How My Childhood Fear of Fire Empowered Me to Write My Memoir

One of the first stories my mom ever told me was of her waking up to discover that our clothes hanging over the woodstove had caught fire, blocking our exit from the Alaska cabin we lived in when I was two. If she hadn’t awakened, I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Thus began my early childhood fear of fire. A year later, when my mom burned some cardboard angels in the backyard trash barrel, my fears increased. If angels could burn, so could I. My little heart raced in terror whenever I saw a flame. With such a powerful foe as fire, I wondered how could I ever stay safe?

My night terrors included dreams of fire and when the gas furnace glowed with its blue flame in the next house we lived in, I woke my parents every time the furnace flickered on.

As I grew older and we moved from place to place, I began to see fire as my friend. When I lived without electricity, fire kept me warm. When I was hungry, fire cooked my food. When it was dark, fire gave me light. When I was afraid of wild animals, fire provided me with security.

Despite my initial dread of flames, I learned to build a hot fire with lots of kindling and tell stories around it as my father and grandmother did. Fire, which was once the reason for my nightmares, became a soothing friend which warmed me, nourished me, entertained me and protected me.

It’s often this way when we experience fear. At first, fear often keeps us from exploring our options. But once we’ve been thrown into the fire, we learn to live with the consequences of our choices and sometimes the choices of others. We might be afraid we can’t take the heat, but the secret to sanity is finding a way to survive the fire and use it as a resource without allowing it to consume us.

I’ve been told writing a childhood memoir is a lot like playing with fire. They warned my parents probably won’t enjoy reading it and my siblings will have seen things differently due to age and personality differences. I believe this is true, but the question is who am I writing this memoir for? I was warned that I might get burned. In my case, dealing with narcissistic family members had burned me anyway, and most of my family hasn’t had a relationship with me for nearly ten years.

And when it came down to who I am writing for, I realized it is first for my inner child — the little girl who endured the abuse and moving and lack of friends and education. I wrote to let her know everything will be all right in the end. Then I realized I am not the only one who has had a childhood of moving, neglect, and abuse. There are thousands of people who have suffered even more than I have. They need to know they can be okay too.

So I took a chance and decided to walk across hot coals to take the journey of remembering my own life events. It’s been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I’ve been able to enter the flames of the past and endure the burns of family members’ accusations for writing my story and now I’ve been able to rise up out of the ashes. You’ve heard of a victory march, well writing memoir is a victory write!

A beta reader who read my book just sent me this note:

“I just finished your book. It was so hard to stop reading it! I love love love your story! Your guts! Your superpowers! Your heart! Your desire to speak the truth! To get freedom! You are an inspiration! I laughed and cried and dreamt with you! I hadn’t read such a captivating story for very long!”

Then she went on to say,

“Your family can’t take this away from you, no one can. It’s your truth and yours alone to tell!”

This is the truth for me and for you too — if you are thinking of writing your own story. The hardest thing I ever did was face my fears and realize these painful events could also bring healing to me and others who have lived through an abusive childhood. And it is just as true for you!

I’m so glad I faced the fire and wrote about it!

Chasing Eden A Memoir will be out on Amazon next month!

You can also check it out on Goodreads.

I’m so excited to share it with you!

3 comments

  1. WOW WOW WOW I can’t wait to read this!! Chasing Eden, A Memoir — what a great title!

    My memoir is still a work in progress. I’m still on the first draft. But I am writing every day now without fail. I started this draft 323 days ago and I haven’t missed one day of writing, not even when I had surgery a few months ago. I wrote that morning before leaving for the hospital. For me, writing every day is making all of the difference. Today I wrote over 3,000 words. The end is in sight and it feels amazing. I first tried to write this story more than 40 years ago. But I definitely wasn’t ready way back then. I know I am ready now, though.

    Cherilyn, I’m sorry, I didn’t want to make this comment about me, I wanted it to be all about you and your amazing accomplishment. But what you said here, about the reasons why you wrote this memoir — everything you wrote in this post, I relate to 100%. It’s where I am in my life right now.

    Growing Up Crazy, My Life with Complex PTSD, A Memoir — that’s my title. But, Chasing Eden — I love it! And, after reading what your beta reader said, I can’t wait to read it. 💘💘💘

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Linda,

    Never fear, I am not worried about you making a comment about you which you really didn’t, you are jsut sharing your memoir journey with us! I wish you well in the writing process and I am glad to share resources I have found with you. I like your title! Keep up the good work!

    Would you like to read my book for free in exchange for a blog review? If so, let me know!

    Peace and freedom!

    Cherilyn

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Aww, thank you for that offer. However, I prefer to buy your book, and then leave a review. I want to do this for two reasons: one, you deserve to get paid. And two, a verified purchase review carries more weight with a lot of buyers. If I didn’t have any discretionary income, then I would gladly take you up on a free copy. But I usually have a few extra dollars to spend every month, and I spend most of it on books, mostly kindle ebooks. My Amazon review name is Loves2Read. Because I do! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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