“Now is the time to understand more, so we fear less.” Marie Curie
If you are a regular reader of my Friday stories, you may wonder what happened this week. With my piece ready to go on Friday morning, I hesitated over the send button. The story involved a common scenario between me and someone else that led to an insight into human nature—my favorite. I asked permission to write about our shared experience. The person is also a writer who has published personal stories of her own. Because I had been the problematic one in the situation, I wasn’t surprised by her consent to let me tell it. At the last minute, I had a funny feeling. I sent over the draft and gave her the last chance to kill the story. She did. She may have felt comfortable sharing other personal details in her own work, just not this one.
Out on the road this morning with my running partner, we discussed what happened. Not sharing the story wasn’t the worst tragedy, but I had looked forward to the discussions it would spark and who might be helped by my own vulnerability. Also, I had worked hard on the piece. Above all, I was glad I had checked in and respected the other person’s feelings.
And speaking of honoring other people’s privacy, I have received some surprising feedback since I’ve been writing. In conversations with a few friends, I’ve been asked not to share their personal stories. To anyone else who is concerned, let me assure you, your story is not mine to tell and I would never do that. If we have an experience together that I want to write about, I will do you the courtesy of asking permission first. My goal here is to help all of us connect to ourselves and to each other better, not to embarrass anyone by putting their life on blast.
As for my family of origin, I go by Anne Lamott’s credo: You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
As we made our way down the grassy path, my friend and I discussed why people don’t like to speak openly. My feelings on this have evolved over time. As a lawyer, my concern was that my words would come back to haunt me. I had good reason. Once at a document review, the opposing side sent paralegals to sift through the mountain of banker’s boxes. A few of us lawyers from the other side showed up looking for a specific piece of evidence. The opposing paralegal asked, “why did your firm send lawyers instead of paralegals? Not wanting to reveal strategy, I made a joke. “We just like to charge our clients more.” Quoted by opposing counsel in an affidavit filed the next day, I regretted those words. For most of us, no one is trying to sully our reputation in a court of law but we hold back for other reasons.
“No one wants to be judged,” my friend said. I agreed.
“If you think about it though, people are judging us anyway, based on their own assumptions. We may as well straighten them out so at least they’ll be judging us on the right stuff,” I said and we laughed.
At our core, I think we are all a little afraid if people really knew us, they would reject us. Our imperfections, our doubts, our screw-ups, the B Side of our lives. But the truth is, we are all flawed creatures and sharing it brings the comfort that we are not alone.
Ever since I began to write, I have let go of so much fear around sharing what is really going on in my life. Because I hear from readers each week, I know many of you experience similar things. If I have accomplished nothing else by sharing my own personal stuff, I hope I have encouraged you to show more of your true self too.
When we reveal who we really are, we create opportunities to connect and free ourselves from fear. When we are less afraid, we get the sense that it’s all going to be okay. In truth, we are all far more lovable as our true selves than the image we try to curate for the world.
WRITING PROMPT: Do the people in your life know the real you or do you project an image that doesn’t quite match up?
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