* This piece was also published on Rebelle Society:
I am always extremely honored, humbled, and grateful when a woman shares her story with me. I feel much the same when a woman takes the time to listen to mine. Giving a piece of yourself to someone and receiving that piece are both radical, life-changing acts. There is no return, no backwards-delete button, no gummy pink eraser to take back words already spoken. There is nothing to do but to continue forward. It takes courage and candor to weave the tale, compassion and grace to wear it. To entrust it to someone else is like slicing off a piece of your soul and saying here, have a taste. And then to hold it on your tongue without spitting it out or consuming it ravenously signifies a dignified respect for its flavor--whether sweet, bitter or sour. What bigger blessing, what bigger burden than to have and satisfy such an appetite.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
In this past week alone, I have heard several very personal stories from women: the story of a woman’s miscarriage, the story of a woman’s mother’s death, the story of another’s failing relationship … Women share stories all the time, but catch a woman in the right moment, and it is amazing the sacred truths she will share with you.
We are open hearts, open books, we women. And our stories can heal. Help us connect. Encourage us to explore. Allow us to express. Our stories are important. And when we share freely, when we give of ourselves, despite or rather in the face of reservation, we are giving permission to other women to feel that same glory, relief, satisfaction, or wonder.
Our stories are cathartic and transformative—personally or universally a story can create reverberations that create lasting and lifelong change. When we tell a story, we are casting a stone out into the water.
“We don’t have a fixed amount of resilience; it must be exercised like a muscle.”
— Sheryl Sandberg, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
In telling our stories to each other, we are exercising all of our mental, emotional and spiritual muscles. I am amazed at the lives women live, the strength they draw upon, the joy they create, the pains they live with, the wisdom they show, the things they decide, the sacrifices they make, the love they ceaselessly give.
And there are stories only women can tell. Our stories are directly linked to our identities as women — as daughters, sisters, mothers, friends, partners, as artists, laborers, professionals, activists, seekers, and divine beings. Stories show a woman’s character. Her strengths, weakenesses, vulnerabilities, points of view, her light and dark places.
Stories are a way to sustain us and guide us through the different times in our lives. LIfe’s seminal events always inspire a web of support through story — birth stories, death stories, first-jobs, weddings, divorces, child rearing, relationship building, regretful moments. Stories of tragedy and triumph. Stories that teach us something or simply make us laugh or feel that we are not alone in our experience.
Our stories are also symbolic and told in a variety of ways, not just in words — in art, in dance, in song, music, in our work, in our service to the world and others. Our bodies also tell our stories — our bodies hold all of the 5 0’clock news and never-tell secrets of our lives whether accomplishment or trauma, change or acceptance.
Stories in every sense are how we are remembered and how we remember others.
MY STORY ...
My story is told
in moments of fire
and the blue dark depths
of truths and fictions
both self-evident and hidden
My story is told
in shame and pride, stops and starts
In the moments I live and die
in all the details of my life
my story is told in body parts, both mine and others’
— strong-set bones, spiderlike fingers,
Roadmaps of stretch marks, wrinkles and veins
constellations of freckles and dimples along the terrain
tattoos, touchable soft spots, and curious scars
peach-rounded bottoms and pink, fleshy flower parts —
My story is told in births and deaths
rebirths and transformations
In the skipped heartbeats of winged hope
the breaking of bones, the scraping of knees
and other unforeseen tragedies
a shero’s journey, my story
my story is told in the dark, late at night
when no one is watching
And again in the morning light
under the gaze of my dreams
when the dawn is hatching
my story is told in promises,
both whispered and spoken
either kept or broken
a tribute to nothing and no one but the
broken down and battered something of someone
like me if i dared to know her well
My story is told in choices
the consequences of which give me voices
that both croak and sing my singular, complex song
one keening note both soft and long
My story …
My story is told with abandon and equal amounts of
reservation which I reserve for my Self
that parceled off piece of territory that
no one else has a passport to but
whose borders are as open as a book
My story is a map
It is a gift, a journey along my shallow crevices
into the deepest workings of my flesh
My story is one of permission
The consent to be myself
A lotus-flowering of the heart
Opening to both give and receive
Making it at once soft and strong
My story is your story, our story, her story
My story is you, it is us, it is she
My story is We