Holding Back

Letting in the Light

“I think we are embarrassed by how much pain we have been in throughout our entire lives. Because we are embarrassed, we don’t share this truth with one another. But the embarrassment is just that— embarrassment. We need to have mercy on ourselves. We all feel embarrassed. Actually, when we do share our embarrassment, we experience relief. The holding back is what is hard.”

-Stephen Levine, “Living the Life You Wish to Live”

Recently, a good friend who knows a lot about me, double-dog-dared me to start writing the meat of my story. I told her that I had just realized  that I’ve been focusing on what I call the sweet stuff.  You know, the stories that don’t take into account the times when life was a bitch, when the pain was unbearable,  and when I believed that all those bad things that happened were my fault.

Sure, I’ve mentioned my dysfunctional family, hinted at the traumas I’ve experienced, but it’s all been lingering in the background haze that is my life.  I’ve been aware of it, but unwilling or unable to share it.  Perhaps not ready is a better way of putting it.

I came to this realization during Writing Your Life Story class one day when the teacher had us do a ten minute free write on what family means to us. That request stopped me in my tracks.  I couldn’t get the pen moving across the paper.  I felt a rock growing in my solar plexus where anxiety always hits me first.  It was an I don’t want to go there moment.

What finally made its way to the page was the following:

“Family has always been a puzzlement for me.  I know what I wanted it to be, a    beautiful group of loving people who cared endlessly about me and were always there to kiss a boo-boo, to help with homework in a patient way.  A unit of older and younger people who always dressed-up for dinner on Sunday, lived in the same place forever and had large family gatherings where everyone got along.

I always envied my friends whose dads hugged them and told them that he loved them.  Dads who were there for all kinds of activities and who took their kids on special outings.  I always imagined my family as being all that.  I had some of  those  things.  Mom was very loving when I was small, kissed my wounds and tried to protect me from the world at large.”

It took me ten minutes to write those few lines and I became aware that I’ve been living much of my life in my imagination, making it better when it was worse and worse when it was better.  But most of all, unable to unwind the string I’ve kept wound in a tight ball, tucked in my back pocket, where it bulges out like an overgrown cheek.

Much of it made it’s way out during therapy after my mother died when family secrets started spilling out during my hour-long sessions, sometimes several times a week.  At the time I knew that I was beginning to integrate all it into my being but also knew it would all become clearer with time and that words on paper would bring closure to the pain.  Hence this blog which I began a year ago on November 30th.

One Rich Life, is still the container for my stories.  It has kept me writing and has helped to clear the cobwebs away.  For a long time, I believed that I had no stories to tell.  If you had asked me to recall an event in my early life, I would have said that I don’t remember or it never happened. But the more I write here, the more stories rise to the top of my consciousness, like cream on fresh, raw milk.

Somedays it feels like it might become a book.  Other days it’s unclear where I’m going with it.  Whatever it becomes, it is clearly a healing mechanism for me, helping me understand where I have come from and how I got to be me.

In coming posts I hope begin to venture into the down-and-dirty stories, that are difficult for me but that need to be aired out so that I can continue to move forward.  I hope you’ll continue to come along on this journey.

This entry was posted in Classes, Navigating Through Life, stories, Wise Words. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Holding Back

  1. Brenda Neil says:

    Your quote from Living the Life You Wish to Live is very powerful!

    You are a very brave woman to start thinking about these pains and then to even start writing about them.

    Love you Joan.

  2. Gail Livingston says:

    Joan, I’m with you all the way. You are a brave and insightful soul and a beautiful writer. You are ready now to tell your truth, and I believe all your readers will follow you into the depths of your experience. A friend of mine in therapy was once told that strong ropes may be needed, but you will climb out or be lifted out in the arms of love. I wish you well. Gail

  3. mythgal says:

    Good for you Joan. As Anne Lamott says, “Good writing is about telling the truth.”

  4. Patricia says:

    here I am where do you want me to sit or what dragon do you want me to hold onto. Much love

  5. patricia says:

    I notice as I grow up that some of what I thought about my childhood was really not what I thought I was looking at, one day my cousin, told me my grandmother was a “swinger” WOW I never saw that, she actually raised me and we traveled the world together and then there was my mother who looked for her father every vacation, who we never found, and then there was my father…… and on and on it went, the wonder of a child. As an adult all this looks and feels different, more like a mystery than a misery.

  6. jzrart says:

    Yes, it does go on and on and on. And they didn’t have the tools we have today to help us through miseries.

  7. shirleyhs says:

    Joan, you’ve taken a big step with this blog post. Brava! And thanks for you support of my memoir, too. Some day we will meet in person. Until then, it takes a virtual village! I’m proud to be one of your villagers.

  8. jzrart says:

    Shirley, Thanks so much for you encouraging words! And here is meeting one day! I certainly am happy to be one of you villagers!

  9. Becca says:

    As I tell people all the time, writing helps me make sense of life in general and my own in particular. Good for you for tackling the demons or your own life in particular.

    I was lucky enough to come from a very supportive and loving family. Not picture perfect, but one that was always stable and sure. My husband’s childhood was different. Like you, he can never recall a family story – at least not a pleasant one – and there are many demons he keeps deep inside.

  10. jzrart says:

    Writing is so theraputic! Without it, I’d still be wandering around, a lost soul, unable to tell the light from the dark.

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