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March 15, 2010

The Real Stuff

DIARY Okay, fellow bloggers, here's a question for you:  How do you write about The Real Stuff?

Not the cute stuff. Not the interesting stuff. Not even the challenging stuff. But the Real Stuff. The tough stuff.  The stuff that eats at you and keeps you awake at night.

How do you write about The Real Stuff about the people who are in your lives right now?  Not the real stuff about your dad whom you haven't seen in 15 years. Not the real stuff about your hostile brother who finally made amends with you.  Not even the real stuff about your dead husband and your sometimes grief-driven world.  But the real stuff about the people you care most about in your lives, who are IN your lives?

How do you write Real Stuff about Real People without offending them or without causing unnecessary problems? My in-laws found my personal blog a while ago. Ugh. I really don't care if they know how I feel about them, but it does mean that I can't write quite-so-openly about my own family (who have shown no interest in reading my deathless prose) for fear of poisoning my in-laws' interactions with them.

Even though we pretend to be writing in a cyberworld, real people are indeed involved, and sooner or later, what we write in cyberspace will affect real relationships.

I like writing. Actually, I have to write. I have to write about my thoughts and ideas and reactions, because that's how I process them, understand them, integrate them. And I like putting it all out there on my blog: I like reading people's responses, being encouraged by them and challenged by them.

So ... Given that my life does not resemble an annual Christmas letter, how do I balance authentic writing in the virtual world without unnecessarily airing laundry from the real world? For example, how do I talk about alcohol use and abuse in my family without telling the whole world that Cousin Kate is dysfunctional?  How do I talk about listening to Sister Sally's anguish over her relationship with Mother Myrtle without upsetting Mother Myrtle when she reads Sister Sally's version of that big blowout they had? How do I vent my disgust with Brother Bob's selfishness without sounding like a self-righteous judge of a life that is not my own? And how do I face him at the next Happy Holiday?

As I pose these questions, I get my own answer: The only way to face Brother Bob with integrity is to NOT write about him. It's one thing to sit with Friend Frieda and spill my guts about all this Real Stuff while we're drinking coffee. But to write about Kate and Bob? To give you my analysis of what's really going on with Myrtle and Sally? And to allow anyone to read it?

If only strangers were reading my blog, it would probably be somewhat okay. Add in a few disclaimers -- every family has its problems ... this, of course, is only MY perspective ... he's really not THAT bad -- and cyberpeople would read, comment, and move along. But now that the overlap between cyberspace and Real Space has gotten larger, my writing topics have gotten smaller.  My right to write about whatever interests me or occupies my mind ends where Real People's right to trust and privacy begins.  I'll just have to find some other way to digest and analyze all the fluid dynamics that roll around my family.

I wonder if they still sell those diaries with useless little locks on them?

This is an original post for 50-Something Moms by , who worries all the time about Real People who might resemble Kate and Bob and Myrtle and Sally and who writes about them some of the time at Forever Changed.