By 17, there were lots of stories I hadn’t told anyone.
There were the deeply painful stories that banged on the doors of each new day, kept hidden just below the mask of “good student” and “good athlete”; the wildly joyful stories that felt like wisps of fairy tales; and the stories that I had locked behind doors in contracted crevices of my heart.
When my mother told my father to leave for good – on an autumn day, just like any other – it didn’t take long for an unusual quiet to fill the spaces of slamming doors and tumbling vodka bottles.
In these moments of stillness, I could hear the hushed voice of a wise, holy knowing. The kind of voice that beckons you to speak what hasn’t been spoken. To call it by name. And to be witnessed in the naming. In my bones I knew that this sort of beckoning would start as a gentle knock and, if left unanswered for too long, would become a thunderous roar.
In the web of divinity, when my teachers presented a year long assignment, I was given a clear invitation to say yes to this hushed, holy call. It was an open-ended assignment, with the only catch being that it had to be a Master Work and we had to present it to the community in May.
My best friend and I partnered up. It seemed easier to cross the threshold if someone was with me.
We agreed the project should be about our fathers. So, we waited for what that meant and how.
The answer came clearly on a gray, Saturday in Barnes and Noble. Eyes aimlessly gliding over books, I found myself in the self-help aisle. As if pulled by some golden thread, my finger began lightly moving from book to book, stopping at a large, blue workbook Where Were You When I Needed You Dad?
I knew this was the map for our journey.
With the book and a video camera that our guidance counselor bought for us, we set out to explore the relationship of father and daughter. We didn’t have a destination, just questions and stories.
Crouching in corners of our bedrooms we confided in the camera, sharing our longings as daughters, our confusion about our fathers, our badges of wisdom, and the stories we held close. The stories from behind closed doors that most people in small towns know about, but are too afraid to speak aloud. Each day, we followed the workbook; when it guided us to beat pillows to release anger, we beat pillows; we journaled religiously and wrote letters to our past and future selves. We interviewed therapists and experts. “Tell us about fathers and daughters,” we would say, leaning in close, to grasp at any gem of truth that could comfort the sore places in our hearts.
Secretly, I believed that if I followed the process to the very end, these sore and tender places would be soothed for good.
By the end of May, we were in front of a room packed with community members, screening a short film of interviews and personal stories. I sat on the side of the stage as the stories played, fingering the fringe of my spring dress, with my gaze criss-crossing the room. There were mothers and fathers that had known me since before I could spell my name. Beloved teachers and coaches lined the wall. My first boyfriend, just returned from college, beamed with compassion in the back corner.
A warm rush filled my body as I let the people in my life, who had been so close to me, witness my heart’s truth openly and completely for the first time.
Mothers approached me after, offering a tight embrace and whispering that they had lived these experiences, too. With tears shimmering in our eyes, the golden web of story stitched its way across all corners of the room, threading hearts together; beginning to mend my own heart’s rips and tears.
The truth about Story hooked me then and there…
The truth of saying yes to her holy whisper…
The truth of harvesting her in a collective space…
The truth that our ancestors carried with them from land to land for as long as humans have been humans…
The truth that Story is a most profound and sacred salve.
So tell me… when was did you first lay down the armor of your heart and let your story pour out?
And has there been a holy whisper calling from within that you’re ready to answer?
If yes, True Story Works is a support for you to step through the gateway…