Stories I was afraid to tell...
Even though I am a writer and have been writing stories and studying writing since childhood, there are still stories from own life, stories that shaped the course of my life that for many years, I would rather not tell.
When finally I found voice for one of my earliest stories in the "love" chapter of my life, my entire world shifted. I was able to extricate myself from a painful marriage and choose to see love not as a punishment but a joy. This shift literally came from choosing to see a story from my past in a new light.
To show you the Story Principle in action, I am willing to share this story with you here. In public. Out loud.
This story comes early in my life's chapter on "love," one of my first romantic relationships. I loved this guy. He was the first one that I really felt comfortable being myself around. I trusted him in every way possible. I likened our coming together to one of those John Hughes movies starring Molly Ringwald, only instead of pining for the guy, he liked me back.
We were young, and I though I loved him, I didn't harbor any marriage fantasies. I remember this part clearly. I wanted to move away for school. And I certainly didn't spend any time writing his last name after first. It just wasn't like that. I clearly remember just being in the moment and enjoying it.
As we became more serious, I brought up the subject of birth control. Without hesitation, this guy, this one I loved and cared for beyond all measure, told me, that he would rather I didn't, that he "wanted to save something special for one day when he was married." The implication was clearly that it wouldn't be married to me. Given that we already had sex using female contraception (see Seinfeld's episodes on the "sponge"), the only special thing he would be saving was not having a pregnancy scare.
This moment crushed me. This startling revelation that I wasn't good enough to be protected. That I wasn't special enough. That this relationship now had a definite end.
One caveat here in the telling is this--these are my reactions to story. This is how I saw it and felt it. It may not be how the words were intended. But how they were intended, at the moment I heard them was not considered. Instead, I felt crushed.
This crushing feeling translated into the most shameful and embarrassing thing I have ever done--I promptly cheated on my guy, this one who I truly loved and cared for. I traded away all of the comfort and trust we has in one moment of retaliation.
When my guy found out, and we struggled to work things out, the new guy, the one I used to cheat on my boyfriend, hissed at me, "If you go back, you will forever be a slave to him." Spoken like a curse, these words haunted me for the next twenty years.
You see, I internalized that hurt, manifested it into behavior that demonstrated the lack of worth I felt, and then paid homage to this pain and hurt by accepting relationship after relationship that echoed this same shame and pain.
When I finally told this story and spoke of how it haunted me with its message of you are not good enough and that only in marriage could you even hope to be good enough, the guide working with me helped to me re-examine the story. We gave voice to why I would have felt hurt with that statement. We discussed why it was right for me to seek the protection of birth control and a supportive partner. We talked about how young I was and the stupidity that comes from youth. And most importantly, through that discussion I came to see how I swallowed that story whole and how I could indeed move past it. The "love" chapter of my life did not need to be defined by that one moment. I could view that story with compassion for myself, and instead of seeking more of the same, I could move past it, stop being that slave of the curse, and see love in new, more supportive, and kind ways.
I am not going to tell you this process is easy. Even now, putting this story down on paper for the world to see is scary and challenging. I don't want to be judged or hurt anyone's feelings or have people think less of me. But only by owning our stories can we begin author them and move them forward. If I can share this one moment and help someone else see the spark of revision as it might apply to their own lives, I have succeeded in re-writing my own future through this telling.
So, if after reading this, you would like to give the Story Principle a try, please reach out to me: