I remember sitting at Punjab with five of my classmates from our women in religion class. It was a great class and we were excited about what we were learning about women and community building and we got along. if you ever been in a seminar type class, you know how comradeship can set the tone for a class.
a little backstory, I went to a small liberal arts college ( mostly white but committed racial dialogue and social justice (not perfect but trying to the issues of our time ), in the quasi-south. I imagine my experience would have been slightly different, if I had done my studies at big university forty-five minutes up the road. I did graduate studies there and let’s just say the big lecture hall style is a complete no-go for me. I loved the small classes and community. anyways, I digress.
so I was in love with my learning experience and learning about these women that were in my class. there we all were sitting at the best Indian restaurant in the area and swapping stories. only I was not swapping stories, I was listening. I remember one of the women, s. (who is now a traveling musician) asking if I had any stories to share and I remember quietly shaking my head no. ” No, I have no stories to tell,” I said. why did I really believe that? did I really believe that?
the truth is I did have stories to share but I had been bitten in the back for sharing them. I had learned to skirt around the truth, to not reveal too much or speak to enthusiastically. I had learned that my stories were shameful, that the revealed too much weakness and humanity. thus, I learned to keep my mouth shut. I could write a whole paper on that and maybe one day I will. was this a product of culture? of course. was it a product of environment and survival? wasit knowing that you can’t or shouldn’t reveal your dirty laundry to anyone? most definitely but those strings run deep.
growing up, I wanted desperately to be seen a nice and good. I thought that being seen and known as those two things would keep me safe. In some ways, they did and in many ways, they have not and did not.
I write a lot about getting out of boxes and freedom because that is the cornerstone of my journey, right now. in the past, I’ve wanted to pour myself into boxes because my worth depended on other people seeing my boxes and validating my existence. I wanted to be that good Christian girl with a nice family and the truth, is I was not really those things.
I was girl living in extreme poverty with broken and troubled family and I did not want anyone to know that. I wanted to be anyone but me. I needed the armor of words and kind gazes to protect me from myself, from other people and the gnawing and persistent shame. so I faked my way into groups and learned that if I sat quietly I would belong. I learned that if I only spoke nice and calmly and I liked the right things I could have place at the table. I learned that if I attached the right labels and said the right phrases with the right amount of inflection that I was golden.
I did this until I couldn’t’ do it anymore, I took a break and I did it again. and again. and again.
a few weeks before I met my husband, I dreamed of riding public transportation and going to landfills with a brown haired boy. marriage and motherhood sometimes feels like I am going to the landfill of my life and memories. I sometimes feel like I’ve spent an ridiculous amount of time sorting, burying, digging, burning, composting and recycling wounds and patterns. I feel like only now am I beginning to uncover a little girl buried with a bundle of stories tucked under her chin and she frightens me. what does she want from me? should I bring her forth? and if I do will she destroy me and my squeaky clean reputation? if I let her sit at the table will she uncouth? will she offend? will she be unpopular and unfollowed?
or will she burst into flames and go down to h*ll and bring back the fragments of my heart that have been floating there for years with no real aim or direction? will she take all those neat and nice boxes and stand on them and pull herself closer to joy and freedom…no matter the cost. will she arise and have a mouth full of stories that she weaves into these days? will she change my life?
I think she might. I think she is.