Back in college, I entertained visions of being a high school history teacher and directing school plays. (I know, I know.) As a part of this dream, I took a few acting classes. In my acting Shakespeare class, my teacher told me that I “acted with boundaries.” He meant that I made safe, boring choices when I acted, as opposed to more daring, potentially wrong choices. I could not be vulnerable. I thought about that a lot when I took up writing again. In a way, I had never stopped writing. I had still kept a journal throughout those years. Mom would see me periodically sitting on the couch, writing furiously, and constantly ask what I was writing. Nonetheless, I had stopped writing essays or stories of any kind. It seemed childish to write. When I took up writing again, I swore that I would not write with boundaries.
I never had much of a problem writing with boundaries. Writing has always been a form of self therapy. I’ve written about moving, divorce, cancer, as well as other traumas great and small. Certainly, in my journal, I do not practice much self-censorship. Why would I? I don’t share my journal with anyone. if I was married, I would not let my husband read my journal. If he chose to read it, he would be signing his death warrant. This brings me to my next point. Writing in my journal is one thing. Writing in essays or stories is a little more difficult, because those I plan to share.
One question that haunts me as I think about writing is, “What if it hurts someone?” Last year, I watched a short film about a woman who drops her newborn daughter on her head. She turned her experience into a screenplay. We were fortunate to have her there after the screening. She talked about how when she finally felt ready to give the screenplay to her husband for him to read. He didn’t speak to her for two days after reading it.
It can be difficult even if the person is not directly involved in the incident. My junior year of high school, we were asked to write a cause and effect essay. I chose to write about the effects of my parent’s divorce. At the time, we had a student teacher, so I thought that she would be the one to read it. Unfortunately, my regular English teacher read it. I wasn’t totally humiliated, but at the same time, it made me feel really uncomfortable. Oddly enough, it’s easier for me to have strangers read certain subjects than people I know.
At last, I get to the point of this blog post. I have an essay I want to write. It’s not going to be a blog post, this is a separate, stand alone essay. This essay is going to be pretty broad, but in order to write it, I have to write negative things about my mom. I cannot address the topic unless I write them. This is as good a time as any to point out that I actually have a great relationship with my mom. I love her very much. She’s a good friend. I can talk to her about almost anything. She’s just not perfect. (Who is?) But I cannot write what I want to write unless I talk about my mom and some of the mistakes she’s made. I feel horribly guilty about this.
I actually feel doubly guilty about this. My mom has been encouraging me to write more. She’s even encouraged me to explore publishing my work. She made me feel that I actually should write more. This makes it seem like a double betrayal. I want (need?) to write something that may hurt her.
This brings me to Eminem. About ten years ago, Eminem did a song called “Cleaning Out My Closet.”
Of course, my relationship with my mom is nothing like the one depicted in this song. (Thank God!) Still, I can’t help but think about it. I remember listening to this song with my friend in her car, especially the refrain, “I’m sorry mama, I never meant to hurt you.” My friend replied, quite rightly, “If he doesn’t want to hurt her then why did he write this song?” It does seem disingenuous. He knew full well that most of us would never meet her, never hear her side of the story, and our opinion of her would be entirely shaped by what he raps in this song.
A few weeks ago, there was a new song by Eminem on the radio. It was also about his mother, but it was apologetic and conciliatory. He talked about hating the closet song now, and refusing to perform it at shows. He even thanks his mother for doing the best she could have done in difficult circumstances.
I haven’t heard that song on the radio recently. It’s just as well; it’s not as good as Monster ft. Rhianna. It’s also just was well for me. Whenever I would hear that song, I would cringe and lose courage. I feel as though I could not write anything that would potentially hurt my mom.
At the same time, maybe I should.
I’m a passive-aggressive person by nature. I either avoid confrontation and act as a doormat, or I lash out in passive aggressive ways. My therapist once told me she would like me to confront people more directly. Perhaps I should tell mom what I am going to write and how I feel about the past. I’ve done this before. I told my mom about something she did before my knee surgery that upset me, and I realized that she actually took care of it at the time.
Perhaps I should talk to her. After all, as Brave says, “Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way the words do when they settle ‘neath your skin.” She may be right.