This post is dedicated to all the blogs we cannot write. All the stories we cannot tell. All the tales that never reach the light of our reader’s eyes.
There are so very many stories blooming inside of us that never birth into written sentences on a white page. My heart aches for these lost story-children.
All the juicy, meaningful, rich, beautiful complex tellings that never ever reach another warm reading soul–because the stories are too personal, too interwoven with another’s private life, too vulnerable, too raw, too messy.
I have a thousand–nay, a million–stories bundled up inside that cannot be shared with you, oh gentle reader. Many of them involve friends and family. There are boundaries that protect my loved ones, gates of safeguarding that provide security for relationships to stretch, explore, break open, pour out.
This writing business can be hard, navigating between the polarities of how to be truthful and how to protect. I falter on the edge of this abyss regularly, but usually end up sheltering the privacy of relationship.
It sometimes makes for a skewed appearance. You, dear reader, can’t see all the ups and downs of this life. You only see the slice of life that the blogger presents, and that can be miniscule. It’s like all those smiling Facebook pictures. Do we really think the smiles summarize a person’s life? Think again, dear reader, and imagine tears pouring down every face.
That’s life. The ups, the downs, the in-betweens, the messiness.
There’s a universe within, and you are only seeing the smallest twinkling of the tiniest star in the black night sky.
A friend died of a heart attack last week. She breathed her last breath at age 65.
When I heard the news last week I too almost stopped breathing. Grief stabbed through this body, raw, hard sorrow. I wanted to sink to my knees in disbelief. No, this could not have happened. No, it’s a mistake. No, take it back. May this be a dream in which she wakes up and I wake up and the world spins backwards into yesterday.
I want to share all sorts of stories about our relationship. How it wasn’t always easy. How we often sat in opposite corners of beliefs. She once told me, “You will never be accepted in this community–you will always be an outsider.” She maintained a mistrust of those not born in the Upper Peninsula. For those who attended college. We felt close sometimes; at other times our backgrounds just seemed too different.
We worked together for 32 years. We attended book club together. We traveled to the Calumet Theater and dined at a Chinese restaurant. We helped another friend clean her house. We snowshoed together.
Our lives intertwined, dancing together, dancing apart. I am crying as I type.
How very complicated our relationships can be. How it’s rarely all love and roses and la de da. It’s grit and confusion and not-knowing and sadness and happiness and and shit all mixed together into a stew of life that’s actually beautiful because it contains the whole freaking Universe. Do you know what I mean? It’s the whole enchilada of life that makes it beautiful, the parts that break our hearts as well as the parts that inspire them.
This is something I don’t think our egos understand. I don’t think mine does anyway.
Once she said to me–words that I carry close to this heart to this day–“I thank you (and another friend) so much for teaching me that there’s more to this world than I ever thought.”
I want to whisper back right now–in this blog that seems impossible to write–“Thank you, too, for teaching me the same thing.”
Because she is still teaching me how to exist in a messy upside-down world where love looms larger than everything that threatens to topple it.
We met unexpectedly twice during the past two years of the pandemic.
In the first encounter I wore a mask and she didn’t. Her energy felt cold and distant; I could think of nothing to say. We flew on opposite ends of the political spectrum and it felt like yet another bridge leading to nowhere. We chatted lightly for one minute; we drove away into our separate lives.
Fast forward a year. We met again three weeks ago in the grocery store. She smiled beautifully and we chatted for ten minutes in the aisle. I told her I was sorry her mother had died last year, so very sorry. (Her mom invited us to Easter dinner forty-some years ago when we first moved here.) She thanked me. We opened our hearts and connected wide-open and smiling and engaged.
The beauty of our relationship shined like the sparkling mirrors on her red Indian purse. She carried an exact replica of a purse I once owned. Had I given her my purse? No, it was a gift from someone else, a common acquaintance who traveled across the big wide globe to India.
We said goodbye; it was so nice seeing you again.
“That’s the one I love,” I told my husband in the parking lot.
Little did we know–it was truly goodbye. Goodbye, my friend, God bless you, Universe hold you, Spirit surround you. Travel well. Thank you so much for expanding my world, even when it hurt. I am sorry for the times I hurt you, too. It’s not true that I only loved you when you smiled. In some ways–in ways I don’t understand with my little mind–I’ve always loved you in spite of our differences, in spite of what drove us together and apart.
I sense she is here watching as I write these heart words, these truth words.
This, apparently, is a blog that could be written. Perhaps because my friend is no longer with us. Perhaps because I imagine her other loved ones will never read this. Perhaps because I’m taking a chance.
Fen Druadin, a woman I follow on Facebook, wrote this today:
“Writers should come with content warnings like “becoming involved with this person, whether romantically or platonically, results in 98% of subjects becoming literal subjects in writing that may or may not become available for public consumption.”
I wish I was that kind of writer. That’s the kind of writer I love to read. But I’m not–so far anyway. I usually choose to shield friends and family, to only reveal a skim of their true messy beautiful confusing wonderous lives. My goal is to learn to push the envelope of vulnerability while simultaneously protecting loved ones.
Do you fellow bloggers struggle with this as well? Any thoughts about how to navigate these waters?
I agree that it’s difficult to know which stories to tell, and which ones to keep to yourself. Blogging has allowed me to tell some things, but I am reluctant to talk in too much depth about people who I know in real life. Many, many conversations with them are brilliant, but not what makes for good blog posts. I do sometimes think about starting a private blog wherein I could talk more candidly about who I am and the people who have influenced me along the way.
I know what you mean, Ally Bean. It is challenging to figure out which stories to tell–which are mine to tell, and which belong to others. Some people need a lot of space and many boundaries to feel safe; others not so much. Even those who need boundaries are willing for certain things to be shared, as long as it doesn’t get too close to their marrow or heart. I was thinking about a private blog, too, but probably won’t. It would be nice to get to read the thoughts & feelings that never really get shared on a larger public blog.
Thank you for this, dear friend. I have no words. Just love…
Thank you, Susan Dee. I am reading beneath and between all the words in your comment. ❤
What a lovely tribute to your friend. Sad that she had to leave so soon. As for the blogging question, anonymity provides me with a layer of safety, for myself, and for the people in my life. That’s really why I maintain it. I have some people in my life who know I blog, and who have been invited to read, but most don’t, and that will never change. Hugs to you. Thank you for sharing your grief over the loss of your friend with such beautiful words. ❤
That is true, wsquared. Anonymity can be helpful in blogging. I started blogging that way prior to 2009, and it felt safe, but after awhile I wanted to branch out. Thank you for appreciating this and taking the time to share it. Blessings to you. ❤
Powerful and emotional.
Thanks, Ruth. It felt right to write this today. ❤
This was a beautiful and touching post Kathy, I think your friend would be happy to have that written about her. Sometimes there are big things that happen that I want to share, but I won’t tell the whole story because it isn’t mine to tell – so I might either choose not to mention it at all, or just make a small reference to it.
Yes, Andrea, that is such a good point–that some stories aren’t ours to tell. I think I’ve collected hundreds of those stories. Feeling for your unbirthed story and hoping you can share it in person with someone close to you.
It’s not an easy decision to share something so personal in a world that sometimes feels like it’s not quite ready for tender revelations. Brave choice! 💝
Exactly, Jodi. Very hard sometimes. I know that “tender revelations” are sometimes best left in the heart of a good friend–like you. This one seemed to insist upon being written today, like an ocean wave that you can’t say no to as it arises.
I think it’s something we all must deal with – where to draw the line. It can be a hard decision.
So very hard, Carol. And I know many of us bloggers have faced this decision many times during the years.
Sorry to hear you are crying and dealing with this loss. Life has a lot to teach us definitely. About the things we cannot write about, I was asking the same thing just a few days ago. So many things happen in my life but I have nothing to blog about.
It feels okay for me to cry about this–like tears are a tribute to my friend’s life. That grief says, “She is someone who meant something, who was important, who won’t be forgotten.” I have no doubt you have experienced some of these same questions when choosing to write. No easy decisions sometimes!
Hug to you, dear Kathy. I am lucky – I can share about my family in my blog since I think no-one in Norway knows about it – my take would be ” would I be OK with others sharing about me in their blog, in this way? that would be the most important question. I believe what you do here today is just beautiful and loving, and if your friend saw it I believe she would agree
You are lucky that you feel free to write exactly what your heart prompts, Leelah. If I asked would I be comfortable with others sharing me in their blog–the answer would usually be yes. Many times. But I know other dear loved ones with a very different standard of safety. I have even hurt others by sharing too much. I would not do that again without including that in the equation of sharing or remaining silent. (Or sharing with a close friend who knows to keep it cocooned in her heart.)
This is a lovely and heartfelt tribute to a complicated relationship. As a relatively new blogger, I have sometimes worried that my posts fall under the category of TMI. How much should I share with the blog- verse is a genuine concern. I found your blog from seeing your comments on other blogs that I have come to really love. So while the blog-verse seems infinite, I feel my few followers have become real friends.
Anna, how nice for you to stop by and add your thoughts. So nice to meet you. I do know what you mean about how much to share–and how delightful it is when our readers become good friends. It can be such a blessing.
My heart hurts for your loss but rejoices for your relationship – as messy as it was. Every time I write a post that is about me and my relationships, I feel a bit of anxiety when I click on “publish.” But I agree that there are many, many stories that I can’t share, but I guess that is what diaries are for. Maybe we can say we are fiction writers and then deny that any characters are real.
Thank you, Pat. I am learning so much about how relationships can be messy but still very, very worthwhile. You are right that our diaries or journals are safe places to process our relationship stories. Smiling at the fictional possibilities! Lately I have felt that the number of stories I can’t share has exceeded the ones I can…hence, this post.
I understand, Kathy. It is hard when we want to write some things so much that we don’t have the energy to write about anything else.
Embrace that connection. No matter the memories and analysis. It was real and true. Open your heart and embrace that sweetness from a time gone by, and now. Release those tears. Hold her in your heart.. because you can 🙏💕.
Yes, the aliveness of the connection was true and full. She’s got a place in this heart always. Thanks, Val.
First, and most importantly, peace to you and others as you deal with a personal loss. May the memories bring smiles.
Now your question. Knowing what to write vs not write is fairly simple for me. I’m a fairly mum person – the type who (when in doubt) that I should not pass along information unless told otherwise. Much easier than the standard, “Don’t tell anyone.” So if I write something involving someone else, I’m comfortable with my decision.
On a related note – oh the wonderful posts I’ve written in my head when nothing was around to record the thoughts. Now, those are untold stories.
Thank you, Frank. I appreciate both your condolences and answer to my question about sharing. Interesting that you start from the premise of not passing along stories unless given permission. Mine has been more mish-mashed. I am smiling right now thinking of you walking and telling stories in your head–yep, I have done the very same thing.
This resonates with me too, Kathy. Soo many unwritten, partly written, unpublished posts… so many stories composed in my head, in the middle of a sleepless night, or while on a long walk somewhere… Or while meditating… oh gosh, those stories that pop into our minds when we are ‘trying to meditate’ – lol!
And I’ve definitely noticed how, in the last two years, there has been an additional layer to navigate before one confidently clicks the ‘publish’ button, which makes one extra cautious, even fearful, of sharing one’s experiences online. So I think there are a LOT more untold stories and unpublished blogs out there in the ether!
Oh, I love coming to your blog, Kathy. It always feels like a beautiful, calm, loving and accepting place to visit, and you have such a kind, funny, playful, wise, insightful, thought provoking way of writing. Please keep writing!
Oh my goodness, Reggie–those stories that take over our minds during meditation–so crazy! (I think this one may indeed be an example of that.) I scurried over to your blog to see if you were publishing anything this year, but don’t see anything new, so I am assuming you have other places you’re sharing your work. If you want any more followers let me know. But thank you also for your kind words about my writing. That really made this heart feel good. Bless you, dear Reggie! ❤
Aww, dear Kathy – I have not been blogging at all, not for a long long time, so my blog is still on hold. I shall let you know if I ever start again! 🙂 For now I shall leave it to articulate people like you who write soo beautifully from the heart. Much love!
Thanks for letting me know, Reggie. So much love back!
I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, Kathy. Sending love and hugs and a thank you for writing from the heart.
I struggle, too, with the stories that include others. So much doesn’t get written because I feel it is not entirely my story to tell, even if I’m at the center of the story. I wonder at times if that is really a withholding, or a way of protecting my own vulnerabilities. This: “…gates of safeguarding that provide security for relationships to stretch, explore, break open, pour out…” really spoke to me. I imagine it would be difficult to be friends with someone who was immortalizing us and our stories in writing. Then again, it might be interesting. 🙂
You have made such a good point, Robin. Sometimes I–maybe many of us–don’t post because we’re protecting our own vulnerabilities. And I think that our own vulnerabilities DO need to be safeguarded until they feel strong enough to move out of the cocoon that protects them. There is a huge value in the nest, in the womb, in the container. Thanks for adding this. xoxo
Oh, Kathy, I’m so sorry you have lost a friend! That is so difficult, always, but especially when it ends a history together, with all of the ups and downs that seem inevitable in long friendships. I share your concerns about what to share, and what to hold back. Recently, I mentioned that an unnamed sister used to mock my skinny legs…sixty years ago, when we were children. She called me right up to confront me about it, to tell me if I was going to tell THAT, I should also tell about all the mean things that I did to her! Most of the time, though, when I put something out there that makes me cringe with all that I’ve revealed, those are the blogs that most resonate with others. So.
Cindy, I agree with you about how challenging it can be to tell our stories that involve other people–like you did with your sister. But these heart-felt blogs do seem to resonate so much with others. When we share our vulnerabilities. It seems a fine line between sharing our own vulnerabilities and sharing those of others, and I am never sure where the clear distinction of that is. Thank you so much for sharing your story here.
I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend. Stories are sometimes hard to share, for me anyway. I’m certain your friend is honored that you felt a calling to share her. XOXO
Stacy, I’m not sure if she is honored or not. I do hope so. But last night I had a dream of her…we were sitting next to each other at a meeting…I did not remember she was dead in “real” life. She wasn’t too friendly to me in the dream. Not unfriendly, but not warm. And then it occurred to me (!) that I wasn’t too warm either. Hmmmm, interesting, two-way dynamics. Perhaps there were unconscious ways I withheld, too. Life continues to teach!
Hmmm. Dreams. Is it Jung who said they are a window to the unconscious? It’s so hard to interpret them sometimes. Then sometimes their message is crystal clear. A lot of times when I’m struggling for an answer, it is revealed in a dream. What does that say about the unconscious mind? XOXO
If you ever figure out the unconscious, Stacy–let me know. Or write a blog about it! *grin*
Will do! 😉
First – I am so very sorry about your friend, and at the same time, so very glad you had that meeting in the grocery store where you reveled, for a moment, in the love you share even while you recognize your differences. It sounded like the differences between you were somewhat resolved, and that’s a good place to be, especially in light of the loss.
I have written blogs that I never posted. They sit in my draft folder and are largely unread. But I know, at the time, they helped me just by the writing of them. I have also written posts with identities hidden, more general discussions of events without specifics. That never felt really right, but it was better than nothing at the time. When I first started blogging no one in my family read it. Now my husband is notified when I post and he reads it right away. My sister is more random in her reading, but I know she often does. I don’t think either of my brothers read it, but my elderly aunt does. So, I always have to keep in mind who is out there and make sure not to air things they would consider private. Even when some events might be perfect blog material.
Isn’t interesting to ponder which of our friends and family members read our blogs, Dawn? And what we’re willing to share while considering who is reading? Often I post a link to blog posts on Facebook. When it’s more personally related to someone–or a viewpoint I’m expressing that I don’t want everyone to read–I do not post it on Facebook. (I did not post this one.)
Great emotional post. I always remember the artist Prince’s response to the question… do you ever get writers block.
His answer: No. My problem is I have so many ideas and things floating through my head I am scared I’m going to miss them. Once they are gone they are gone. That’s why I am writing and recording all the time.
I would love to ultimately be like that. I’m a long way but I strive forward. thank you for your question and example.
Thanks, Ted, I am glad you enjoyed this. Interesting quote from Prince!
I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, Kathy. 💙 What your wrote is a lovely tribute, heartfelt and not too personal. And a gentle reminder to me to stay connected with friends and family who aren’t on the same page as me, as the saying goes. It’s interesting trying to decide what to blog about, or what pictures to share. My daughter and husband don’t mind me sharing stories about them, but I’m starting to wonder about my granddaughter. Maybe someday when she’s older she might be horrified that I shared so many of her baby pictures with the world. Lately I’ve held back a little from posting pictures of her in anticipation of her future sense of privacy. I’ve kind of settled on nature as my subject matter these days…
Thank you so much, Barbara, that you thought this post was heartfelt and not too personal. I was striving for that balance in a way that might resonate with others. It is fascinating to think about what stories we can and cannot tell. You are lucky your daughter and husband don’t mind you sharing stories–and it’s such a good question about what your granddaughter might think. It doesn’t feel to me like you’ve overstepped a boundary with her at all (at least in comparison with what I have seen from so many moms and dads on Facebook!) But we never know if a child will turn out to be an introvert or an extrovert. Someone who needs lots of space, or someone who is totally OK with sharing. My kids let me share some things; not other things. So I am always walking a fine line when sharing.
Kathy, I’m not sure you ever err when you err on the side of protecting someone’s privacy … in love. Perhaps that’s why I never got into writing memoir — too many feelings, too many chances for hurting someone I care about. Or not. What a nice tribute you’ve written about your friend here. I can feel the tears in your heart as I read it. I’m sorry for your loss, sorry you two never had that special connection — but you know not everybody we meet is destined to be a forever friend. Losing people isn’t easy — I lost a classmate recently and, while we were never close, I didn’t have any animosity with him. I guess the sorrow is in knowing you’ll never have another chance to become friends — and it points out the brevity of your life, too.
Debbie, thank you for your comment. I have always loved writing memoir, so it’s challenging sometimes. That fine balance between protecting someone’s privacy and sharing what your heart wants or needs to share. I am sorry to hear you lost your classmate; it really isn’t easy. I didn’t have any animosity with my friend, either. Hopefully this blog didn’t seem to say so. It was more complex, a give and take as we navigated waters of trust and closeness. You are right about how this all points out the brevity of life.
I am sorry for the loss of your friend. This post is a really beautiful and thought-provoking tribute.
Navigating what to share and what to not share is difficult and I’ve made plenty of mistakes and am probably still making them! I generally give people fair warning (usually in the form of “I’m blogging this!”) and give them ridiculous pseudonyms that I cleared with them or that they’ve chosen. Besides that, I keep in mind that the written word is an abstract art – words can’t encapsulate the truth of a person or a situation, no matter how well chosen.
Thank you, Lunar. It felt good to write this post. You make a good point about how we’re probably making plenty of mistakes in navigating these sharing waters. I don’t think we’ll ever get it perfectly right. It’s probably more of a situation of learning balance.