Maya Angelou, a wise woman with whom I share a name, said that
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
When I was born it was seven degrees in Texas. When I was growing up we lived off the grid. When I was seven I learned that people believe in hell. When I was ten Exxon put a pipeline down our road. When I was fifteen my dad was diagnosed with leukemia. When I was sixteen the fumes and smells of fracking made the outside world seem less safe than it ever had before. When I was eighteen I was depressed because I didn’t know I needed to go outside. When I was nineteen I remembered that I loved the moon. When I was twenty-one I learned that rural community in Arkansas was being impacted by natural gas production. When I was twenty-two I learned that people will tell you anything if you ask and that I was much stronger than I had previously thought. When I was twenty-two and one half my eyes were changed.
These are stories that I carry. At times they well up in my throat and when I am brave they spill out like birds that scatter in the wind. I have kept journals for most of my life, filling pages with whispers and worries and wishes in the form of words. These journals line several shelves in my room, holding a space for the journeys I have traveled. Once or twice a year, back in my parent’s house, I riffle through them, thinking of who I’ve been and wanted to be. These journals are, however, largely an act of conversation with self and, even as I write my story, the ‘agony’ remains within. My journals are untold stories inside me.
My Grandmother is ninety-two. I recently was given all of her journals. Skimming their pages I am aware that much of her life has been an untold story. The agony of her words makes this clear. I do not want to spend the next sixty-nine years of my life using my journals to have a conversation with myself about my untold story.
This project is an attempt to alleviate the ‘agony’. A friend recently told me, “if you want to be heard where you are, be heard.” I want to be heard.
When I was born it was the winter solstice. When I was seven I dropped the tip of a pencil down our well and spent months worrying I had lead poisoned my family. When I was sixteen I had my first kiss. When I was nineteen I ‘dropped out’ of school. When I was twenty-one I watched a lunar eclipse on my birthday. When I was twenty-three I the Keystone Pipeline carved a red scar through my community. And.