A childhood of secrets and silence is a great way to prepare for a career as a therapist, and feeds a passion to learn how to heal what was broken, and try to find the light. All of us struggle in various ways to grow and develop, and some of these paths strengthen us, while others seem to diminish us. Whatever our path, it helps to clarify our experiences in writing. The desire to understand how the past shapes the present began for me when I was eight years old.
Since I was four when my mother left, my grandmother her mother was taking care of me. The summer I was eight, she drove from Oklahoma to Iowa to visit her mother, Blanche and the extended family. Blanche was eighty years old, wrinkles and wire framed glasses, thick hose and aprons. She soaked her false teeth in a glass by the featherbed we slept in. In the moonlit room, lace curtain swaying in the breeze, she began to tell me about her life. She was born in 1873, three years before Custer’s Last Stand. A farmer’s daughter, she married on a snowy New Year’s Day, 1894. Six weeks later her husband died—it’s likely he didn’t know she was pregnant with my grandmother. She told me about burying him, and about her life on the farm. She making bread, churned butter, and cooked meals on a wood cook stove. She milked cows and boiled the wash every Monday in a huge pot in the yard. She went on to marry again and have six more children who filled her kitchen with laughter and delicious food.
I looked at her, brown eyes shining in the dark as she poured out her stories, and realized she was a walking storybook. As are we all.
As a therapist, my work has been to encourage stories out into the open where they no longer remained secret or shameful. And to help people find the parts of themselves that were powerful and beautiful. As a memoirist and memoir coach, my work has been to help people put pen to paper and write their stories. To give themselves permission to write their truths, and be able to see themselves through new eyes. Eyes of compassion and authenticity.
What matters is to write for yourself, first. To allow your stories to arise and get them down on the page. You do not have to be “a writer” to do that. You just need to write. Put away your inner critic and connect with your mind and body and see what shows up.
I hope these articles, posts, and teachings are helpful to you!