“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ― Anne Lamott
I remember the very first time I ever read the above quote. Even though the book was written in 1994, I hadn’t heard of it till 2012. I had just written a blog post in which I said some things that I wondered if I should have. I had hit “publish” and then spent the next few days thinking about various people who may see it and wondering if it was my place to say some of the things I had said. I deleted one line of that post. Then I came across Anne Lamotts quote and I thought, “damn right” so I went back and re-wrote the line. It was the truth. The person had done what I said they had done and it had affected me. Why should I protect them?
I recently had a conversation with someone, I’ll call him Keith, who was struggling to understand why he was receiving the treatment he was receiving from someone else. I knew why – and I share that persons views. Not the views towards Keith directly but, I share the views. I’ll leave it at that.
If I were to enlighten Keith, as he wanted me to, it would mean shedding light on some unsavory things about someone he loves very much.
It is a tough position to be in.
I have said some unflattering things but I don’t think I have ever said anything defamatory about anyone on my blog. I have been honest about the relationships in my life. With my father there is none at all. Has been none for 10 years. Before there was none, it was strained. With my mother, at this moment, it is luke warm. With my grandfather it was awesome except for the times it most definitely was not. With one sister it is good, with another it has soured to the point of being non-existent and with yet 2 more sisters, we were doomed to be strangers from pretty early on.
In a lot of ways, my family life as you can see, is not the best.
I love to write about our lives. It’s medicinal almost (to me) and I think it will be a gift to my boys when they are older. I put a lot out onto the internet. Even so, there is so much that I keep close to my chest. Sometimes it hurts and I feel like if I were able to just say it, I’d feel better. But would I really? The only thing that would heal much of what hurts me is a change in the other persons behavior and one thing I have learned is that you cannot make people be who you want them to be.
Also, are any of us completely innocent of causing pain to someone else? Have we always done what we were supposed to do for the people we say we love? Would we want all the people whose hearts we have broken or who we’ve gossiped about or who we ignored in a time of need to come out of the woodworks and share with the world all the ways in which we could have been better? I don’t.
On one hand I whole heartedly agree with Anne. (And if someone else wants to write their story and include all the ways in which I failed them then I would deserve it.) On the other hand, I don’t want to be a jerk. I try really hard to balance telling my stories – because I do think I am entitled to them – with being as respectful as I can with other peoples stories – because those are not mine to tell.
Also, as I have come to realize, on more than one front, keeping some truths hidden isn’t about protecting the “wrongdoer”, it’s about protecting the innocent who love them – even if it is a difficult pill to swallow or the hidden facts make other people get credit they do not deserve.