The Story That Must Be Told

 “Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.”

–Henry David Thoreau in his journal

What I’m burning to say


  1. Barbara Keller says

    Everything. I’m burning to say everything. To write it down and share it. That’s how I figured out I’m a writer. I am writing in my head all the time. When I’m driving. When I’m going to sleep. One of my great and real frustrations is I don’t write most of it down. I am busy a lot, and it’s not always convenient, but even when I could write, I often don’t. I don’t hold it in high esteem. It’s as though I think writing is playing and I should do the real work first. So I put it off until, as Thoreau says, the iron is cold. And I forget what I was going to say. This is a problem and it keeps me from being productive. I would be happier if I wrote more in a fashion that lasts, like with a computer or on paper, rather than just in my head. I have so many projects swirling around, short stories, novels, ideas for movies, philosophy. I won’t let myself think about any more until these are done and these are never going to be done. It’s like I’m a cabinet maker with 25 unfinished pieces of furniture lying around the room. It’s in the way and annoying. And nobody has the use of them.

    • Debbie says

      Barbara – you name a pattern and frustration likely many of us share. Thanks for leading off the conversation this week.

    • Hazel says

      Your comment, “I am writing in my head all the time.” sounds so much like me. I never thought that is how I know I’m a writer, I guess I thought I had to write it down to be a writer. Like you I find it hard to take the time. I think with me it is a matter of discipline. Making myself sit down, be still, and then write until I am finished. When I do that it is surprising how much I can get out onto the page.

      I like your analogy to “old furniture lying around” which you trip over and you just keep doing it. Darn!

      Thank you for sharing, again validation.

    • Judy says

      Barbara–I’m right there with you on the writing in my head. I finally created a Word file named Conversations, Characters, Ideas and will string them together one of these days. In the meantime I have this poem within screen view at all times:

      By Billy Collins

      Even if it keeps you up all night,
      wash down the walls and scrub the floor
      of your study before composing a syllable.

      Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
      Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.

      The more you clean, the more brilliant
      your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
      to the open fields to scour the undersides
      of rocks or swab in the dark forest
      upper branches, nests full of eggs.

      When you find your way back home
      and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
      you will behold in the light of dawn
      the immaculate altar of your desk
      a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.

      From a small vase, sparking blue, lift
      a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
      and cover pages with tiny sentences
      like long rows of devoted ants
      that followed you in from the woods.

      • Barbara Keller says

        I love that. I’m not sure I get it. Yes to clean the world, or no? I couldn’t tell, but I loved every word. Thanks,

    • Diana says

      I relate so much to your piece. I find that my the time I have quiet time to write, I am so tired I can’t put pen to paper so unwritten prose swirls in my head. Glad to know I am not alone. Didn’t a famous writer say the hardest thing about writing is writing?

      • Barbara Keller says

        I don’t know if someone said it, but I do agree. I have it all done, I just have to put it down somewhere before I forget it in the crowd of new ideas written in my head.

  2. Ritc h Brinkley says

    I’m burning to appeal to all the former English teachers, editors, and proofreaders to note someone as learned as Thoreau used a proposition (with) to end a sentence. My literary blood curdles each day as I hear people on
    television fall back on the most overused cliches to communicate. Particularly vexing to me are: “hanging out, down with, bring it, a shallow grave, 50 is the new 30, know what I’m sayin;, like a rock star, whatever, awesome, cool, hot, bitchin’, bee-utch, wuss, an accident waiting to happen”, ad infinitum. There are countless earlier voices offering better alternatives, such as Shakespeare. Remember the court jester’s proclamation in “King Lear”-“And now has the wheel come full circle”?

    When I taught English to border children in 1967-68 Texas, it was an automatic “F” if a student used the cliched “a lot” in a composition. And the misuse of “like”, a horror released from the mouth of beatnik Maynard G. Krebbs (Bob Denver) in 1957’s sitcom “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis”- who knew today’s youth, who have no idea who that character was nor how much they place the word “like” in every sentence would so embrace the term? I don’t suppose YouTube helps diminish the use when they beseech us to check “like or don’t like” beneath every one of their millions of film clips.

    My time on the soap box has come to an end,

    Keep on keepin’ on-Ritch Brinkley
    Yikes! Did I really just say that? My bad, my bad

    • Debbie says

      Ritch – The use of language without thought of its beauty or impact is a soapbox upon which we might all find ourselves from time to time. I get especially annoyed with myself when I look back over a written piece and see the frequent use of one or more words, ignoring (or forgetting) other more descriptive terms.

    • Hazel says

      If it is any comfort, you are not alone in your rant about the use of grammar and correct spelling. It is my opinion that our planet is losing it’s beautiful languages to the use of mobile devices and shortcut everything. One way I keep myself in check is to write poetry in forms. I find I must constantly look for the precise word with just the right sound to complete a line. But, most people don’t have, or won’t take the time for that kind of learning.

      As Ken Jennings, the absolute know it all, has said, “It is always better to know a thing than not know it.”

      Keep the faith English teacher and writer.

  3. Molly Guth Gressly says

    What I’m burning to say….

    I’m burning to say that I’m here. That I count. That I deserve to have a life. I deserve to be. I deserve to feel, feel good as well as the bad, pleasure along with the pain, peace with the chaos, deep rolling belly laughter interspersed with the tears.

    I’m burning to say that I have a story. And my story that the world sees, is not the story that lies underneath. I’m burning to say that I am no longer too shrouded in fear and expectations to deflect what my story is. I’m burning to say that I am more than the strained and tired juxtapositions of my fragmented self. More than the young girl raised to love God, but has yet to really experience God’s love or anyone elses.

    I’m burning to say I am relieved that the story the world sees, the story I worked so fervently to create is crumbling. No longer trying to be perfect, no longer trying to hide from a me who doesn’t know who me is.

    I am burning to say that I am more than the premature infant given up for adoption by a single birth mother and reticent father/sperm donor riddled with abandonment issues. I am burning to say that I am more than the young girl whose breasts were fondled and genitals stroked and penetrated by someone who knew better and didn’t care. I am burning to say that a part of me died a lonely and cruel death when I risked telling, risked asking for help and was ignored by a mother who was also taught to believe things like that don’t happen in families like this.

    I am burning to say that my education in abuse created my duality – safety in my head, survival in the world resulting in a home nowhere. I am burning to say I am more than the young ashamed student with a carnival of creativity for an imagination that was strangled by linear learning and rigid educators. I am more than the young ballet dancer who starved herself to look the elusive part, I am more than the lawyer who recognized early and often that education is sometimes more about revenue than pedagogy. I am burning to say that I am angry that I worked so hard at school, at endless activity after activity to show “them” I was good enough. My addiction proving that “them” shifts more than sand and there was never “a good enough.”

    But, I am burning to say I am more than a chameleon who changes to please, to be rewarded, to be. I’m burning to say that I’m more than a lawyer – I – at the core of my soul, am an advocate. An advocate for every lost person, creature or cause, and today, an advocate for me. And that changes now, because I’m burning to say that I embrace what my whole story is and continues to be.

    • Debbie says

      Molly – Wow! There are so many incredibly powerful lines in your post, I can’t do them all justice but here are a couple that will be with me for a long time:
      “I am burning to say that my education in abuse created my duality – safety in my head, survival in the world resulting in a home nowhere”
      “My addiction proving that ‘them’ shifts more than sand and there was never a ‘good enough'”
      And finally “I am burning to say I am here. That I count. That I deserve to have a life”
      Yes, yes, you do!! We are honored that you shared this intense and powerful writing with us.

    • Laurie M says

      I’m floored, riveted. This piece hit my core, even though in my tale the flavor of issues are different, but not underneath. I’m going to find time to write on the prompt “I’m burning to say I’m more than…” Thank you for your inspiration.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Molly, good for you for being burning and able to say all of this, not only for yourself, but for those you help with you profession, the ones who have not yet found their voices. Congratulations!

      • cissy says

        Powerful writing! Thank you for writing and sharing. The entire paragraph where you say you are more than “the premature infant” – all of it – WOW! Cissy

    • Terry Gibson says

      Molly. What a powerful piece! So eloquent and strong. It has stirred up so much in me. It’s hard to face the entirety of our stories; I’m doing that myself right now and it’s hard to do without blinking. I’m honoured to read your story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  4. Lee Xanthippe says

    What I’m burning to say to Henry David is what privilege you have to get to catch and write down the thoughts while they are burning. Me, I’m not burning any holes in my clothes today, and Henry David–stay away from my clothes with that hot iron of yours!

    I bet Henry David never got written up at work for being late because he was writing and striking while the iron was hot. I’d rather keep my job and find new heat later.

  5. Hazel says

    Much like Barbara I have things in my mind that I want to get on paper. Things that I organize; prioritize; edit and finalize then I do not take the time to write them down. Even when I have the time I think I will look lazy if I am sitting writing rather than doing something else. (But, who is there to see me and make that kind of judgement? No one.) I work on a phrase until it is perfect – I have all the right words in all the right order; poof, they are gone like fine wood shavings in the flame from a match.

    I am burning to write the things about the ancestors I have known because I know that no one else is doing that. Some in the family have looked up the family tree information to varying degrees and have found out “who begot whom” but to me that is not “writing down the bones” as Natalie Goldberg would have us do it. I want to write what I know of that person combined with the facts; meld all the information into a composite to be remembered, not only by the family as I know it now, but by anyone who comes after. I find that when I share some of my stories with those family members left in my generation there are many things I know that they don’t, or never have experienced with our common ancestors. Three years ago I made a present of a book I wrote, (very specific to family and probably not much interest to anyone else) about the Daley side of the family as poets, to a cousin of mine on that side of the family. I had the history of the Daley Poet’s going back in Ireland to the 12th Century. Then, I had a poem by our grandfather written around 1915. There were several poems written by his mother in 1935 and poems by two other aunts (my mother would not give me any of her writings) and one uncle, then I had a few of my poems as well as one from my daughter (my grandson also writes poetry but I do not have any of his yet). The surprising thing is, that cousin never had any idea his mother had ever written any poems let alone as many as I had been able to rescue from oblivion. He was overjoyed as was one of his sons who also happened to be there. The thing that I take away from this is that poetry is in our blood and we “Daley’s” should be proud of it and write it down, it is our heritage!

    I feel there are many experiences with true life stories that my extended family on both sides are missing out on and I am charged with writing those stories down in some kind of coherent way to get this information to them. And then I think: Who cares? Am I the only one? I really do not know.

    My current book has been in the writing stage for four years now after thinking about it for three years before that. I am having trouble with the organization of the material. The actual writing would go better if I could just figure out how to present the whole thing. I am always adding to it but it is hard to write an outline and stick to it. There are to many side roads in life.

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – what a tremendous gift you are sharing with your family. It may be thankless, and not truly appreciated until you are no longer here to tell the stories in person – yet will one day be treasured. Thanks for sharing your passion for this project, along with some of the frustrations.

  6. Adrienne Drake says

    Dear Cassie,

    When I think about how sick you are, I feel terrible. You have a chronic illness that must be managed for the rest of your life.

    I hate that you are so angry now. I always knew you were an angry person. I always knew you had a special relationship with alcohol, sort of a dangerous dance that always told me you are an alcoholic. You control it with an iron will. Your alcoholic flip side, your rage-aholic tendency, has always been quite evident when you talk about your daughter-in-laws, how they take your sons to “the dark side,” which actually means away from you.

    But when you saw I was in pain, you used your mother bear anger to protect me, to help me see my rights, to fortify my integrity when I doubted I had any worth. I felt that was a good use of your anger. You lent me your incredible strength. You had my back, even if at times I also sensed that you were using my pain as a place to project your own prodigious anger.

    You say, “Trust no one, because in the end everyone always betrays you.” Because I was born riding a white horse, I always thought I could prove you wrong. I thought that if I could just be a good enough, kind enough and patient enough friend you would be healed in some way, the same way your love for me has been a part of my healing. There have been times when we hugged good-bye that I actually felt a spark of trust jump from your heart to mine, and I was happy. I began to hope that I could let go of my fear that someday I would do something that would cause you to brand me a betrayer as well.

    Your illness is changing all that. From the beginning almost six months ago you were hiding it… from everyone including yourself. You had an excuse for every pound of weight you lost. You never let me know you were in the hospital because you could handle it yourself. Like Simon and Garfunkle’s song, ”… and a rock feels no pain and an island never cries.” Cassie, I totally understand that mentality. I used to live there. Is that what makes us such good friends? Is that why I want to help you so much?

    I don’t believe the doctor’s have you diagnosed correctly. I don’t believe in your heart of hearts you think so either. Why do you keep telling them you are getting better when obviously you are getting worse? Why else did you turn away from me, with jowl-shaking anger when I asked you if you had ever had a colonoscopy, (a test which for some reason you still have never had)?

    When you came for dinner last week there was no hint of the warm Mary I once knew. You simply pushed your food around your plate. But you still managed to drink the wine. Who drinks wine after being told something is wrong with one’s liver?

    I do not want to be the next person in your life to abandon you, to reinforce the fact that in the end, “everyone” as you say “betrays you.” But when you told me to get my dog away from you, that you had “done two dogs” when your kids were little and that “I don’t have to do this anymore!”, I was stunned. You could have simply scooted away from her. You were sitting in her favorite spot. What did you expect? You dissed my baby. And you knew it! You moved half way across the room to get away from her, to tell me in effect that my child was ugly.

    Are you afraid of the doctor in me? Have I hurt and betrayed you by asking too many questions? Cassie, it is too late for denial. Your rage will destroy you. Even you can not control what is happening.

    You do not want to see me; I have become one of them. Your abandonment triggers my issues. What you must face makes me sad. You are like a caged animal lashing out in terror. Your anger cuts deeply.

    So I will give you the space you seem to be asking for. I have done all I can. Yet again, your unsafe world has betrayed you, and, at least for now, there is nothing I can do about it. I have to get off my white horse. I have got to let this one go.

    Take care, Cassie. I care,


    • Debbie says

      Adrienne – I liked how you interpreted the post into telling the story that is/was burning inside you. You paint a portrait of the complex layers of a friendship over time. Thank you for this insightful writing.
      (P.S. – I figured out how to eliminate the multiple postings! Yeah!)

      • cissy says

        Oh, I can feel all the longings to heal and be a different experience, and all of the nuances of the relationship. I can see the trust going from one heart to another and the pain and confusion about the dog, your baby. It’s honest and complicated writing. Thank you. Cissy

        • Adrienne Drake says

          Cissy- Sharing my feelings with the sensitive readers on this blog is a very nurturing experience for me. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    • Ilana says

      Adrienne, This is heartbreaking and real. How beautiful. I am so glad you had the strength to write it. I hope it brings you peace, whether or not she ever reads it. Thank you for sharing with us. IM

  7. Ritc h Brinkley says

    Are you related to Yvonne Daley. I met her at the SMA convention where she and Laura taught wonderful classes. She runs the Green Mountain Writers Workshop in August-which I would fain attend should my own health millstone fail to stop me.

    As for taking the time away from others and duties to create our own muses, we must but look to the example set by Thomas Edison. He used to sit on the fishing dock with a pole, line-but no HOOK! He said he did it to be left alone and concentrate. If people did not think he was actively fishing, they would interrupt his chain of thought. Bravo, Thom!

    Ritch Brinkley (Now where did I put that chain?)

    • Hazel says

      I don’t think I know of a Yvonne Daley, but I am not surprised she is a writer. Seems to be in the Daley blood. Here in New Mexico one could just sit by the side of the road and no one would bother you. This is the land of the Navajo and it is on a very different time from the rest of the world. The priorities are different here if one is willing to leave one’s computer and look around. (I live only a few blocks from the reservation.) I see it every day. I’m looking forward to Common-weal in July.

  8. Dianne Brown says

    I am burning to say, and hope to be believed,
    but if only heard, I shall be relieved:

    I am spirit sister of
    Angels and UFOs,
    Designed to fly at speeds
    That no one else knows.

    I sojourn and walk
    On planets and stars
    Beyond Hubbell’s eye–
    Beyond Star Wars.

    Dancing in space
    I bound through the night
    In my silvery, shimmery
    Shape-shifting light.

    The sky is my lover
    And seducing my trust
    She covered our passion
    In her sheets of stardust.

    By whim and fancy
    And star charts I design
    I navigate through space
    With no thought of time.

    Unlicensed by man
    By a power that’s higher
    In my cosmic cockpit
    I am the Starlight Flyer.

    Dianne (there I said it, and still have a fire!)

    • Debbie says

      Dianne – what fun! I enjoyed the rhythm and format of your post. Thanks for taking us along on your trip across the cosmos.

    • Judy says

      Dianne–what a joyful read. Thank you the excitement. Love that last graph and that you still have a fire!

    • Hazel says


      Snow-moon swings near
      carries a wand,
      turns everything to silver
      makes gifts for a fickle muse who
      dwells within my house.

      I feed her well,
      attend her every whim,
      thank her for her kindness.
      Fair exchange for inspiration
      (note the quantity of poems
      strewn about the room?).

      This naughty creature
      holds hands with him.
      Shameless flirt!
      They twirl in dance that lifts her skirt,
      now she’s on a cloud­ enthralled­
      and can not break the spell.

      I always think, “He
      will come for me
      because I love him so.”
      But, tonight, it is I who refuse­
      as he makes off with my muse.

      • Dianne Brown says

        Hazel, I also had to note the amount of poems strewn about my life! Thanks for sharing that….I love poetry, poets, and poems–nursery rhymes too!

        I really liked your last line: But, tonight, it is I who refuse
        as he makes off with my muse.

  9. Polly says

    “Is there anything else you’re concerned about?”

    “If you don’t take stress leave, it might increase your suicidality.”

    We have spent over a year building trust and I trust my therapist implicitly. My life is essentially in her hands, and that is no small thing. That said, it would appear that those stakes that she mentioned were simply not high enough for me, because it took me another month to make a decision. I had bigger things to worry about, like work, and deadlines, and keeping up appearances.

    The way I was brought up, the message was that you fake it until you make it. You push ahead and you power through. Trauma? Great! Use it. Let it drive you.

    A month after that session and numerous 15-hour work days later, I was fairing no better. My work was beginning to slip, I was having severe anxiety attacks, my body memory was getting more pronounced and more detailed all the time. I was spiraling.

    So a month after that session, I gave in. I gave myself permission to focus on me. The prospect of being alone with my thoughts was terrifying, and it still is.

    Saturday was day one. Ground zero. I had two naps: lovely.

    My oldest brother started touching me when I was 4, or 5, or 6. That means he was 18, or 19, or 20. I don’t know exactly when it started and that drives me crazy. I like to average it out and assume I was 5.

    He recently checked himself into the psychiatric ward of a local hospital in his city. I know this because one of my sisters keeps me posted as to his whereabouts. I could honestly live without that. She now knows that I don’t want to discuss him so she tells my wife things. In one of her helpful moods, my sister told my brother that I see a therapist, and we all have angst, and he’s not alone.

    He sent me an email on Saturday night that began like this: “They tell me you’re sick too. I’m sorry. I wouldn’t wish this on many people I don’t like let alone us.” Then he signed it, “Take care, baby. Love you.”

    He doesn’t get to call me baby. That is disgusting. And he and I are not an ‘us’. He doesn’t get to lump me in with him. He’s not allowed to imply that I share his mental illness, or a ‘condition’ similar to his. Everything I am dealing with is situational and it stems directly from the things he inflicted on me. He’s the pedophile. I am angry.

    When I was a child he told me frequently that I was just like him. That we were one and the same. He also liked to talk about how sexy I would be when I grew up, and that I was already there, at the age of 12. These simple memories have already tormented me over the past several months. To get a message from him now more or less reiterating that he and I are the same, that I am “sick too” … it’s too much.

    I tossed and turned all night that night. When I finally fell asleep, I had nightmares about him. Each time I awoke, I was convinced that he was in the room. I was paralyzed and could not utter a sound. I was falling but wouldn’t land. I was grasping for something to keep me up. He was there. There was nothing I could do. No scream, no escape, and he was there.

    I’m 33 but often these days I feel 5. I’m married, I have a good job, a loving wife, adorable puppies, and a beautiful home. I go to work and I impress people. I work my ass off and meet unrealistic expectations with a well-rehearsed smile. I joke with friends and make it all look pretty good. Inside I am shaken to the core. Inside I can’t quite get that scream to come out. I really want to be scooped up, read to, and told that it’s all going to be okay and that I’m safe. I’m raging, but still looking soft and demure, calm and easy going. I am a mess of contradictions right now, and I’m so scared, and maybe this time off will be a good thing.

    • Debbie says

      Polly – Your writing mirrors the feelings you describe; calm competence occasionally exposes the volcanic emotions swirling within. Bravo for allowing the time in your life to do this work. And thank you for sharing these intimate glimpses with us.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      It is a brave thing to take the time you need to take good care of yourself by looking at the past. It can be so scarey and painful. It is also very courageous to share it. I felt my skin start to crawl as you described your brother’s email. How dare him for all of it !!!
      Thank you for sharing your story with us,

      • Polly says

        Thank you Adrienne. I really appreciate the validation. It is quite scary, but I’m trying to take it one small moment at a time.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Polly, I also felt sickened by his email to you. I’m glad you shared this with us and that you are taking some time off. The first time I officially gave way to my stress, I left a job at the Vancouver School Board, where they wanted me to stay. It was a hard decision but it was worth it. I think it even saved my life. I am always wishing you continued healing, strength for what lies ahead, and lots of support and love as you move forward. Take care.

      • Polly says

        Terry, thank you so much. Your support means a lot. I think this leave is worthwhile; some days are much more terrifying than others but I’m finding a sense of balance I think in this whole thing. I’m glad it was so beneficial to you.

        Speaking (loosely) of Vancouver, I’ll be taking a trip to YVR in September! It has been too long. Take care of you.

    • Ilana says

      Now i really regret that the week of this prompt I was so overwhelmed I barely got my own post up. This is so poignant and real. It really resonated with me. I was in touch with my older brother, abuser, forcing a positive relationship with him and his new bride, when the fit hit the shan so to speak. When she announced that she was pregnant it was too much for me. I congratulated her and was supportive for weeks but finally I couldn’t keep the act up anymore. First I told her I was feeling down and needed to be left alone. She left me alone but my brother called me, leaving a message on my voice mail that said, “I heard you were having a rough time and wanted to bring a little sunshine to your life.” I was furious. Eventually the truth came out and even his wife knows that he was abusive toward me. I have no contact with either of them and hope i never will again. My children are an issue because they once knew Uncle Andrew and sometimes ask about him and their new baby cousin.

      If I really could put all that away though, I too want to be… well, just insert your last paragraph here. It is as if you read my journal and put it into your post. Thank you so much for posting this. So much of it resonates with my life and I feel less alone.

      Sorry I poured my whole story out on you here but I wanted to share how much your post meant to me. Thank you, Ilana

      • Polly says

        Ilana, thank you for sharing this with me. As usual when you comment on my posts, it’s so nice to know that I am not alone with these feelings. That is powerful to me. Thank you.

  10. Deb Mansell says

    The things that I need to tell get stuck in my throat as I try to speak them out loud,

    The words get lost in the fog of time, clouded in the soup of pain,

    They don’t drip lightly out of the pen, onto the page,

    They stick and scratch, scribbling a mass of frustration.

    The things I want to tell of truth and pain,

    Get stuck inside like a tangled mass,

    Hot and hard expanding and contracting in the panic of their nearness.

    • Debbie says

      Deb – really liked the descriptive imagery of your post. So glad you are continuing to share here.

    • Hazel says

      The vivid pictures resonate on several levels. For me your lines, “The things I want to tell of truth and pain,
      Get stuck inside like a tangled mass, ” seem true every time I sit down to write.

      Thank you for sharing this very well written piece.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      The honesty of this piece was simply beautiful. The process of finding your voice is as worthy of sharing as the actual sharing of the facts! The struggle of the journey is as real and as poignant as the “destination” of getting everything out that must be told.
      Thanks for sharing this often painful process with us,

    • Terry Gibson says

      Deb, I also like your descriptions and often feel everything inside me to be a huge immobile mass. No words can do it justice but I still try, as you are. I am happy you are here with us and keep sharing. Sending you an e-hug.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thank you Terry. I feel I have shifted some of my mass but I don’t think it will ever be totally expressed!

  11. Lynn says

    I am burning to say so many of the things that I never had a chance to give voice to because I never considered myself a “writer”. So often, I allow too much time to pass before I give life to something I have seen or heard. I miss opportunities to share, thinking I will sit down and when I do, the momentum oftentimes dies.
    I know I will consider myself a “writer” when I stop making excuses. I have a burning desire to complete a memoir. I have a story that I want to share. I’ve started it and I am determined to complete it.

    • Debbie says

      Lynn – Welcome to the Roadmap blog! Many of us who post here started from a similar spot – not considering ourselves “writers”. This wonderful blog provides the perfect space to spread your wings and – write!!

      • Lynn says

        Thank you for the welcome and the encouragement Debbie. I’m happy to be here and can’t wait to start contributing!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Lynn, I welcome you here as well. I never considered myself a writer either and still sometimes fall into that trap. I trust you will discover your own rhythm in writing up your stories and write that memoir. I’m writing mine as well so I wish us both good luck.

  12. Ilana says

    To My Mother

    What am I burning to say? When faced with the question I am helpless, silent. You won’t listen. You can’t hear me. You could never hear me. All those years I tried to tell you what he was doing to me. You could never hear it.

    You called him vicious.
    You called him abusive.

    You threw those words around like it was okay to say them and not do anything about it. He was vicious towards YOU. He was abusive towards YOU. But it never dawned on you that you should put a stop to what he was doing to ME.

    How could you?
    How could you?

    I was five when you tore him off of me and yelled at him to stop. Then you went downstairs to study while he climbed right back on top of me. Over and over again, I tried to scream, breathless as he held me down and tickled me. Eventually, you came upstairs. I don’t know why. Maybe you heard my feet pounding helplessly on the floor, or perhaps I managed a strangled cry for help. It didn’t matter. You only tore him off of me and went right back downstairs. How many times? Four? Five? You never dealt with the real issue. You never made him stop.

    I was seven when you went out for the night and brought your precious pager with you. “Don’t call us just because you guys are fighting.” We weren’t fighting! He was torturing us. You left us in the care of an abuser; an 11 year old boy searching for power and he found it. He found it in arm twisting, finger bending and sexual invasions. He found it in ice water, holding us at knife point and friction burns. You never heard us. You never listened.

    I was nine when you told me you wanted to kill my father, that he was an asshole and mean to you. I begged you to leave him. I fantasized about a safe home, a home empty of both of them. If you got divorced then dad would take Andrew to live with him. He was dad’s favorite anyway. It only made sense that he would take him and then we’d be free. You and me and Matty, we’d live without fear but you wouldn’t leave him. You said that you were afraid you could not provide for us the way that dad could. You were an idiot. I didn’t need a fancy house in a rich neighborhood. I would have been happy in a one room apartment if it meant I could be safe. You never understood.

    I was ten when you told me things I should not know, parentified me, made me your friend when I should have been your daughter. I shouldn’t know what sexual positions you like, the pet names you and my father used in bed. I shouldn’t know those things. But I didn’t know that. You made me a freak and I didn’t even understand how. You never stopped to think.

    I was twenty six when you asked my brain surgeon when it would be safe for me to have sex. That was none of your business. You wanted grandchildren. I wanted to learn to open my mouth first. I wanted to walk, talk, breathe without pain before I even considered making love to my husband. He understood that. It should have been our business, not yours. But you invaded our love life, our bedroom. You never gave us our space.

    I was thirty five when you put your hand between my legs. You disapproved of what I was wearing and felt the need to point out that it was too tight in the crotch. Couldn’t you do that without putting your hands on me? I was disgusted, violated, just plane grossed out. In that moment I finally understood why I’d always secretly recoiled from your touch. You never even knew.

    I was thirty eight when I cut you off, told you not to contact me. You broke the rules a few times and it cost me, terribly. Talking to you left me confused, frightened and suicidal. But I kept pushing, kept drawing my boundaries even when it was so painful to do so. In that time I have learned. I’ve learned so much. So much that you do not know. But I’ll never tell you what I am burning to say. I’ll never tell you because you won’t listen. You can’t hear me. You will never understand.

    • Ilana says

      And there’s a little piece that I cannot find a place for but I cannot leave it out. It is more of what I am burning to say. So, with your permission, I leave it here. Thank you, IM

      There is so much more I am burning to say but I can’t even put it all into words. You won’t hear me and it would hurt too much to say it and not be heard. I do not think I could bear it. I know that I could not bear it. Instead I will keep silent. So confused, so lost. I don’t know what is right. I don’t know what is smart. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. So I’ll sit here and wait for something I do not ever expect to come. I will wait and do the best I can. I will hope, though I feel hopeless. For what, I do not know. Hope for reunion? Hope for forgiveness? No, I do not reach that far. In my highest aspirations, I hope only, for peace.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Ilana, I wanted you to know that I read this. I just didn’t want to write a comment. Will do so this weekend.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Sorry. I meant, “I didn’t want to rush to write a comment.” My brain seems to leave out words when they hit the screen.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Ilana, my heart is pounding in anger. That you went through all of that. This is a raw, strong statement to your mother! It stirs so much in me. Thank you for sharing it. Please take good care of yourself, my sister.

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – thank you for bringing what you have been burning to say to this safe place. The details of what your write can be difficult to read yet you convey them with clarity and emotion. Your post, fueled by the pain, is both courageous and well written.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Debbie. I am sorry that my piece was difficult to read. It is dizzying to see how I feel out on the screen this way and even more confusing to realize there is so much more. I don’t know what is going to happen but I know, whatever it is, I will survive it. Thanks for hearing my voice. IM

    • Janet says

      Thank you, Thank you, Ilana. First, I heard you in the places in myself, where no one has heard me. Your piece is so inspiring. Whenever someone writes with their courage and bravery about the loveless, mind-bending cruelty they have known, it lifts and inspires others to carry on. It gives all of us with whom it resonates, a hand to hold, a moment of safety knowing I’m not alone and encouragement to open one’s heart to the awareness of the presence of love that was denied us as children. Peace and blessings.

    • Judy says

      Ilana–you write with great clarity about highly charged difficult and complicated family dynamics. I so admire your ability to post powerful pieces, especially this one. Some old issues were triggered with this week’s prompt, so I’ve taken distance. My wish is for deep healing, peace around old wounds and manageable boundaries. Blessed be.

    • Polly says

      Ilana, this piece is raw and the anguish you make so clear is palpable. I read it once last week, and again tonight. You expressed everything so well – your pain, sadness, grief, anger, and outright terror. Thank you for putting it all down, and for allowing us to witness this part of your life. Please take good care of yourself.

  13. Jess says

    What am I burrning to say?
    I burn with it everyday.
    I’m dying to tell you how I feel.
    Dying to reach for you, to see if you’re still real.
    I want so badly to say everything,
    But instead I loose my courage and say nothing.
    Because what do you care if I lay awake and cry?
    Or that the pain in my chest makes me feel as though I’m set to die.
    The pain that you put there.
    The pain thats almost too much to bear.
    But that doesn’t matter to you.
    There’s nothing left for me to do.
    So why bother saying anything at all.
    You don’t need to see how far I can fall.
    So I put on a smile, and pretend to be okay.
    Pretend that I don’t burn to tell you this every hour of the day.

    • Debbie says

      Jess – these words really resonated with me
      “I’m dying to tell you how I feel.
      Dying to reach for you, to see if you’re still real”
      I could identify with that desire to name a feeling out loud and being frozen with fear. Thanks so much for sharing this piece.

  14. Terry Gibson says

    Last Wednesday was a special day. Not because I had a doctor’s appointment. My life isn’t that boring, yet. No. It my friend’s forty-seventh birthday and I needed a present. Almost as good–it was the first time I’d been out in about two weeks due to a nasty recurring flu. The sky was gray with heavy dark clouds but I was up and moving; that was what mattered. I walked the five blocks to a bus stop and twenty minutes later, I checked in with Debbie, the medical assistant.

    “I’m so sorry, Terry.” She said. “Your appointment is at 11:30. Can you get a coffee or something?”

    Wait. They apologized to ME. I smiled politely. “It’s okay. I got the time wrong, not you. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

    Being a writer—yes, I’m brazenly calling myself that–I go everywhere with my phone, notebook and a few pen. I don’t mind sitting quietly and writing anywhere. Travel taught me decades ago that queuing up is a necessity of life everywhere in the world. It can be annoying and painful, especially if my back is acting up, but even worse if I let myself get worked up about it.
    Without losing a beat, I chose a chair and pulled out my paraphernalia.

    I passed two contented hours this way during which time I read the new posts on Laura’s Roadmap blog and wrote comments too. This was only interrupted—to my delight—by a steady stream of mothers and toddlers on their way in or out of their paediatrician’s office. I always enjoy children and yacked with several Moms. We laughed and marvelled over those little alien beasts who drop in on you and change everyone’s lives forever—their budding personalities, varied sizes and shapes, and at birth, their degree of baldness or, for those lucky ones, being born in need of a serious first haircut.

    At last, I was done and made my way down the steps and outside the clinic. The sun had finally broken through the heavy, brooding clouds. I stopped and closed my eyes. The warmth against my eyelids felt fantastic. As I strolled, intent on taking my time, I was relaxed and even hosted an inner debate along the way. Do I drop into the bookstore or not? Everything is too pricey there but they could have a nice card and small gift to suit my purposes. Take the time. Go in.

    Inside, my eyes scanned the rows of books, prompting what I was sure would be another shameless literary binge. Yes. I settled in and wandered, an aimless traveller not bound by any category of the Dewey Decimal system. Although I appreciate digital publishing, I still preferred books I could actually touch, hold, and gauge the weight of in my hands. When I was more naïve than I am now—and trust me that is saying something—I imagined that each additional ounce of weight in my hand made the words contained within more compelling and vital. I enjoyed this. I especially liked the book covers for their varied colours, textures and graphics. My curiosity took over and I indulged in everything. I needed a birthday present.

    What’s that? I spotted brown burlap bags the size of a cereal box in a woven basket on the floor. Reaching for one, I discovered they were kettle-cooked potato chips. Strange. I moved on and caressed a leather-bound travel journal, which I found hard to put down. Great. Two greeting cards seemed to jump off the racks at me. Now, what can I buy? It all costs too much. Then I spotted chocolate! That was the birthday girl’s favourite. Godiva. It was just right. Milk chocolate—as she didn’t like dark. For some reason, I still hesitated.

    “It’s really good!” a voice said. I looked up to see a tall thin elderly woman in a green Aussie hat. “You can’t go wrong,” she added. I thanked her and then she walked away, while I took a mental note to get one of those hats.

    At the front of the line, I paid for my items and let my eyes wander. There was another cash register beside me a few feet away, where I saw yet another mother and baby. She was young, short and slight with dark hair and her baby boy was charming, dressed in funky blue jeans, a number seven baseball shirt, and black sneakers. His Mom carried him on her shoulders and he had wrapped his short legs and tiny hands around her neck. I noticed she held his clenched hands together by cupping one of hers over them. For some reason, this brought to mind the woman in Moore, Oklahoma, who threw herself on top of six children at Plaza Towers Elementary school, while the tornado raged outside.

    The mother wasn’t holding him with both hands. With her left, I saw her retrieve a credit card from a wallet and pass it to the cashier. A mini alarm went off in my head. The baby had lots of energy and wriggled around, jerking his head to the left. “Wow! He really wants to see everything.” I smiled at the woman. Although I didn’t consciously think it, I was worried about his stability on shoulders.

    Did I mention he only looked about six months old? I thought he was too little to carry that way but that was just my opinion. I would never presume to know better; I am not a mother. Unless I witnessed something abusive (violence or a child being seriously berated and ridiculed by a parent), I would never say anything. That was not the case here. Mom was confident and at ease so I turned back to my own transaction.

    He did it again! I turned my head in a half-second.

    “What a live wire he is,” I said, before I could stop myself. Quit worrying, Terry. He’s just fine. With both cashiers, there were three other adults to tend to him. Again, I cast off my worries. I grabbed my bag to leave but stopped. There was no line behind me so I took another moment. “Could you tell me what’s left on my membership?”

    And, in an instant, there it was. My worst fears came true. As I write this now, what startles me is that a moment can be such an expansive period of time—that one can measure, dice, and package a single breath in the way I seemed to. One–my eyes caught something in my peripheral view. Two, my gut screamed: Something awful is happening! Three, I turned.

    My God. Mom had lost her tenuous hold on her son, holding him by then only by his right ankle. The baby was falling head first, propelled fast toward the hard brown floor. He had slid more than halfway down her back and she did all she could–bending forward and elongating her body to create a table of sorts with her arched back. Four, my brain registered it all in one blink. Instinctively, my left arm shot free of my side and moved toward him. My right moved more slowly but formed a ‘cradle’ to catch his tiny body.

    I caught him!

    The baby screamed and cried. We all let out a long, deep breath. His Mom laughed nervously but did not show any distress. Nobody said a word. We stood there in an awkward silence until we didn’t. I got my bag, said thank you and left the store.

    On Granville Street again, I promptly let it go. That was shock, I guess. I sat down on a bench to calm my shaking and wait for a bus. Again, from the corner of my eye, I spotted her. She was bending over his stroller–where he safely sat, thank God–chatting to him in soft tones. Suddenly, I was mad as hell. I got up and paced back and forth, wanting to go up to her and say something. Anything. He was too small to be up there! He could’ve had severe head trauma and died. My adrenalin was pumping fast.

    The bus came and I got on, without looking back. My job was done. I was just so happy and grateful I was attentive enough and available when the universe had a need for me. Could it really be that my small presence in this world evokes a blip, a difference of some sort? It seems so.

    At home, I had time to reflect while sipping on a cup of hot black tea. The whole scenario ran through my mind repeatedly. I felt upset, rattled to my core. It was frightening. The thing is: my right arm has been numb and tingling every day since last November. What if it had failed me? What if he slipped thru the only safety net my best fight-or-flight response could provide?

    Why do I tell this story? Praise? No. I did nothing special. It was pure fluke that I stood closer to the angle of his fall.

    Attention? Yes, but not in the way one might think. My brain replays the scene and it shakes me to the core. The horror of what might have been is still there. I can hear the sounds, screams and cries of something that didn’t happen. No doubt, I am remembering a violent scene from my past.

    Am I building this up out of proportion? I’m always so hard on myself.

    Tonight, my hope is that writing this out will give me a peaceful sleep. It should, especially given I just shared the first draft of this story burning inside me.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – Oh my gosh, what an excellent piece. You took us right along on your afternoon with interesting little details until – Wham! – surprise! You were a hero! I loved how you listened to your intuition and, as a result, the afternoon turned out so differently for that young boy. Thank you for sharing this, rest well!

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks, Debbie. It’s still hard to allow myself to heed that intuition. It’s hard to believe that there was a time when a man followed me for blocks and blocks and I still told myself: “Oh don’t be stupid. Nobody’s following YOU!”

    • Deb Mansell says

      You are a hero Terry, you saved a baby!! And then wrote us a brilliant piece about it. Well done you :-)

      • Terry Gibson says

        Deb, thank you too. I’m no hero in the true sense of the word. There was no danger in reaching out as I did. I’m just happy I was there. And, this time, I got to give instead of receive–as I do from several exceptional people in my life, who know I mean them; I always worry that they’re tired of hearing “Thank you!” umpteen million times.

    • Judy says

      Terry–you are truly a hero who trusted your instincts and saved a child’s life. My heart was in my mouth during this reading. Well crafted with wonderful details. Thank you and hope you get some much deserved rest.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Judy, I am continuing to get my rest. Thanks! Saying ‘G’nite’ to all my huggle bunnies on twitter and facebook each night too. :)

    • Diana says

      Terry you rock girl. I related to this piece from being drawn into the bookstore to being late for appointments! I was caught up in the suspense and breathless; would the baby fall or narrowly escape disaster? Finally, you are definately a writer. I long to create pieces as dramatically and beautifully crafted as yours. Sometimes I check the blog just to see if you have posted. I look forward to reading what you have created this week.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Diana, you flatter me! Thanks so much. I’ll let that in for the next ten seconds … :) I always look for your stuff too.

        • Diana says

          Thanks Terry. I seem to be waging a war with the “you’re writing is crap” monster. We are even Steven as to who is winning right now. I am inspired by your habit of always taking a notebook and pen and writing in random places. I am going to incorporate that into my writing practice.

          • Terry Gibson says

            Whatever you do, Diana. Please don’t let that thought about your writing win. Or, as Laura says, we are free to write the worst ‘crap’ in America. .. giving yourself permission for it to come out however it does. That helped me more than most–especially given I am from Canada and nobody there found out about it … until now. A big :)

  15. Zoe says

    What I am burning to say, what I am burning to say, what I am burning to say. I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you. How small the word is, how big the world is. It is so simple and yet it is too deep for true understanding the love I feel for You, for life, for that soft hand of the early morning fog that caresses the still sleeping lake. For all of the beauty of nature that is sprouting, singing, growing, falling, birthing, flowering and dying right now out of sight, where it can’t be heard. IT is simply there being, fully ITself. For all of the musicians that hear and see and know the world through patterns of sound and rhythm and turn the soundtrack of my life into one of melodies and harmonies. For all of the poets who take the beauty and the horror of life and order it into digestible stanzas. For the inventors who turn the musings of the unseen imagination into the objects of daily living. For the mother who is is right now silently cutting up sandwiches to nourish the next generation, for the wanderer who is still seeking after getting lost so many time.

    Mmmmm for the written word itself. For this right now more than anything I am grateful. The simple elegance of language that allows me to express the un-expressible, to try and express the un-expressible. The power of one letter after another becoming one word after another beming sentences, paragraphs, pages, stories as I try over and over again to write my way home. As I try over and over and over and over again to live the Love that is in my heart. As I slowly and steadily stop trying, releasing working for it and surrender to being it, to breathing it, to being it. All of this beautiful life, all of these beautiful words, all of these beautiful moments, that I will never capture, that I will never fully be able to say thank you for.

    But this too I release, my need for perfection, my need to be enough and I simply begin, again, to allow what is in me to pour out. In whatever soupy syrupy mess or in whatever graceful elegant form it chooses.

    I open and I allow love to emerge.

    This is what I am burning to say, however I can and as often as I can. Thank you and I love you.

    • Debbie says

      Zoe – your post was infused with energy and passion. I enjoyed the style, repetition and flow of your thoughts as you took us from the tangible to the intangible. Thank you for sharing this writing with us!

  16. Terry Gibson says

    This is completely mind-blowing! Raw, beautiful, capturing all that is this wondrous, painful, awe-inspiring life. Thanks for sharing it!

  17. Janet says

    I’m burning to say that I just don’t understand it! For the last few weeks, I had been feeling great, better than I have felt in three years. I had successfully recovered from two injuries that occurred in the last couple of years. From which I had lived and worked with chronic pain in my neck, shoulders, and arms. I was on cloud nine because I didn’t know I could get so fully recovered. I wasn’t just physically renewed but also emotionally.

    This last Wednesday, I woke up and felt this itchy pain just above my right breast. I thought, “What the hell?” I saw this cluster of red bumps, the size of small peas there on my chest. I thought they were bug bites. I had taken Bella, my golden retriever, to the meadow several times recently. I would watch her roll and wriggle on the grass. Then I would hug her tight and tell her I loved her beyond the moon and stars. Maybe some small critters had jumped inside my bra, I thought.

    I kept the red bumps clean. I tried not to scratch them. Thursday, they were still there. I thought about calling the doctor but I felt it was silly to go in for something that just started and decided to give it a week.

    The next day, without thinking, I called the dermatologist office. After I described my bumps, she said, “Can you come in, in an hour?” I was surprised because it normally takes three weeks, maybe two in an emergency, to get an appointment.

    The doctor took one second to say, “You have shingles. What is stressing you out? You have to take care of this right away.”

    “Nothing, I never felt better except for these burning, itchy bumps.” I said.

    I guess I’m burning to say, “It’s always something.”

    • Terry Gibson says

      I’m so sorry, Janet. My brother had that and told me about it. It’s always something. I know that experience. Self-care gets really overwhelming as life goes on. Take care.

      • Janet says

        Thank you so much for your encouragement. Medication and resting are helping. I’m feeling better and more optimistic now. Peace and blessings.

  18. Deb Mansell says

    Really wish sometimes that I could just shut up and not say some things.

    Because I say too much.

    Let to much out.

    I don’t hold back and frighten people away.


    • Terry Gibson says

      Deb, I know this experience well. It has happened to me. But, just when I became cynical, expecting it everywhere, and stopped trying, I found Laura’s website and this amazing community. I hope you keeping coming back here and trust that your healing will continue.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thanks Terry important but hard to hear. Am in such pain right now. Have said things I hardly dared breath before. And it feels all consuming.

  19. Bobbie Anne says

    I have many things that need to be told. So much in so little time. That is why I write. I am a writer, its what I do. Everyday. I have found my voice. I am a cancer survivor and a sexual and physical abuse survivor. I will continue to speak the truth. Everyday. It’s what I am compelled to do.


    He hits the boy and
    the girls just as much
    to get out his frustration
    at the world
    always a crisis
    always trauma
    always pain
    never peace
    no one hears you scream
    no one cares
    crying doesn’t help
    they only laugh
    so dry your tears
    make sure you say
    your prayers
    he’ll tuck you in
    standing by the
    foot of your bed
    hurting you
    again and again
    it starts all over
    the very next day
    says you will
    listen to him
    what do you say

    Yes Daddy

    • Debbie says

      Bobbie Anne – this is a touching and powerful post. Because it is on a “older” prompt – you will likely not get much feedback. Perhaps there will be another prompt where you will share this with the larger group.

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