July 7, 2019

Why So Personal?

“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that a number of my posts get personal. That wasn’t my intention when I started Thymewood in February 2017. No, back in the early days, I was happy to keep my private life private. No need for you to know too much about me, my struggles or challenges. I stuck to posts that were objective and instructional. Lots of lists about what to do and not do. Decent blog posts but a bit sterile.

Speaking of…A friend of mine once told me that when she first met me, she was positive I didn’t like her.

“Really?” I said. “Why?”

“Well,” she said, “you were friendly…even nice…but there was an aura about you that said don’t come too close.”

At first, I was taken aback by my friend’s observation, but then I thought about it and realized she was right. I’m an introvert. I don’t want to be everyone’s friend. I don’t have the energy for it. After a day of facing the world, I want to escape to the comfort of home and recharge.

I have a few close friends, and that’s the way I like it. I care about people – a lot – but I’ve only got room for a select few in my inner circle. And even the select few don’t get oodles of my time because I don’t socialize a lot. As well, I don’t open up easily in face-to-face situations unless I’m one-on-one with someone I trust.

So how does this relate to my blog? Well, that’s how I initially approached my writing. I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Why would I share pieces of my inner world with you? And frankly, why would you care about my world?

I started to change my mind when I began the study and practice of writing memoir with Kathleen Hamilton. Through her teaching, she encouraged me to let my guard down, open up, and share.

Here are a just a few things I Iearned:

It’s refreshing to be real. I’ve done stupid things, bad things, and shameful things. So have you. You and I have been wounded and broken. At this stage in my life, I’d rather drop the pretense and be honest about it. Plus, if I’m real, maybe you’ll feel you have permission to be the same.

Then we can start having some interesting conversations instead of talking about what we had for supper last night.

The perfect life doesn’t exist. I have no time for perfect lives. They’re boring, and at any rate, they’re manufactured. Face it. You and I have our demons. If we’re willing to talk about them and how we’re dealing with them, we offer hope to others who are trying to cope with their own struggles.

The perfect life doesn’t exist, never has, never will, so there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

People can relate to your struggles. Why are people interested in your stories of health and relationship challenges or the crappy month you’ve had? Because they’ve been there! Now let me clarify…no one wants to listen to “poor me” stories ad nauseam, but admitting your humanness, that indeed you have challenges, and that you’re working to overcome them, can be inspirational.

Tell it like it is. By doing so, you may empower others to do the same.

You’re only as sick as your secrets.” The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was male public figures who run around gay-bashing and then get caught in the airport bathroom trying to pick up some dude.

Awkward, right? You don’t have to do a complete tell-all, but hiding too much, refusing to acknowledge the reality of who you are, and not coming to terms with every facet of yourself, will eventually make you sick. In fact, I believe that many illnesses begin at an energetic level, and if not dealt with there, they eventually manifest physically.

So armed with these new realizations, I dipped my toe in the water, cautiously at first. I started to share some of my experiences with mental illness. Then I noticed something. The blog posts that came from my heart, the ones that shared my story, were the ones that were getting more reaction from readers.

I learned that even though I wasn’t talking about your life, you were relating in some way to what I said. Maybe you had a similar experience. Or perhaps something I said reflected the struggle of someone close to you.

I deal with anxiety. Maybe you deal with MS, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, heart disease or diabetes. I was separated and divorced. Maybe you are too or will be in the future. If not, you still have relationship issues, be it with your partner, family, friends or colleagues.

I’m currently working on a memoir, the focus being my experience with mental illness. Parts of it will be dark and shitty. Those parts are hard to write. But overall, I hope that my story will be one of hope, redemption, and transformation. As Kathleen said during a memorable memoir class, “Make your shame the star of your own fucking show.” Own your story. Tell it, even the nasty stuff. That way, it’s revealed on your terms, and there’s nothing more anyone else can say.

Although not all my blog posts are “tell-alls,” nor will they be in the future, I think there’s value in sharing our stories – the good, the bad, the light, the dark. I’ve been told that I’m brave for sharing my life experiences on a public platform. I’ve also been told that I’m looking for attention or that I’m tiresome. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Writing my blog with a more personal perspective has been cathartic for me. It’s also led to people saying, “You know what? I’ve been there. I understand.” How comforting it is to realize you’re not alone.

You and I are in this together. By “this,” I mean this crazy, upside-down, beautiful, horrific, mind-bending thing called life. Although you and I are unique expressions of the human condition, we live out common themes. When I open up on my blog about my experience, I’m also talking about your experience in one form or another.

My blog is about me. It’s about you. Through it, I’m trying to break down the barriers to deep, meaningful, human interaction. Imagine if more of us did that. I suspect it would be a much different world.