I have journaled for as long as I can remember; writing down everything I did that day, how it made me feel, and describing all of my emotions. I have stacks of old books covered in writing, recording my early teens and mid twenties, my heartaches and my dreams, my ambitions and fears that held me back. They are a wonderful tool for diving back into and putting life into perspective. Looking back at fears that would have consumed me in my teens and realising how ridiculous they were makes me think differently about the fears that consume me now.
One of the first feminist books I ever read was Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own – about how women historically have not had the space to sit, think and write their own stories. From then on, when I heard women’s stories I treasured them as rarities and found immense value in the words that were recorded by women.
Here in Scotland, women are killing it. Kirsty Strickland and Dani Garavelli are probably the sole reason I still buy print newspapers as they find a way to make sense of the world around them like no one else can. The author Sara Sheridan is constantly sharing threads on twitter of women throughout history who broke the mold and paved the way for the feminists of today, her book Where are the Women? is on my reading list too!
It’s not just Scotland. This year Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette helped me find the language to articulate my hurt in society but reminded me that anger will never form the solution. Everything that Ava DuVernay is putting out at the moment is educating me and shaping my world view. Phoebe Waller-Bridge gave us strong female leads in Killing Eve, but in Fleabag she spoke to our souls with monologues about choosing pain, friendships, anxiety and loneliness. When conversations about what it means to be a woman became something I couldn’t engage with any further, this year I devoured Christine Burns’s Trans Britain, reminding myself of just how infinitely complex and vast the female experience is.
This year has been a year of surrounding myself in women’s stories, and in a year where I have found myself particularly broken I have found breathing space and sanctuary in them. Experiencing a miscariage at the end of last year forced me into a space of reflection and self care. My mum who lost two children, my brother and my sister, became my rock. It is her strength and years of talking openly and honestly about grief and loss that prepared me as best as I could be for my own experience.
I have known from the start that when I feel able I want to share my own experience but have become frustrated with the process. When I have tried to tell my own stories publically I never really feel like I have got it right. When I spoke about my experience at university I carefully chose the words to use, it was front page news but the words used there were not my own. It was my story but told for reasons that were not my own.
It is especially frustrating as a woman in politics. In nature I am a very open person, I talk freely about how I feel about the world around me and how I want to change it. Folk mistake this for confidence, being too sure of myself and at worst as self promotion. It is not. So when I try to talk about something which I know carries weight, I am sensitive to it appearing like I am being flippant, like it was just another thing I take in my stride and I am happy to talk about.
With my miscarriage this was not, and is not the case. Although I have spoken about the fact that it happened I have not shared much past that. I have guarded it because if I really speak about it I might fall apart. I might break even more. The words might be in my journals but if I tried to share them my throat would close up, my eyes would swell and I would be lost in full body visceral emotion which just isn’t me. My journals are overflowing with my heartaches this year, brimming with emotions that a million women have felt before me yet I have been too scared to do anything with them. I’ve been scared that my words would not be used as I intended, that someone else would speak for me, this huge weight at the pit of my stomach is weighing me down and I have been nervous that if I share it with the wrong person it will get heavier.
That is why I have set up my own space, a space for me. Somewhere my words do not have to fit into a national conversation or someone else’s narrative. These are my words and I share them knowing the power in sharing the female experience and in the hope that other women find healing in them just as I have.
So here it is, a space of one’s own.