Sunday, September 30, 2012
You are nothing without your integrity, I say to my daughter after the neighbor girl tells me that she lied about something meaningless.
She looks at me, confused. I say nothing but that.
She is five.
It feels brutal after it is out there. I don't want to be brutal to my daughter, nor do I want to be strict or shaming. And I think about the way that my writing has been brutal, strict, and shaming and in that way, perhaps, lacks integrity. I don't think brutal and honesty need to go together, but there is a reason they often do. I strive for honesty without the brutality, but I fail often. Honesty can sound brutal when it isn't your truth. And that is the thing. I believe in honesty, but I don't believe in truth.
It is true in my grief I expected people to be flawless while I tattooed my flaws on my body, or carved them into palo santo, written in sanskrit, burnt them with incense and Buddhist chants then wrote a post about it. I strive not to be brutal anymore, not to be exacting, but alone, I find myself falling into the habit of deep judgment, silently writing scathing biographies of people who hurt me years ago. I no longer write out that judgment in a public forum, true, but I catch myself nonetheless. Big changes happen slowly, I remind myself. Sometimes, it is as though my release of those habits was nothing more than an exercise in who I wish to be, rather than who I am. Other times, it feels permanent and enlightened. And maybe that is the secret of the universe, we must suffer through changing--one step forward, two steps back. We may like who we are becoming, but we cannot force that woman into existence before her time. Now, I turn the anger into a prayer for those people to have everything I want for myself.
It is the full moon. It is the time of releasing old patterns, opening doors to healing, banishing unwanted influences. And so I need to make amends to you, so I can stay sober and write comfortably and look you in the eye.
I have let many people down through my writing.
I think it is part of the reason I want to walk away from here, because it is so exhausting. I cannot make it right, and I cannot make it without writing. I get caught up in a story, I admit. I am prone to exaggerating, and following an analogy to the point of absurdity. I always assumed all my readers liked that about my writing. I have always thought that if I don't write about my truth, my world, my experience, I have nothing to write about. When I wrote of certain friendships where I was hurt and sad and felt absolutely brutalized, I generalized and exaggerated. I do that. I know I do. My feelings of isolation were exaggerated and not entirely true. I mean, it was true about those friendships, but not all my friendships. And that is just it. I wrote about my truth, not THE truth.
For example, when I wrote pieces like Ghost Town, it was not literally true that everyone left, but rather that I felt that way. I felt abandoned. I felt alone. I felt patronized by people. Those people are no longer in my life and hadn't been for a long time. I have friends. Old friends. Some friends I would talk to about that very experience, my sister for example. I talk to my sister at least once a day, more like two or three. So was I isolated? Truly isolated? Of course not. Talking to her is like talking to myself, I say to her. She nods and says she knows. And sometimes old, good friends are like that too. I apologize to S. for that, if she reads here even, and D. And others, all my babylost friends too. There were people there, and the people there felt abandoned when I wrote that I was abandoned. It was a cycle I started, not them. That has always been my fear.
What I fear, I become. I repeat to myself endlessly. I forgive myself, but I know other people's forgiveness is not so easily come by.
I cannot take back the hurt I caused people. I ultimately hurt me, probably more deeply than anyone. Those people could walk away from my brutality, but I can't walk away from me. I have tried through the years to mention it in posts, take responsibility for where I failed my friendships, not where they failed me. Certainly, that was the intention of Ghost Town, but I fear people just heard the latter.
I apologize if you felt beat up in my writing. If you were there, I remembered. If we argued, I know our conflicts were not black or white. That is how I saw the world after Lucia died, but I can see how misguided and unfair that is to everyone. I trusted and assumed that blog writing was given a free pass to explore my dark emotions. That wasn't fair either.
The truth is I felt isolated for a long time before Lucia died. I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Before going into recovery, I thought it was her death that pushed people away. I acted like a victim, because that is what I felt like--a victim of life. It is part of my disease. I no longer live my life that way. I can see now that I victimized people, rather than the other way around.
I wrote publicly about my friendships, and I need to apologize publicly. I didn't feel I could write here again if I didn't write that. I guess it is a pitiful amends to the world of people I hurt. Private apologies clearly are only heard by one people, when all the people judged with me. I appreciate the unconditional support my fellow babylost mothers and fathers have given me here throughout the years, despite how poorly I behaved, but I know it hurt people outside this community to read those comments at times.
I make the vow to first weigh my writing's effect on others, to squelch the tendency towards exaggeration, to talk to people in my life, directly, if their behavior has hurt my feelings, to write in a way that is both honest and with integrity. Public art needs to have a certain ego behind it. We believe in ourselves enough to put it out there regardless of reaction. I am spiritually working on balancing the ego and writing as best I can. Writing publicly has taken its toll on me emotionally, but that suffering is pushing me towards being a better woman, friend, artist, writer, wife, and mother. I have to believe it is.
I am writing here now about more than just grief. I have made that vow for a long time, and never quite followed through with it. My spiritual path has been impossible to ignore, my artwork can no longer live on another blog entirely. Everything is getting integrated into this space. I have been working on this growth and grief publicly for almost four years now. It has been painful and torturous to go through the brutality of writing about things that should have perhaps been kept private. I made those mistakes, and I can only move forward, changing the way I write and protect people in the future.
My daughter is five and she is learning about others through me. What would she learn through my writing in the last four years? What would she learn about how to treat friends and those suffering? That only I can suffer and be human, and make mistakes? That everyone else needs to be perfect, so I can misbehave? I have failed her in that way, and you too. And for that, I am sorry.
I have wrapped my arms around me, and whispered in my ear. It is a delicate kind sentence...If you don't have your integrity, Angie, you don't have anything.