Ben stared me down with those eyes and told me he doesn’t like flowers.
‘That’s okay, Ben,’ I smiled. ‘You don’t have to like flowers. So. What do you like, then, hey?’
You see, we’re all different, but Ben’s different from even the most different of us.
Ben isn’t broken.
In fact, Ben hardly knows me, and yet every week he puts my bins out without me even asking him to. He sits on the porch and watches the birds drift as I tug at the weeds and silently curse into the garden beds. He grabs the lawnmower cord and yanks it with one hundred percent confidence that this is one thing he does know how to do.
And, for the first time in a good little while, I am at a cafe, sinking into a booth seat, quietly reflecting on the peace of it all.
I’m the soft girl today. She’s the part of me that I choose—quite fiercely so—because the soft girl is anything but soft. She’s gentle and kind, and yet she’s capable and strong. And she’s safe, the part of me that feels most like ‘home’.
She made me buy a book, today, the soft girl did. It’s beautiful. A paperback, with a silvery-white cover and the title: Women Who Run With The Wolves: Contacting the Power of The Wild Woman, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A quote from Maya Angelou decorates the bottom. It says: ‘Everyone who can read should read this book.’
The book had whispered to me from the shelf—or, perhaps the soft girl had whispered me to it, I can’t be entirely certain. And even though it was only visible via the spine, I plucked it quickly from its little cave and read the blurb.
I wasn’t going to buy a book. It wasn’t on my radar, not at all. But as soon as I read what this beautiful, silvery book was about…the soft girl touched me and began whispering me her careful words: ‘This book will change your life.’
I bought it. It sits beside me, in my laptop bag, waiting for me to breathe it in— which I will do tonight, as soon as I have found a cup of steaming tea and a nice big blanket.
I suppose it might be a wonderful book.
And, if it is, if the whispers of the soft girl were true in all their wistfully tender encouragement…my life is about to change.
Fear of judgement. I could fill a page with all the times it’s crippled me. All the times I wanted to do something but didn’t, all the ways I could have grown in this life of mine if only I’d stood firm and owned what I had to offer.
I’m in the front row at my second Melbourne Writers Festival event (Therapy Couch: Krissy Kneen) and there it is again, that word: humanity. It’s thick, and it’s oozing from Krissy Kneen as she talks through some of the fears she faces with her current project—a memoir recalling the history of her family, and the way it all sits within her life.
The scars of her family history are raw and deep, and, by writing a book on such a personal subject, Krissy will be exposed. She admits she’s nervous when it comes to Twitter and the various other social media platforms, and I don’t blame her. With the rise of the internet, ‘passing judgement’ has become all the more brutal.
It’s a moral fine line she’s walking, too, as it often is when it comes to writing memoir. Because even though our story will always be ours to tell: does it ever really belong only to us? What about the other characters in our lives? Krissy’s deceased Grandmother, who played a huge part in this family story, never wanted this story to be told. Krissy knows it—she’s reminded every time her Aunty shouts it down the telephone—and yet, she has chosen to tell the story, anyway.
Krissy recalls the moment she realised her Grandmothers passing meant the end of her uncomfortable silence. She would now be free to tell the story that, previously, she’d felt obliged to keep quiet. I can imagine the relief she must have felt. How many life choices might I have made differently if not for the wants and needs of others? I can think of a great many.
There really is no escaping the ache of humanity, is there? It’s the one thing we all have in common, whether we choose to share it with each other, or not. The stories of our humanity connect us and are often strewn with painful truths; truths that, these days, most of us would rather escape, than face. It’s easy to sit at the bottom of a mountain. But if you’ve ever stood at the top of one, I’m betting you know all about that view.
As I leave the auditorium, bumping shoulders with the people of my day, I can’t help but feel a hum of admiration for this woman called Krissy Kneen. Here is a woman who is chasing after her truth. She is standing in all of her power, and despite the ever-present fear of judgement, she is calm and she is steadfast. She sees the challenges. She chooses to move past them.
This is her life. Her story. Good on her for granting herself permission to honour it.