When you down a corridor – fast or slow – that you are tall.
Not marching but striding, with your backbone stiff, confidently at full height and moving in a determined way?
You know where you are going, there is no hesitation, no hitch in your gait …
I was having a discussion the other day with a writer friend. Someone who writes far better than me, someone whose craft, education, and work in writing is far superior to most writers I know.
I asked some probing questions about a short piece, about how much was story vis-à-vis how much was truth, not so I could spread that around, but because I genuinely wanted to know – because knowing that could lead to dialogue about emotions, about history, and about motivation. I got less of a response than I was bargaining for. The answer, in short, was, “Lack of confidence.”
That short piece could easily launch a novel, a play, or a ripping speech. Instead, a one minute read that will be spit out to the universe in such an obscure place it will not be seen. Compelling indeed, for something written in ten minutes at a workshop, from a writing prompt …
I was stunned by that piece, still am. I was more surprised by the reticence to reveal which were the truth parts – and yet in asking, I know the answer. Because telling truth pics a scab, the scab of unhealed and unresolved pain which can be obscured and avoided but not denied.
When I find moments like that – ones which resonate deeply with me, it isn’t just admiration of the poignancy of someone else’s traumatic events, but rather the recognition that I have. We probably all have things we don’t talk about out loud because admitting their truth reveals we should be seeking therapy on someone’s couch.
When those elements are our own, we can avoid facing them because nobody knows.
If they involve others, like partners and parents, people who should have shown us more and better parts of themselves did what they did, or worse – failed to do what they ought to have done. In my case, I cannot point to anything egregious that was done to me.
Instead, I lament what wasn’t done, what wasn’t explained, what wasn’t shown, what wasn’t encouraged, what wasn’t provided in terms of advice, guidance, and wisdom.
We were all pushed out into the world – we can, from an act. Hopefully, one of love, we came out of a womb and landed in a place. A geography place. A place in a family. A place in time. A place less warm and welcoming that the cozy warm place we’d been. So, what do we do with that story?
Is it ours to tell?
How do we tell it?
Most people don’t.
And maybe there are some who walk with a slouch.
Some do, standing tall and walking confidently on a path to someplace better in mind and circumstance.
Others, hide it in their fiction – the same way you get some ingredients into kids, you hide it in a casserole.
The way you give a dog medicine, you hide it in their favorite food. But that’s still hiding it.
How do we tell truth, why do we need to tell it, and why is it so hard to tell it to the people who most need to see and hear it?
Next time you ask deep questions of a friend, be careful – the scab you poke could be just like one of your own, and messy things might spill out.
Those messy bits will impact what you say, how you say it, what you hide, and how you hide it – and it will show up, absolutely, in your gait.