This is a very long, very naked post that has taken me years to write and share.
I have loved stories and books ever since I was very young.
I used to (still do) get lost inside a book and many afternoons were spent lying stretched out on my tummy listening to stories on the record player. Rupert the Bear, Noddy, Enid Blyton—they were a wonder world that always, always allowed me inside. I was never ‘too’ anything for them. I spent many magical hours climbing up and down The Faraway Tree, drawn into a world where everything was safe and predictable.
I knew that ‘one day’ I wanted to write my own stories and that I wanted them to be a safe place for others. I wanted to be a storyteller who speaks the language of hope. For years I wrote, but never shared. When I started sharing, I wrote as bravely and as vulnerably as I could. My goal with each poem, each story, is to write for myself and mostly about my own lived experiences.
When someone finds their way into my words, I am always humbled and grateful. I give my words work to do. They are never to just sit around on the pages of a book, or here on a screen. I write them and then I set them free.
My words are workhorses. There is tender work to be done and I ask them to do just that.
But my words can only reach as far as my honesty allows, and there have been large parts of my life that I have not been brave about. There are many reasons for this, but mostly because I believe that our stories are never just our stories only. There is almost always at least one other person who shares a space with us in that moment. And although I believe in challenging myself to write as vulnerably as I can, I have also felt a need to protect people in my life from the eyes of others. I have known profound intrusion in the past and I know that sometimes people will form opinions that are based on the wrong facts, and I also know the deep impact this can have on a person’s life—on my life.
Lately I have felt a deep pull towards writing with greater courage, more vulnerability, and with even greater focus on the process of the storytelling with no concern for opinion. Whether right or wrong. Just telling the story with honesty and trusting it to find a soft place somewhere. A place where it can speak hope. A place where it will hold encouragement on a plate and say: ‘Eat this. Let it fill you.’
And so, I have decided to write my words naked. Even more than they have been up to now. I want to show you my story, because I want you to know that there is a way out. I want you to know that there is hope and beauty, and that life is a profound gift, and that you can always, always ask for more!
But honesty is not everybody’s cup of tea and some of my words make people uncomfortable. For every five messages I receive saying, Thank you. This is my story too.’, I receive at least one criticising what I believe, how I believe, and what I have written.
Of course, this is the reader’s prerogative and if you are going to share yourself publicly, then you had better have a tough skin, but the reward for vulnerability is so great.
My stories are mine, but I give them to you. I want you to hold them in your hands, let them find a place to land in your life.
I write about having a love-hate relationship with my body, but did you know that I can tell you how to scrape the word ‘fat’ from your skin?
I write about bulimia, but did you know that I can tell you that even when you have conquered it, its voice still lives inside the fluid of every cell in your body.
I write about fear, but did you know that I ate raw fear as a child when my father, whom I loved and feared at the same time, told me he was going to kill me.
Did you know that you can tell people your story and they will still choose to not believe you? Did you know that this is ok?
I want to tell you how to keep your eyes looking for the beautiful things, even when the place you are in is filled with every ugliness that life can throw you at you. It is only a moment. Not your forever.
I write about growing up in a home filled with chaos, but did you know that one night my mother had to defend herself against my father during a fight—an altogether familiar scene, and that he died in our kitchen from the gunshot wound. Did you know that our lives were catapulted into the public eye and there was nowhere to hide? Did you know that I have never written about this?
I can tell you that shame strangles. I can also tell you that you can pry it loose.
I can tell you all these things, but I haven’t, because I have been ashamed and afraid of my own stories, and of my own life. I have never found a place where I simply belong, where I am simply accepted with no agenda and no ulterior motives. I know the fringes; the borders. I know the places that I create with my words.
But in my dreams the water is calling me. For the last while, every time I dream, I dream of water. Puddles, sparklingly clear swimming pools, raging oceans, rain. The water is calling me in my dreams, and the water is calling me in real life. It is calling me to strip the layers, be naked, real, vulnerable, and unafraid.
I want you to know that I want to tell you my stories.
I want you to know that I am unafraid of any opinions.
I want you to know that I don’t know all the ways out, but I know a few and if you want, I want to give you my words to show you that you are not alone.
I want to show you who I am.
Image by Todd Trapani.