Identity is always a work in progress. You might find yourself in constant flux as far as building boundaries go, with the need to draw people in, as well as push them away. As I write more and put some aspects of my life on what seems like a very public platform, I have noticed a lot of different things happening.
When you are open to people, you draw them in. Something you share resonates with them. This is why you tell stories at parties with people you just met or when you are getting to know someone, you bring up the Conversation Cubes type questions to get to unlock bits of their lives they will share with you to help you learn more about them. In the past, I have been accused of sharing way too much information. Or even that I have no filter.
This cannot be further from the truth.
Much of the information I disclose is done so very carefully and in a very thought out way. I know there is a risk you take when you share a piece of information that things will go horribly wrong and something you share might offend, alienate, or put some people off. In my experience, things I have discussed have evoked responses like I needed to go die in a hole.
Even here, a lot of information is told in palatable, bite-sized chunks. But once in a while there is something you take a risk in sharing. Sometimes it pays off in reaching other people and touching their hearts, or it can fall flat and people can wonder about how your poor therapist deals with all of this.
What is interesting, however, is how today we are more connected to each other that the history of ever. But we are more isolated than ever too. We carry everyone we know around in our pockets. We post to social media about our reaction to Game of Thrones, or our vacation snaps of Ibiza. Even those of us not on social media distribute pictures to lists of people via text message, which doesn’t really give people the option of whether or not to look at what is being sent. Sometimes, I just don’t want to be included in those conversations. I’m of the mind that if you want to share something with me, take the time to reach out to me personally and say, “Hey! Just thinking of you and thought I would send you some pics of my day!”
Otherwise, it’s like being on a listserv, especially if you are sucked into the black hole of a group conversation. And now you have a dozen different people living in your pocket, and the notification signals won’t shut the hell up. It is my opinion that if you are going to distribute your pics in this manner, either post it to social media or start a blog. I don’t need to compete with other people as to who likes your pics better and is the better friend for responding in the most enthusiastic way. At the very least it gives someone the option of not having to look at it.
That is going off in to the weeds, though.
What was my point? Oh yeah, it’s sorta weird writing this blog mostly because even though some posts might appear to be very personal, they aren’t. There is a kernel of intimacy, wrapped up in a story, and that story not only protects the kernel, but also gives it new flesh from what it was originally. I’m not going to say what my Creative Writing Poetry prof said about “Writing is lying,” but it is a different aspect of the truth to be sure.
Last week I had personal conversations with several people who have been following my blog and the reactions were varied. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I thank everyone who has stayed with me as a reader! I am glad I have been able to connect with you, touch your life in some way, or entertain you. I am always surprised at someone’s reaction. In a weird way, there is a level of detachment when I write something.
As soon as I write it, publish it, and someone else reads it, it is no longer really mine. It becomes someone else’s. When you read something, you are also putting something of yourself into it. Your own lens of observation and creativity. Your experiences and your perspective color that structure. The characters you read about can never be the same people I have in my mind. You might have even supplanted your own friends and relatives into those roles like a casting director for a movie. As for my narrative pieces from first hand experience, you know my voice and maybe the thoughts I shared about that particular moment, but you could never know everything there was behind it.
When you write, you offer up a persona. It becomes a boundary, a layer of armor, and even when things seem incredibly personal, it might be quite the opposite. It is only ever as much as I was willing to reveal. Almost like a magician’s trick. Look over here, but not here.
Otherwise, what would I have left inside? Believe me, there is plenty left. Dark secrets, happy moments, regrets, still waters that run fathoms deep.
As I write more, it is a talent that needs to be honed. What to show, how to show it, how to hide the rest. In a way, it is surprising to talk to people in person about what they read, because it is always interesting about what they have seen of me and how their response reveals something new to learn about them.
It’s not just writers that do this, but all of us when we have conversations with old friends and new. How much is safe to reveal, how much am I telling without realizing, and how much of it is something that sounds deeply personal but really isn’t. Writing is a very good tool at doing this. When people see words in print, they often take this as the truth. In Church people regard the written word as “Gospel” and if you drill down far enough, it is the “logos” which was the literal Word of God.
In school, the facts presented to us are History and indisputable. In the Law, from ancient Sumeria to whatever legislation just passed, if it is Written, it is So.
So what kind of scumbag writes something and then tells his or her readers to be careful what to believe. Words have power, especially the written ones. Poets pour their hearts out into line and verse, novelists thrill or captivate us, historians lock concepts into “stone” as it were. And when you buy something, you always get a quote or a receipt.
But words are just words. Like money, we assign value to them. When your really know the person, you know how much value to assign to them. Otherwise, the only value you can give them is exactly as much as you are willing to give as a reader.
Sometimes that’s a lot. Sometimes it isn’t much. And over time, that will change depending on the reader. It is an ever-changing market. The love letters from twenty years ago that said, “Always” might have little value when you realized that Always didn’t last five years. Or maybe you read them again and know that Always also meant Forever because you built who you were on those times and experiences and they kept you going through the bad times.
I have read Huckleberry Finn three times in my life. It is one of the few times I have reread a book. I don’t particularly enjoy the book, but what I do get each time I read it is a different perspective on what it meant. As a kid in high school, it was about riding a raft with your buddy and getting into adventures, as a college student, it was about identity, especially as an American, and as an adult, it is about something else. It’s hard to say what. For me, it is one of those books that you read, and it reads you back.
Anyway, the TL;DR for this whole post is this: