This post is part of the ‘inspirational stories for women’ and ‘stories that heal’ series.
For the first time today, on July 4, 2013, as I sat chatting with a stranger in the park while our children played together, I told the truth. We had some conversation, and after telling me a bit of his story he shared how important the love of his father, mother and grandmother had been in his life.
At this point, I would have usually nodded and smiled, and affirmed everything he was saying, while inside I would be quietly heartbroken: why wasn’t my family like that?
Today, I simply said, “My family wasn’t like that. That fierce love simply wasn’t there, in fact, my father thought of his third wife and her family more than his own blood.” Saying it made me want to cry, yet it felt good, too. I did not have to pretend, or hide. The person I was talking to did not run away. In fact, he understood.
Before today, mine had been a sin of omission. By nodding and smiling, I purposefully allowed my conversational partner to assume that I was just like him, that I, too, had that experience of love, that I too, had family in my corner. At least, that was what I was doing inside my head. To the other person, I was probably simply a good listener.
Being a good listener is not a bad thing, but where was I in the equation? By nodding and smiling I did not allow anyone to get to know me, to know that my story was not like theirs. My showing up in that way – or more accurately, my absenting myself in that way – might have been alright for them, but it certainly was not good for me. Not that I wanted to be a ‘downer’ in every social situation, but I did have to find a way to represent myself more truly. My pretense had had a purpose at one time, but it no longer served me. I had to let it go.
I am finally learning that my being unaccepted by my father was not because I was unacceptable, but because my father was not accepting of me. I couldn’t do anything about it, and believe me, I tried – but no-one should have to work that hard.
I had felt so responsible for the ugliness of my story, ashamed, as if it was a reflection on me rather than on anyone else. I felt that my story would always be a handicap, and would be held against me. No more. Today, on July 4th, by stating my truth, I took a step towards freedom and independence.
As I wrote in my book, Follow the Yarn, my healing process has been mysteriously intertwined with learning to knit with Ann Sokolowski. Ever since I began, I’ve been going to my local yarn store, Smiley’s Yarns. Their prices are irresistible and their selection off the hook, so, naturally, I’ve been stockpiling yarns since I first discovered the store four years ago.
One morning not too long ago I woke up and realized that my stockpile was becoming oppressive. Instead of the yarns beckoning me to adventures in creativity, suddenly, the yarns spoke of unfinished projects, obligations weighing on my conscience, and clutter clogging my space. I had to do something about it, and yet I couldn’t simply give the yarns away; I really loved the stuff! I determined to plow through as much of it as possible, as fast as possible, clear the decks, and give myself a fresh start.
One project I embarked upon was a baby blanket made out of a drawer full of scraps of acrylic worsted weight yarn. I had leftover dusty rose from the skein that Ann had given me for my very first project. I had several shades of blue left over from my first big project, a patchwork afghan I had made for my son three years earlier, and a bit of red leftover from his scarf. I had inherited some yellow yarn that had been unraveled from a friend’s project; it was bit crimped and pulled from its previous incarnation, but nothing that a gentle wash wouldn’t fix. Lastly, there was a ball of periwinkle blue from someone in my women’s group. All these odd and ends would go into the blanket.
I made the patches in all different colors, and circled each patch with a contrasting color.
Every join was a different color, and short stretches of different colors encircled the whole. It is a happy, cheery, sunny blanket for a friend’s new baby. It came out great.
I got to thinking – I am a bit like that blanket. Sometimes the material we have in hand is not the most beautiful or refined. But we can work with what we are given.
The pieces that make up the whole are a bit messy, some frayed at the edges, badly used, even abused. But I am the ‘missing ingredient’ who pulls them all together. It requires a caring hand, an artist’s hand, to transform the pieces from a pile of meaningless rags and tatters into an object of beauty and harmony, something of value, a thing to be cherished.
I am a ‘missing ingredient’ no longer. I no longer nod and agree and keep silent. I stand up and speak my truth, and, in doing so, out of the rags and tatters, I create stories of value, teachings of beauty, messages to be cherished.
Go, knit. Go, speak. Put your hand to life, to shape, to design, to redefine. Tell your story.
Sing your story. Paint your story. Dance your story. Go forth!
Reba Linker is author and coach specializing in inspirational books for women. Her book, Follow the Yarn, leads by example, daring and encouraging others to ‘follow their own yarn,’ tell their own stories, and discover their own true voice.