Writing my story – knowing myself

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From the distant ruins of my past there are both unwelcome and inspirational memories which have been revisited in order to write these memoirs.

When recounting these events, I tried to avoid embellishing the rhythm and detail of the stories in my favour. Moreover, I did not want to manipulate the reader by presenting my experiences in an exaggerated or sensational manner. I would hope that wisdom through the wake of suffering, blended with distance from some of the incidents I relate, has minimised any such conceitedness. Nevertheless, I can’t say I’ve completely avoided all of these hazards successfully.

It was rather like dismantling a Russian doll that contains innumerable diminishing replicas of myself, each with her own story to tell. As each cocooning image was delicately uncovered, at times it induced defensive and protective thoughts, while at others it evoked anxiety and paranoia.

All of this I was aware of and I have tried to resist their influence in the pursuit of authenticity. Despite profound tiredness and shattered hopes, the agony of carrying my untold story far exceeded the power of such thoughts, which enabled me to write these memoirs, a process imbued with its own pain. At times I wanted to deny or run away from my suffering and imperfections. But I was given the grace to trust and surrender to the wounds and failures of my life, knowing they have taught me more than my triumphs.

While I now acclaim some of these events as successes, I only recognise such experiences in retrospect. I have attempted to be honest and truthful throughout. Because of this I have had to grapple with fear: fear of being judged, blamed and accused when certain events and circumstances could have been faced with less selfishness, naivety or vanity.

I have no desire to suffer twice, in reality and then in retrospect.

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex

Hidden untold secrets have been brought out into the light and exposed. I have striven to resist the urge to sanitise, exaggerate or embellish the truth. There was always a stronger light beckoning beyond the dark tunnel of fear and failure.

You may find these stories elicit a personal response through your own unique emotions and thoughts. As they resonate with your past experiences, you may encounter an unknown inner disturbance: past hurts and forgotten memories may be reawakened.

I would encourage you to reflect on such experiences to discover a deeper wondrous inner knowing and freedom. Alternatively, you may recognise hidden gifts and radical hope previously buried by fear, insecurity or self-limiting false beliefs.

Our treasure lies hidden in the field of our own experience and in the inner life which results from that experience.

Gerard W. Hughes, God of Surprises

Hidden beneath the imperative to remain truthful to my vulnerable, complex and complicated personality is a mottled labyrinth of contradictions, which I have tried to convey throughout these lived experiences. Despite the temptation to erase or deny these for fear of disparagement, contradiction is inherent in the human condition. There will always be a tension between personal freedom and solitude, intimacy and social community, power and powerlessness, attachment and separation, spirituality and materialism.

Through the paradoxes of my life, I recognised my own changing sub-personalities. Through crucial moments of change I have learned that I do not need to blame others or to justify myself, neither do I need to rely on the good opinions of others. I have been willing to develop, grow and heal in pursuit of my own distinctiveness.

This has been painful and exhausting as my wounded ego abandoned unhelpful relationships, thoughts and behaviours in exchange for uncertainty and an aching emptiness. At times I was tempted to run away from my past to avoid confronting my suffering and imperfections. But deep down I knew no one else could undertake this task – it had to be me. Thankfully, there was always an inner sense of blessed trust, which enabled me to take risks in pursuit of my authentic self.

Throughout these memoirs, I have come to embrace a deep-seeking, non-rational inner wisdom, searching for the true, authentic nature of love. It is a love free from condition, achievement, duty, expectation, gain and exploitation.  There is a constant thread, a deep longing which is found within human vulnerability. It is a soulful desire for union with the divine which manifests herself in nature and human life.

I invite you to join me as I journey across a dystopian topography in search of freedom, healing, beauty, love and my soul-friend, my anam cara. There are many milestones, doorways, cul-de-sacs, valleys and hilltops. At times I have had to scramble through rugged darkness, endure bleak, intense loneliness, neglect, betrayal and abuse. Paradoxically, while struggling with cruelty and harshness, this pilgrimage has been comforted by beauty, hope, mystery, tenderness and light.

Simple acts of human and animal kindness and soft words have carried me to places of restoration and healing. There have been many encounters along the way. While some folk were able to respond with loving sensitivity and generosity, others fled, ignored, betrayed, took advantage of my vulnerability or simply acted as my judge and jury. I discovered how pain and suffering are accompanied by loneliness, humiliation, degradation, stigma and powerlessness. Words become a futile distant expression of the anguish, shame and despair in the sufferer’s heart and soul.

Come with me and we will travel through the landscape of my life. You will encounter different textured rhythms from the fast and ragged, mellow and calm, short and exacting, to the smooth silence of stillness. You may find this daunting and bewildering or perhaps alluring. I will carefully guide you through the rubble into places where there is hope, love, beauty, joy and a deep soulful equanimity.

The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating
The paths to it are not found but made,
And the making of those pathways
Changes both the maker and the destination.

John H. Schaar, Legitimacy in the Modern State

So why did I feel compelled to write these stories? Partly for me and partly for you, the reader, and to honour God. I needed to recover my voice and find freedom from silence, oppression, shame, blame and marginalisation by disclosing the truth. I have described these events according to how I perceived them, and through the telling I have reached a place of healing.

This has enabled me to be restored to my true self – the person I was intended to become. I have discovered what I believe to be my own distinct identity while shedding false illusions shaped by abuse and oppression. There was a strong and powerful sense of determination to recover from tragedy, failure and suffering. Avoiding the distractions of bitterness, envy and resentment was essential, as was avoiding the adoption of a fatalistic tone.

The nature of the storytelling has been deliberately styled so as not to moan or indulge in self-pity. These fruitless characteristics would only seek to collude with misery and undermine any conveyance of inspiration.  Moreover, I do not wish to preach nor be disrespectful.

I have come to relate to other people with deeper understanding and compassion. Past hurts and unresolved pain have been transformed into loving, peaceful acceptance. I have experienced a deeper connection and comfort within as, beyond all expectation, I have become reconciled with some of those who have harmed me. This was not an instant response but one graced with the passage of time and will no doubt continue throughout my life.

Only by my relentless faith and love of God can I share these stories. The courage to do so is a gift and one which I hope will inspire others to recover from disappointment, harm, tragedy and failure. Your willingness to read my memoirs means you have the talent of curiosity mixed with a spirit of enquiry. I hope, by virtue of these simple acts, you will recognise our common humanity, enabling you to connect with others in the experiences of life.

May God bless you and protect you; may She smile on you and be gracious to you; may She show you Her favour and give you Her peace.

Numbers 6:24–26





  • Jackie Couchman Posted 21/10/2018 08:28

    I love the quotes which really resonate with me. I can’t wait to read the book, it’s very relevant and I’m sure will fly off the shelves.

    • Mary Anne Willow Posted 21/10/2018 09:31

      Many thanks for your comments and support. Glad that the quotes resonated.

  • Irene Scott Posted 12/02/2019 12:46

    Can’t wait to read this book 👍

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