All The Words

Your story was so well-written!

I smiled. It felt good to have my writing affirmed following the pain of sharing the words with my training group. The hard processing part was over, and we were relaxed, preparing to leave for lunch. I laughed and replied lightheartedly,

I’m a good writer!

This unusual owning of my gift followed the high of being finished with my story while still processing what had not quite landed with me, yet. There were places I had avoided and truth still unnamed, leaving me conflicted and unsettled. I was confident in the writing, though. It was good.

That evening I went for pizza with new friends. I knew a little about some, a lot about one, and nothing about two. Sitting at the end of the table, introductions began. I said my name.

“You’re a writer!”

The woman to my left looked into my eyes, smiling knowingly as she spoke. Confused, I stammered, “Why do you say that?” “Because I’ve read things you have written and shared online.” I deflected and dismissed, saying something about not being a ​real ​writer. She gave me an unnerving look and smiled again. She would not let me escape. “You can do what you want with it. I’m just naming what I see. I have read your words.”

I received her comment in the spirit offered. I acknowledged I had been at war with my words, feeling strong ambivalence towards writing. We conversed further about words and gifting and our stories. The evening was kind.

At night I spent time in the unsettled space left after sharing my story in group. Something was not right. I needed to write it out to further understand. Words flew from pen to journal. Tears flowed. Clarity emerged.

I began to see how my style of relating had sabotaged the help I needed from the group. I did not speak up for myself. Instead, I let the most important person in the room speak for me. Three times others had tried to enter an important door that I hesitated opening. It was key to the story. I froze every time.

In the safety of the wee hours of the morning, by flashlight, I wrote until there were no more words. Then I went to sleep.

I woke the final morning, confident that I would share with the group what I had processed in the night. The teaching time only confirmed what I knew.

I had not trusted myself to speak up for what I needed and instead had let others tell me what they thought I needed.

I held this loosely, hoping that I would have opportunity to share.

Group reconvened, and I jumped in. Speaking up and sharing what I had learned during my nighttime journaling felt freeing. I affirmed those who had been on the trail to my heart and thanked them for their kind pursuit. I named my departure from self and subsequent returning, as I excitedly flipped through my journal, scanning words to refresh my memory about key points.

Basking in their affirmation and celebration of hard work, I was unprepared for how my words would trigger another from a place of pain. Looking me in the eye, strong negative feelings were named. Eyes flashing with fire and passion addressed mine.

“Look at you with your journal full of words and well-written story. ‘I’m a good writer.’ You just have so many words. I envy your writing. I don’t have all of those words.”

For the third time in two days my writing was named ~ by me, by the woman at dinner, and here by a fellow warrior speaking truth from a difficult place.

In the past, this exchange would have done me in and silenced me for good. Thankful for healing and growth, I looked deeply into those fiery eyes and expressed gratitude for honest naming. Because of that uncomfortable exchange, I received confirmation that I am a writer. I do have a lot of words.

That is what I bring to the party. My words. I bring them for myself and extra for those who need some. It is why I started my blog and why I seek to understand stories. It is why I am always looking for more of them to help explain and clarify. I have been at war with all of my words, shutting them down, worried about how they would affect others.

During our last group session, we shared what we were taking with us from our time together. I pulled out an index card written in purple marker and read, ​I am a writer. My words matter. They are powerful and disruptive and are a part of my glory. I will keep writing.

Julie McClay lives in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley with her high school sweetheart (and husband of 24 years) and 5 of their 8 children. She is learning that while it can be painful to face the past honestly while living in the moment and looking towards the future, it can be healing and lead to the hope of a brighter future. She digs through these thoughts and feelings here.