Truth Tellers, by Susan Austin-Crumpton

I have been watching a special “comedy” routine by Hannah Gadsby. She is a wonderfully strong person who is intelligent, funny, well educated, and successful. She taught me lots about feeling connected in a way we all long for, beyond gender and power.
In this political climate with so much separation and hate, in this “me too” movement where men and women are confused relating to each other, in this homophobic, race hating social strata, how do we bridge the gaps and connect to each other?

In this routine she made the point I long for, I long to feel connected to you. And, the only way I can feel connected to each of you is to truly know our stories about our life and to stop making humiliating jokes and comments about each other and myself.

My daughter and niece are uploading hundreds of family pictures onto an electronic screen, rotating the pictures.  It’s fun and I am aware of the thousands of stories with each of those pictures. The sad part is my first thought is always a “joke”, a criticism or judgment about myself.

“My stomach sure looks big in that picture”

“That’s me as a little girl trying not to smile so that my mouth won’t look too big”

“I made those dresses for my two daughters, doesn’t look like I got the neckline quite right!”

“That’s my handsome smiling father in his navy uniform. I remember him hitting me over and over with a belt, drunk. We would all smile the next day as if nothing had happened.”

“That’s me in my 4thgrade classroom sitting there sleepy and dazed because my parents were up all night fighting and throwing things. I am smiling.”

Jokes, criticism, judgment, more jokes…

Hannah, the comedy/truth teller says that in order for you and I to feel connected to each other we need to truly know each other’s stories.

Here are some more of mine. Solid truth. No joking.

“There is a picture of the great uncle that sexually abused me summer after summer. There he is with his wife acting all sweet and unknowing.”

“There is a picture of me pregnant with my second child sitting next to my beloved childhood sweetheart I had married. How did alcohol get in the way of so much love and caring? It jars me to see there was love there that became so dark.”

“There is a picture of me as a teenager in Florida on our one ‘family’ vacation. We are in the ocean looking so happy and laughing as one big happy family. The true story I remember is the angry fights going on between my mother and my father about alcohol. The car broke down way too often. My father on the highway trying to repair it…I am scared, and threw up a lot.”

Those stories and more are the parts of my story that I am ashamed of and keep secret from you. There are lots more stories of happiness and love and loyalty. I am always happy to share those with you. To pretend those are my only stories. I have made a lot of lemonade from many scary lemons.

I am loved and love my family and they love me. But there is more to me… much, much more…

I have depth….”dont mess with Susan” my husband teases. I fought for that depth and empowerment. My true stories taught me that lesson.

As I tell you my stories I fell vulnerable and exposed. I know many of you have sat with me and told me your “true” stories. What if Hannah is right? The only way we can care about those we are judging and criticizing is to hear their real stories and to tell ours.

We welcome you here at The Estuary to find a safe place for your stories. Choosing carefully where to tell them is good advice.

We are safe here.  Are you safe enough to hear mine?

Susan Austin-Crumpton
Executive Director & Founder
The Estuary, Inc.