"Don't cry out loud,
just keep it inside,
and learn how to hide
Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud," was a theme song in my early twenties. Put on a smile, never let them know you were hurting, don't admit your mistakes or failures. How did that go?
It didn't work. By the time I was in my late twenties, I was bottoming out. I had a moderately successful career in education -- but that was about it. My relationships were in shambles -- all except for the ones where I held the purse strings and felt some sense of control. My body was falling apart, and I felt scattered all over the philosophical map -- a spiritual homelessness that I pretended didn't bother me. Sometimes it takes something as minute as a pinprick to burst the bubble of denial. Mine seemed like a slow leak.
Recently I came across a quote that served as a reminder that my journey back from the facade of self-certain control about my "story," came in a series of small moments. Ernest Hemingway once advised:
"Write hard and clear
about what hurts."
That statement scared me. The things that hurt were ugly. I felt exposed and broken whenever I even thought about them -- how would I ever be able to write them down? And yet, I knew writing was one of my great loves. But I also knew that if I was ever to be able to write with conviction, I would one day have to find a way to write about the darkness -- in order that it might give context to the light.
After coming back into a working relationship with God - through the study and practice of Christian Science - I felt that there was so much that I was grateful for -- and I had to write about it. My life was transforming, my heart was healing, and my hopes were soaring. I wanted that to be my only story.
But everything I wrote felt pale to me. It was all daystar. A healing of self-worth almost disappeared without the contextual backdrop of decades filled with self-destructive behavior. To the most distant star, is the night ever too dark? I thought it was. I wanted a new setting. I longed for the beautiful, good, and true to be the only page on which my life-story was written.
The problem with that was, that it just wasn't true.
So, now to the purpose of this post, which is ultimately the purpose of this blog. Here it is. I needed to say to anyone who felt that their story was too ugly to acknowledge or own, "you are not alone." You see, I had felt so alone for so many years. I couldn't imagine that any spiritually-inspired person -- engaged in a healing ministry -- could have a story as dark as mine. It made me feel like an imposter.
That was, until I met a woman who wasn't afraid of her truth. In fact, she used the darkness of her childhood as a platform for the brightness of the lamp that God had lit in her heart.
She reminded me that Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"The spiritual sense of truth
must be gained,
before Truth can be understood."
Note the capitalization of the word "truth." The lower case truth denotes the actuality of our human experience. The upper case Truth points to the fact that God is All-in-all. That there is no moment, situation, experience or memory that is without God's presence, power, and love. To deny my life as ugly and dismissible, was to deny that God was All-in-all. I needed to own those stories, not as human mistakes or failures, but as a divine adventure in which I could find the face of God in the most tragic moments.
I remember one very specific memory that haunted me for decades. I was being serially threatened by someone I should have been able to trust to care for me. It left me feeling like a small animal that didn't deserve to be treated humanely. But reclaiming that moment for God and recasting the story as an opportunity to find the face of God in the midst of darkness, I began to see that right there, right in those moments of terror and humiliation, I was aware that what was happening was wrong. I was clear and sure that what I was experiencing was not the way that a child should be treated.
It took me five decades to write that story. I wrote it hard and clear. I wrote it honestly and I wrote it with God - and not a frightened child or an evil grown-up - as the main character. I was able to write with complete honesty about my hurt, without having it hurt me any longer. If fact, that story elicited hundreds of notes, calls, and comments from men and women who had faced similar life-narratives.
I found that when I write about what is hard, it suddenly becomes clear that God was always there, always with me, always giving me the courage, wisdom, strength to navigate each experience.
Elsewhere in his vast archive of advice on writing Hemingway states:
"All you have to do
is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence you know."
The truest sentence I know is always the one that has God as it's subject, love as its verb -- and me - as the one who has experienced the presence and power of that love - as its object. I can only write a true sentence from my own experience -- and hope it reminds others that they are not alone.
This is the reason I write, this is the reason I pick up the phone, this is the reason I do everything I do -- to let someone know that they are not along in the darkness -- or a pale insignificant star in the harsh light of their day.
Today, I cry out loud, and I listen quietly. I am grateful to have learned to write hard and clear about what hurts -- so that it is defanged and doesn't hurt anymore. Mary Baker Eddy writes:
"Think of this, dear reader,
for it will lift the sackcloth
from your eyes, and you will behold
the soft-winged dove descending upon you.
The very circumstance, which your suffering
sense deems wrathful and afflictive,
Love can make an angel entertained unawares.
Then thought gently whispers:
“Come hither! Arise from your false
consciousness into the true sense of Love,
and behold the Lamb’s wife, — Love
wedded to its own spiritual idea.”
May you feel this wedded bliss with your one true Love - the main character in every story.
offered with Love,