Secrets from With/out Pretend: Healing is a Verb
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November 2018

Healing is a Verb

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
—Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
As someone who talks a lot about why we need to make space for women’s stories, I’ve been wondering more and more about what it would mean to tell my own. After all, we all have the kind of secrets we hope to one day share, so that the people we love can really see us, but often we also have the other kind of secrets, the ones we’re deeply afraid to let out.

The Vault was an idea born out of a desire to build a safe space—or at least—an intentional space, where our untold stories could be valued, without judgement or posturing. I think it’s worth noting: we want to work with writers who are truly ready to tell their stories. But what does it mean to be ready?

Typically, humans don’t deal well with pain. We’d rather look away, pretend it isn’t bad, or find a way to “fix it” as quickly as possible. As our newest collection has come together I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about healing, but I’ve been thinking equally about pain. It seems to me that healing can only begin when we make our pain visible. When we become accountable to it. When we expose our wounds in order to understand them, how they have shaped us, and how we can carry on.

When I think about the untold stories inside of me, I can’t help but also think about the people in my life I might hurt or betray if I shared them, or that by opening up I’d risk being misunderstood or dismissed. We’re all careful about how we share our stories, aren’t we? That’s why the now common show of Instagram vulnerability is so interesting. We are desperate to connect with others who might understand us and relate to our experiences, but we struggle to shape and control our personal narratives—so much so that this form of sharing leads to feeling more alone.

I believe this is a gap we can bridge as “art makers” but it’s also work we can do in our communities, friend groups, and families. Not all pain needs to expressed on the page or canvas, but I do think our pain needs a space to be witnessed, for healing to be possible.  

Some of my own stories lie in wait and I spend time imagining the spaces that might house them one day. For instance: an overnight flight to somewhere far away, confiding in the perfect stranger sitting next to me over several gin & tonics. Or standing on stage in a foreign city, reading something aloud I wouldn’t share with my closest friends. I imagine publishing a memoir, one day, when my hair is grey and I begin to feel my time is running out. How much energy will my heart expend holding these stories, until then? While I wait for the answer, The Vault feels like a worthwhile house to build.

When it feels like I’m circling back to the same themes and questions I’ve been asking myself for years, I try to remember that although this may be true, there has also been movement. Healing takes time. If you’re like me and you have stories stuck inside you, dear reader, I hope you find the right space to share them, whatever form that might take.

In the meantime, be patient with yourself. I will try to do the same.

December 2, 2018
On Healing
A storytelling event
Healing is a vast and complex topic, one that can be both personal and political. Rumi said, "The wound is the place the light enters you." Audre Lorde said, "Your silence will not protect you. What are the words you do not have yet? What do you need to say?" Terese Marie Mailhot says, "The pain was a process to understanding." 

We've invited 10 people to the stage to share their stories about the paths they've taken to be well, the words they still need to say, and the places they find compassion, comfort, and community.
New in The Vault
On Healing
A print collection from The Vault
Healing begins with the act of acknowledging our hurt. Turning our most vulnerable experiences into art gives us power, strength and a better appreciation of how to care for ourselves and each other. Through making art, our pain becomes tangible, and in that way, healing can be shared. 

The contributions in our new collection, On Healing, offer a window into what healing can look like when we are brave enough to name our suffering.
With/out Pretend recommends:
Everything Here is Beautiful
By Mira T. Lee
A beautiful, thought-provoking story of sisterhood, motherhood, love, and mental illness, this book will break your heart over and over again. Told from multiple perspectives, it gives you an in-depth look at a young woman, living with and often consumed by her mental illness – and what it’s like for the people who love her. With brilliantly written, complex and compelling characters, you will fall in love with this book. CW: Death, Cancer, Mental Illness, Mental Illness institutions 
– Reviewed by Ameema Saeed,
Manager of Retail Partnerships & Events

Photo credits:
Alyson Hardwick & Angela Lewis
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