The courage. Do I have the courage to be a writer? I mean, a real writer, not cloaked in anonymity as I am here. For surely, I don't know most of my readers, and it gives a freedom to share that is...odd. It is disconcerting to me.
I am reading Ann's book, and even as I am learning so much, seeing so much, being propelled through the reading of this fascinating book, I can't help but wonder at her vulnerability. At her courage to be vulnerable. I sit here, full of so much that is so shocking and so painful and so shameful that I would surely hurt my family if I really shared, if I put a face on my honesty.
And I might invite judgment on our family, this little family that is striving through Christ to become the family He wants us to be. You see, I met my husband very young, and we were both teenagers stumbling out of homes full of sharp edges. My mother had done a valiant job of padding the sharpness of a childhood brought upon me by a father who was unready and unable to have a family. She worked hard and kept strict rules for her girls and leaned into the church and her stable parents for guidance on how to parent the fatherless, the abandoned, while being abandoned herself. And so when I met my husband and found that he was struggling out of a situation more complex and more sharp-edged, he was hungry for the stability my mother imposed, and that I in turn was eager to build a fresh, new family upon.
But the shadows follow, and casting off the past is a challenge, and as bad seeds planted also bear their bad fruit in due season, so godless choices and actions of unrepentant parents and grandparents routinely sprout vines of sin that we must continue to extricate ourselves from, now with three children to protect.
You are curious now. Get ready. It's really bad. And if you were to see me, in my embellished Target t-shirt, within my Benjamin-Moored walls, looking out at my wisteria vine glowing with violet potential, with my clean-cut son in his LLBean outfit, you might think I look nothing like someone burying the ghosts of divorce, and adultery, and murder, and gambling addiction, and drug addiction, and alcoholism, and murder (yes, again), and suicide. I know how I picture that woman, and she doesn't look like me.
Is it pride, or fear of judgment that makes me say the next thing? I must be clear that this has not occurred in my little family of five. But parents? Grandparents? Stepparents? They lived this way, in our extended family, in those who came before. Some begged forgiveness for wrongs, went before the Father, sought healing, and there healing has occurred. But in justification of wrongs, in unrepentance, in a lack of belief in right and wrong, there the repercussions of sin and the godless living continue to cut us, our children. And it proliferates among siblings and cousins and stepsiblings.
Will I have the courage to put a face to this sordid stuff? Is it even mine to claim? I fear that fear will prevent me from writing things that will help people, because I am so deeply uncomfortable with these topics, I so greatly fear the reactions of others.
Especially among Christian circles, and, I shudder to day it, especially especially among Catholic circles, we like to pretend these things don't exist. I will tell you about a woman from my childhood. She lived with her husband and son and daughter just a few blocks away from us. Her daughter was in my class, and we went to Kindergarten together and fifth grade together and high school together. She was such a nice girl. So was I. We had friends in common. We attended the same church and religion classes. And as kind as I'd be and as nice as she was, we never became friends. She never came to my birthday parties, and I was never invited to hers. She invited my best friend and my boyfriend to her Sweet Sixteen party. I, passed over, stayed home.
Last year, at a school fundraiser, I was in a cluster of women when I saw the mother of this classmate. I am 39 now. I smiled. I asked how her daughter was. I mentioned my children, their ages, the clubs at the school that my husband volunteered to facilitate. She was stiff as could be, a social grin on her face, doing the barest minimum of maintaining her part of the conversation before excusing herself to get her Chardonnay.
It was then that I realized with dismay and shock that her daughter and I hadn't become friends as children because she had forbidden her daughter to be my friend. She was still holding against me the addictions and bloody death of a father I had never known about, never known.
But anyway, it's stories like that that cause me to fear complete honesty.
Fear a bared soul.
For more on courage, please visit Elizabeth.