The Year of Honest Writing

I wrote The Letter No One Wrote My Mother many months before publishing it here. It was a private piece, a letter specific to the situation of a friend. I wrote it and I shared it with her, then I sat on it, afraid of how big it felt. I knew it was a piece that could help others, but to speak up was forbidden since childhood.

The irony was not lost on me: that I was able to plead authentically with a friend that she change her situation, but not change my own. At the time, I was riddled with the anxiety the abused suffer; the fear of discovery, the promise of shame. I lived in the bubble of the fears promised me, despite adulthood and freedom from the home and people that once hurt me. It is a curious thing, the abuse we survivors can continue to experience at the hands of those we have chosen to continue to love.

I penned my letter, cold with two fears: 1) My dear friend would read it and separate herself from me, unable to accept the truths it offered. 2) My parents would discover it and the worst would happen.

My friend quickly turned Fear 1 on its head, thanking me for my missive. As for 2, the “worst” I imagined could still happen. It would consist of the loss of contact with my parents for me and my children. The thought sinks heavy in my stomach, and yet I carry on because, since its publication, my letter has healed many rips in the fabric of my relationship with my mother. We have had long, tense conversations about the abuse that happened, to the point we were both left shaking and in tears. But we have also expressed our love for each other and discussed how to move forward. A wonderfully enormous example of this growth is that she has quit blaming me for my abuse by reframing my narrative. Instead, she accepts that my experience was different from hers because it was mine.

There is no greater support for a survivor than being heard. My mother listens. She apologizes for what I have experienced. She accepts her role in the abuse even if it does not match with her memories or expectations. She has chosen me over a more comfortable narrative in which my overactive imagination is the preceptor of my pain.

While there are myriad distasteful responses riding hand in hand with this type of public coming clean, what I have experienced is empowerment. In writing the difficult, I have rediscovered the beautiful.

Prior to taking ownership of my narrative, I was unable to write. Pen and page were repelled like magnets of the same pole. I spent an unacceptable amount of time telling myself stories of how I would fail. But on May 1, 2014, I tossed a stone into the pond and still I see the ripples. What I have learned is to continue making splashes with truth-telling and wordcraft.

I hope you find this type of courage in 2015, whether you are revisiting beloved moments or working through the less favorable, and whether your write to heal yourself, or for your own enjoyment.

Cheers to a new year of writing!

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

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