And they say that the truth will set you free/but then/so will a lie
— Ani DiFranco, “Promised Land” (2003)
Yesterday, I wrote some things down, intending to use them for a post. The half-post or so that I wrote was inspired by, in large part, bullying-related suicides recently making the national news. It was difficult to write, as much of it was stuff I have kept to myself for a while — both for the sake of those I care about, and for my own mental health.
After I finished writing, I realized that I could not use any of it. Because the thought of exposing this stuff to an audience was, and is, too painful. I want to believe that writing it down helped me in some way, because otherwise what I wrote exists as just a barely-legible scattering of meaningless words, scrawled on a piece of paper.
There are many things that I can’t write about here on FWD, or on my personal blog. Many of the things that I have experienced are so emotionally fraught that I am reluctant to even consider writing about them, mostly for fear of going into a black hole of emotions from which I may not be able to get out.
There are other reasons, too, such as protecting the people that I care about in any public retelling and/or analysis of these events. Some of these people may not have heard every part of the story, or even every story. There are also people — many of whom have a central role in these painful stories — about whom I do not care, and I would relish the opportunity to textually rip some of these people apart. It would be easy to say, “They ripped me to shreds, and now I will grate them like cheese, using my keyboard. It is payback time.” Paradoxically, my own selfish concerns about my integrity prevents me from using my keyboard as a weapon.
The twist, of course, is that writing about these things in the “right” way — dispassionately, analytically — might help someone. Posting about things that are painful for me to think about, let alone write about, might reassure someone going through similar issues that they are not the only person who has dealt with some scary things.
And, like many people, I like the idea of helping someone get through rough times, or reassuring someone or someones that they are not alone in facing trying circumstances. Maybe that’s selfish. Maybe it’s part of human nature. Maybe it’s both.
Writing publicly about these things, on the other hand, may get me comments that I do not particularly want to face. This could not have happened. How do we know you’re not just making this up? Do you always have to write about yourself? Let’s look at this objectively. Why can’t you focus on something more important? I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that. Why can’t you just let it go? It was so long ago, anyway. We all have difficulties, what makes you so special? Who do you think you are?
According to the dichotomy of writing for an audience, I should either “get over it” and write about x or y more important topic, or excavate all of these painful things — that is, come forward with them publicly, dissect these less-than-savory experiences and my role(s) in them like a vivisected frog laden with pins to keep it from slipping out of the pan — in order to help others.
I think this dichotomy is bullshit.
But, the main thing is: Very often, I cannot tell the whole story, for highly specific and extremely personal reasons. I might, in time, choose to reveal parts of these stories. I certainly do not have an obligation to do it all right now.
[Note: The title of this post was partially inspired by Sesame Street’s Teeny Little Super Guy short segments.]