Originally posted at SheLoves Magazine.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” ~Anne Lamott
I’m going to write my memoir.
No really, I am. Maybe I’ll start next week.
This is what I keep saying, but I just can’t write it. I’m frozen.
Swirling inside this confused introvert/extrovert brain of mine is a story so powerful and heart-breaking and hilarious that I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a major hit. (But it’s really just my own story, so what do I know, right? I’m running on caffeine and self-confidence.)
And even though I think so highly of my story-telling skills, I’m stuck here—pen in hand and blank pages threatening to swallow me whole.
There aren’t enough words in the world to explain the things I’ve seen and my thesaurus isn’t helping.
Disclaimer: I’m not making some grand claim that my story is any more important than the next person. It’s just that I’m a story-teller. I literally have to tell stories or my life stops making sense.
I have to tell someone, anyone, that redemption is surely possible. I have proof.
I have to scream in a million flowing paragraphs that I might have been an unholy accident on the planet, but my life is meant for something great, I just know it.
I have to declare, with the indignation of a 3-year-old at naptime, that sometimes parents just did it wrong. Not “the best they could do.” Just wrong.
And that’s where I stop short. How do I tell my story without taking people out in my wake?
You see, my family is complicated. We were raised in a cult. With angry parents. With hurt feelings. With broken bones and broken hearts.
I don’t recall learning charity, hope, self-control. I learned self-reliance, thick skin, fast reflexes.
Hey, but I’m okay now. I’m free. I’m funny. I’m resilient.
I can tell you the exact moment I finally felt like I could breathe for the first time.
I was 18 years old and it was the last day of my winter break from university. I unlocked my dorm room door and took a deep breath and realized this is home. That tiny, sticky, grease-stained dorm room felt safer than any place I’d ever been before.
That day is the day I decided no one would ever yell at me, hit me, threaten me, touch me, guilt me, laugh at me or blame me again. That was the first day of the rest of my life, and the past ten years have been a delightful blur. I’ve traveled. I’ve quit school and gone back. I’ve volunteered my time. I’ve worked. I’ve played. I’ve recovered.
And I’ve realized, even though I’m alright now, my story still matters.
It matters because I want to someday have children and tell them, with all the authority I can muster, that their story matters. I want them to know that no one gets to touch them without their consent. I want them to know that telling the truth is always the right thing to do. I want them to feel in their bones that honor and charity and love are evidence that God is alive.
Without telling my history, you won’t ever understand how I came to be this fearless. Unless I tell you that the scariest people I ever met lived in my house, how will you understand my love of strangers and strange lands?
Maybe you’re a story-teller like me. Tell your story. Or paint it. Or dance it. Or cook it. Or just say it out loud in a safe place. Your children, your friends, your truest love—these people should hear you say that your story matters and know that theirs does too.
Excuse me, I think I have a memoir to write.