I’m a memoirist. All I know how to do is reveal. — Elizabeth Gilbert
My creativity lies in my revealing, my sharing, my telling of personal stories. For a very long time, I only shared personal stories with my best girlfriends and even then they were mostly about boys/men, and not about myself.
As a child, I only told my family the private issues I had to. I didn’t tell them anything beyond what they needed to know. If I mentioned my problem skin or embarrassment over a chipped tooth my sister then had endless fodder for teasing and tormenting. If I revealed how much I wanted my dad to see something special in me, I left myself open to almost unbearable vulnerability and disappointment. Feelings and self-doubts swirled and surfaced mainly at night as I lay alone in my corner bedroom. My stellar inward focus already in full swing. Occasionally, my tender dreams and worries found refuge in a rare special visit with my Grandma Knowles.
Looking back, I see that all of my parents (I’ve had an involved stepmother for 35 years) would have listened if I would have asked, but they were busy, tired or working on their own issues and I wasn’t strong enough to demand attention.
After I married, I didn’t tell my husband my deepest worries, yearnings or personal dreams either. He was always so confident and in charge. Voicing my faults and fears would only emphasize my lack of ‘having it all together’. To be honest, while I was intimately aware of my downfalls, my strengths and gifts were still in the development phase (which is a stage most introverts don’t like to reveal). Instead I mostly played the roles of wife and mother. The only dreams or worries I dared to reveal and even recognize were those involving all of us — the whole family. Voicing my personal dreams or ideas seemed silly, selfish and not practical and like I said, they were still in the formulating phase anyway. Family and house first. Brenda’s aspirations and thoughts on writing, relationships and helping humanity, later after the kids are gone.
I didn’t feel safe enough in my family’s company. I didn’t feel I could reveal my weaknesses. My status in the pecking order of power and admiration could only be lowered by revealing soft spots, right? I chose to ‘fix’ myself by remaining perpetually on the defensive, exhibiting strength rather than doubt, and spending time doing rather feeling or being. I chose to keep quiet and let others lead. I didn’t share and I believe we all missed out.
A little too revealing
Now I can’t seem to stop revealing. To the point where I fear oversharing. Two months ago I attended a meeting for a professional Myers Briggs group. It’s a small group with around 15 members attending each month’s presentation. We were talking about how individuals can often exhibit traits opposite to their type. I had a story to tell about how I demonstrated extroverted characteristics at a football party. If you want the whole story I wrote about it here. During the discussion I got everyone’s attention and like most of my experiences talking extemporaneously in front of a group, the perfectly formed points in my head spilled out in non-cohesive, word-magnets-scrambled-on-the-refrigerator-door, fashion. I meandered through the details managing to reveal: I am divorced; I was insecure about hanging out with my ex-husband and his girlfriend and I resorted to Wonder Woman and marathon winning poses in the bathroom to boost my confidence. I even acted out the poses in front of the group (revealing my bare stomach a little as I lifted my arms in V formation for the marathon winning motion, tsk, tsk). Mind you, this is a PROFESSIONAL organization. Most members are 10+ years older than me and at the start of the meeting the majority of them didn’t know me from Adam. Sometimes this kind of openness works but this time there was a mumbling of comments and a general floor-gazing awkwardness when I finished. I felt instant regret for my gregariousness. A woman whom I admire and look to as a mentor was there. I felt her disapproval most of all. To add insult to injury, the goofiest old woman in the crowd — the one who wasn’t quite tracking with the rest of the group and shouted out What!? at random times — came up to me after the meeting and said, I loved your story!
A couple of days later, another member of the group reached out to me via twitter. He didn’t seem phased by my overly personal story. He seemed to appreciate my style, enough to look up my website and comment positively on my writing.
Perhaps, I can show my face there again.:)
What I’ve learned about revealing
My favorite writer and personal hero, Brenda Ueland, said that anyone can be creative if they are willing to recklessly make mistakes and honestly share the details of their life. All stories are interesting and imaginative if they are real.
Not everyone is your ideal audience. I don’t think my kind of sharing is best suited to highly formal or professional types. I’m a more informal gal. I relate best to open-minded, warm spirits interested in people, love, relationships, creativity, etc. but you never know who is in your corner until you find the courage to reveal your self.
Being real gives others permission to be real. Revealing connects. I can say that since I found the courage to be daringly forthright I have encountered the most gratifying and other-worldly connections. My mind and heart have been unbelievably nourished to the point where they feel like they may burst.
I’ve landed in circles of friends who, like me, have a passion for going intimate. They don’t want to talk about baseball scores or the news. They want to get down to personal stories and revelations. They want to know you on the deepest level. Because of them, I am the expressive, intimacy loving, often too revealing person, I am today. Thank God.
I now often share my trials and triumphs with my family (parents, siblings). I let lovers in to my private thoughts. I trust you, my lovely readers, with my heart’s desires and frequent failures.
I’ve learned letting my guard down, allows others to feel safe. There is no better feeling than giving someone that space to reveal and making the most magical connections in the process.
I reveal. It turns out it’s one of my strengths. It’s what I know and love to do.
Introverts tend to be private. How much do you reveal? Do you ever ruminate later about something you said while openly sharing?
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