Someone I love dearly implied, in a moment of anger, that I write this blog for attention and sympathy. That I take problems that should be dealt with privately, as expediently and unemotionally as possible, and put them on display for the world to see so that I can feel justified in continuing to be upset about them. At first I was mortified and ashamed because I had been taught from a very young age that it is traitorous to share family business (we are Italian you know) and even worse to look to strangers for support (even school counselors were considered suspect.) This mentality is deeply ingrained and even though I have been a writer, who sometimes even gets paid, for over a decade it wasn't until I started this blog that I began to write about my life. However, after having some time to reflect and recover I began to resent the judgement that I had been handed. Of course, the argument was over by then and I had no desire to revisit the whole awful experience. So I decided to bring it here and write it all out so my readers (all seven of you) can feel sorry for me.
My first inclination was to just stop blogging. It took about three nanoseconds for me to decide that wasn't an option. So, maybe I could just block this person from ever reading my blog? After all, it's MY blog and I can decide who gets to read it, right? Well.. I don't think it's that easy to do and I don't really want to learn how. Especially since Blogger help files often seem to have been written in Martian and translated to English by a foreign exchange student from Saturn. Then I got mad, again. How dare they decide what I should and shouldn't write about and why the hell does anyone think they can decide what I can or can't feel!
Finally, I came to the conclusion that I need to just let it go. It wasn't a nice thing to say but it was just an opinion, no, not just an opinion but an opinion in anger which gives it even less weight. In a perfect world people wouldn't say hurtful things in order to "win" an argument but there's not much perfect in this world and occasional nastiness is likely to occur. So I will forgive my dear friend, I will continue to write, and I will cultivate a slightly thicker skin because this probably won't be the last time someone says something mean to me about my writing.
I love the following passage from Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It's her technique for dealing with the voices in her head that distract her from writing. The critics, real and imagined, the family and friends with their opinions and the dogs... "And there are also the dogs: let's not forget the dogs, the dogs in their pen who will surely hurtle and snarl their way out if you ever stop writing, because writing is, for some of us, the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those crazy ravenous dogs contained. Quieting these voices is at least half of the battle I fight daily."
"Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won't do what they want--won't give them more money, won't be more successful, won't see them more often. Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you."
This is exactly what I did when I sat down to write this afternoon. I put that angry opinionated mouse in it's jar and watched it for a minute. With some distance I could see it was really more sad and afraid than anything and I really didn't feel like biting it anymore. I even put away the traps and put the cheese back in the fridge.
I don't write for attention, admiration, or sympathy, although I admit that in the right situation all of those are some of the great benefits of being a writer. I write because I need to. It keeps me calm and rational and forces me to slow down and think about how I'm really feeling. I believe it makes me a better person.