Don’t worry, this early in the morning I had to put careful thought into this title. I wanted to post today due to a trip my husband I will be making tomorrow throughout the weekend; Jekyll Island, Georgia, and no, we’re not meeting a Mr. Hyde. My coworkers think they are clever for coming up with that pun. Lately, I’ve been thinking about my writing, how I mostly weave fictional fantasies of dark creatures, unlikely heroines, and magic that either saves the day or makes the situation much worse.
In some ways, all of those do exist in my life, or have at one time or another. Perhaps not insidious monsters conjured up from a fairy ring or ageless creatures that eat up young girls, but I’ve met plenty of monsters. We all have. They just don’t look any different than us. They’re more frightening; you never know what they are when you see them because they’re not that different from us. (I could go into a tangent about how this means we are very capable of being monstrous ourselves but that’s a post for another day).
Last week, I attended an appointment with my therapist, sessions I do perhaps once a month, maybe longer in between. We were on the topic of what triggers my bouts of depression, which seems to correlate only when changes occur in my life (ex. new job, a death in the family, etc). I went into discussion about some taxing events that occurred when a distant family member passed away a few years ago. The loss of a life is taxing enough, what with funeral arrangements to make, a lifetime of items to pack and store, a house to be sold off and other possessions no one has room for or wants. This time it was more difficult; the immediate family of said deceased were unable to obtain anything that had been placed in the man’s will that one of his son’s kept in a vault of his bank. An undignified, vile and unscrupulous character, of no blood relation to the dead, apparently took it upon herself to push for a new will to have secretly been made:
Everything was put in her name, not a penny for the sons and daughters of the dead man, nothing to his siblings or grandchildren. Everything was left to this woman who had been living part time with him along with her own brood. The family attempted several times to get into contact with her, at least to arrange a funeral or to see if she at least would make the funeral since she was “so close” to the deceased but each phone call went unanswered. The family pays for a funeral, the arrangements, the preacher, everything. Yes, the woman showed up with her ragtag clan in tow with crocodile tears rolling down her cheeks, putting on quite a show. As soon as the ceremony was over, they left without a word and will still refuse to speak for weeks after. The family tried to go to the house, traveling hours to get there, only for a local town sheriff to hold them at gunpoint and scream in their faces. They left, the only items allowed to take being baby pictures and family photos that otherwise would have been tossed in garbage bags.
“We should have just left the body for them to deal with,” they lamented to us. “It would have been cheaper.”
The oddest thing? The new will that was revealed after his death was only constructed a week before his passing. The man’s knees had been useless towards the end, so how likely was it that he went to the notary all alone to draw up this new will? As likely as a snowfall in Hell. The coroner had warned the family something seemed odd, to perhaps investigate the death, despite the dead man’s old age, but they had wasted enough money. The man had left the family years before, leaving only bitterness and heartbreak. His death only made it fresh and lively.
My therapist listened to this carefully. She said, “You should write a book on this! It has everything!”
I smiled, plainly. “Perhaps…but the family would kill me.”
True enough, the family doesn’t talk about it anymore, ignoring emotional stress and wounds by not talking about them. Even years later, the anger is still hot and aglow with contempt. They claim they won’t ever return to that county, not with a local police department obviously favoring their “damsel” (she did arrive on the scene and told the police she was so “scared” the family was going to hurt her, despite that she’s the one who never answered their telephone calls in the first place). It’s a pitiful end to a strained relation, but yes, stories like this sell. My therapist was right, it does have everything: drama, emotion, a painful twist, and foul play. We only need Morgan Freeman’s narration.
It is my belief that we don’t write the stories that sell because it is showcasing our wounds to the world. Pride and dignity are two pillars to every household and God help us if we take a sledgehammer to them by writing a few paragraphs about our tears and trials. However, these trials are what makes us more human, no? It’s what everyone can relate to the best. We’ve all been hurt, especially by those closest to us, people we thought we could trust, but do we risk ourselves more by blogging betrayal? Showcasing strife? Displaying our demons?
Yes, I love alliteration, but stay with me here.
Many times, my mother, for some reason, will pull me aside and say “Now don’t put this on Facebook or anything. Don’t write about it.”
I’m not sure why she assumes that I go on social media and tell the world (in this case, my 150 friends which is a tiny amount compared to others) every detail of my every day. Honestly, whenever I’ve gone quiet, that’s usually when I’m experiencing problems and issues but refuse to post about it. Only a handful of people know about issues in my life of the past few years; a bout of depression that sank so deeply I began to have suicidal thoughts, situations where my husband and I did have arguments I wasn’t sure we could overcome, and toxic friendships that I quietly cut from my life. Perhaps I will write about these in detail, in the future, but even acknowledging them here is a big step.
To summarize, I will say: if you ever find yourself at the the forked road where one way says “Don’t Write” and the other leads to “Write” choose Write (not the left). It’s the emotional connection readers crave and are hooked by when it comes to a good read. It is what links us all, helps us feel not so alone, and what reminds us that we are all human with flawed lives. After all, despite their trial over their distant deceased, the family is doing better; they’ve overcome and know they’ll never have to deal with that mess again. It’s over and they are stronger for it.
Write about the problems, the anguish, the frustrations, because more often than not, it leads us to the outcome: strength to face the next day and hope to embrace the future.
Of course, this writing is more memoir/autobiographical, but writers should always branch into different genres. Even fairy-tale readers can find connection in the mundane, as much as we’d rather turn a blind eye and forget it. Sometimes literary dragons aren’t nearly as terrifying as the real ones we meet every day. But by writing them, we face them, and we find that we can defeat them, too.