Monday, January 31, 2011

Finding Healing Welcome

The excerpt is from Mary DeMuth: This week I’m launching my Audio Healing Retreat, Get Past the Past. In celebration of that, I’m inviting friends around the blogosphere to share their stories of healing. Ann Voskamp[1]Today’s guest is by Ann Voskamp, a story poet who shares her life in the most stark, beautiful ways.

My Mama was diagnosed with split personality disorder and my dad loved me more than her.

We all split.

I remember how my heart did, how the shards drove into everything. How bearing secrets made the breathing hard.

My mama nods now that it is all true and no daughter should ever feel that and no mama should ever live knowing that and…

There are things a family never breaks the silence and faith to speak aloud, for fear they’ll break.

My Mama did.

The end of one summer, the end of August and it’s heat, she signed herself into a psychiatric ward, all the inner places shattered. We weren’t to speak of that. Dad told my brother and I, my baby sister, straight and firm: the neighbours, our teachers, our cousins, were never to know where Mama went. We were to keep the secret.  How was he to know we’d become the secret’s dark underbelly?

I went to Mr. Perrie’s grade 4 class everyday all through September and all through October and all through November and I never told a living soul that I had no Mama at home, that we visited her on the weekends in a locked ward, that I did my own laundry and I made every meal for us us, every pork chop and baked potato, and I tucked my baby sister into bed every night and made my brother’s lunch for school the next day.

And every night my dad asked for my ear to hear all his hurts and my heart could hardly hold it all.

I was nine.

When the walls of my heart cracked, I leaked out slow, in the dark, in my pillow, in my begging prayers. I never told my best friend, Melanie Vermeer, where my Mama had gone. I never stopped pressing the lips tight. In her ward room in the city, my Mama sat in shadows and wrestled the demons, and  secrets of what her own father had done to her in a long ago dark.

Why repress our stories? Isn’t that all we have — our story and The Word who keeps writing our story?

Tight lips can suffocate till life lies limp, and secrets can smother and leave you for dead.

Mama was living proof that keeping secrets keeps you sick. Or maybe her and I were both the dying proof of it.

I grow up. I keep my secrets tight and my secrets keep me tight.

We all  thought the secrets would save us…  but they slowly slay us.

I can show you my scars.

I have six babies.  And the last, the freckled and mopsy one, she loves this game where she hangs an arm around my neck and pulls me close, cups my ear in her dimpled hand and she lisp-whispers warm and thick.

“I’m gonna tell you sumpin’ in your ear, kay? Then you tell me sumpin’ in my ear, kay?”

This child tells me her secrets. She tells me, bits of her brushing up against me, and her words tickle close and open and brave and I think: this is a meeting. This is a holy revealing. An invitation. A way to heal. She’s telling me who she is on the inside — the only real side.

Then she turns. Her mop of curls falls to her other shoulder. She waits for me. She wants me to whisper right into her who I really am. The child shows me:

The only way to be real … is to reveal.
The only way to heal… is to be honest.

With ourselves, with God, maybe with one other person.

Can I?

My Mama writes the past in a prayer journal. I come to write my skin on a screen. When ink lays the secrets bare, God unveils a bit of Himself in words because that is who He is, Word and Truth, and this is what binds up my wounds.

I know the terror of telling the truth. But for me, after my Mama’s childhood, after mine, I am far more scared of the secrets. Because it’s keeping secrets that keep us from being real. From being fully alive. From really healing.

It is true: I am terrified to be real. But I am far more afraid to be false. Which would mean I cease to be.

I lean in close to this child waiting.  I tuck one stray spiral strand. I cup my hand to her curl of ear, fuse us together, and isn’t it that it is worth everything to tell our secrets?

Because our story is who we are, and if we deny it, we deny not only our own selves – we deny the very Author Who’s writing this redemptive epic.

I whisper to this child of ours, “I have sumpin’ to tell you.”

And she nods, and I tell a secret to our little Shalom, daughter whose name means peace and healing and wholeness.


Photos and Text: Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience


50* I am in awe still of that day in June on top of little mountain, as we entered into a holy union of Marriage.

51* I still feel it in my chest, the first time I looked at each of our children.

52* I still feel the loss of letting go of each of our three waiting children, to the holiest of playgrounds. Heaven.

53* I am forgiven though I still wait for the truth to set me free.

54* By His beautiful grace, this moment is my life.

55* For the hug from an intuitive friend, without words in the gentle firmness I know, strength.

56* For the familiar church with the angles that I have watched being built, wrote on the studs of the foundation, attended many years, cleaned all rooms, greeted new faces and dear friends, smiled and sobbed, watched many children be greeted for the very first time....

57* The lost look in a friends eyes, missing that knowing cup of tea, with the inside comments that are endearing.

58* The way he closes me in his arms, rests his chin on my head. If I turn my head just so; my ear hears his heart, feels the warmth of breath, and tender grace.

59* How our children play so well with new friends, and we share a peaceful afternoon.

60* A knock on the door with an unexpected gift. Treasured for many years, but passed on to me because she sees a need.

61* Beautiful blogs of friends whom I have met on this side of our earth, and others that may just keep passing on their gifts of writing without ever meeting in person.

62* Colleen who shared beautiful blog awards

63* Kimberley and her gift filled list that opened the doors of my gratitude offering.

64* Ann, her poetic gifts, and this quote:

65* The only way to be real … is to reveal.

66* The only way to heal… is to be honest.

67* Secrets to unfold.

68* The line from a worship song. "Open the eyes of my heart Lord"

69* All colors vibrant & dull.

70* Many dolls that are willing to have tea parties with her.

72* How all of her bags that are packed, all have a gift for someone else to share with.


Tabitha Bird said...

Wow. That was a powerful and very sad story. No one should have to keep secretes like that, but my family did too. Family secretes are destructive.

Colleen said...

That was an incredibly powerful story. I think more families than we know have sad secrets. Things have never been told to the light of day.

Alicia, as for your list, I simply love the way you write. Your appreciation just seeps through and I feel like I know you through your words.

Kmarie said...

I love that. I completely agree- our secrets are dangerous. Always ask if not sure, seek of doubting and find through grace. I think that is why I love counselling. Wishing you the best:)

Grandma K said...

our stories are powerful when shared so honestly. They may shared in many ways including 'lists'.

Thank you Alicia.

SadieAnne said...

I really loved this post. I heard once that being able to tell our story over and over again is one of the best ways to heal.

irish coffee and chocolate said...

Wow Alicia, you are so brave. To go through this, and to share. Thanks for telling some of your story and for being vulnerable.

Alicia said...

Reading Ann's writing the first time there was an exhale at the end, and I realized that it was just all so full of grace and beauty. That was how I was going ahead with life, joining in this redemptive journey.