The stories demand a telling. They call for acknowledgment. Some remind me that they have been waiting patiently for many years. And, they are growing discontented. Even in their discontent, however, they are reasonable. They offer a trade: healing in exchange for being shared.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” I feel an intimate burden from the stories that swirl inside me. The discomfort is exacerbated because my personal stories are not the only ones I carry. I shoulder stories from my mother, my father and others. Recently, I realized that because my father is dead, my mother has dementia and my brother is so much younger than me, I am the only person who remembers certain stories.
I am the only person on planet Earth who remembers when the copperhead was coiled under the old freezer and almost bit my brother before Daddy stomped on it. No one else recalls when the crazy steer cornered my brother and me against a barbed wire fence until, once again, Daddy saved the day. I am the sole carrier of memories of making mushroom houses and tacking a quilt with Mommy.
And, yes, these untold stories create suffering.
My first piece of writing, other than a legal memo or brief, was Redemption and University of Kentucky Basketball. I started it in a bar called The Office. I can’t easily forget the name of the bar because my accountant saw the charge on my credit card statement and asked if it was a deductible expense. I don’t have a TV or cable service, so I would go to The Office, which is near my home, to watch the UK basketball games during this year’s NCAA tournament. I didn’t know any fellow UK fans in my neck of the woods in California, so I went by myself. I didn’t want to look like a single, middle-aged woman sitting at a bar aimlessly, so when I wasn’t cheering, crying or spitting expletives at the TV, I wrote in my journal. Drinking beer, watching a basketball game, swearing, crying, writing in my journal, alone in a bar. What a flattering image.
I finished the piece on April 5, the day UK played Wisconsin in the NCAA Final Four. That story about Kentucky and what UK basketball meant to me, my family and the state, had been bubbling inside me for a long time. It was a story that desperately required a telling. Upon sharing it, I felt only comfort. The relief was amplified because of the strong connection many Kentuckians felt when they read the story.
I experienced a similar compulsion a few days later when I traveled to Kentucky to help care for my mother. I stayed up most of the night after we moved her into a long-term care facility writing It Never Rained on My Parade. The more I poured onto the page, the more relief I felt. My therapist told me that post alone was worth three therapy sessions. A little cheaper, but I’m sure she realized that.
So far, I have shared stories about Kentucky, Daddy, Mommy, my divorce, insomnia and other topics. Throughout all the stories there is an overarching theme of trying to rediscover, or maybe just discover, my path. And, after each telling, the story has kept its promise: there is healing. My burden diminishes, even slightly.
There are many more stories requesting, indeed clamoring, to be told. Like their sisters, they promise healing. So, I will continue to share my untold stories and bathe in the warm solace of the telling.