How To Be Honest
Her latest offering left me completely bereft of words and thoughts: it was raw, condensed feeling. Aside from the emotional scissor-kick-in-the-kidneys, I marvel that she can bring such a soul-deep experience to the scrutiny not only of her readers, but also all her family and friends who follow her writing. I’m not sure if it’s courage or indifference or something completely different, but it takes a certain will to tell a story about YOU.
The question of ‘how honest?’ is one all of my fellow writers have been discussing since the Rock Pool’s inception. We agreed that this wouldn’t, couldn’t, musn’t become the proverbial sickbag for our keyboard-vomit. That would in too many ways run counter to the philosophy we write by, our golden rule: to be authentic to yourself.
Therein the problem lies. When you want to tell a story, how can you tell it without the evidence of your experience? And how can you talk about your experience without bringing in the hundred and one people who are a part of it? Where does your story end and someone else’s begin? I have the right only to tell my own stories, not someone else’s – but how do I know where the edges are?
I know for sure that nobody I know would want to be identifiable in any story I might tell that involves them – but it’s more likely that I wouldn’t want them to know I’m talking about them, particularly if I’m being critical. The point of stories isn’t to frame someone in their vices, or even their virtues, but as a point of reference for some thought – some lesson I learned, or some change I endured by means of it. I’ve often reached a point where I want to say more, be more frank, admit a mistake, but at the last moment draw it back because it is giving up too much of myself – it’s too much to give away for free to strangers. Even this piece is a struggle to write because it’s telling the truth without the comforting shield of machismo or sarcasm, without recourse to punnishment.
Part of the challenge writing here, for you, for anyone else to read, is not being able to see you and read your face. What I might blithely reveal in conversation in vivo within a minute of meeting you causes me several minutes of angsty decision-making in vitro as I wonder whether I really want the world to know that – and more importantly, if there is any part of the world which could care less. I’m an unkind critic of people who live to update their Facebook status with blow-by-blow mundanities that surely cannot have meaning, even to them. I may have hiked an eyebrow or twelve when I heard about the girl who died of electrocution because she was tweeting in the bath. Tweeting! In the bath! And then dying! Honestly. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
And then there are serious and pressing questions like, ‘Do I really want to give the CIA or any other ill-wishers the rope to hang me with?’ Do I want to open myself up to the scrutiny of the internet at large, or worse still, my friends and family? How will my macho hard-man exterior cope with the vulnerability that sincerity and honesty will bring? Can I maintain my self-respect by disclosing the fact that I sometimes am rumoured to have human feelings? Does it even matter? And sometimes, the BIGGEST question is ‘where can I find a truly UNBELIEVABLE chocolate fudge brownie?’
I can’t answer those yet. But I know that people like Sabrina – and Maggie! – bring real inspiration to their readers: it isn’t their mistakes that we see, nor their failures that we record – nor do we envy their successes with a damaging envy (hasad). What we see is a human soul striving and growing, learning and changing, and ultimately adding to the pool – nay, freshwater lake – of human experience that other people can drink from.
And if I can be a part of that – if I’m bringing water to the ocean, or spices to the Orient, or gold to the gold mine – that’s something worth doing. After all, if you’re looking for water, you’re not going to go to the desert, right? This metaphorical water needs to be somewhere where it can be found – and it should be in a place where it can be taken away from. Not that I do this, though – I only wish I could write something meaningful! – but I am humbled and privileged by the company I’m in, and constantly inspired by other people.
In these days of OMG INTERNET, fangirling isn’t quite the same as it used to be. Where in the olden days, I’d read a book or an article and then mull over it and move on, now…when I finish a book that blew me away, I get straight to Google and look the author up. I made a resolution recently, born from having read several intensely interesting or moving pieces, to write and thank the author. I read a beautiful article the other day by Krista Bremer, and partly on a whim (having forgotten the resolution), I emailed her a short note, adding a thought or two of my own. A few days later, completely unexpectedly, I received the loveliest reply. Why only today, another wonderful email dropped into my inbox from Sabrina. They read your emails! Don’t expect a reply, but do write to them. (And then feel really special if they do reply XD)
Every writer, in any capacity, will have their own reasons for writing whatever they do. But it’s undeniable that we, the readers, are the ultimate beneficiaries. And as someone in their debt, to me, it seems like the least thing I can do is express it to them. They are, after all, real people with real lives, and maybe a few kind words from a reader are a few more coals that keep the fire in their souls burning.
And having digressed wildly: to return to the question of how honest – biology (kind of) agrees that it’s hard. In the molecular paradigm, this is active transport – the movement of particles from a lower concentration to a higher concentration – and it requires energy.
So I guess the real take-home message is ‘EAT MORE HIGH-ENERGY, LOW GI FOOD‘. Like SPROUTS.
Glad we got that straight.