For the most part, I try to get permission before tangling someone up in my words. It’s usually a casual inquiry woven into other activities. I asked Trader as we strolled through Princeton’s campus. I asked Bess as I soaked some sushi in soy sauce. I don’t write to expose or exploit but to tell a story. People who read my blog know this, learning quickly that I am the main character and everything else is secondary. Interestingly, no one has ever turned me down.
I don’t take someone granting permission lightly. You may find this hard to believe but there are plenty of things I keep tucked out of view. I shelter certain people and experiences not because they fail to inspire me but because they don’t deserve to be public. It’s a balancing act of right and wrong, an evaluation of need and want.
Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, something happened at work. It has to do with my dad and his health. I withered from an adult to a child, repeatedly dialing my mom for help and getting teary eyed and flustered when each and every call went unanswered. My body went through the motions of tending to my father while my head clouded and my heart crumbled. Without question, I could squeeze at least three posts out of that tortuous hour. It’d be raw and honest, genuine and blunt. But the details of that situation don’t belong here. They never will. Even if my dad granted permission.
“Hey, can I write about you?” I asked my blogger friend Sean after we finally met face to face.
“Sure,” he casually answered.
“Really? Because you can say no,” I pushed.
“Of course I’m sure. It’s your story, not mine.”
That last part, those few simple words clustered into a sentence, they took my breath away. In fact, they still do.
I never fully appreciated how two people can interpret the same scenario differently, so differently that they might even fail to overlap altogether. Perhaps I’m too conditioned by television edits and quick film cuts, the strumming music and tinted lights forcing a specific view. Everyone is told to see the same thing, stripping the audience of intimate interpretation. Rocky is the underdog hero and Jaws is the menacing shark. No matter where you sit in the theatre, the story is exactly the same.
When I finished my post inspired by my time with Sean, I let him know the piece had been published. Then I nervously awaited his response. Because knowing now that the emotions I felt and the details I noted might greatly differ from his, I was anxious to learn if my story worked for him too. It was like passing off a wrapped gift and waiting for the immediate reaction. Would his lips curl from excitement or dip from disappointment? Would he hold the piece close or regret accepting it at all? Though Sean refrained from commenting publicly, he sent a personal note that eased any and all uncertainty.
Whenever Sean’s words cross my mind, I’m brought back to a writing exercise I did where I was to describe a room from different perspectives. Five minutes - describe the room through the eyes of a thief. Five minutes - describe the room through the eyes of a child. Five minutes - describe the room through the eyes of someone dying. The lighting changed from cheerful to haunting. The noises adjusted from soothing to eerie. It was always the same space but never the same sight.
Stepping back from this blog, retreating from the narrow focus of what I see and how I experience it, I indulge in the words of other writers. I disappear in the descriptions, smelling the aromas and tasting the flavors. And while it’s someone else’s story at the core, I make it mine in the end. Perhaps that’s why I keep blogging. Not just to tell my tale but to invite you to make it yours.