March is Womyn’s Herstory Month. The lady who facilitates my writing circle challenged us to “write one daily, poem, story, reflection, song, blog, memoir, tribute, or manifesto about womyn.” I’ve done so via the Tumblr as I’ve pondered my experiences as a woman and the mentors I’ve had. I’ve thought about how sharing our stories can be a way of reassuring others that it will be okay.
There are times when I get tired of explaining myself — why particular stressors are so anxiety inducing or why parts of my familial history still evoke a dull ache. It’s so validating when I begin to tell my story and I’m met with the mutual understanding that comes from a shared lived experience.
“You get it, don’t you? I’m not exactly sure why, but I suspect you have a story like mine. I don’t presume that you want to share it with me, but it helps that you’re listening. That you ask fewer questions because you know what it’s like to feel complicated, even though that’s no fault of your own. I wish you didn’t have to get it, but I’m glad you do.”
Sometimes storytelling happens in the car at the end of the day, when your social filters have stopped working or you’re just so exhausted, you let them come down. Other times, you hear that pause in their story — you have it too. The parts of your life you also avoid sharing in polite conversation. You don’t really want to hear about that do you? But then you tell your story and they recognize your experience in their own. Stories are powerful.
When I find a friend, who gets it — really gets it — she becomes the person I finally feel safe enough to text or message via social media platform when things don’t feel okay. When I’m sitting in a waiting room terrified to see the chaplain fellow because I still find men intimidating. When I’ve just ended a phone call and need someone to help me process that interchange. When the waves of anxiety hit so hard I feel like I’m falling apart — again. When I need to acknowledge that I’m hurting (“so many sads”). These are the women who will support me in these moments; they don’t need me to be anyone other than myself.
Sharing one’s story makes it feel real. I think that was the hardest part of growing up in a home where my closest confidant was my journal. I feared that if I couldn’t describe the experience, it didn’t exist. Even into college, I wrote notes to myself (and prayers) trying to figure out what I was thinking (and sometimes feeling — those words seemed hardest to find).
I’ve shared my backstory in bits and pieces over the years. I suppose I first began this process in undergrad, when I walked around the track surrounding the man-made lake and talked with close friends. “So I’ve been going to therapy and it’s been helping.” The first poem I ever wrote in writing circle included these lines: “Cacophony is the sound I hear from my room, as I sit huddled over a book, again — weekly, monthly, it feels like forever; as we sit with the door closed and the lights on.” I learned to share the words I’d written on the page before me. My notebook was a conduit for further conversation.
So this March, I’ll keep writing, while I remember that “I deserve to take up space, even when I have no words to say, because I matter.” Let us continue to intently listen to the stories of our fellow women and create spaces where we feel loved and supported.