Excerpt: 'My Life So Far' by Jane Fonda

I've given you a taste of how my book has affected others, now let me give you a sense of how writing it affected me. It transformed me in the sense that, for the first time, I assumed ownership of my life. It made me stronger. As a controversial celebrity, I've been constantly defined and redefined by strangers -- often very hostile. I've been ridiculed ("Who does she think she is?), marginalized ("elite college drop out who doesn't know what she's talking about"), accused of being on an ego trip ("aging actress who wants to keep her name in the news"), and on it goes. Over the five years of writing, I have come to see who I am quite clearly. If I had to sum it up, I would say that I'm a woman, born with an abundance of resilience, who has spent her life improvising on the theme of self transcendence. I know my strengths and weaknesses and have named them. I know my truth. The name calling can no longer hurt me.

And finally, because of what I discovered about my mother during the writing (she died when I was twelve), I was able to forgive her and, thus, myself.

I wish everyone would write her or his life. Not necessarily to be published, but to force yourself to dig deeply into who you are and -- perhaps most importantly -- who your parents were. Committing it to paper helps you to be intentional about how you use your remaining time. It's like becoming an archeologist, sifting through the sand and dirt to find yourself. It can also be an invaluable gift for your children and other relatives.

In the end, when I am asked what I learned by writing this book and what I want to do with the rest of my third act, the answer is this: help women claim their voices and men reclaim their hearts.

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