I began this blog nine years ago, right before I started back to college. My idea was to keep a record of my demise as I failed miserably and to keep my friends amused with the inevitable stories of defeat.
Through several updates and incarnations of this blog, I have lost many of the stories from those years in school. My son assures me that they are there somewhere, I just don’t know how to access them.
As it turns out, I did not fail miserably and my friends back home did not read my blog for the most part. I did however have many adventures and I made new friends in school who loved my blog.
I tried never to use other people’s identities if their stories crossed paths with mine. I also tried not to tell anyone’s story except for mine. If I saw something that didn’t directly affect me, I did not blog about it. I was not going to write a story that was not my story to tell.
The kids at school would ask me if a certain story was about them and I always gave the same answer- “It wasn’t you, but if it sounded like you and it made you think, then that is all that matters. Many people have similar stories, but if you think it was you, then I hope you learn something from it.” Sometimes it really was them, many times it wasn’t.
In writing the book I am working on, I realize how hard it is to write your life without dragging other people down with you. In college it seemed easy to be vague and to tell a story while leaving out the specifics. In writing a memoir, I am finding it impossible to not be specific. So many of my stories seem to become someone else’s story too quickly. Then I have to go back to – is this my story to tell??
My husband Tim and son Jon are used to being in my stories. I try to ask them before I tell a story centered around them, but when they are just incidental characters in the story, I name names and tell stories. Anyone else I include usually gets the vague pronouns and ambiguous mentions.
When it comes to my life story, it is nearly impossible to leave others out. I did not grow up nor do I live in a vacuum. My story involves many others and some people don’t come off in such a good light. While writing these stories I keep stopping to consider what I am doing. Those considerations have brought me to a standstill.
The writer Anne Lamott came to town to speak a few years ago and during her presentation she jokingly said that people in her life who complained about what she wrote about them usually got the same response- If you don’t want to end up in my books quit doing dumb things. At the time I laughed and wrote it down. “How true!” I thought.
When the words face you on the page and you think how people will react to what you have felt and experienced, it is a lot different. Even for people I have troubled relationships with, it is hard to write things that are not the most flattering. ESPECIALLY for people that I have troubled relationships with, it is difficult.
Finding the line between my story and theirs, finding the best way to be fair and yet be honest, finding a way to express my feelings without infringing on theirs has proven to be difficult at times and impossible at others. It has made me reconsider where I need to forge ahead and where I need to stop and process.
In looking for an angle to bring all of these stories together, I wonder if grace is not where I need to be. I wonder if somewhere in all of the hurt, the misadventures and the turmoil there is a place where I can find peace without bringing distress to someone else.
Sometimes when we want lighthearted fun we realize it just isn’t there. When we look for warm fuzzy feelings, we realize that we never felt them. When we look for the uplifting message we realize it is too obscured to find.
I can almost always find the humor in a situation, although sometimes it is twisted and hurtful as well. Laughing at someone else’s expense isn’t where I want to go either.
All of us have a story, but it is full of people who have more influence than we realize, who consume parts of our story with theirs, who change what our story might have been. How much of that is still my story, and what part of it is not my story to tell?
So I continue on, exploring my memories, pushing to just write it down at this point and then edit later. My fear is that once I get it all out in front of me and then edit out the rough parts, there will be very little left.