Yesterday, I had a conversation with the Seward Library Book Group about coming clean in my memoir, or, as one member put it, telling on myself. Referring to the times I mentioned my own flaws and frailties, being judgmental or quick tempered, that are sprinkled throughout the book.
Then conversation quickly morphed to social media sharing, how we can feel so alone as we scroll through picture after picture of seemingly perfect images posted, and the disconnect so many of us feel, now that we’re all “connected.”
It reminds me of the memoir I’ve been reading, Another Cheesy Family Newsletter.
The author, Elizabeth Silva, structures her story with chapters beginning with the sunshine-y newsletters she sent out over the years tucked inside Christmas cards, followed by the backstory of what was really going on. Her feelings of helplessness as her now-grown children did not launch as planned. A daughter’s heroin addiction led Silva and her husband to become parents all over again of three vulnerable and resilient grandchildren. A second daughter’s divorce, and a son’s prolonged lack of ambition only added to the stress.
The Christmas newsletters and the social media phenomenon bring up the same feelings. When we only share only our best side, where we look attractive, accomplished, our kids seemingly brilliant and irrepressibly happy, we perpetuate the notion to others that they’re alone in their loneliness or failures or even despair. Even though that’s not the intention.
I’ve struggled with sheepishly giving optimistic updates on my Facebook author page. While it doesn’t make sense to draw attention to negative reviews or my angst about the financial hits I’ve taken to keep my book positioned well, it feels dishonest. So I’ve written essays about writing and parenting to present a more honest view.h
If one compared my author Facebook page with my real life this week, they would see an information gap that defined my days.
While it is true that I loved my youngest daughter’s 30th birthday soiree and the various writerly events, they were sandwiched between an increasingly impossible day job and an even more impossible, never-ending job as the parent of an oldest child experiencing profound mental illness who continues to flounder as an undue amount of tragedy is thrown her way.
Last week, her only asset, an old Camry, was shot repeatedly in the commission of a crime in downtown Anchorage while she slept nearby in her apartment. The car was parked at a meter outside. It was totaled. But worse than that, it triggered her PTSD, and has set her back further. The crime is unsolved, so no one will be paying restitution to compensate her loss.
Of course I’m fortunate she was not physically harmed. She’ll get through it, but not without a lot of support.
On good days, I remember to be thankful that I can give said support.
On many others, I’m angry or just worn out for having to.
I so appreciate social media for the many positives it brings, the same way I do when I get a chatty Christmas newsletter. But there is no substitute for real human contact, and authentic interactions. Sometimes, it’s important to share the ugly.
We all struggle. We all fail. We all get overwhelmed. And none of us have to be alone as we slog through our journey, or keep our struggles a secret.
Maybe one of the greatest gifts given me post-publication is going place to place, finding pods of community where ever I’m invited to speak, and feeling encircled with caring readers and writers who often share their own stories.
I hope you have a supportive circle to both celebrate and grieve all life dishes your way. And thank you for being a part of my community.