It is not lost on me that most people shed familiar roles and try on new ones when they are in their teens, not their forties, but I was late to my emotional adolescence, and that is that.
Of course I came into these past few years angry and hurting (the death of a parent will do that to a person), and high emotion like that does not reconcile itself to good sense. I knew perfectly well that you can't escape yourself, and yet I think that's exactly what I was hoping to do.
So here I am, on the other side of all the turmoil, and I am more or less the same as I was then. I have learned to put myself first when I need to, and even if that's all I've learned, it was something worth figuring out.
Writing in this space was part and parcel of shedding old skin and may even have facilitated the process. Rather obliviously I wrote my truth without care or concern for its effect on other people whose stories I might coopt in the telling of my own. I imagined you, my reader, as a stranger and thereby safe.
Yesterday I found out that my writing has shocked certain members of my extended family. 'Shock' covers a lot of territory, doesn't it? But you have to admit that all the territory it covers is ugly: squat buildings set against a dry, dusty landscape.
In hearing this news I felt, in order: guilt, shame, and surprise. Of these the surprise was the most illuminating. Had I been living under a rock, not understanding that what I wrote publicly would have repercussions? Did I think my writing exempt from those repercussions? Did I believe that pretty words couldn't wound?
No. In the thick of my belated adolescence I suppose I didn't much care. I was, for the first time in my life, being selfish.
Now, though, now. I am fully capable of considering my writing and its impact, even if it is on only a small circle of people.
I may decide to continue doing everything as I have been. I may choose to thin my body of work, shuttering writing that might cause pain now or later. I don't know.
But whatever I end up doing, I sense an awakening in myself that coincides happily with the awakening of the earth after a particularly cold, challenging winter.
I am cleaning house, opening windows, airing out rooms. It is the kind of work that feels like work's opposite. I grow a little older. I grow a little wiser. I grow.