first second day of October! For some reason this new beginning has me focusing on hope rather than answering the beckon to despair. I hope that all of you are taking time for self care and time to realize that something amazing is also happening. . .we are witnessing women banding together, united by their belief in, and support of, other women. We are with you Dr. Ford, we are still with you Ms. Hill, we are inspired by your bravery to speak truth when there is everything to lose.
With these events, and other conversations I have had recently (and not so recently,) I feel we should talk about those things, those truths, that we hold from each other. Through the hoarding of these truths, we perpetuate an illusion, or an ideal that we, or our fellow aunties, must then fight to attain. Each time the truth is not spoken, another step is added to the ladder we are trying to climb. But with some sharing, it can be easier. I promise.
I have three examples that come to mind, and in each case, in the moment that the truth was spoke, I felt that a rare gift had been given to me, expectations were released, there was lightness (and shock.)
The first was when one of my aunts (a bona fide sister of my mother) decided that she should call me after she gave birth to her firstborn. I was in college, a good 1,500 miles away, a long distance code was required in those days, and despite all those barriers, I got it about as truthful as it ever came. “It was bad,” she said. Let me be clear, the way she pronounced “bad,” making it a almost a double syllable, but quick enough that it didn’t sound like a joke, mixed with that Texas twang, yeah, that scared 20 something me in my idyllic campus dorm room.
When I imagine her on the other end of that conversation, she is sitting there on the bed, everyone is still cleaning or attending to post-birth things around her, and she made someone hand her the phone before she forgot to speak this truth, right before exhaustion overcame her. It was in this moment that I realized there was a truth to be whispered beneath the shouts of the popular narrative, and I wanted to know more.
Soon after, I was home from college, a newly minted college graduate. “Can you watch the baby while I shower?” she (the same Aunt) asked. And I saw the fear, the raw exhaustion, mixed with only one iota of determination left. The fact only her desire to be a truth teller to me made her put aside her pride. That only there in that tent of truth would we have this exchange. I held that baby (who is now a freshman in college) while she showered, put in laundry, and reclaimed her humanness. Just last week I heard, “I had to force my way in and tell her this is what we do in Asian culture,” a sweet neighbor of my friend told me. My friend had a toddler and a newborn, and had some complications to boot, and FINALLY let her neighbor come wash the bottles. These two stories, 20ish years apart remind me, we can make this easier for each other. We can help moms shed their expectations by uttering the truth.
A few years later a college friend, then colleague, now a close friend uttered this to me: “and everyone told me not to (drive with her then ex/quasi-boyfriend, now husband, from DC to Texas) but I did.” And in that sentence, she forever became the example of how powerful it is to not hide these truths from each other. The truth was that in relationships, we are not always strong woman making rational decisions, we don’t always choose the most advised choice, maybe we go against our strongest ideals. Sometimes we are the woman who is going to put aside her pride because she believes in something. And let’s be honest, sometimes that makes us the fool. But isn’t it better if we know that we have all been there? To know that even in this circle of strong women, we have to follow what we know to be true? To know that the hardest person to be truthful with is ourselves?
Aunties, I am grateful that there are so many more examples, but I chose these examples because they showed me the power of truth telling, they were my initiation into the sisterhood of truth-tellers. I trust that so many of you share in this sisterhood (its practically an auntie requirement) but I urge you to open that truth tent, to share it with more people, to be brave.
And here’s why. It’s too much to care for a newborn AND worry that you are not enough. It’s too much to grieve AND worry that you are grieving too long, to face a mental illness AND think you are alone. How many leaps of faith can be just leaps when we know we aren’t the first? When we know there are others?
So look into your truth closet aunties. Pull out those truths and give them freely (okay, truth police, its not always that easy.) But again, be brave. The aunties, the future aunties, the sisterhood and all those who cheer for us? They deserve them.