Sunday, April 20, 2014


 I've spent the better part of my forties attempting a wholesale rejection of the person I once was. The people pleaser. The faithful one, who always remembered everyone's birthdays and all the other milestones besides. The careful, conscientious worker, the attentive, solicitous friend.

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.


Mary Gilmour said...

You grow in my eyes with every post. It is sad that some of your family can't see that, from what you say.
But I, too, omit or trim because of friends and family concerns, so there is not much I can say except that I wish I did not feel that I had to.
How we are trained to please and defer.
There is always email, in between Scrabble games.

sullimaybe said...

Working towards peace and reconciliation❤

gorillabuns said...

I truly understand this feeling. Things I have written about extended family members have come to roost. While I meant every word, it was most shocking after nine-years, they decided to call me out on it a few months ago. I wonder why they even care about my opinion as they don't have the best opinion of me.

ozma said...

This is a tough one.

I seek anonymity for this reason: So I can say whatever the hell I want.

I would censor myself. I am still a terrible people pleaser.

On the other hand, I don't that that is right or fair. It is your story. This is the time you need to tell it.

They can tell their side of it. Maybe you can put something up like 'Aunt Lila's Side.' They can have a column.

I think you are a 'real' writer. I know everyone blathers on about that and maybe I'm being mean by using the world 'blather.' But you are ARE ARE A REAL WRITER. You HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.

It seems OK to me whatever you do. Don't shutter the blog, don't censor yourself too much--well, don't shut down that part of yourself that needs to tell your story. You are also getting better and better. You are honing your talent. It's very fascinating to watch.

Do whatever but I think you have to keep writing.

pia said...

I read Neil's Facebook status and had to read then comment
I think as we go through different stages of life we reject the person we were before and look for growth.

Most of us don't want to be people pleasers yet we want people to look us and when we write deeply personal things that presents problems as we haven't lived our lives in a vacuum.

The death of a parent or both parents makes us official grownups--no matter how grown up we were. There was that person or people who loved us unconditionally no matter how screwed up the relationship might have seen. It leaves scars that don't heal properly for a long long time.

To know that we "own" our lives and thus can write
anything we want and actually being able to do it are two separate things.

I have grappled with this problem for some time. My writing has suffered. it's not as good as it was and I, having decided that my story truly is worth telling, have to relearn to write. At the same time I have to teach myself to not fear the consequences.

I think you, Sarah, have to do the same.

Your writing is exceptionally beautiful and meaningful and is so worth being nurtured.

Sarah said...

Thank you all for your wisdom.

Pia, thank you for stopping by. I was touched by your comment.

niobe said...

This isn't exactly what you meant, but yesterday I read this somewhere: "if people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better."

Which is probably one of those things that everyone except late-to-the-party me knows and has always known.