General Ramblings

Guest Post: Tall Tales

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Sarah Evans calls herself a relatively inexperienced writer, but as you’ll see, she has the gift of storytelling in her blood. In her words, she says, “I’m a relatively inexperienced writer, highly character-driven and a little eccentric. My current project has the working title “Cliffton.” It’s named after a settlement that existed in the original story that spawned the series.

There’s just one tiny problem. In the actual series, Cliffton is a place that doesn’t exist yet–hence my blog title.

Oh, this is supposed to be about me. My bad–let’s start over.

I’m a person who writes a thing called Cliffton. I have purple hair, a day job as a programmer, and a lovely husband. We have a son who’s every bit as stubborn as I am, and a million times more awesome.

If you want to know more or read snippets of my writing, I’d love for you to follow my blog.”

Enjoy Sarah’s post – I certainly did.

I’ve been abused.

Say it out loud, and it makes it real.  It puts your story out into the world for others to question.  Lets them point fingers, rationalize it away. You brought it on yourself, and you do have a tendency to exaggerate. This is all for attention, isn’t it?

Shame. Disbelief. Denial.

When your own family doesn’t believe you, when the people you expected to fight for you shake their heads and turn away, when they take the abuser’s side–what are your options?  How do you heal from a wound no one will acknowledge?

You have no voice, so you shut your mouth.  And you wait.

Hold it back and “cope” on your own through compartmentalization–socially-acceptable self-punishment.  Something you can hide.  To an outside observer, you seem fine; an eating disorder’s not a problem if people are say you look great, right?  It’s all about balance.

Fooling yourself is harder–eventually, you realize something isn’t right.  By then the abuse is so entrenched, you no longer connect it to the damaged mess you’ve become.  So you go through the paces, find a therapist, do your best to open up. When you don’t mention the abuse, it’s not an intentional deception.

It’s just that you’ve moved on.  None of that is relevant anymore.

Get over it.  These things happen.

Hear it long enough, and it becomes your truth. It’s a thing that happened, that’s all.  Nothing important, unworthy of even a spare thought.  So when your therapist says you’re “processing fine” and dismisses you a few months later, you believe.  Those buried scraps don’t even come to mind.

When you notice, years later, that you’re still not magically cured, you focus on the problem at hand–the broken tool you’ve been using to fix a problem you barely remember.  You work up the nerve to ask for help again–another therapist, a friend, maybe a community.

And if you’re lucky, you “get better.”

You find someone to teach you what to eat, how to stop cutting, drinking, drugging.  To give up whatever’s destroying you from the outside in. You find someone to make the rules, and you follow them because it’s what you’ve always done.

Because you’ve seen what happens when you don’t.

It’s impressive, the speed of your recovery once you’ve set your mind to it.  A perfect patient, so good at following orders–and why wouldn’t you be?  This is what you’ve been trained to do from birth.  Do as you’re told–don’t embarrass anyone.  Act normal.  Be normal.

Put it aside.  You’re past that now.

Mimic the way a “healthy” person exercises, the way a “whole” person lives.  Join the military to find “discipline.”  Throw yourself into a career to achieve “success.”  Bury yourself in something–books, a job, your kid.  And for a while, you really do forget.

Maybe you think you’re happy.  You don’t hurt anymore, do you?

Life is good–good enough–until something happens.  Something traumatic, something unbearably beautiful, or maybe a little of both.  It doesn’t matter what, but it opens your eyes, if only for a moment.

And in that moment, you truly see.

You remember that this isn’t who you used to be.  That you once had dreams, drive, creativity.  You used to feel.  It’s a huge revelation, too much to process.  You’d dearly love to curl up in bed and close your eyes.  Pretend you can un-see it.  Except you’ve been doing that too long already, so you keep looking.

By now it’s too vast for your brain to perceive–who you were, what you gave up.  Why you did it.  So you hole up in a room instead, and you write.  You don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s the only time you don’t feel dead inside.  You feel alive, because your characters are.

They speak to you–a teenage girl an impossible situation, but strong enough to save herself.  A young man (or a few), twisted and torn, yet still struggling to get by.  Their lives and their world–they’re not pretty.  Your writing isn’t either, in a technical sense.  Sometimes they’re both downright horrific, and you keep going anyway.  All the while, the voices grow ever more insistent.

Tell our stories.

They beg, and some of them scream.  They wake you up at night, frantically whispering in your ear.  So you transcribe their words, even when they make you physically ill.  Even when you’re not sure what they mean and you’d give anything to take them back.  You hear them, and they are true, whether you deny it or not–and you have to write them, the best you know how.

It’s a month or a lifetime before you recognize them, and then–

You see them for what they are.  Who they are.  The dreams you’ve abandoned, the parts of you that you’d do anything to destroy.  Have done anything to obliterate, anything not to accept.  Slowly, clumsily, you’re reversing the process.  Telling them they deserve to exist.  That they deserve to heal, and so do you.

None of it’s easy, and all of it’s imperfect.  You’ve never written, apart from terrible teenage poetry your own mother mocked.  This isn’t one of your talents, and none of that matters.  It just is.  You just do, even though you don’t know how.  It’s free-falling, but at least you’re free–or you might be, someday.

I can be free.  These stories are safe to tell.

You question, sometimes daily, why you do this.  Where the plot is and what’s the point.  Why you create characters real enough to love, only to destroy them.  A million times, you tell yourself it’s too much.  It’s too hard, and you lack the skill to do it right.

Who are you to think you can do this?

There it is–the real question.  The one that nags at you through the whole impossible, unending process.  You push it away, because it slows you down.  But it always returns, and really–it’s the only one that’s got an easy answer.  

You’re you, and you deserve to be heard.

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