Saturday, April 01, 2006

Nothing Left

Last night, I spent a night out with D – we had dinner at a local steakhouse, I drank wine. Within the flow of alcoholic numbness I reflected about the situation with the boys. They have been combative lately, overly sensitive. I suggested we try to step back from our expectations because I notice that we get most upset when our goals (for them, for us) are not being met, whether it’s their being quiet or their doing their homework or meeting some other school obligations, or when they are acting in a way that is different from what we want in the moment. We have to put what we want aside in favor of bringing them some peace.

Simple, logical, you know?

The numbness slipped away as we walked in the misty night, holding hands, deciding what to do next with our free evening and in that nicety a jolt of guilt suddenly ran through me. I felt bad about writing so openly about the children on my blog – I felt bad about putting my personal expectations above those of the kids. A fellow blogger wrote about it recently and I understood his point because he wrote under his real name but I found I could not do what he did, I could not separate myself from my children, from the experiences I was having, pen name or not. The other day, I shared with a friend in similar circumstances an idea about gathering our essays, our reflections of being parents of unique children, into a collection of sorts. She shot down my idea hard, almost angrily. I felt terrible about even having the idea, sick about it.

Perhaps someone out there knows who Adriana Bliss really is…perhaps I’m exposing my kids’ personal problems to the world without their permission. Perhaps I’m violating their privacy. She thought so.

Maybe all my writing violates privacy. There isn’t a single person in my world that doesn’t enter into the fiction, the memoirs, the daily posts. They are my life – they are my inspiration, they are everything.

Maybe I am wrong in what I am doing. Maybe I’m a horrible person for exposing my life, their life. Maybe I need to keep silent about the reality – shove everything beneath covers, beneath a layer of suburban bliss. Maybe I need to learn to speak in metaphors. Maybe I need to appear more like all those happy mothers with perfect children – speak only of pink princesses and football-carrying heroes and cookies baked from scratch. Or better, pretend I don’t have any children or a husband. Pretend I’m someone else entirely. I’ll bury myself in complete fiction –science fiction, romance, the murder mystery.

Like the profanity…will I have nothing if I drop my life from my writing, if I protect everything and everybody from exposure?


Once upon a time a girl, a boy, no a dog, no…an ant crawled his way up a tall Calla Lilly, no a rose bush, no…a birch tree, wishing to see the world from other than the base level in which he lived. He climbed until he reached the top. He gasped at the vastness he saw. He’d have to tell the tale of his venture – everything he learned up until now was changed. New light revealed truths he never imagined. Infinity was possible.

That’s when a bird picked him off the branch and ate him.


Dale said...

Well, you and I both, I reckon, know how much damage it does to pretend everything's fine. And we're the ones who've handled it relatively well, I think. We're still in the ring, anyway. How many of the parents who have disappeared from their kids' lives are ones who found themselves in this sort of struggle and thought that they were the only ones it ever happened to, and gave up because the contrast with what was supposed to be happening was intolerable?

It's a serious issue, a lot to be said for either side, but I don't think it's all selfishness and self-indulgence on one side and all nobility and altruism on the other. A good measure of both no matter which way you go.

I'm glad you write what you write, anyway.

Brenda said...

That's a tough question, but I think you've already answered it. It's important to talk about the way it really is; crucially important.

I use my own name. By choosing to do that, I chose not to talk openly about my struggles with my kids or my life. With what I'm going through with my daughter at present (she's 'dieting' to put it mildly) I thought to set up a blog under another name just so I could work through everything. But I can't split myself up like that, or my writing.

I admire what you're doing. I admire your honesty. And you enable me to see that my struggles are not abnormal. I will be doing some work on my daughter's current self-image/weight crisis and reading that writing at a creative panel at a mothering conference, where there will be nothing but support, but can I blog it publicly under my real name? No.

We've chosen different approaches to our writing from different vantage points...

8763 Wonderland said...

It's pretty basic, A. Writers use their family, friends, and surroundings as fodder for their writing. What else is there? All else is the domain of fairy tales.

I'm not sure I like your so-called fiend very much but that's just upon first blush. I'll have to read it again this evening when I'm done rearranging my office.

Picked up "Capote" on DVD today, by the way. Looking forward to seeing it. Talk about a writer who used his friends in his writing.

Adriana Bliss said...

Thank you for your input, Dale...and thank you. I do have the cover of the pen name, but sometimes I wonder if that's enough. And what of the impact on say, J? What if he read it? What will he feel when he DOES read it at an older age? Maybe it's something only for a later time.

Brenda, exactly the situation with my friend - she has a daughter your daughter's age. A sensitive time, time for the parent I suppose to keep quiet or preserve her own anonymity. This is the only place I write - I also couldn't split myself up. If I were to create a new place, it would eventually merge. At some point I'd post something over there that I want over here. Thank you Brenda.

True, RJ. And what if writing fairy tales doesn't come from your "heart"? What would be the point? Thanks for your thoughts on this. As to my friend - she might be more influenced because her daughter is older than my son. Perhaps I still feel as if he's a baby when it's okay to talk about personal things without impacting them. Maybe I'm just at a crossroads in HIS young life. But...but...writer's lives will always infuse the writing. True.

Fromage de Merde said...

I think that when we write what we write it is a right, or some such shite as that. But really - though I don’t have kids and a family to write about I do have friends and the folks in my neighborhood; who when I portray them I don’t consider that I’m exploiting or putting them in harms way by chronicling their lives as they interact with mine. Instead I celebrate them, for as our lives intertwine and we react or disengage it is what my life is made up of.

And me? I am what I am: all the fears, concerns, loves and desires that make me who I am and in the end, especially seein’ as it is my writing, that’s what you get – my take on it all! Exposing the idiosyncrasies that make up my thought patterns straight from the demented DNA that somehow coagulate in that shallow gene pool of my ancestry to form me!

I don’t think that I’d wanna read innuendos and metaphors. I kinda want the truth, or at least your take on it.

Is this an April Fools joke?

I am such a fool at times…

Adriana Bliss said...

Thank you, Patrick, for your wonderful comment. And no, no April Fool's joke! You said it so well, that using the lives of our respective families isn't exploitation but, "Instead I celebrate them, for as our lives intertwine and we react or disengage it is what my life is made up of." That's exactly it.

Eh...I'm thinking this is just such a tightrope.

For t.v. watchers, Six Feet Under portrayed a character (Brenda) whose parents used her life, their analysis of her, as the very public subject of books. The writers of SFU said it really screwed her up. LOL I had probably better stick to the pen name for as long as I ever write about my children.

Danny said...

Such an interesting post and an issue I think about all the time. I agree that writing about our family members is not exploitation unless we are purposely revealing sensitive issues that they have asked us not to mention. Everything you write about your family is said with such love and is always very helpful to your readers, many of whom are dealing with similar issues in their own lives.

Yes, the character of Brenda on "Six Feet Under" was screwed up, but her parents DID exploit her throughout her childhood in such deliciously hideous ways (remember in the last season when Brenda's mother said to her, "Don't you think I wanted to abort you and Billy?" Oy.). A friend of mine wrote a lot of that Brenda stuff on SFU and her dad is also a psychiatrist. I think I'd rather have a writer for a parent than a shrink!

P.S. What a dolt I am--until I read this post I thought Adrianna Bliss was your real name!

David N. Scott said...

I wonder about this sometimes, too, as the Boo gets older. She's four now, so it doesn't seem a big deal--though the real Christopher Robin would disagree--but I have thought, pretty often, that it might be odder, later...

Adriana Bliss said...

Danny, there's really no reason not to believe it's my real name. So don't feel like a dolt! Yes, good point about Brenda - on the other hand, perhaps the child who is the subject of the writing might feel exploited even if the intention wasn't there. And yes, you've blogged about this very issue before - in fact, I was thinking about your post while I wrote this.

Exactly, David, as the child gets older, gets to teenage years, then the impact grows. Such food for thought.

Jennifer said...

When I first read this post, my first thought was to shut my blog down, immediately if not sooner.

The more I thought about it, though, the more staunchly I tilted to the other side. What I tell is my story, and it includes others, sure. I try very hard not to write their stories, and to tread lightly, and to make it clear the perspective from which a tale is being retold. These people impact me, shape me, damage me, save me, love me, hate me, make me, break me, and, undeniably, are part of my fabric.

My writing my story is what keeps me sane. Whether in the end they can appreciate this fact or not, the reality is? I'm doing them a favor.

Open Book

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I've written about this a lot on my blog, and appreciated your comments, Adriana. I love reading about you and your family, and other bloggers and theirs, and I enjoy writing about mine. But I've encountered some very pragmatic reasons telling me to get out of that line. It makes me sad, but I have to put my loved ones first. I wish the world weren't like this.