“Tell me true things,” she said as fear raged around her. So I read to her from words on a page, novels and psalms, poems and stories. What amongst them were true? What amongst them was fiction? In truth, I cannot tell. But every word was like a slat tied on to the other across a great chasm, until at last we reached the other side across a swaying bridge of stories.
I’ve written/podcast before about the importance of stories and the power that lies in their telling. It’s a theme that keeps occurring and re-occurring around me – a strong theme of the postmodern cultural milieu in which we all dwell. Last week I went to an expat’s writers group here in Copenhagen and the talk turned to the topic of truth and storytelling. The personal essayists were struggling with the reality that whenever they told a story it was but one version of the truth. Another person telling the same tale would have different true things to say about how the whole thing went down. So were we, in fact, writing ‘true life tales,’ or a form of fiction? Furthermore, how should the very knowledge of that question affect our storytelling? Then again, the novelists among us were using real people and situations to form the basis of their characters and scenes – so perhaps they were not creating fiction, either but telling a version of the real, of the true? And which was more honest – calling the real fiction or calling the fiction real? Which is it then…all truth, or all fiction? Ah, there’s the rub. In a postmodern world, the answer is: both.
When we tell our stories, they intersect with the stories of others. There is overlap there, between my experience and yours, and that makes the telling of the tale tricky at times. This is never more so then when we write about the people most embedded in our hearts: mothers and fathers, children, soul mates, lovers. So when we tell stories that involve the hearts of those who are dear to us we tread lightly, trying to be faithful to our truth, without trampling the experience of the other. This doesn’t mean we don’t tell the hard stories – the failures or the confusion or the break ups or the fights. It just means, that on our best days, we try to balance being as honest with ourselves and our memories, with the act of treading with kindness. After all, it is not all that often that people invite us into their hearts. We should be a careful while roaming around in there.
This balance of brave truth telling and tender care is but one of the reasons I love the way Sarah (not her real name) brings honesty and gentleness to this complex story which is, among other things, about loss. Here she must tell the story of herself, her lover, her child, and her mother –each on embedded deep into soul territory. This is no easy task. Yet as she begins to sing her hidden tale here in spare and simple prose, she brings to us all important thoughts about surviving loss, confronting expectations, and mothering our own hearts. I hope you will receive her story with kindness, and give her encouragement for the telling of this tale. May Sarah’s story be a good with mate for you on your journey today. Namaste.
Mothering, Lost and Found
Guest Blogger: Sarah
A little over two years ago I almost became a mommy, without forgetfulness, planning or expecting—just loving and some magic dust from the Universe. For a long time I wondered why it was sprinkled on me and why it didn’t last.
I can remember the moment when the magic dust evaporated into thin air very vividly. At the time I didn’t know it was (had been?) nesting in my body. Looking back there had been many signs but I didn’t pick up on them until the very moment it was over. In the blink of an eye I knew. I knew what all those weird feelings had been; those moments of crying without a seemingly good reason, why my body had been so tired and why I felt more resistance to food than appetite. As soon as I realized that I was no longer alone, fate conspired to make me ‘one’ again.
Of course I thought, “this isn’t a big deal”–although it scared the person I loved at that time so much that he ran away and never looked back. Even though I was hurting and read about this kind of loss and knew how it can have a very big impact, I still thought it wasn’t a big deal –or at least that’s what I told myself, because that is what I was told by my mother.
After telling me that I probably imagined the whole ordeal, in spite of what the doctor had said, she acknowledged it in the end. But at first, she told me to just get over it. Because really, who wants to become a mommy at twenty two? “I do,” I thought. I had always wanted to become a young mommy and even though there had not been any planning and even though there was no more loving between him and me, there was still lots and lots of longing inside of me. But I soldiered on, without grieving, without acknowledging the sadness in my bones.
Looking back I haven’t taken good care of myself these past two years. I poured all my love in taking care of others, ignoring those feelings of hurt and anger inside of me. I felt that not only had I lost a chance of being a mommy, but that I had lost my own mother as well.
I wondered for a long time how I could take better care of myself and I think I’ve finally found out what the purpose of the magic dust was. I no longer act according to what I was taught, instead I teach.
I teach myself to love myself like I would tell my child of my love for him/her. I tell myself to sit with my feelings, that they are genuine and sacred, like I would tell my child that his/her feeling are genuine and sacred and should never be pushed back. I take care of myself like I would take care of my child.
I have no idea what it is like to mother a child, but I do know that mothering oneself is harder than I ever could have imagined, but more rewarding too. In the end this is a lesson that I think I’m learning so when I do become a mommy I can mother by example. I never felt I truly had one, but now I do.