When my article, My Dad the Spy, was published in last year’s LA Times, I did something I had never done before: went public with a family secret. It wasn’t telling the public that was hardest, it was telling my family. Each member reacted in their own way but what I see now, looking back, was how scary and painful it was to have this family secret (though technically no longer a secret) finally brought into the open. I understand my family’s pain. Breaking the secret was traumatic for me too.
But keeping it was worse.
What’s striking to me is that after my big telling I scurried back to my corner. No more articles submitted to literary journals or newspapers. I had barely survived my first foray into public exposure, how could I sign up for another? I restricted myself to journals and my lap top, convincing myself I didn’t need to show my writing to the world. It’s the inner journey that’s most important…I’m a private writer…on and on they went. My rationalizations. But hording stories isn’t fair. It isn’t fair, I believe, because the Great Spirit wants us to express our beauty, as gorgeous and sometimes terrible as it can be.
I read somewhere that memoirist/poet Nick Flynn said the longer he writes the more he realizes writing is about compassion. This is true for me too. The more I write about a subject, the more it deepens and expands and becomes a part of me. I’m finding my way back to writing and this blog is a first step. I have lots of stories to tell – what it was like to carry my father’s secret so long, how I carried it even before I knew what it was. Do I still feel the house will crumble at its foundations when I send my writing out into the world again? Absolutely. Do I believe there’s a way to do it? A way to create a circle of compassion and truth big enough to hold both me and my family within its borders?
I have to.