A few years ago my mother started taking issues with my writing, which she made known to me in the form of comments on my blog (prompting me to now require comment approval), and also emails. The thing about my mom is that when she writes to you, she really writes to you. If she chooses email, I will receive five or so in the span of hours. Be it letter, at least three will arrive on the same day. The next day can bring four. And so on. Usually my mom takes issue with my opinion on her faith, a religion that I haven't practiced in two decades, but that I hold a strong opinion of based on my experience. If I were to ever return, you'd know I had completely lost my marbles and check my house for hoarding, please. I figuratively think it's the worst.
But she doesn't like when I talk about it; she finds it disrespectful. I suspect she's also embarrassed of what she thinks it means about her. So she demanded that I stop writing about Jehovah. For a writer, being told what to write about, or more importantly, what one's opinions should be, is maddening, creatively soul-crushing and violates the most basic of human rights. Je suis Charlie.
She won though--I took a break from writing altogether. Writing publicly held consequences that I just didn't feel like dealing with at the time. I surfaced some time later, long enough to pen a piece about a friend of mine who'd recently found out she had stage IV cancer. In truth, I can't even remember what she had said that lead me to hear that she had somehow manifested her cancer. Having recently left the yoga industry, I was newly emboldened to rail against the trappings of New Age precepts and I had to set the record straight. While I believed in mind-body connection, I didn't believe that we "manifest" disease in our bodies, and I needed the five or so readers of my own blog to know about it. I didn't mention my friend by name, but she knew I meant her. To be honest, I hadn't considered how she'd feel, because I was right.
She wasn't happy. She sent me a long email asking me to take it down. She said that I'd misunderstood her. I stewed for two days before writing back: I'm a writer and entitled to my own truth. I left it at that. But I know I can sometimes be hard-headed, so I asked another friend, much more compassionate than I am, to give me his perspective. "Vaness, is your opinion greater than her struggle," he asked. I took it down, begrudgingly.
Last summer, my friend passed away. If you have ever sat beside a person as she lay dying in her hospice bed, you know that it has the effect of putting things in perspective. "I'm sorry," I told her through tears. Three years had passed since the incident, and though she hadn't mentioned it, I guess I needed, I don't know, redemption? "It's okay," she smiled sweetly, faintly. I'm certain she had other things to think about.
As a storyteller it's difficult for me to reconcile that words hold effect. In my mostly introverted world, sharing my experiences and thoughts and opinions is how I connect with others. They are personal bumper stickers which claim, this is who I am today. To say my words shouldn't matter seems naive, but to curb them because they might offend feels the enemy of art. And so I write on in the only way I know how, hoping along the way for insight, compassion and humor, always humor. Come what may.