Catherine Jackson: EarnestGirl Chronicles


A Closer Look at Our Personal Narratives

Exploring The Chasm

When Erica challenged me to “put a blog where my mouth was”, I agreed because I wanted to try to speak the truths I felt were missing around me. I agreed because I felt blogging was an opportunity to step into the chasm that opens between writing publicly and failing privately and to try to take an honest look around at the dangling roots and the long shadows. It is why I continually try to poke at the cultural gap between the “yummy” and the “mummy” and it is why I strive to speak honestly about the mess. Above all, it is because I believe we are all connected through our stories.

And yet. Once you tell a story, you draw edges around someone else’s experience. I leave parts of my story untold here because I believe the people who make me the person I am (friend, wife, mother) are entitled to their own versions. I cannot create narratives for them in this space. It feels like trespassing on memories that are not yet fully formed.

So. What I do try to figure out is how to stand with honesty in the gaps and valleys and still find a way to name the things that are true. My hope is that by poking around in the darkness, the chasms other people may also be standing in will feel a little less scary.

I have found myself down there in the shadowy in-between spaces because of grief, because I’ve disappointed myself, because I have felt badly shaken and because it feels too difficult to stand up on the shifting ground, squinting into the future. Sometimes the chasm feels like a good place to hide. (I am not proud of this, but there it is, one of those not-so-pretty things that are best dragged out into the light. Motherhood takes a toll. Sometimes I need a psychological rest from the guilt, the push-pull, the thinning of the self.)

Many people however, settle in amongst the emotional stumps and debris scattered around down there. They have said “poor me” for so long they believe that this is the only version of their story. A great many blame their mothers / upbringing / other people for finding themselves stuck. They won’t fight their way back up nor will they pick up a shovel and dig down for the truth. They get comfortable in their half-way state. Half way between living honestly and yes, sometimes painfully up on the ledges and pathways (publicly) and the truth they don’t want to tell themselves (privately). They get stuck in their story.

Please don’t let me give you the wrong impression. I am not claiming any kind of higher moral ground or emotional intelligence. As I write this post I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and asking myself questions for which I do not have good answers.

What I know for sure is that we have to be unafraid of the shovel. Down there where the earth is hard and the light does not always shine there are diamonds and poems, there are hidden streams and jagged rocks, there are dreams and versions we never imagined.

We owe it to ourselves and to our families to try to live meaningfully, thoughtfully, passionately and in a way that respects the other people with whom we are making our life. That means not pointing fingers, not living in a state of poor me-ness. That means regularly and honestly digging in the earth of our own stories and trying to imagine how we want the ending to turn out.