You’ve got a past and tons of stories that make you who you are. But did you write them all yourself or did other people influence the decisions and circumstances that make up the essence of you? As a human being–and most of all–as a writer, I find a particular question constantly begging for my attention:
Is it my story to tell?
Because we’re often faced with the decision of whether or not we want to discuss the realities of other people in our writing or conversations. Normally, this might be called, “gossip.” But are there times when it’s not?
What happens when the line blurs — when someone else’s life defines your own?
No doubt, the tales and choices of your family, friends, and anyone else that you spend time with, can eventually change who you are. Your insecurities, fears, even dreams and aspirations are, most often, created by your environment and the people who shape it. Maybe you grew up without a dad, and now have a subconscious fear of abandonment. Or perhaps your younger sister is in rehab and it pushes you to become a psychologist so you can help people like her one day. These stories don’t reflect our own choices, right? I mean, you didn’t abandon yourself and you’re not the one in rehab. Yet, their decisions alter our lives in profound ways. If you were to tell someone why you are the way you are, leaving out those pieces of your past would be like giving someone a memoir without the first ten chapters. So, when do someone else’s stories and decisions become ours to tell?
I ask this question because, my family — though good at hiding our shortcomings — is filled with all sorts of people, from addicts and alcoholics to abusers and abandoners. Something tells me that many of you out there have similar stories that define who you are — perhaps based on your own choices, or even more likely, not.
Last week, I spent much of the day with my brother (half by blood, full by heart), searching for his mom who had gone on an alcoholic binge days after being kicked out of her rehabilitation center. This kind of frantic search for his mom is not unfamiliar to him, but for certain reasons I won’t share today, it was the scariest one yet. For a few moments, we were unsure if we’d even find her alive. I’m not completely absent from her life. She was once my stepmom, after all. But mostly, it is painful to watch my brother — someone I care so deeply about — constantly have to swim through the waves that someone else creates in his life. In his case, especially, is his mother’s addiction his to share since it has, no doubt, affected who he is?
I wavered in writing this post. Because really, is it my business to share the details of anyone’s life but my own? Normally, I’d say “no.” I’m often a pretty private person, gleaning more pleasure from protecting my loved ones than gossiping about them. This has kept me out of much of the “drama” of growing up, yet it doesn’t really complete me in situations like the one I just described. Because when other people’s decisions affect who you are and who you become, then I think it can only make sense to share those pieces that connect. The parts of your life that have been shaped by others — for better and for worse — have made you the person you are now. You may not be those other people, but your life will never be the same because of them, either.
What do you think? Do you feel comfortable sharing other people’s pasts if they’ve had an effect on your own life? Where do you draw the line? If you’re a blogger or writer, how do you decide what’s okay and what’s not okay to share with the world?
Katherine of the Duchess of Plumewood
And in my usual fashion of sharing fun sponsors on serious posts, I have a sweet little lady to introduce to you today! haha 🙂