I have really missed television.
I have not had time to just watch TV in forever. However, I have continued to faithfully record shows on my DVR even though I had no real intention of watching them. So if you ask me if I watch The Bachelor and I say yes, what I really mean is I watched the seasons between when Ella was maybe 4 years old and up to Audrey’s birth.
As things have calmed down a bit in recent weeks, I have started to watch TV again. I had forgotten how easy it is to get lost in something for an hour. To become engrossed in the lives of people who aren’t real, in locations that aren’t real, in scenarios that aren’t real. I had forgotten that the emotions good TV can evoke are very real and that’s, I think, because in every show or movie we are secretly looking for two things:
- The character who is most like us.
- The character who is most like how we’d like to be.
I am completely captivated by The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s the story of a group of modern-day women, hugely successful in walks of life ranging from neonatal care to biology, who are forced into servanthood in a world run by men who are focused on possessing women as property, controlling women’s faith and sexuality, and populating a world with children they can raise with a specific set of rules and values. The women are stripped of everything, literally and figuratively, even including their names. The handmaids take the name of the man of their household – so the handmaid in the house of a man named Fred becomes Offred, meaning Of Fred. She is the property of Fred.
I am a little behind at this very moment – about halfway through the current season. You may have watched the powerful unveiling of names weeks ago and it’s old news for you now. But I just cannot stop thinking about it. Up to this point, the handmaids have mostly all addressed each other by their Of “Man” names, but following events that make it clear they will not all make it out alive and that they need to support each other, some of the remaining women whisper their real names to each other.
With the whispering of their names to others, they remind themselves they are more than property.
With the whispering of their names to others, they start to become a group of women that supports and trusts one another.
With the whispering of their names to others, they start to become a community of women who can rise and stand together.
With the whispering of their names to others, they bear witness to what has happened – their lives cannot be forgotten and their stories cannot be erased. Should they not make it out alive, they can be remembered as the person they were and not the servant they’ve become.
With the whispering of their names to others, they are no longer completely stripped of their identities and their stories.
That’s what all of our lives are, really. Stories. Some of us are better storytellers than others, but the better tellers don’t always have the better lives. In fact, I suspect the opposite is most often true.
Some of us don’t share our stories because we don’t have the words. Some don’t share because we believe that our stories have nothing to offer others. Some don’t share because we don’t think anyone will understand. Some don’t share because we believe that bad things only happen to us and we are alone and no one cares.
Those are all lies.
We all have words. We can all learn from each other. We can all support one another, even if it’s simply by listening. And bad things happen to all of us at some point(s) in our lives. No one is exempt from, shall we call it “occasional crappiness?” And the truth is that occasional crappiness is not unique to us and has pretty much always been experienced by someone else.
The real reason we don’t share our stories is not because we’re introverts or we want to keep our personal business private. It’s because we don’t like our stories. They are not the stories that we envisioned for our lives or that we wanted to be true about our lives – so we don’t share them. And sometimes deep down, we think we’ve failed somehow and our stories are a reflection of that. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes – oftentimes – it’s not. Sometimes bad stories are simply life’s occasional crappiness.
And the problem with not sharing our stories is that we cheat ourselves and others of all the benefits and power of community. Of togetherness. Of shared experience. Of healing.
Who better to pray for a person or family with a cancer diagnosis than a person who has faced that? Who better to pray for healing from addiction than those who have felt the grip of addiction? Who better to pray for someone grieving than someone who has grieved?
Not only does sharing enable us to tap into the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone, it enables us to support and to pray for others around us. We need to be a lot less afraid to share our stories, for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. We need to be a lot more brave. Not just brave wannabes.
This is my whisper: I am Beth. It’s been a long time since I’ve used my beloved family name – Fite – but my name is soon changing back to Beth Fite. I am imperfect. My life is chaotic. I am currently making my way through some of life’s occasional crappiness.