Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Courage And Disclosure

Last night in class we covered memoirs. One writer's submission gave pause to many who asked whether it was fiction. It was all dark with no light to balance the story. Since we’re to critique each other's work, I wanted to know if she learned anything from her traumatic experiences, if it changed her, because everything in life - good or bad - teaches us something. All I read were words of sadness, anger, resentment, fear and hate. And it’s not enough to pen your dark life on paper, you need to balance that with lessons learned and wisdom gained.

After class we walked together to our cars. I commended her on her courage and commented it couldn’t have been easy. She agreed it was the hardest thing she's ever had to do and confided between silent tears the history omitted. She said her life had been built on secrets and how she now wanted to live otherwise. She was writing this for her future children and if I as an adult unemotionally connected to her found it a difficult read, I couldn’t imagine what it would do to a loved one. I saw the toll it was taking in the dark circles under her eyes and tired look. She commented how she was finding it difficult to sleep again. I finally gave her that hug. I think she needed that; I know I did.

Ugliness and harshness spares no one in life yet I found her fearless in disclosing those feelings publicly and stood in awe of her brave, young heart. I would never be able to be so open about personal pain yet sadly understood some of that pain. And so, the young woman who opened her heart to me this week has been on my mind. I wish her peace and strength, but not courage. Because that she has more than enough. Because on the road she’s had to navigate, courage is the passenger she picked up along the way.

For Trifecta


Lori Skoog said...

Rebecca...your interest in this girl may be just the thing that helps her. I have great appreciation for people who have the ability to act on something...not just sit back and let things go down the toilet. I know that as a teacher of children (all ages), I had a lot of power that could impact them. It is quite a responsibility to use it wisely and not cause pain.

Genie Sea said...

I join you in wishing this young woman well, and wishing her release.

I hope this exercise will help her to shrug the mantle of despair and find a lighter path.

She might very well change her mind about what she will or will not disclose to her children once she becomes a mother, or finds perspective with age.

Hugs to you sweetie :)

Unknown said...

I would like to consider myself a young writer, though my medium is poetry, and the idea that things need to be balanced--you use light and dark--this concept strikes me as out-of-date or archaic. I prefer to allow life to speak for itself, and if life is uneven or imbalanced, then it simply is. These are the concepts I employ when sitting to create. Just another way of thinking, I guess.

Mama Shujaa said...

Just a thought. You, with lovely words of description heavily laden with her life's painful truths; She, a freedom fighter, seeking peace come what may, through life's painful truths. You, her parachute.

CathM said...

Rebecca. I was touched by this heartfelt post and your concern for this young lady… I think a person’s decision to ‘disclose’ whatever ‘truth’ that is a part of their life experience is a person choice. Some people are empowered through the process of disclosure (even if it is long, arduous and painful) and for them that is part of the journey towards healing and wholeness. And, for others, ‘to disclose’ is not a beneficial process and find their answers through other ventures/avenues. I think writers, like most of humanity, wrestle with the issue of ‘disclosure’ on so many levels in their creative pursuits – I know I do. I do also think that age, experience and pedigree (i.e. the kind of person you are) all play a role on how you choose to ‘make sense of your world’… to disclose, or not – now that is the question for the individual to answer. But significantly, what your post made me think (on this issue of ‘disclosure’) is that in a person’s decision to ‘disclose’ --- sometimes those receiving the ‘disclosed’ info may not be prepared or equipped to engage with, or respond appropriately to the information. So – there is a reminder there on the wisdom that needs to be exercised on how we disclose, to whom we disclose to, and when we disclose. Lots more I could say… but I better not :) ps I hope I've made some sense...

Stephanie said...

I think the reason we like to balance the light and dark as best we can is because it just makes it easier to take in. More readily digested.

Its not that any one of us isn't fully aware of the atrocities that can unfold in life to one degree or another. Its just that spoonful of sugar that makes it a little bit more palatable.

I wish her well too. I would bet, though the process may have been daunting and opened wounds, revealing it all publicly, and being accepted anyway - by even a few, will ultimately prove incredibly healing.

Beth said...

If she had the courage to confront her demons and write about them, I'm thinking she has the strength to one day learn from that and find the "light."

Sepiru Chris said...


The air rushed out of my chest when I read this. I wish you and your red-haired friend both well.


rebecca said...

Lori: I couldn't agree with you more, but she is no longer a child. I wish it were so - it is so much easier to ease a child's pain. But, she is an adult and what she needed that night was a shoulder to lean on and someone who would listen to her. We are friendly but we are not friends outside of class so all I can do is be there for her in this respect, when she wants, if she wants. I hope in time we can establish a friendship that goes beyond school grounds.

Genie: Writing can many times be a very cathartic exercise and she is using it as such. This is good because it can be an extremely handy tool towards her recovery. And, what one feels when one is single, is not what one feels when one becomes a parent. I remember when I was a teenager I used to have arguments with my mother because she would not give me the freedom I wanted and stated very convincingly that I would be different as a parent. Well, I became one and, lo and behold, one day I woke and found I had become my mother. =)

Derik: I don't think the concept is outdated or archaic at all. It is the way it should be. One cannot live in a state of perpetual sadness or anger (though many times, many do) because it does not benefit the soul. Some light has to touch your life just to give you that feeling that you are still alive and life is still worth living because, face it, if one were to live in a state of darkness ALL the time - well, I suppose that's where suicides come from. It's too much, Derik. You have to smile once in awhile, you have to laugh, you have to feel a little love (for others and for yourself) - this is where your balance comes in.

Mama Shujaa: Your words took my breath away. How beautiful they were. Thank you so much for that dear, sweet lady. I like the description of 'freedom fighter.' This fits her so well. And she is seeking peace right now, like you said, come what may, because she is right in the middle of the storm and is frantically looking for her safe place. I've no doubt she will soon find it. She is a very strong young woman.

Catherine: Your words carry a lot of truth. Yes, many are empowered by the process of disclosure while others prefer to leave it as a private matter. This, yes, as you state, is affected by age and experience and where you come from. I come from a very reserved background (English - doesn't get any more reserved than that! and Spanish), so it is WHAT I know. I never learned to open myself up to others and, at 50, I still do not to a very large extent (well, only hubbie knows the real me with all its flaws and fears), because it was inculcated in me so deeply as a child. It is not say I find this restrictive; not at all, it is just the way I am and so when I come across a young lady like my friend who is so open about private matters in her life, I have nothing but admiration. But, that is the way of the world: we are all very different and we are all products of the environment we were raised in and the experiences we lived through. But it is through these differences that we learn of the world and each other because we absorb - even if vicariously - qualities that we lack from others and try to incorporate some of those into ourselves.

Stephanie: Very well said. A spoonful of sugar always does help and makes it more readily digested. I think she is indeed on her way to healing; she still has a little way to go but I find that by the end of this year she will be in a much better place. It takes tremendous courage to face your demons and live through it again and all of this is not for naught.

Beth: I couldn't agree with you more.

Chris: Thank you so much, dear sir. I am well. I am more than well and finally in a place of peace. And, it is exactly the wish I wish for my friend. The road there is not an easy road to take but it is one one must take, nonetheless, because at the end of any arduous journey one finally finds that which one has been seeking all along. And, it is well worth it.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Sometimes there is really no light in one's world, it's total darkness, till someone like you walk in and brighten up his/her life.

You're an angel Rebecca.

rebecca said...

Mama Hen: Thank you for those sweet words, dear friend. But, she is a very strong girl and has endured much and is fearless in her fighting spirit. I think that she will have no problem finding that light all by herself. All I can do is be there for her, if and when she wants me. I've always been a good listener and sometimes that's all a person needs. But it does do the heart good (to both parties) to know that hopefully you made a little difference.

Whitesnake said...

Language isn't only about the written or spoken word, it's about communicating on all levels.

SSQuo said...

As you said we want to see some light. Personally being a positive-type of person I want to focus on the happy moments, but learn from the sad. We need them to cherish the happy ones.

Ive known people that sink so deep that it is hard for them to see the good. Not that the bad isnt bad, some of it is horrible, and yet all we want is for the living moments to offer them some happiness.

2cats said...

My heart aches for your red headed friend. Without even knowing her troubles I know that I have experienced them myself. Your words have brought all of it into focus. There is healing with writing. I hope takes your offer of friendship. We all can use a friend. Thank you for sharing.

rebecca said...

Whitesnake: That's right. And how one "communicates" towards the self is just as important. Sometimes we label ourselves and speak to ourselves harsher than others would. And, that is sad, indeed.

SSQuo: It is sometimes very difficult to see the light when your life is overwhelmed by greater issues. Yet, the most difficult and important thing to do, I believe, is to find one thing/one light that you can find and build from that. I know the times where my life has been dark, there were times I had to step back and find those things that I should be grateful for and it helped....for I had many, yet, the crisis - which were serious in their own right - prevented me from seeing the light.

2cats: Welcome! We can all relate to her because we have all been in her place and that is why it touches us because we know full well that feeling of despair. But writing is cathartic and healing and she is finding her way back.

Sherri B. said...

I am also reserved to a fault...and loved your post. I'm sure this young woman appreciated your quiet compassion very much...I hope she can get past her pain and see some light soon.

Leni Qinan said...


You're such a sweet woman. To let her get that out of her chest and give her your support is just beautiful.

But I understand her. To me, writing -among others- has a therapeutic purpose: it helps you ease your mind, vent your anger, let the sorrows flow out of you and unburden your soul. I've done it a zillion times and it helps.

BUT, I'm very reserved too: I learned how to hide the important information and show the emotions in my stories, to avoid feeling exposed.

And it helps. This is how I sometimes soothe my sorrows. It works for me.

And this is what I figure she did also. But I think it was too risky to expose herself that much to an audience so sincerely.

And even though she is a strong woman, you were most kind to her. Even strong women break down sometimes and need someone to lean on.


Fantasies of a Lifetime said...

Love your post , it is so heartfelt.

Sharing pain does help easing it ,
good luck to your friend.

BrightBoy said...

It's hard to see light if you're not all the way out of the hole yet. Maybe she's not.

I was horribly bitter for about a year, and I'm shocked now at how honest I was in the writing assignments I submitted to English class.

It's only now, after the trauma is over, that I have been able to see anything positive in it.

Good luck with this student.

rebecca said...

Fledgling Poet: Thank you. I am hoping as well. It is a very dark period she is in right now but, eventually, one day, these clouds that follow her filled with water of her tears will finally lift.

Leni: Thank you, mami. It is the least I can do. We've all been there and know the pain of anguish or the feeling that one will never see light. It is at those times we appreciate the support and words of another who has also been through some rough times themselves and see that they've come out of it alright. It gives one hope and hope is the one thing we all need to survive in this life. ((abrazos))

Fantasies of a Lifetime: Thank you. And, yes, to be able to share one's pain with another is very therapeutic; though, I, personally, would not have chosen such a public forum. She is quite brave.

Blackened Boy: You're absolutely correct. There was a period in my life as well that lasted for a good couple of years that I was in a very dark place. Though I knew that one day I would see light and took comfort in the things/blessings that I already had, it did not stop me from sinking deeper into the pit of despair. Sometimes life throws you some curve balls and you get hit by them so hard that it takes the wind out of you. But, such is life, and good or bad, we learn, we survive, we persevere, and we move on. Eventually, we all move on because it is what we are destined to do.

San said...

Yes, this young woman is courageous to put these issues out for the world to read. And you are sensitive and giving to acknowledge that courage.

I might add that it does take courage to write about such things privately. In a way, that may take even more strength--to write into the depths of one's heart, alone, with no listener save the self.

Rose - Watching Waves said...

I'm just amazed at the perfect way the circumstances shaped up; that you would be present to her - at this time and in this place - and be able to truly listen and understand without judgement.

Magic happens. People cross paths for a reason. You're Witness to her process, learning of another person's life and pain. You're also Participant to her process, encouraging her to seek the Light in her Truth. I'm so glad you posted this very thoughtful post, dear Rebecca. Please continue to encourage her; I can't begin to imagine what life would be like with mostly darkness in it. Prayers lifted for her and you both.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

Rebecca, I could not help but think of ...Why Paisley (jodi) when I read this post. Does it help to bear our souls or should be learn to resolve our grief in our own heart and not expect the world to carry our burdens too? I like the latter personally.


CoyoteFe said...

Rebecca-san, such an excellent post. Sometimes, it is so hard to connect in a truly meaningful way with the fellow travelers we meet on the road. Especially when pain is involved. How much is too much? how much is too little? Sometimes, the best thing is to be present, to listen and to respond openly and truthfully. Sometimes, that is hard as well. You struck such a nice balance, as usual.

Unknown said...

How fortunate this young woman is to have you in her life. Perhaps this is the first time she has pondered the notion of looking for the light. Now she knows it's there. Thank the deity for you!

Jae Rose said...

I bet that hug meant the world to her..Jae

Linda Bob Grifins Brin Korbetis said...

at least you have helped to let it off the chest.

best wishes.
Happy Writing.

LeiffyV said...

It's amazing what we find when we are open to it, sometimes it isn't about the courage to do but the courage to at least try. You found your way through journals and she found her way through expressing it to anyone who could read. In the end, it is the journey which is most important.

Thank you for sharing this piece with us, it's always nice to know there are others out there like us.

Gina said...

Very courageous woman. Love that you gave her what probably was a much needed hug. What a difficult road for her.

Anonymous said...

How kind of you to lend an ear. I hope that she is able to find the light after relieving the burden of silently carrying her past.

Unknown said...

Nicely written - And probably what she needed from you. Writing is so therapeutic - Just getting that bad stuff down helps.

Anonymous said...

What a brave thing to do; I'm glad you were able to give her support.