Every time you speak a word, tell a story, or share your experience, you draw a door.
You create a new opening into awareness. You invite someone to enter your world, to be moved by your presence and your truth, to be changed in some way.
We Are Constructing a New Great Hall of Truth
As we hurtle and stumble through a moment when so many sexual assault and abuse survivors’ stories are coming to light, it feels as if we are walking down an endless hallway of suffering and secrets revealed. As authors of our own stories, we are actually building this hall, door by door.
It’s immensely personal, this process, and, at the same time, it’s creating something tremendously vast and important.
We are expanding the collective consciousness when we speak up. We are drawing a door that just might lead to a new world that is built on honesty rather than silence, where we quit muting ourselves to spare others’ discomfort.
You’ve probably this line a dozen times in the last month. I am almost certain it’s completely true. And, I am utterly terrified that we’re fooling ourselves and all this truth telling will come to nothing.
The Words and Stories Matter. All of Them.
Here’s what we need to wrestle with in this time of truth telling: When we decide one word, sentence, or story has power, they all do.
Even the words spoken in sudden anger and frustration. Even the hateful stuff the “other side” spews. Even the lies. (We don’t have to believe them, but both spreading and hearing lies has consequences, and so, they matter.)
We’re wise enough to know, after years of hurt and repair, that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is one of those fundamental deceptions.
At best, this playground rhyme distracts us as we draw a door so we can get out alive in order to tend the wounds in private. At worst, it’s the song we sing to combat the unrelenting tinnitus of abuse and cruelty that just seems to ring through our civilization.
But Wait, Do Our Own Ugly Words Matter Too?
And sometimes, we - the well-meaning members of the light and love crowd - are just plain pissed off. We snarl at the kids and snap at the cashier because we’re so damn hurt by all the words swirling around in the ethers.
And the laughter. Oh, the laughter.
We rage at the derisive words and the cruel laughter and the dismissal of all this truth and all this pain.
Let’s be honest here: as much as the rhetoric from the podium and the roar of the crowd at those rallies seems to reflect the meanness and scorn that lies so close to the bones of America, we have some of that in our own bones too.
Our words have power, and we’re pretty conscious of that - most of the time.
But then, there are moments when we’re just so tired, so frustrated, so damn angry at a hundred things we can’t change that we just want to scream. We want to tell every power hungry monster to choke on his own tongue. And, because those guys are rarely standing in the kitchen with us when we’re ready to pull a Kali, we take it out on someone else for something really minor. Or for nothing at all.
But this isn’t meant to make us feel guilty for yelling at our families and flipping people off in traffic.
It’s likely that hurling our frustration at innocent targets is unhelpful, but getting down on ourselves for our own imperfections and just trying to wear a happy face while we boil inside… that might even be worse
Be honest. Be an ass. Be kind. Be righteously wrathful. Be messy as all hell.
Apologize when appropriate.
Continue being human and repeat as necessary.
But Then, Come Back To the World Splitting/ World Rebuilding Stories
We could get tied up at the intersection of “talk is cheap” and “words matter” for eternity. We could get lost in why “fuck the patriarchy” is valid and how that nasty white supremacist misogynist internet troll is spewing hate speech. We could try to dismiss them all with “don’t let the bastards get you down.”
It’s all too easy to get all tangled up in guilt for the thoughtless thing we just said to our children and to use our own actions against ourselves, wondering if we need to excuse public figures for their public speech.
That’s not where I want to go, not here, not now, even after I opened the Pandora’s Box of “all words and stories matter.”
Instead, I want to give us a chance to pause and think about all the ways that our words draw a door. I want us to celebrate how our beautiful, powerful, painful, dangerous stories can create new portals into new worlds.
Maybe that door is for someone else to walk through. Maybe it will change them in some way.
Ultimately, it’s not about them - not yet at least. It is about realizing that each word, sentence, and story can open a door for you. That is where you can and must begin.
It’s so damn easy to feel trapped in our stories, in our helplessness as mere constituents waiting on the next election, as choir members just preaching to each other, or as “the hysterical one in the family” who is screaming into the void of everyone’s obliviousness.
We can draw a door. We can shift the narrative of helplessness. We can tell ourselves a story in which we take action, not in which we watch another horrible thing happen.
Draw a Door With Your Words
Oh, this is so easy to say, but what is it like to do, really?
I feel as if I haven’t been able to take an unrestricted breath in weeks - especially since we knew Dr. Ford would tell her story. I have been feeling trapped somewhere between impotent rage and the overflowing of possibilities that dry up the second I get to the computer screen.
Scanning Twitter often seems more constructive than facing the blank page and my fear that I can’t really accomplish much of anything with “just another blog post” or just another social media observation shared with my carefully curated circle.
But what if it is not about drawing a door that will call some imagined reader into a unexpected epiphany?
Instead, I draw myself a door by daring to figure out which stories want to rise above the noise.
By drilling down deep enough in a draft - or in countless drafts - I to begin to see myself in my words. I begin to see my true self beneath the sentences that simply sound good. I come to know my own truths, rather than just feeling like I’m in a game of telephone influenced by headlines, friends, heroines, and random people online.
My writing sessions, and my tenacity to keep pursuing my own truth may turn into the posts I publish or parts of my memoir-in-progress, The Book of Sovereignty.
The doors I draw may help me express myself more clearly in a heated conversation or they may help me avoid falling for the next round of political gaslighting because I will be rooted in something deeper than in-the-moment reactions.
The more I write, the more I am willing to uncover and craft my own stories, the more ready I’ll be to craft a response that moves the conversation forward and helps more stories from the new Great Hall of Truth be heard.
Let’s Write Together. Let’s Gather In the Great Hall.
On Friday, October 19 at noon ET we’ll join together for another free community writing practice session.
When we gather to write you’ll give yourself the space to meet yourself on the page and you’ll get the writing prompts that will keep you focused on the stories that matter to you.
Sign up to join us live or to get the recording and the prompts emailed to you after the session.