One of my students gave me a homework assignment. She asked me to check out PostSecret. I was fascinated by it. She brought in two books and I read them in no time flat. It’s a great concept. People send in a postcard that tells their secret. The author then posts them in an art display, in a book, or online. The only rule is that it must be a secret you have never told anyone about. It reminds me of an old AA slogan: “You are only as sick as your secrets.”
Some of them make you laugh. Some of them gross you out. Most of them make you very sad. I’m sure the idea is that releasing them is cathartic and helps you move on from them. It’s a great concept.
I started thinking about what I would send if I chose to. There are plenty of things I’m not particularly proud of in my life. There are plenty of things I wouldn’t want to advertise. But I get stuck on the part where you can’t have told another person about it.
I’m not a very private person. I suppose that’s obvious when I’ve written two books that are extremely intimate, honest, and raw. I blog every week about things that happen. That is not always to my advantage as being “not private” opens you up to a lot of judgment.
In therapy, we talk about the difference between secrecy and privacy. Privacy is considered healthy, secrecy carries the possibility of not-so-healthy. It’s related to the difference between guilt and shame. Sometimes secrets are linked to shame.
Anyhow, I’m getting off topic.
I recognize that most people are much more private than I am. I try to respect that. When I started writing the book, we hired a publishing lawyer. I was advised to change all the names in the book except for mine, Tim’s and our pets. Even though most of the people in the books are portrayed positively, it doesn’t matter. The wisest thing was to change names across the board. She told me to do the same with the blogs, and to keep them consistent.
You learn little tricks along the way. Sometimes you just say generic things like “my friend’s husband” so no names are necessary. I have quite a spreadsheet of name changes now from over the years. I have to keep track because I can’t possibly remember and keep them all straight. Some people really enjoy following their “character” as I write. Once I even changed the gender of my friend and he never lets me forget that.
Then there was that time period when a former guy from my life started following my blog and commenting. He changed his name and gender so I didn’t figure out it was him for a while. That felt different. It didn’t feel like fun, it felt dishonest and cowardly. He wouldn’t talk to me in “real life” and actually blocked me from contact. But he could contact me as much as he wanted under his false identity.
I’ve had other issues come up as well. Friends of friends of friends read the blog. They read it and forget the names have been changed. They assume they know who I am talking about and it causes problems. “Was that you? What were you doing that for?” and things like that. I’ve actually had conflict over things like this and it infuriates me.
I don’t even know what to do about it. I’ve said several times in my blogs (and the books) that names are changed. How tedious would it be if I started every single entry with a reminder to the reader that the names are not necessarily the names of actual people? I would get sick of writing it for sure.
But the more important issue, is why is this even an issue?
That got me thinking about why some of the people who are reading the blog are even reading it. I know a handful of them that read it, and am fairly certain they don’t like me. They don’t respect me or the way I live my life. And I suspect if that’s the case, they aren’t too thrilled about the idea that someone they do like is involved in my life. So why are they reading it?
Some people read because they do love me. Or they loved Tim. They care and want to support me and my family. Lots of people read who have never met me/us. I would like to think some of those people actually like my writing. And my deepest hope, is that some people read because they find hope and inspiration. The whole point is to be brave enough to speak the truth, then still find a way to move on. Every time someone is helped by a lecture, a blog, or a book, that means something good has come from something tragic. And that makes it a tiny bit easier to move on, one small step at a time
I’m truly not afraid of people disagreeing with me. But when you aren’t a very private person, people tend to forget that it still requires a certain amount of courage and bravery to put yourself out there. I am still extremely vulnerable when I choose to write.
Unfortunately, there are people who read so they can keep an eye on my life. They want to continue to judge me. They feel compelled to be my personal critic. And the people who are in my life. Sometimes, I lose patience with it.
Bottom line, no one has to read it. And as much as I want followers and readers to get the messages out there, I would rather have you not read it if your purpose is make trouble for me or the people in my life. Life could be much, much, much worse. But still, I think I’ve been through plenty. I’ve had enough heartache for one middle-aged woman. I don’t write so I can invite more.
I write so I can keep my head up. So other people can be inspired. So I can keep processing my life. So I can still have a voice in a world where I often feel so invisible.
Thanks to acupuncture and the lessening of the lead-like depression I have been under, I have weathered the critics. But I’m asking the critics to stop anyways. If you’ve read my books or my blogs for very long, you can take comfort in knowing there isn’t a human being out there who could be more critical of me than I am of myself. So rest easy, I’ve got that part covered.
And yet the other side of that? I think I’ve done a pretty good job with some pretty tough shit tossed my way. So there!