2nd draft and once again feel lost and aimless. I am afraid I won't have the guts to see it through to completion (probably the main reason why I made sure to hire a book coach). Most of all I am afraid the vision of what I have in my head will not be accurately translated in to this physical object that will be shared with you.
Setting the fears aside is a process and a practice in itself. It reminds me of my year of hugs. Every morning I woke up I had to practice finding the courage once again to ask strangers for hugs. Now the practice will be finding the courage to face my fears and write anyway. One thing I learned through both hug journeys (I will share more about these to give you context in future posts) was that my determination and stubbornness to achieve my desire was greater than any obstacle. May that be so for this book.
I'm actually doing it. I'm finally writing my book. (insert giddy giggle here) Of course, now I see why this book waited so long to arrive, after all, a hug memoir depicting a journey that was taken pre-pandemic would only have held up until 2020. Now, I get the joy of exploring these journeys taken pre-pandemic in a post-pandemic world. Ultimately, I hope this book envelops you in a great big hug that feels like coming home.