The refrain of “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” might be passe in modern America. We’ve moved beyond talk shows into reality shows where instead of sitting on a stage talking about their problems, people invite cameras into their homes to get high def footage of the dirtiest of dirty laundry. I am not a fan of talk shows which serve only to parade guests’ dysfunctions or reality shows where the most outrageously messed up examples of humanity are the most popular. Certainly some of my distaste for such programing is the deep sense of privacy and propriety I was brought up to model.
But not all airing of dirty laundry is created equal.
As I have been thinking about being more honest as a writer, I have been thinking about things like gossip and the airing of laundry in public. It does not get more public than the internet, does it?
I happen to know, during the time I spent in Seattle in 2010 recovering from events which ultimately changed every facet of my life, my situation was discussed, literally, coast to coast. For the most part, the participants cared about me and my happiness. I understand what I went through and the decisions I made as a result weren’t always easy to watch from the outside. It was doubly hard from the inside and I removed myself from the “public” life I have cultivated on the internet as a result, no doubt adding to fuel to the flames.
I don’t hold it against anyone who may have had something to say during those troubled times, but I do wish more of the conversations had been with me rather than about me.
The experience does make my mission to write honestly a bit scary.
One of the influences I didn’t mention in my last post might be the most important in all my determination to blog more intimately about my life. The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast hosted by Paul Gilmartin has both entertained and fasionated me since I discovered it in late 2011. I went back and listened to every single episode. Each one features Paul interviewing someone – mostly creative folks – about their lives, hangups, addictions, and fears. Sometimes I nod as I listen and sometimes I think “whoa, I’m pretty normal compared to that hot mess” – most often during the same interview. I cannot say enough good about the podcast for anyone who’s interested in mental illness and creativity.
One thing Paul always makes clear as he and his guests talk about their pasts is they aren’t out to blame anyone, that most people in their lives haven’t been malicious, but have done they best they could. We all have family, teachers, friends, romantic partners, doctors, classmates, bosses and all kinds of people who affect us in ways both good, bad and, worst of all, complicated. The other person doesn’t matter, really, but examining the relationship does matter in figuring out where to go from the point of saying, “I have some issues.” After listening to 50-odd episodes of Mental Pod, I’ve come to see how my fear of “airing dirty laundry” has severally curtailed my ability to write about my life.
While I’m pretty awesome, I’m also get tangled up in patterns of thinking that started long before I was aware of, well, anything. Getting untangled is why I’m driven to write and why it’s the first thing I go back to when something bad happens. For a change, I’m in control because my life is freaking fantastic. Not perfect, but oh so good. I’m still me, there are some knots to fuss with, and I’d rather do it here than in a therapist’s office.
One thing I know for sure is dirty laundry needs to be aired in some form or it will fester, mold, mildew and ruin lives.
Balancing truth vs. privacy vs. not throwing people under buses is something I’m going to have to learn as I go along. I do not even think my life and past is all that scandalous, but it is the foundation of who I am. Nor is every post I’ve been too afraid to write primarily about my life. I have never been much for commenting on political or social issues on my blog because I do not want to stir the pot. As someone who does care about the world at large, I have opinions I’m passionate about. I admire people – agree with them or not – who are willing to state their beliefs publicly. Discourse is important.
My voice is important, or at least as important as every other yahoo with a modem, and my fear of being judged for thinking one way or another isn’t nearly as important. I know, deep down, what Dr. Suess says is true, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”