What I know, deep inside of my body, is that every woman has a story worth telling. Every woman has a history, a legacy, a cobwebbed attic in her heart crammed with memories and expectations and should and don’ts and wishes. Every woman has her dark corners where the worst, most decayed, rotten, saturated stories live. They are the broken, disfigured ones she is too ashamed to bring out into the light. Here live the aborted desires, the ugly truths, the deformed and misshapen secrets we know will earn us judgment, or worse, pity. They are the ones we fear our lovers will think of every time they touch the tender hides of our skin if we let them out.
What I know, deep inside of my body, is that women need each other. We fall in love with men. We fuck men. We build our whole lives and identities and selves around men, eroding the women we are with the jagged rhythm of their waves against our fertile coastlines. We do it without thinking. Or, we think this shaping of ourselves to fit their schedules, needs, and lives is love. We forget that, as much as our men may love us, they are still seeing us through the lens of gender and masculinity and desire and their own wants. Women see other women – as women. Until a woman is seen and known and vulnerable in a community of others like her, she will remain, in so many vital ways, invisible.
What I know, deep inside of my body, is that there also comes a point when you have to become unmoored. You have to drift on your own tides. It will feel like loneliness. It is loneliness. It is the solitary ebb and flow into and out of self all women must do to know themselves fully. I can promise that you are a stronger swimmer than you know. Stronger than any current. Sink into loneliness. Submerge yourself in solitude. Watch how you are carried with the crest of a wave, this time, your own.
What I know, deep inside of my body, is that sometimes life feels written in a foreign tongue. The pages are out of order, numbers leaping back and forth in and out of chronology, the way the body does – remembering. The language is in some ancient Hindi script. I can stare at the artistic rise and fall and curving of the letters onto themselves, how they hold each other upright in places, but do not tilt when they are alone. I can tell myself this is the language of those Hindu gods and goddesses, with elephant heads, countless breasts, skulls crushed underfoot. Transformation. Redemption. But I still cannot make sense of some of the unexpected, unwanted narratives that enter into my experiences.
What I know, deep inside of my body, is that when things get dark, I want to slip from this book. One shadowed corner for me right now is this: my mother, the woman who taught me language, the one to unlock the written word for me – a locksmith opening my illiterate heart – is dead. She’s dead. A dead language on every page. A lost mother tongue whenever I try to speak. I want to slip from this book. Now. Let me move from between its velvety, indecipherable pages to the dark, loamy earth. Let my feet be pinned under dirt.
What I know, deep inside of my body, is that being buried in loss means I will feel my shin bones trying to rise, knees arcing upward, my thighs growing moss and green living things taking up residence in my broken frame. But I can just rest here and feel my heart and its faulty trembling. It proves there is still life in me yet. I am buried by my grief. I am the gravedigger girl, holding the shovel in a shaking hand. I put the rocks on my eyes and fill my own mouth with dirt. I want to slip from this current story and its tragic language of loss…lying in wait beneath the dark, fractured soil until the light returns, until I am strong enough to speak the words to save myself.
What I know, deep inside of my body, is that the narratives of our lives can save us every time. Whether you call yourself a writer or not, telling your story can be transformative. In the dark months of this year, the shadowed stories may step forward – the body may feel buried in our private losses and hidden grief. Let them come. Find the solitude to honor your stories and let them rise – in your body and on the page. Then seek out other women to listen to your words, to hold you in your storytelling as your body’s voice builds from a whisper to a full-throated song. But what I know, deep inside of my body, is that every woman who shares her truth is already held in a community of other women just like her. What happens to one woman, happens to all women. So put your words on the page.
Write for yourself. Write for your life. Write for us. Begin the conversation. Now.
words + photo: c. delia mulrooney
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