When I was a little girl I used to pretend I was an adult. I’d totter around the house in a pair of plastic dress heals, adorned in my mother’s pearls, arms laden with books. I wanted to be a teacher, and in my imagination, I already was.
Recently, I’ve got myself feeling like that little girl again, play acting at adulthood. I’ve felt aimless and dissatisfied with my work and with my mood. Every day, I’ve checked in with various women in a private Facebook group I am a part of for a recovery program I’m doing called, Hip Sobriety School. I feel fortunate that these women respond so well to my encouragement and to my love. But, I’ve found myself wishing, wishing that there was another me to encourage me in the same way. Hearing advice from a second-person is almost always better than whatever advice I try to tell myself. I’m too fast to cut myself off and find myself berating myself for not knowing enough, being enough, and doing enough.
This morning, Holly Whitaker, the woman who runs and owns Hip Sobriety School, posted this on her Instagram:
It just means: you get to tell your whole story, and you get to no matter what.
I’ve been feeling less forthcoming in the last week. After a lot of backlash about my writing from my family, my heart-felt heavy and my mind convinced me I no longer had a right to share my story. Holly’s words found me this morning and gave me a little hope. Oh, I thought. I actually never have to stop writing. I actually don’t owe that to anyone. I actually owe myself telling my own story, here.
I was in my first year of college, when a friend texted me this: don’t forget to write it down. He was reminding me what no one else had, but what I knew deep down, if I didn’t write it down, later, down the line, I would forget, or, I wouldn’t think it was that bad or worthy of writing about and sharing with the world. Similarly, my drinking story has to stay relevant to me, it has to continue being picked apart, analyzed, and retold, otherwise I fear I’ll forget. I’ll convince myself my drinking wasn’t that bad and the consequences I suffered would have happened anyone. They might have, but I know most of them would not have.
Anne Lamott, the writer whose words, “bird-by-bird” encourage many people to continue working on the thing, as Glennon Doyle says, “that breaks [their] heart,” also said the following regarding writing about family:
“If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
It’s true, I think. For years, family and friends encouraged me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I would have more writing material than most. I would survive my life at the moment, because my future held my life’s work. The same family that encouraged my work, no longer does. Telling the truth is hard, but reading it, seeing it in glaring black and white, perhaps is harder.
I feel for the people who read my writing and grow increasingly more angry with every word. I really do. I know what it is like to be confronted with the harsh lighting of truth. But, my sympathy doesn’t mean I’ll stop.
I write because it’s a coping mechanism, a way to survive, my gift, my first love, my way into this world. I don’t ask for much from my writing in return. I just ask that it keep coming, working through me, outpouring into this world and with it leaving a piece of me behind.