Making it Personal

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A friend told me recently that I need to make my writing less personal. It reminded me of a time nearly 20 years ago when another friend said to me, “I love you and you’re one of my best friends, but when I get off the phone with you, I’m always depressed.” Both statements hurt, but both contained truth. They also made me take a step back and think. Why is it that I have to be the one that changes? Why do I need to adjust my writing or my feelings to suit others?

The answer is: I don’t.

I have been told that my writing is raw, honest, and sometimes painful. The characters I create are real, flawed, and unembellished. I’d like to think those are compliments. When I try to write something I don’t feel, it turns out contrived and cliché. When I do write what I feel, it flows naturally, the words coming alive on the page or screen, the characters taking shape in front of me. Those characters are very often extensions of myself. I can’t do warm and fuzzy when I don’t feel that way. I’ve tried. If I am happy, I can write something happy. I can do sarcasm. I can do humor. I can do political rant. Those all come to me naturally because they are part of me. Happy is not currently part of me, and for most of my adult life, has been absent. I can’t fake it for the benefit of those around me. I can’t fake it for those who want to read something with a happy ending. I can’t even fake it for myself.

We all need to see the happy ending now and then. Even I need it. The problem I have is with losing sight of the fact that most of us don’t get the happy ending. I’ve done boy meets girl, boy gets girl. It would have been great for a lot of people if the story had ended there. Tidy, happy, storybook ending. But boy lost girl when girl left him for another girl. He didn’t get his storybook ending. Then girl 1 and girl 2 tried to make it work, but it was too hard. Girl 2 had too many issues, and as hard as girl 1 tried, she ended up lost and broken. Girl 2 left girl 1. Girl 1 should have a chance for the happy ending now. Girl 1 thought she was headed in that direction when her life ended up in limbo. So, girl 1 waits for her happy ending. But until it happens, she can’t honestly write about it. Sounds like something out of a Russian novel. Though I’m not comparing myself to a Russian novelist, there is a realness in the works of Tolstoy and Chekov and Solzhenitsyn that speaks to the human spirit. They don’t paint a picture of a happy world where everything works out. They are real. There isn’t always a happy ending. The stories are dark and often depressing. It is also why people are more likely to pick up Bridget Jones’s Diary than Anna Karenina.

Life isn’t tidy. Life isn’t easy. If you read too many of those happy endings, you’ll just end up disappointed when yours doesn’t come. I don’t live life as a pessimist. I live it as a realist. I’ve been hopeful time and time again, only to have the hope crushed. Right now though, you can’t call what I’m doing living. It is surviving. It is getting through the day in one piece, hoping that the next day will be better. I come home to a house that is empty, except for my loyal and loving dog who always manages to make me feel better. I have very few friends because I’ve learned that most people can’t handle the real me. Plenty of people could be friends with me when I faked the happy, upbeat person who went out and had fun and partied. But when I couldn’t fake the smiles or find the energy to go out and do something, those people disappeared. Only a few remain and I suspect even they sometimes struggle being friends with me. I take responsibility for my role in relationships. I’m of the belief that you stick with friends through the good and the bad. Apparently I am mostly alone in that belief.

I have always had something of a fragile ego. One wrong word from someone I care about, and you hear it crack as I pretend that I’m not hurt. Some people spend their lives taking chances because that is who they are. They have a superhuman ego, one that is not easily broken. I stopped taking chances when I realized how easy it was for my spirit to be broken. Disappointment and rejection chip away at me, little by little. If you look closely enough, you can see the fissures and dents and holes that the years have left behind. I must have some strength in me though, otherwise I wouldn’t still be here. There is a mesh underneath that is holding it all together, keeping it from crumbling completely to the ground. Call it resilience. Call it stubbornness. What really holds me together is hope. Hope in a happy ending. Hope that the world will turn around and become a better place.

Compared to many, my life is easy. I know I am blessed with a home, a job, a car, family, and some friends. But that doesn’t mean I don’t also suffer at times. The voice I have may not always be one that is full of happiness, but it is real. It is my voice. It is a voice that millions of others can probably relate to. Those who are struggling to get through hard times. Those who have been met with disappointment. Those who have suffered rejection and ridicule and abandonment. Most of the world is not happy right now. Most of us struggle to get through the day. If you are not one of us, consider yourself lucky. If you have your happy ending, count yourself as blessed.

Do not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to those who aren’t as lucky or blessed. Sometimes people just need an ear to bend. Sometimes they need to feel like they aren’t alone. Sometimes they just need to yell and cry and question why they have to suffer when they’ve done nothing to deserve it. Sometimes they just need to know that they are heard and seen. Give them an ear. Give them a shoulder. Give them a hand. Do not ignore them because you don’t want to be “brought down” or made sad. Do not ignore them because ignoring them will only perpetuate those feelings of loneliness. Help them use their voices so they can feel less frustrated. Help them pick up their shattered pieces and put them back on. They will be grateful. They will feel less alone. You will have shown them some light in their darkness and that is not depressing. That is hope.

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