Sometimes, when I get excited, I am a bit like the bull in the china shop. Or like a Labrador puppy in basically any environment where it’s not sleeping. I definitely have a leap first, look second thing going.
This would be okay, except: I get excited a lot.
A Partial List of Examples: coating my entire naked body with mud so I could pretend I was in an ad for a beauty salon (childhood); playing with my sister’s Barbies by chopping off their hair (childhood); cutting my own hair to match (high school); inviting someone I had only just met to be a bridesmaid in my actual wedding (college); deciding to repaint the entire living room at 7:00 at night (recently).
I am learning a similar lesson now, in the context of being a writer. It’s because I am really excited, see? And so I can’t control myself! I just have to add exclamation points at the end of every sentence and thought and action! Or maybe even three!!!
Last week, in my thoughtless euphoria, I managed to hurt three people in one short essay – all inadvertently.
In “Plus It’s a Lie”, I refer to the fact that my husband played tennis to make his dad happy. Once it went online last week, I excitedly emailed my mother-in-law, knowing that she would be happy with me. A few hours later, I got a sick feeling in my gut, and raced downstairs, to where my husband was putting away laundry. I hated to interrupt him, because it seemed a shame to spoil the moment, but I had to know:
“You’ve talked with your parents about playing tennis in high school, right? About how you didn’t actually like it?”
“No,” he said.
“Shit,” I didn’t say, because I don’t swear (except sometimes when it makes my writing sound better). “Cuz they are about to find out. Online.”
Online is no place to learn this kind of information.
I know that, with Facebook and its offspring, people are growing more and more comfortable airing, not their own dirty laundry, but others’. I know of a woman who had to unfriend her own daughter because they got into a mean, cat-fighting, political debate on Facebook.
So, I called my mother-in-law right away. And she unfriended me on Facebook!
Just kidding! She forgave me, of course, but this was an awkward, contrite conversation that I would rather not repeat.
So, of course I repeated it again a few days later.
Because, in the same dumb essay, I also quoted a friend saying something I didn’t like, and she (and you will ask yourself: how did you not see this coming? to which I reply: Who asked you?) recognized herself.
Of course she was gracious. But I was exhausted. I was 0:2. Two awkward, contrite apologies in two days. Blech.
I am really sorry that I had to learn this at the expense of other people, but am thankful for the lesson itself. It’s new to think of myself as a writer, and to view the world that way; I used to always wonder, How can I use this in the classroom? Now I think, That would be great in an essay!
Though I will continue to mine the world around me for things that I can write about, I believe that relationships always, always come first. Always. And this means that, when I write about people, I need to get their blessing first. That means, I emailed my mother-in-law and friend about this post before I published it.
That will require a sort of careful editing, a more transparent living, than I am used to. I think that, rather than weakening my writing, it will make it more subtle. That’s good.
Even better will be not having to pick up the pieces afterward, because I won’t have broken anything.