Are You Holding Back Your Stories?

This morning I was speaking with a friend about my book, Tales From the Family Crypt: When Aging Parents Die, Sibling Rivalry Lives. He had read the first few chapters and noted it was quite compelling. “You can really tell a good story,” he offered graciously. But, he said he thought I had left out an important point. My story is deeply personal about how our dysfunctional siblings disrupted our lives. It’s also about how our parents, my husband’s and mine, added to the dysfunction by being really poor communicators. While I’ve waited until all four parents died to put this story out there, the siblings are all still alive. So, the story is likely quite painful for them to have out there in the world. My friend thought it important for me to state emphatically why I “needed” to write this book while those siblings are still living.

He knew the answer but he thought readers should know too. So, he asked me “Why did you want to write this now?” I explained I had lived this heartache for 30 years and in all of that time, as a result of the way our parents dealt with conflict, I had been unable to speak my piece. My husband never wanted me to confront his parents or his siblings and I never wanted to upset my father about what my sister was doing. When they did despicable things to us, to my husband and my daughters, I held my tongue. I held back this story for half of my life. I think it’s a good story, one that may help others to deal with their difficult family situations. More than that, though, I think I was simply unable to hold back my story any longer.

It had to come out. Was it selfish of me? Yes, I have to admit it was because I am benefiting from the release in the relief I feel now. Letting this story see the light of day after years of being shrouded in the darkness was cathartic. I didn’t have much to lose, none of the siblings involved speak to us or to my kids. Was I worried about embarrassing them? No. I just told the truth about what happened. If they find it embarrassing, I can’t help that. Some of it is embarrassing to me too but overall, it just feels like a burden has been lifted.

So, writers, I ask you to consider — Are you holding in stories you need to let go of? What’s holding you back from being freed of the burden you carry?

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4 thoughts on “Are You Holding Back Your Stories?

  1. I find myself questioning if certain stories I should post on my blog or after the fact asking if it was the right thing to do. Then I tell myself that I am not going to please everyone and I am telling my story of the journey I am on and the obstacles I face daily. I am glad to hear that you decided to tell your story as well.

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    1. You should definitely tell your story. For a couple of reasons. First, you have a right to and secondly, it’s what you can do that no one else can. It may be helpful to you to tell it, it may help others to read it but even if not, you have a story and we are all the stories we tell. It’s one of the things that separates us from the animals — the ability to connect by sharing our stories.

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  2. I’ve been pondering this for awhile, and I’m just not sure it’s possible to think in absolute terms when it comes to the right or wrong of publishing a story. While there’s no question that telling a personal story can relieve some anxiety and perhaps help someone else with similar issues, there’s also the old saying that “some words are better left unspoken.” Much depends on who is going to be hurt by telling a tale, and whether you care. Does that person’s hurt outweigh your need to spill your guts? That’s the question I think you have to ask as a writer, and really it’s kind of a sacred trust (although that’s probably too melodramatic). I’ve said some things about my father that made my stomach hurt afterward, and it probably wasn’t well received by a few cousins who say my father was their favorite uncle. For that story, I considered what I was about to do and pressed ahead anyway, figuring that the principle subject, my dad, was already in the grave, and I’m not extremely close to my cousins. My sister didn’t agree with everything I wrote, but supported my right to say what I did. In the end, some feelings maybe got a little bruised, and nothing I said ultimately made me feel any better. It’s a tough decision, and I don’t know if there’s a right answer. By the way, I bought your book but haven’t cracked it yet. I’m not even sure if I can crack it on a Kindle, but I’ll let you know!

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  3. First, may I say you’re my new favorite blogger. Okay, maybe it’s because you bought my book, but maybe it’s because I like what you have to say. Anyway, my husband keeps saying, when I question my own need (because I think it was a need) to publish this book, “You have a right to tell your story.” I guess that’s true but your point about considering who’ll be hurt is also a good one. I know I wouldn’t have published anything hurtful about anyone I cared about hurting. (okay, a tad convoluted, I know) The people I wrote about are hurt by my exposing their actions but I long ago stopped caring about their pain because they caused so much to so many others. Not that I was trying to punish them, I do know that’s not my job, but because I just didn’t care how they felt. Their opinions/feelings no longer had weight or substance for me. And, again, I come back to, I believe it’s a good story and I’m a writer (wow, that sounds presumptuous, as if I actually make a living being a writer!) and telling stories matters to me. Somehow I feel as though my babbling on here isn’t making me appear any clearer on this topic but I hope you’re getting my drift. Anyway, thanks so much for writing and considering my points and for buying the book and if you do crack it and don’t hate it, I’d very much appreciate if you write a review on Amazon. I suspect it will be the most or at least among the most well-written ones on there.

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