Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Explaining Yourself (Day 321)

Lily, who often does not talk to me, except to ask for things or complain or tell me I don't understand, etc, asked me just moments ago: "Mom, what are you writing about tonight?"

Yesterday, she asked me if she could send one of my blogs to her theater teacher and then said, "I always like what you write." I thought this was an isolated incident, but I think today's inquiry proves that I have an unexpected fan: my daughter!

I write about Lily a lot. Her story--which is mixed with my story as her mother--is beautiful and traumatic and well, it is a story to tell. I check in with her frequently to make sure it is okay. I know the things that are off-limits (for now, she tells me, but someday, maybe not). I respect Lily and I respect her privacy. 

However, privacy, when you have a story that has been shared since you were born, is defined a bit differently than most define privacy. It's a hard balance for Lily. There are days when she is so sick of explaining herself. 

I don't want to speak for her.  I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to be a teenage girl with a health history that includes a premature birth and a brain tumor and shunt failures; but I do get the "explaining yourself" part. 

I remember when she was a baby people asking her age then me replying and stumbling over a long winded explanation that she was born 11 weeks early and that's why she was tiny. Then, after diagnosis, having to tell her entire life story to new playgroup friends--explaining why my 18 month old was not walking was complicated and necessary. And every year, since, explaining Lily's complicated history to other medical professionals, teachers, coaches and new friends. I hate elephants in the room; almost as much as I hate having to recount everything. 

But, in explaining myself, over and over again, I found camaraderie in unexpected places. Other mothers who shared their child's missed milestones or their own personal history with a health issue. I've found other cancer families in unexpected places. I've connected with teachers who have a person in their family with shunt. I've encountered mother's who've walked paths that I never knew about. My sharing has given previously private people an opportunity to explain themselves. 

I will joke that people will tell me their life stories (and life is often crazy!); but I shouldn't joke. I love people's stories. I love the intimacy in the connection we make with one another when we explain ourselves. 

I think we should all explain ourselves more. There are so many "private" matters people don't want to talk about--but so many people can benefit from each of our stories. I know we all have different comfort levels with sharing. We put most of it out there. Some just shared with trusted friends. Others have a community to share in. But the explaining and the sharing really matters when it comes to navigating this world with empathy and understanding and enlightenment. Sharing and explaining to an audience that is listening can change the world. 

So back to my unexpected fan, Lily. I am so proud that she reads this blog--and that she is listening to me share myself. I am even more proud at her continued willingness to share herself and her story. I know she thinks it is a little thing; but I think it is the biggest, most life-altering, world changing thing to tell your story. 


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