Writing as an Act of Defiance

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

This blog entry is prompted by a question I have asked myself a lot over the years:

Why can’t I write when my stress and anxiety levels go up and come up hard?

The answer to this question comes from something I learned very early on about women writers: we’re really good at keeping our writing out of sight and sound from people in our lives.

From Jane Austen hiding her manuscripts under a desk blotter in the sitting room anyone someone came over, to Margaret Mitchell and Danielle Steele writing in their laundry rooms with their typewriters on top of the washing machine, to Nora Roberts and Jackie Collins writing on spiral notebooks in the carpool line waiting to pick up their kids, and to countless romance writers I knew and read about who would get up early or write after everyone had gone to bed… I learned that my writing was something I had to keep out of sight and sound.

Why?

Because women, whether they’re married or single (like me and Jane Austen), take on a lot of responsibilities and the busybody-assholes as I will now refer to them make sure that if it looks like we might be thinking about slacking off on those responsibilities (which we would never have done), they made sure to let us know we were the bad guys for wanting to have some sliver of a life for ourselves. In my twenties when I was a caregiver living at home, I felt like I was under constant scrutiny and that if I stepped out of line enough the shit would have hit the fan.

I’ve written here about how my parents asked me to stay silent in the face of busybody-assholes trying their dead-level best to butt into my life and shit all over me. I understood why they asked me to do that but thinking about that now I feel like they denied me something I should have been able to do, and that was to stand up for myself. I should have been able to tell people who wanted to butt their noses into my life and try and run it for me this:

Back off and deal with your own fucking shit.

Because I feel like people who butt their noses into other people’s lives and try to dictate how other people should live are trying to avoid dealing with their own lives and yes, their own shit. And no, I’m not being a bitch here for saying that even if someone reading this may be feeling more than a little butt-hurt. I say this because I was doing my dead-level best back then like I do now to stay out of everyone’s life and not tell anyone how to live their life. And most of all, I’ve been working my ass off to deal with my own shit as I’m fond of calling it.

No, this is not an attention-grab or any bullshit like that. This is for anyone who has ever felt like they’ve had to hide a part of their lives from everyone around them.

I look back now and feel like if I had kept writing through the worst of the shit-storms I went through in my twenties and thirties, I wouldn’t have had near the amount of shit to work through, and I wouldn’t have had to box up so much crap from back then to deal with now. I look back and think I should have been able to keep writing through all that and if anyone had found out and said something to me I should have had the freedom to tell them to back off. But I was not defiant back then like I am now. Back then I was terrified I’d set off a shit-storm if I pushed back or gave anyone anything they could use against me, and yes that would have included any writing like a journal or diary that I could have used as a therapy source back then.

Prince Harry recently said his family’s motto was always, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that motto is for tons of people and families around the world and yes, I will apply it to my own. Because I’ve been told to my face in the past not to complain, that I had NOTHING to complain about even though in reality I wasn’t complaining so much as trying to explain myself. And that’s what I’m doing now: explaining and not complaining. To me, complaining is running your mouth and expecting people to go along with your high-handed bullshit and if they push back then they’re the bad guys. Explaining is talking things out and trying to find understanding in how you think and feel.

Writing is my way of explaining and trying to find answers to questions about why I think and feel the way I do. I think writing is about finding truth and that’s not a popular thing with some people in this world. Because if your truth doesn’t align perfectly with theirs then that’s when the shit could hit the fan.

To any writer reading this who feels like you can’t write, or shouldn’t write when your stress and anxiety levels skyrocket and things come at you fast and hard: I understand your feelings and it’s okay to have them. But you don’t have to give in to them either. And if there are people in your life who feel like they can dictate when you write or should write or any bullshit like that, feel free to use my rude-and-crude response: back off and go deal with your own fucking shit.

For me, luckily I’m working in a vacuum and that means as of right now I’m not getting any direct communication telling me I’m an asshole, bitch, or that I should just shut the fuck up. And every time I think of this, I hear my father’s voice in my head telling me that’s one less piece of bullshit I have to deal with and to keep doing what I want to do with my life. The old man is right as always and I would do well to listen to him as I think other writers should, too.

Royally Breaking Your Silence

WARNING: My writing can be sarcastic, profane, irreverent, wise-cracking, and somewhat serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph.

This morning I watched the interview Prince Harry did with Anderson Cooper on ‘60 Minutes’ this past Sunday (you can watch here You Tube) and my take on what Harry is doing by giving interviews and publishing his memoire is this: he’s breaking his silence. And I am totally with him on this as there were several things he said in the interview that really showed the healing journey he’s been on, a journey I’ve been on along with a lot of other people around the world.

Prince Harry said the Royal Family’s motto has always been, “Never complain, never explain.” I think that’s a motto for a lot of families, and I feel it was something I grew up with. I felt like there was an expectation of me to be very independent and self-sufficient from a very early age and that also meant that I had to pick myself up and keep going. I internalized that people were horrified to see me cry so I tried not to. I tried not to show I was sad and hurt whenever I was because I had not been comforted when I should have been. And that lack of comfort continued on in my life and that does a shit-ton of damage to a person. For Prince Harry it meant he didn’t cry or really talk about his feelings at all and that at times he turned to adrenalin as he said in the interview when he joined the Army and served in Afghanistan in combat. He also talked about how used to drink heavily and that he did use drugs to numb out his feelings. Luckily I never drank or used drugs, but I numbed myself out with silence instead.

Harry was always called ‘the spare’ as in ‘the heir and the spare’, the heir being his older brother Prince William. And a ‘spare’ is like me being a middle female child, which means you’re the outcast in the family simply because you fill a position with a role that others define and you don’t. Growing up like that means you feel like you never really fit in and nothing you do will ever be good enough. It’s a role where you’re expected to just do what you’re told, take responsibility for others, and not step out of line. For the longest time, I felt like the world just didn’t know what to do with me and never would. But now I call bullshit on that because there is NO need at all to treat someone like an outcast simply because of some bullshit things like birth order and expectations that are supposed to go with that.

In the interview Prince Harry talks about his wife Meghan and the horrible treatment she received and that she was accused of ‘changing’ him. Harry then said without a second’s hesitation, “Well of course I changed.” In another interview with Harry, I remember how he told a story about how shortly after he and Meghan began to see each other how he tried to pick an argument with her. She stopped him by going, “Harry, what’s wrong?” He was shocked and surprised by this question and she told him, “This isn’t about me.” She realized he had misdirected anger and unresolved grief from his mother’s death. And I think what was happening also was that he was in a good place with her and therefore his mind went, okay, now you’re ready to deal with the things you locked away all those years ago when your mother died. Harry’s wife Meghan has an extraordinary gift of perception in helping him see that, and it was because of her that he began to deal with his grief and other emotions he’d silenced for so long.

Yet that wasn’t a popular decision. Between that and Megan being an outsider to the Royal Family like Harry despite him being born into the family, things weren’t going to go well for them. I give them a lot of credit for sticking with it as long as they did and for how hard they tried to communicate and make things work. Sadly, in the ’60 Minutes’ interview Harry revealed he is not on speaking terms with his father, King Charles, and his brother Prince William. Harry said how he hoped to mend those relationships but at the same he also said this, “The ball is in their court.”

I will freely admit here I have pulled back from people but in explanation I will say it’s because I took tiny steps long ago to try and make myself available to others and it didn’t go well. In the ’60 Minutes’ interview Harry said he’s told his family that if he and wife did things wrong to just be told what those things were so apologies and amends could be made if possible. But Harry says his family refuses to tell him and I think it’s because maybe he and his wife really didn’t do anything wrong, or they didn’t do things that warranted any of the horrible experiences and words they’ve been subjected to. If I’ve done something wrong, I want to know so I can take full responsibility for it and do whatever I can to make amends. But until those answers on the table, the silence will remain at least on the side of his family, and I will remain in the vacuum I’m in.

Harry has been getting a fair amount of shit in the press, especially in the British press for doing these interviews and for publishing his book. He has said he’s doing this to set the record straight and so that his family can hear his side of the story and in his own words and not shit-filtered through the Press like they choose to communicate. I’m sure he’s been told like I’ve been told in the past to just shut up and keep going, and also to just get over your shit and let it go. But that comes off like being told that your feelings and your experiences don’t mean shit. Wounds don’t disappear and the past isn’t changed or erased just because someone doesn’t want to talk about it or be with someone who’s been hurt. That’s why I think my father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” I think an apology is meaningless without an acknowledgement and acceptance of what happened along with the damage it did and what it takes to heal from that damage and pain.

I’m breaking my silence in order to help other people do the same. Because for me, putting words onto feelings and giving voice to unspoken thoughts is what has brought me healing as it has to so many other people. Because when you find the words for your thoughts and feelings, then you learn how to deal with them and heal the wounds. And no, that’s not a popular decision with some people because it changes you and it makes you find your own way in the world. Most of all, you find happiness and peace that other people refuse to work towards in their own lives and that in turn makes them lash out in anger and insensitivity.

Writing like this hasn’t been easy for me since I renewed my commitment to writing here daily about what’s on my mind and going on in my life. But like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it. Because like Admiral Kirk said in ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’: “We learn by doing.”

And I believe we can start learning about ourselves and how to heal by doing the work, and breaking the silence.

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