Write Without Fear

For several years people have been urging me to write again. Another book, a few articles, even a short study course—something, anything. Still the idea of writing held no appeal for me. I’ve resisted, fighting the growing awareness I was nearing the time when I would no longer be able to resist. I’ve argued, saying I was unconvinced that anything I could say would speak to anyone or make a difference in a life. Since the world we now live in offers an endless amount of information at the touch of a finger, what could I possibly say that would be significant or unique, that would matter? This is an important question, to be sure. But in moments of total honesty I am forced to admit, if only to myself, that my resistance has more to do with a much deeper question: am I willing to completely open my life, my heart, to make myself totally vulnerable, as I know I must?

The first question has played over and over in my mind, and I think I finally have an answer. I have a story that is uniquely mine, and a person’s story matters. No technological advance can take the place of the humanness of a story. We learn from a story as it touches the heart and the soul and the mind. The story is worth telling; the knowledge, experience, and insights gained are worth sharing. And so I’ll share my stories—no, my life: what I see, what I know, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, much of it through failure. As for the second question, the deeper question, I have an answer to that as well.

In a letter to her niece, First Lady Louisa Adams wrote: “Write without fear and put down on your paper what you think, and your letters will be most acceptable.” To her husband John Quincy Adams she wrote: “What is the reason I am no longer afraid to write all that passes in my head or in my heart to use? Time was when my pen refused to mark the dictates of my fancy and I dreaded a censure where I claimed a friend.”[1] Louisa was no longer a young woman when she wrote these words. For most of her life she had been afraid to speak her mind and her heart; now she had reached a point when she was afraid no more. That fear is something the two of us shared. It’s taken me a little longer to find my voice, to be willing to fully open my heart, to make myself vulnerable, but I’ve finally gotten there. At least, I think I have, I hope I have.

In her 1885 biography of the abolitionist Grimké sisters, Catherine Birney includes this quote from Wendell Phillips, describing Angelina Grimké when she spoke out against slavery before the Massachusetts legislature, the first time its halls had been opened to a woman: “It was not only the testimony of one most competent to speak, but it was the profound religious experience of one who had broken out… It was when you saw she was opening some secret record of her own experience that the painful silence and breathless interest told the deep effect and lasting impression her words were making.” Opening a secret record of personal experience, breaking the silence that has bound for so long. A frightening prospect, but necessary, I believe. It’s time to tell my stories, to “lift up my voice.”

The stories I’ll tell here will not read like a usual blog; that is, most of them won’t be stand-alone posts. Instead, they will be designed to read consecutively, like a book, to build on each other as the overarching story unfolds. And there is an overarching story, to be sure. It promises to be a story of a life that began in brokenness, being made whole.  So begin with the oldest post first (you’ll find the Posts listed in order in the Menu in the upper right corner of the site) and join me on this journey.

[1] Lift Up Thy Voice: The Sarah and Angelina Grimké Family’s Journey From Slaveholders To Civil Rights Leaders, Mark Perry (Penguin Books, 2001).