I have been thinking a lot lately about taking some time and some blog posts to tell my story, more accurately my history. I have struggled with whether I should write my story. Whether I needed to. And if I choose to write my story, how much am I supposed to share when other people are involved and not in a good way.
I spent a lot of my life telling everyone who would listen how dysfunctional my family was and how hard it was to grow up with a mentally ill mother. I then spent years not wanting her story, my childhood family's story to define me so I stopped telling the stories.
But it's a funny thing beginnings, they keep creeping into the middle of the story of my life. Sometimes my childhood comes up as I process my parents getting a divorce this summer. Sometimes it comes up when I share how God has worked in my life. Sometimes it is a random comment I make or a shared experience with someone who also is dealing with a mentally ill family member. And as I look back over the last few years I see blog posts that have told bits and pieces of my family's story. Usually though these posts were responses to what was going on in my life, not an intentional examining of how I got to where I am.
But I am beginning to think it might be time for me to share my story. If only for myself. If only to have some record, some history of my childhood which is slowly disappearing from my memories the more I heal. Not just the down and dirty but also all those moments where God showed up. Because that is really the point. The point is not to write down a list of all the awful things that happened, mostly because it is not my intention to gossip or slander but also because my list of woes is not really all that impressive. The story is not in the pain but in the redeeming of the pain.
I remember watching the Oprah interview with James Frey this year. He is the author of "Million Little Pieces" which was released as a memoir but contained stories and characters that Frey made up. He was called out by Oprah on her show 5 years ago for writing lies. In the interview this year, five years after the original scandal, he apologized but said something that stuck with me. He said, "I'm more influenced by artists than writers. Let's say you look at a cubist self-portrait. It doesn't look anything like Picasso. So when I was writing the book I was thinking of it like that." This struck me. This idea that a self portrait may not look anything like a photograph of the person, but it is still a self portrait. It is how the artist sees himself using the tools and style of painting he prefers.
I think that my story is a lot like that. I know my side, my memories, my feelings but they may not accurately represent the truth. My story is how I experience what happens, how I process that experience, what parts I keep in my memories, what parts I leave out and what parts I never saw even if they were there. The words I don't remember being spoken or the words I heard but were never spoken. Memories have a habit of changing the story over time. Sometimes our memories make the good times even more beautiful and the hard times more sinister. Or in my case, I often diminish my experiences of pain, explaining the real hurts away.
So I am going to take some time over the next few months to write down MY stories, my history. Some of these stories will include my family. I am sure my family will remember some things differently. I'm sure they have held onto different parts of our shared lives that I don't remember. But that is the thing about a self portrait. I can only tell the story how I experienced it.
This is my disclaimer.