At five, I knew how to write my name and I knew how to tell myself stories up in the plum tree in our backyard. This was how I calmed myself down, and how I mothered and affirmed myself. I did that through story. I still do that through story. And this is what I’m doing with this blog post: taking care of and loving myself.
See, even then I felt everything profoundly. It’s who I am. I feel everything profoundly. This is my superpower.
This weekend, I was attacked by my sister and her husband. They didn’t like what I’d written in “A letter to my brother in what would have been his 46th birthday.” They were malicious and cruel. They wanted to hurt me. This has been my sister’s M.O. all my life. 43 years. Her behavior this weekend is further evidence of this.
Her husband has also been disrespectful and abusive. He doesn’t like me and I don’t like them.
They have built a narrative about me, who I am and the work I do. They went into my blog looking for ammunition. This experimental essay gave them what they were looking for. They were so riled, they had to go out of their way to tell me how pathetic and pitiful they think I am. They commented on my blog. They sent messages to my author page. They had their daughter send me messages too. They called family members. They sent the link to people and I think they may have posted the blog link somewhere online because in matter of hours, I had hundreds of hits on my blog.
It was vicious what they did. The smear campaign was a direct attempt to hurt me. It was violent and vitriolic. That’s what hurts me the most, that my sister is capable of such cruelty. That my sister so willfully wants to and tried to hurt me… Sadly, I wish this was the first time.
No one wants to know that someone they love, that they share blood with, wants to see them in pain.
It’s obvious neither of them knows anything about art or why we writers of nonfiction write what we write. I don’t care to try to defend myself or my work. I know who I am. I know why I do this work. I know it’s not for validation or profit. I know that silence killed my brother and I won’t continue to perpetuate that silence. I won’t carry it anymore. My daughter won’t carry it.
I know that at the root of this work I do, the stories I write, the revelations I make, is love. I want to heal and silence doesn’t heal anything. Trauma will continue to do its damage as long as we don’t face it. They don’t have to face it, but I will. I choose me. I choose my heart. I choose healing.
They can try to crush my spirit but they won’t succeed. This is my life’s work. I know that. They don’t have to like it. I’m not here for their approval.
I am sharing the hateful messages they sent me. They want the world to believe this of me. They want a platform to say it. I’ll give them the platform. This is how sure I am of myself and my work.
See, my sister has never asked me questions about my pain or my grief or my writing. She has tried to shame and accuse and drag me. This is not new. This has been her M.O. all my life. 43 years. Here’s the thing: I ain’t scared. I know who I am and I know what drives my work and I know no one can take that from me. She can’t take that from me. She’s taken enough. I have given her enough.
If I was ashamed of my work, if I was hiding it, if I didn’t want people to read it, I wouldn’t have a public blog.
If you think I write for validation or likes, you don’t understand writing or writers or why we do what we do.
I live out loud. I am who I am everywhere.
This weekend’s events affirmed my conviction in my work. See, before the attack, the students in my Writing Our Lives Advanced Personal Essay Class submitted their essays for publication. It was beautiful to create this space for them and facilitate the process.
At the end of class, they thanked me. They went around sharing how much I’ve helped them in their journeys, the audacity I’ve given them.
I squirmed in my seat. I have such trouble taking compliments. I’m working on this…
It was on my way home after having a drink with my fiance that the smear campaign began.
I am exhausted.
I am sad.
I am disappointed.
I am heartbroken that my sister wants to see me in pain.
I am also flared nostril, clenched jaw, white knuckle angry.
I’m going to let myself feel all of it, because what your resist, persists.
I will put it into the writing.
I will put all this energy into my work and my stories.
I will not be silenced.
Something beautiful also came out of this ugliness too:
So many people rallied around me. They called, texted, inboxed me and commented. They reminded me of how touched and inspired they’ve been by my work. They told me stories of how my work helped them write theirs. They affirmed me and checked in and said fuck that and fuck them, we gotchu. This weekend my friends and followers witnessed the kind of abuse I’ve been enduring from some of my family for a long long time.
I am so grateful for the love I’ve received.
I know I am loved and appreciated.
And I know Imma write these stories with even more fervor and conviction.
I also know that I am even more unfuckwithable than I thought.
I want to remind people who follow my work for insight on this autobiographical writing life:
Having an emotional reaction to abuse doesn’t make you weak.
Sharing your feelings about it doesn’t make you weak.
Writing about it or posting about it doesn’t make you weak.
You’re not weak if you don’t immediately walk away. You’re not weak if you bite back. You’re not weak if you can’t immediately let it go.
You’re not weak if you need time to process and rage and cry or do whatever you need to do to get that shit out of your body.
And, yes, this is what may happen when you dare to write about people who have hurt and been cruel to you. When you dare to expose these secrets that have traumatized and continued to traumatize you. When you have the audacity to choose you and your healing.
Writing about your life has its costs, make no mistake. I choose me. I choose my healing again and again. I choose my daughter. I choose the little girl I was who felt unloved and unprotected and unsupported. And I will fight anyone who comes for me for writing my truth. And I do so unapologetically.
I know what’s at stake. Do you? Are you ready? It ain’t easy. It will hurt sometimes. It will burn. But in the long run, the healing that will happen will astound you. Ask yourself: who protected you? Who are you trying to shield? Have they ever or would they now go to battle for you? Have they held you when you ached? Would they now? Sit with those answers. Let that be your fuel.
Today I know this: Story has been how I take back my power since I was five. It’s how I mother myself and take care of myself and heal.
I am my own anti-venom.
No one will take that from me. Ever.