A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life - Virginia Woolf
This quote has been mocking me. Seriously. I dig through quotes constantly trying to find great ones to embroider. Every single time I've come across this one, it has made me feel a bit sheepish. Because, well, I've been writing this post forever. This and maybe two dozen others. I stare at the blinking cursor for hours, typing and deleting. So many saved drafts. What in the world is keeping me from posting them?
I don't want to overshare, I guess. Oversharers are bad, right? That's what the internet seems to think - while encouraging the behavior. But really, if I'm honest, the writers I love most overshare. They've been or are hot fucking messes who have had every manner of trouble in their lives and they write about it unflinchingly. They make me cry, laugh and most importantly, feel less alone.
But then, who do I think I am? I am not nearly as good as any of the writers I'm thinking about. Why would anyone want to hear what I have to say? Has the internet turned me into a narcissist? I don't know the answers to any of these questions but I do know that I used to share more.
When my grandma was dying and I felt like I was slowly losing a limb, when I was a screaming ball of rage over Katrina and New Orleans, when my old job was imploding around me... I let it all hang out. I wore my heart on my virtual sleeve; I made friends who'd been there and had a little wisdom to share. It was good. But then my dog, Monkey, died and it broke me. I got sad. I got in the habit of sharing less and less because nothing is more boring than sadness. At least in my head. But you know what? Fuck that. We've all got sadness and anger and things we wish we could forget. All those things are a part of who we are. I've always believed that.
Then there's this: some stories aren't yours to tell. And where is the line between storytelling and gossip? Isn't writing about a past villain in your life passive aggressive?
There are years that ask questions and years that answer. - Zora Neale Hurston
That was 39 for me - because I needed answers. It was challenging and I pushed myself in ways that I never could have imagined. I arrived at 40 a little bruised and battered but satisfied that I did my best. I had answers to some big questions and some new stories to tell.
I didn't do it alone. I asked for help. I went to friend who I believed could tell the me the very story I was living, that she could tell me I wasn't alone and that I'd be ok - because she was. I was right, she did and I am. Another friend came to me recently because I'd be honest about a moment in my life and she needed someone who'd been there, too. Our stories matter.
So, who do I think I am? A person who has stories to tell that maybe, just maybe, might make someone feel less alone. I have to trust that.
As for the idea that some stories shouldn't be told, at least not by me? I looked up an old quote that I've always loved that answers that question more eloquently than "Fuck that."
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. - Anne Lamott