…he said about ‘our’ story
We are brought up to tell the truth. Yet we are also brought up to never offend. Always be nice. And there lies the conundrum.
Tell the truth! Tell the truth! Always, always tell the truth!
I tried so hard to be kind. I tried so hard to not offend anybody I wrote about.
I’ve been using my artistic licence to paint things pretty. Striving to keep fragile little egos intact. Bigging them up rather than taking them down. Nipping and tucking so the whole dirty truth doesn’t ever come out.
I’d write a piece and pay strict attention to not being cruel. To show only the best side and leave out the ugly bits. Then, I’d go back over it with a fine tooth pick. A tooth pick so small it might be made for a tiddly fairy. Or a small mouse. Or an itsy bitsy fairy mouse.
It started, well, right at the beginning. The penning of anything was always censored to (what I believed to be) my parents’ standards. No swearing for sure. (Well fuck that!)
From parent pleaser to people pleaser. All of the people — and there are so many people to please. Subconsciously knowing you can’t please all of the people all of the time… (only subconsciously? oh dear dear!) and yet having a go anyway. The surest of sure setups for failure.
But as Anne Lamot points out in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,
You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
I clearly remember reading this. I was sitting on my beautiful sofa in the living room of the country house I lived in with my family for 11 years. Before the (physical) breakup with my then-partner.
I wanted to take her advice. I wanted to have the courage to really write my truth. But still something stopped me.
Drummed in since babyhood. Rules unspoken yet forged into my DNA.
Writing in itself felt (still sometimes feels) rebellious. Especially writing about (gulp!) feelings. Personal experience. Now that’s really out there!
To muster up courage, there’s always that question (or rather the response). Who reads what I write anyway? (Answer: practically nobody!) So I may as well write what the hell I want to write!
But… what if…?
I’d like to think, lots of people read my writing. I’d like to think, all those who care about me (and so many more). But it’s so contradictory. This is also where it becomes uncomfortable.
So when he says to me, with that familiar sneer,
I read your blog. It didn’t happen like that… I never promised you anything…
…I take this comment as free passage from now on.
And by the way, yes it did, and yes you did. Many, many times.
No more covering for people’s bad behaviour.
My new promise
I swear to (try to — practice, practice, practice) tell the whole truth (if I think it’s of interest), and nothing but the truth (full artistic licence allowed — but no longer ‘just’ to cover for somebody).
And then… some days later… as often happens… a realisation…
When something doesn’t feel quite right, it can take a few days for the spokes to click into a place they sit more comfortably, for you to move a little further towards your true direction when you’ve been diverted. Then you may even come full circle.
I choose my truth.
An example: When you leave a long relationship, you do want some happy memories. It’s easy enough to congratulate yourself (and your ex) for producing amazing little human beings. But to be able to actually have some good memories — just for you. Of the two of you. It might take an interpretation of events that bends in the direction of kindness.
The feelings, my feelings, were real. What ‘he’ said, I remember. That I believed him, I remember. The hopes were real. The belief was real.
Perhaps that’s why we’ve gone separate ways. Two very different truths, two different ways of seeing things.
But I do remember!
My history teacher used to drill it into us — everybody’s interpretation of history, of a story, of truth, is their own. No two are ever exactly the same.
It seems that ours were just too different. They, we, grew apart, from a slender crevice which became wider and wider, morphing into a gaping hole. The sides pulled away from each so far until there was nothing long enough to bridge the enormous gap. Two versions of truth. Opposing.
So here’s to (fucking) artistic licence, and in particular… to speaking your own truth!
Hopefully my writing is not beige, but a spectrum of glittering hues, every bright and sparkly colour of a rainbow.
Sickeningly so, to some people. But you can’t please all of the people all of the time!
My new promise — revised
I swear to tell the truth as I see it, at any particular moment in time, if I want to… Mostly, I swear to be true to myself!
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, you may like to read about how ‘owning’ my ‘depression’ helped me towards recovery.
The original version of this post was first published on Medium in Hello, Love.