“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~Maya Angelou
This agony of bearing an untold story inside oneself is what has driven writers to write for years. The need to tell a story that is coming to life inside makes all the lonely hours of sitting in front of the computer screen trying to translate it into words worth it.
I think the agony is even deeper, though, when the untold story is one’s own story. This agony is the psychological burden of living a life that is not true to oneself.
This agony of wanting one’s untold story to be seen and heard—to be witnessed—is what eventually forces people out of whatever closet they are hiding in. The closet may be that of sexual orientation (like my case), or religious beliefs, or secret career aspirations, or hidden addictions, or family issues, or lifestyle choices that are outside of the mainstream, or any other part of ourselves that we choose to keep hidden. No matter what creates the closet, the closet becomes the holder of this untold story of one’s life—the hidden life that exists unseen by other eyes.
I suspect that this agony of having an untold personal story is even more true for someone like me who values authenticity above all else. Living life in any closet is living an inauthentic life, and it truly is agony. Even when the cost of leaving a closet and exposing our true self is painful, it eventually becomes less painful than the agony of being something we are not, of having our story continue to go untold.
It’s not an easy place to be. In my case, I know that if I choose to alleviate my agony by being honest and open about my sexual orientation, it will cause a great deal of pain for other people who I care about. There are others, like my family, who will be deeply grieved to find out who I really am. So there is great guilt about the “selfishness” of letting my true self show. There is genuine dread of the consequences—for others as much as for myself.
And yet, the agony of keeping this untold story inside me grows by the day. The more I come to terms with my true self and the more I honestly face who I am, the harder it is to hide from others. It creates a wall around me that keeps me isolated from anyone who might possibly befriend me. I can let no one get close to me, even in friendship, because I have to watch every word I say to be sure I don’t use a wrong pronoun or accidentally give myself away by not reacting as a straight woman “should” in some situation.
If I could, I would cut all ties with anyone I know and start over someplace new where I could be out of the closet from the start without it upsetting anyone’s image of me. No one who knows me know would ever have to deal with the real me; they could continue on in their memory of who they thought I was. I would start fresh building a community of people who would like me as I am with my story fully told.
It’s a lovely thought, but it’s not practical. Actually, in this day and age, it’s not even realistically achievable. I will eventually be found on the web somehow. The people who know me now are going to have to deal with the adjustment in their understanding of who I am. They may choose to cut ties with me and walk away in some form or another, and I am going to have to accept that risk. I am going to have to accept the anger that’s going to come my way. I’m going to have to accept that people will lash out in pain.
At the end of the day, I’m rapidly getting to the point where the agony of continuing to live in silence with that part of my story untold is worse than the costs of telling my story. That day when I open the closet door and let my real self out into the world is coming ever closer. I hope and pray that those who are so opposed will in time learn to forgive me for being who I am. But even if they don’t, I’ll still be free. My story will still be told.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.