We tell ourselves stories in order to live…”
Whoever came up with the saying “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” must have been really out of touch. Sometimes words do hurt. Not only that, they can infuriate, resonate, and bring us to tears. There are a few people in my life who have the ability to literally stun me with a single phrase, and believe me, if given a choice, I’d rather those select few come at me with a stick or rock than subject me to one of their signature tongue lashings. Thankfully, over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at brushing things off. But the other day, when my ex-husband reproached me with, “Get a life…” I have to admit, it irked me. Because I knew with near certainty what he was referring to.
These days, our interactions are mostly decent, save for the occasional spat over schedule changes or share of costs in regards to the kids. And even those tiffs have lessened in their severity as time heals the wounds of our split. I can’t even remember what brought on this particular comment, and 9 times out of 10 I’m able to tune out his verbal jabs without much thought.
But this one….this one was personal.
Without delving into too much detail over past arguments and the surrounding issues, I’ll just say that, during our separation, it came to light that he looked down on my time spent social networking, blogging, book clubbing, etc. From what I could decipher, he viewed these activities as pseudo-networking, grabs for attention, and a general waste of time.
Which in some ways, I understand. Granted, I became social network savvy during the late night hours when I was home with sleeping children (one of whom was almost always nursing), and finishing my grad school thesis. But in any case, I used these networks as an outlet for my creative writing thirst that was pushed aside as I prioritized research papers, lesson plans, and the day-to-day demands of mothering multiple young children.
Often, I left social functions early so that I could put the kids to bed, leaving him to enjoy the remaining hours of the gathering without young children in tow. Other instances, it was during the phases where he’d attend things like Friday night (or more accurately, early Saturday morning) poker tournaments during which I usually camped out on the couch with laptop, textbooks, and a snoring child or two. In any case, my thirst for writing was quenched in the solitude of such times, when my brain was burnt out on college course work, but stimulated enough to engage in other activities. I started with MySpace rants, graduated to Facebook notes & statuses, threw in the occasional forum discussion, and eventually started blogging.
Writing is not a new thing for me. In high school, I was known to skip class and steal away to a nearby park, where I’d post up against a shade tree and furiously write away in my spiral-bound notebook. The difference between my writing then and now is that now, I share.
Some people, say I over share. But the way I disperse my personal information (including pictures and random thoughts) is representative of the way I share in general. Much like my parents & grandparents before me, I’m a giver. I don’t take much issue with sharing my time, information, assistance, or possessions.
When I consider the most profound memories of my life, nearly all of them came during a moment of story-telling, unexpected disclosure, or midnight ramblings that took on a life of their own in the glow of a melancholy moon. The single most powerful memory I have of my grandfather is the time he took me aside during a family wedding and told me of his rebellious youth, and the ways in which he finally centered himself again. At the time, I was a reckless, defiant little 14-year-old mess. But up until then, I had never heard the stories pain and suffering my grandfather endured growing up, and the way he expressed that in his adolescence. I was floored. And forever moved. And to this day I can still feel his hands grasping mine across the brightly colored polyester table cloth as he pleaded with me to consider what effect my actions were having on my family, and the effect they would have on my life in general.
Stories. Memories. Spoken & written word. They enrapture me. I’m intoxicated by the emotion that creeps into a parents voice as they describe the moment they first laid eyes on their newborn baby. I’m humbled by the courage it takes for the families of my students to disclose their personal history, or current conflicts in efforts to come to terms with a complicated home situation. It’s delighting when some random youngster at the park sits on the bench next to me & launches into an impromptu monolouge, stringing together random events and phrases in no particular sequence. (Given that this kind of thing happens to me pretty frequently, I’m convinced I must have TEACHER written all over me, even when I’m not in work mode).
We learn so much from each other through the passing on of stories…history, vulnerabilities, differences, and most importantly- similarities. Erin Morgenstern said it beautifully when she stated: “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
There are stories I have read, or heard, or perhaps told myself, that have given me the strength to push through stagnant periods in my life during which no other lifelines were present save for the hope breathed into me with tales of resilience and growth. Books whose well worn pages are nearly as familiar to me as the faces of my own children. And almost as treasured.
Yes, words can hurt. They also heal, inspire, and invigorate. And this is why I write. To relieve myself of day-to-day burdens. To laugh at my circumstances and take things less seriously. To reflect, and renew. To relate. To forgive.
Because each and every time I read a comical blog, listen to a touching recount of a random memory, or come across an emotionally raw article or broadcast, I’m inspired to pick up my pen and add a line or two to this collection of works that is life.