“Oh honey, let’s not tell that story.” The words flowed easily from my lips but they were terribly hard to hear, hanging there in the air. I’d delivered them as kindly as I could in the voice of a woman with too many worries and too little sleep. All I wanted was the oasis of a quiet shower and to make it to my first cup of coffee before anyone pulled hair or screeched or required a bandaid.
But I know that silence and distrust and disconnection are born of distracted admonishments. This was a tiny sin that hinted at a deeper darkness.
My six year-old was remembering the beach house that the family rented for several summers. Her memories of eating a dozen clementines gave way to remembering when one older family member had fallen and knocked out a tooth.
I don’t like that memory. It was upsetting and it wasn’t pretty. I felt the pain and the worry of that Cape Cod morning. The guilt that I hadn't been very helpful at the time was (my excuse was morning sickness, but that seems paltry now). None of these thoughts were going to ease me into what was going to be another challenging day, so I shushed her and kept moving.
As I dive deep into what it means to tell stories, I'm learning just as much about how to receive and keep stories. Stories need to be held and reviewed when they bubble up. When they are stifled they become the monsters of shame and doubt and fear.
In trying to protect myself from unresolved hurts, I create new ones for my daughter. In trying to stifle the pure, spontaneous sharing of memories, I am creating new ghosts that are bound to be much more ghoulish the next time they come around.
I am a storyteller. I ask people to walk into the shadows with me so that we can appreciate the light. That means I also need to allow others to tell me their stories - even when I find them unsettling or inconvenient, even when I want to wish the memories away.
Learn how to tell your own stories with greater sensitivity and awareness. Join the free online class, The Story Triangle, on April 5.