“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.