The people I love are saints for putting up with me. My poor family! Not only am I difficult to live with, but I write about every little personal detail of my life. Imagine the horror of waking up to find your Facebook feed blowing up with comments because I said something shocking about you and people want to know if it’s true.
It can get upsetting for them knowing that nothing is off-limits for me.
Well, almost nothing.
My wife, Flora, doesn’t enjoy talking about personal minutiae like I do. Often, I ask her if it’s okay to mention something and she gives me the “deer-in-the-headlights” look. I usually write about it anyway. She is slowly starting to acclimate to living with me. It’s difficult, first because mentally, I’m a train wreck, and second, because I’m not afraid to write things that should embarrass me.
Any other woman would have divorced me by now.
Even though I write about awkward things that any normal person wouldn’t share, she is still my biggest fan. I can tell a lot of times she is shrinking inside, but she just smiles her wonderful smile, chuckles a little, and tells me to keep it up.
I’ve also written about my mom and dad, but the few times I’ve asked for their reaction, they seemed fine with it. But I know it may upset them at times because they are very traditional and religious, and when I swear, say negative things about growing up with my family as a Jehovah’s Witness, or talk about the mental illness I largely kept hidden from them, I know inwardly, they are flinching.
I hope my parents know I love them and am thankful for having them. They taught me to deal with hardship with a smile, the value of hard work, and how love conquers everything bad that happens to you.
I know I won the lottery when it comes to family.
The times when I’m in the flow and enjoying the process of writing, I am writing about things that are personal to me. I know a bit about some things — mental health, for instance. The only thing I’m completely sure about is my experiences. I’ve dealt with a lot of hardship. Without starting a pity-party, I’ve struggled with mental illness, abuse, addiction, infidelity, divorce, dishonesty, dysfunction, and failure.
It’s an obvious choice to write about what I know. It’s only natural that I’d want others to share the things that have made an impact on my life. The things that have happened to me and my family are a good example. Is there anything wrong with trying to connect to others who have felt the same things I have?
Even though my life is better and more predictable now, there is still a lot of fodder for my mind to turn into stories.
Flora and I married eight years ago. Our relationship has always been different because it didn’t start in a conventional way. We didn’t have a courtship period most married couples had in the beginning.
We found each other on the internet and only met in person a month before we tied the knot. The first few years of marriage were difficult. She had to get used to my weirdness and deal with the impact of my illness. I had to come to terms with her anger and the undiagnosed mental health problems she tries to hide. Add into the mix my suicide attempt five years ago, and you could say that our relationship has been rocky from the start.
Don’t get me wrong — I love her with all my heart, and she loves me. But there continue to be issues with affection and dysfunction. I’m not going to go into the details, but we realized the other day that we have been taking each other for granted. Our marriage isn’t in trouble, but it could be soon if we don’t start paying attention to one another.
I take most of the blame because I continue to make the same mistakes that destroyed my first marriage. I make excuses for being distant and unreachable. I work too much. I don’t express gratitude often enough for the wonderful people in my life.
We also just had a baby, so there is little time for anything, much less spending time being affectionate with one another.
Flora isn’t completely blameless, but she has far less baggage to deal with than I do.
If something doesn’t change, it could be a problem.
But I haven’t written much about it because it’s a sensitive subject. I know that Flora doesn’t want everyone to know the details of the failings in our relationship and I respect that, so for now, I’ll keep some things about us to myself.
I’ve said too much already.
I don’t believe anything should be off-limits. The best things happen in our lives when we are honest about ourselves and others.
But not everyone shares my openness. Especially my family.
I doubt if my ex-wife and my three boys delight in me sharing personal things about their lives, so I rarely do. I doubt if my mom and dad like being the subject of my stories about growing up. But, the truth about my life needs writing because my goal now is to do anything I can to help others, and that involves opening my life like a book.
I never know when one of my experiences will reach someone who is hurting. Who can say if a failure in my life can be a cautionary tale for someone else?
I’ll keep writing about the experiences in my life, and I hope people will keep reading. One day, I hope I can touch at least one person with my honesty.
That is a heck of a legacy to leave behind.
This essay was also published on Medium.