Friday, May 04, 2007

Truth telling

I'd make a terrible memoirist because I'm terrified of writing the truth about my family. Or rather, I'm terrified of what they'd think of me for telling the truth. I already had it out with an extended family member (not blood related) some years ago for publishing an essay that was absolutely true from my point of view, but from his, was incorrect and worse (I think the words I was called were "mendacious" and something else that suggests I am an ill-intentioned liar). Truthfully I was angry when I wrote the essay. I was exorcising years of feelings I had not been able to express. But the essay was true nonetheless. I regretted that he only read the essay and that he never got to hear that I've since forgiven him. That I have let go of that anger. Still--the words are out there, impossible to take back.

How would I feel if I wrote something that made my father feel this way? Or one of my siblings? I admire the likes of David Sedaris or Anne Lamott who can speak so honestly about people they still have to face. I want to be able to do it too, but I'm afraid.

I'm sure this feeling is more common than not, though I've met (and read) plenty of brave writers who do just that. It begs the question: at what point is your experience yours to write about? If it involves another person, is it fair? Regardless--people do it anyway.

This is all just a lot of bluster. Lately, I've had family on the brain but a lot of what I think I don't want to write. Some things I was told in confidence, even, so I can't.

In a word, I've been feeling sad. Sad that there has always been a code of silence in one part of my family and that we only talk about things when they reach a dramatic eruption. Sad that I feel so outside, and yet, at the same time, I'm no longer really sure I want to be inside, either.

As we were driving to Morrissey the other night I told E. about how, when I was 2 and a half, and my parents were separating, my mother found out she was pregnant again. But she was splitting up with my father, it was no time to have another baby. So she didn't. Not having that baby grieved her deeply--I have no idea what he thought of it.

Now don't get me wrong: I love my siblings--those borne of my Dad and stepmother. But we weren't raised together. They are so much younger than I am. Sometimes, admittedly when I'm feeling low, I imagine that ghost-sibling. The one who would have been there for all the great dramas and joys of my life. How different would life have been if I had a sibling less than 3 years younger than me?

Completely different.

And there is my Frirday afternoon melancholy post.

JPR

2 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Amishlaw said...

I have the same hangup about memoirs I have started but can't quite bring myself to go ahead and finish. It feels dishonest not to tell all, but some other people would be hurt. Is telling all just a passive aggression? I'm hearing David Sedaris's essays are ginned up to make them funnier. When does selective memory go over the line and become unacceptable like James Frey's fictional non-fiction? It's all too complicated. I think I'll have some tea.

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger Trushka said...

Oh, I feel so related to this.

But reactions can't be foreseen, can they?

Last week I told my mother that I hated her, that I would be happy if she died, that I would kill her myself if I knew I didn't go to prison for it.

2 days later she was calling me as if I had said nothing... to comment on I don't remember what.

And I found it much easier to pretend everything was ok than retaking our last conversation.

When you "say it all" sometimes they/he/she doesnt "hear it all", that's the problem.

Good luck with your family issues. I guess it may be better to solve it only within ourselves, at least with this kind of family.

I love you,
P.

 

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