Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth

What it takes to be a writer: "Three things: something to say, the ability to express it, and finally, the courage to express it all."  ~Maya Angelou

I struggle with this, the courage to express it all.  My people-pleasing tendency rears its ugly head and I worry over each piece of truth.  But bird by bird, I'm trying to overcome that fear and write what is true from my life, what I observe and what I know.

"Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth."  In the midst of existential crisis, Elizabeth Gilbert's friend gives her this sage advice. (Eat, Pray, Love

It helps to meet others who are also telling the truth.  This week I was Handyman-sitting at my friend's new place.  While he installed her bathroom cabinets and curtain rods, Handyman told me a little of his story as an Iraq war vet.  I went over there to find nuclear weapons, he said.  Volunteered for the front line, for recon.  Nothing. He shook his head.  People need to know the truth, why we're there, why we went.

We talked about how important it is to travel, to see the world, to see how other people live, and how that changes you, and changes how you live.  We talked about the military's treatment of veterans, about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Let me tell you just one story, Handyman told me.  Coming back after a year in Iraq, the bus pulls up, and all anyone is thinking of is seeing their family again.  Anxious to get off the bus, the military positions someone at the door, stopping each soldier on his/her way out, and asking them, do you feel that you need any medical or psychological help?  Anxious to just get out of there, to see their families, what do you think the soldiers say?  Of course not!  I'm fine.  The military has them sign a release saying just that, that they don't need any treatment.  Then, perhaps years later, should a soldier realize he/she is experiencing PTSD and goes to seek help?  The military has a little piece of paper that says the soldier signed away any right to treatment.

Every one has truth to tell, a story to share.  Handyman is thinking about writing a book about his experiences; I hope he does.


Rachel said...

that story breaks my heart, Rebecca.

Shannon said...

That story *is* heartbreaking. But to comment on telling the truth... and the quote from Maya Angelou... I have found in life that the most beautiful moments come out of moments of vulnerability, and the courage to tell the truth and not fear the response.

Rebecca Snavely said...

It is heartbreaking -- hearing him tell it, I wondered how many other stories there are that we just never hear, for so many reasons. I agree about telling the truth and being vulnerable. It keeps coming back to if I'm open, others feel free to be open with me. Maybe why so many strangers on the bus tell me their life stories.