Harboring the Untold
Maya Angelou was onto something when she stated, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” Talk about self-inflicted harm. Do you know how much energy and effort is expended on containing or holding something in, especially stories captive? Such cruel and unusual punishment. Like really, who would hold themselves hostage like that?! Most people. No, really most people – whether consciously or unconsciously (more consciously than not) hold on to their greatest stories. Why? I’m glad you asked, but I don’t really know the answer. I could speculate, make a very educated guess, and I could still guarantee you that I will not be 100% correct. However, if I put myself on the examination table, call myself to the stand, and if I’m really honest and own my truth, I’d say I’ve harbored plenty of stories out of fear. Yes, mostly fear. I mean there are other reasons like not having time, embarrassment, my past disdain for vulnerability, the importance of keeping some things private and selfishness – everyone wants to keep their super good moments to themselves . . . right . . . or was that just the old me?
The excuses, I mean list, can go on and on. But, back to fear. I get it. Many of us care what other people think. We don’t want others knowing the very intricate, intimate details of our life or journey. Eve may not want her neighbors knowing her proper and prim life could really be the next best-selling story of survival, plagued with trial, tribulation, training, triumph and lots of apples. However, do you realize how helpful your story could be to someone else? Yes, I’m asking you to think beyond yourself for a moment. It could be a lifesaver – like literally -- be the one thing that makes someone’s pendulum swing back towards life instead of death. It could offer guidance, inspiration, or encouragement. It could serve as an example for others that they are more than capable of achieving their goals. It could teach a new mom how to keep her head up, not lose her identity all while dealing with a crying newborn. But, more importantly, the benefit and the blessing is that there is endless liberation and power associated with telling the untold.
Telling your story can strengthen a stranger, but the strength it gives back to the storyteller is unmatched. I can hear Ms. Angelou’s voice, “And when I reached for the pen . . . I had to scrape it against the scars to sharpen the point for me to write.” Sheesh! Not only offers power, but it is healing. Not only healing, but it serves as a preventative measure to avoid danger and a prevailing light to lead to freedom. Freedom of thought, emotions, and physical oppression. So, why have you chosen to be mute? Why have you chosen to relinquish your voice to the depths and darkness of silence? Do you, like the young Maya think your voice can kill people? Or is it the truth that will do the most harm? But, don’t you know that out of evil there can come good?
I can’t help but to think of my ancestors. Whether I look to the African who was stolen from their land and enslaved or the Native American forced by foot to walk the Trail of Tears; my ancestors were storytellers known for their rich oral traditions. They told stories from whence they came and where they were going. It is how they passed on our history, customs, and traditions. Storytelling allowed them to transmit their historical, spiritual, and mythological understanding of who we were as a people. It has been their stories that has helped mold me into who I am today. It is their stories that speak to me in my silent moments and say I must go continue. For their storytelling is what helped them survive and in turn guided their descendants. Their storytelling is what perpetuates the legacies birthed of old and fortifies those birthed anew. It will be their stories which sets my children’s children ablaze to rise like phoenix from any ashes and take their rightful place as young kings and queens. The birthright is in the stories, but your people may never know if no one, if you don’t, decide to share. So, no matter your reason for storing up and silencing your story, it is never worth the greater sacrifice that lies underneath the obvious. Today, I challenge you to open your mouth, raise your voice, and channel your inner griot, “twisted hairs,” Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Louise Meriwether, Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin – and tell your story.