“do you see a time when you will be able to let go of this and move toward stuff that is not about murder (I say this with love)”
This bizarre question was posed to me this week and I need to write about it. Yes, the question is strange on its face because, well the obvious: I am immersed in writing a book that has a primary focus of homicide. Right now I’m doing that.
It’s bizarre for other reasons–it was embedded in a series of other questions, by a person who should know some basic aspects of my writing life, who seemed to think I was attending my sister’s murder trial last week when I went to the sentencing of Travis Alexander’s killer. Without going in to details, this is a person in the periphery of my life who after many months of sharing writing together (and the entire time I was on my writing sabbatical for my book), I’d assumed knew at least the very fundamentals of what I was writing about. I think most anyone would have figured out that my sister’s murder trial was not currently going on.
(gratuitous Ryan Gosling insert)
This person also launched this topic abruptly with it’s loaded question in our very first private conversation–online. There are many other details which make this exchange even more incredulous but I’m less interested in going in to this person as I am this question.
How did I feel? Well, at first I felt confused because it was so rudimentary and anyone even reading my bio would know those answers and I thought there was more depth in understanding going on there so it all kind of disoriented me. And since it came as a response to this blog post which answered all of those questions, which clearly had not been read, I directed this person to read my blog for the answers. Maybe I should have just left it at that. I’m sure I should have.
Yet, tending toward verbosity, I didn’t. One of my many learning curves. I decided to give this individual a small lesson on writing about dark topics.
I felt kind of shocked that I was having to educate someone who I thought had more than a basic working knowledge of writing and healing on something so rudimentary. We do whatever work we are doing–writing, therapy, etc–until we feel or IF we feel in a place to “move on”. Some people will write about their pain their entire life. Some will paint about their pain their entire life. Some will write songs about pain their whole life. They will cope their entire lives using their art form to keep moving, keep healing, keep growing, keep staying alive. Some of the greatest art in our culture comes from the expression of pain.
There was so much loaded in this question– which this individual later copped out saying “I was just asking a question”–that hits sensitive topics for me. First of all, that “just asking a question” response is bullshit. It’s akin to the “when did you stop beating your wife?” question. It was loaded, it was not said with love, it was said with judgment. And ignorance. And it wasn’t really a question. It was a statement embedded in a string of words with a question mark at the end.
Those of us navigating very sensitive topics, very dark worlds we’ve been tossed in to, often navigate a mine field of often unintentionally callous remarks.
“When do you think it’s just time for you to stop trying to be pregnant?”
“Don’t you think it’s time to get over that breakup by now?”
“Can’t you just forget about that trauma you suffered in the War and be happy?”
I’m not speaking about people someone might be working with in therapy who is guiding them, who knows them, who feels a pattern has emerged long enough that is destructive so is using that kind of dialoguing therapeutically. Those kinds of questions can have a place. In my line of work we call them a “verbal slap technique” which sounds harsh but it’s more like an endeavor to shift the person quickly to a new reality and see what comes of it. And even that technique is used very judiciously after a bond of trust has been established.
I’m also not talking about a trusted family member or friend who is sincerely seeing you as stuck and wanting to help.
The questions I’m referring to are more subtle, more intrusive, more insulting and more projection.
What I’m talking about would be more like a co-worker seeing a person at work going through a difficult grieving time, still dealing with the aftermath of their husband’s death, immersed in the details about it while navigating their life and asking them “isn’t it just time for you to move on?”. I shake my head but these things do happen.
In the way I see them, they have more to do with the questioner’s discomfort of the topic at hand so they kind of want to shut you up. And that is the absolute last thing someone needs who is feeling that earthquake of a buried emotion bursting forth to clear air.
Dark places surface for oxygen, for light, for healing. Sometimes a dark seed can turn from a weed to a blooming flower. Yet it’s the person living that process of evolution to discover it. Not some stranger coming along the path and plucking it before it’s full blossom because they don’t like weeds in YOUR lawn.
I backed out of the conversation with this individual then I got pissed. Then I let them have it. This was my response–good,bad or ugly–this is what I said back:
You do realize that I have two published pieces that are about LOVE and not about murder. This question begs me to ask you, what is it about me writing about murder, which is something that my book is about, makes you uncomfortable? And is it something you prefer not discussed in your group? Because your question on it’s face, assumes I don’t write about anything else but that which tells me a. you’re not paying attention to what I share and b. you are uncomfortable with that topic. and c. you haven’t been dealing with your own dark shit. There, I said it.
To this person’s credit, they offered an apology. No dialogue or interest in learning more but one of those “sorry you feel that way” apologies. And I learned a whole lot about them in the process. And how they will be positioned in my life. And I’m writing this this morning to continue using this craft to let things go and hopefully learn something for myself, about myself in the process.
Any of you out there who have dealt with this same kind of insensitive confrontation, let’s agree this: we don’t need to take on other people’s discomfort. With our grief, our pain, our trauma, the darkest things that have happened in our lives that might be surfacing for air, we have to keep breathing our own oxygen. We would be best to let them have their discomfort and keep feeling everything we are feeling. I think the absolute worst thing to do is to shove it back down, cut it off, because someone else is, in any way shape or form, pushing you to do that. Then all we have is another layer and we gotta start all over again.
I’m up in Sedona today for the next 4 days to fast and write. Those two boxes are here that contain Cindy’s trial and the investigation so I think I will dive in to those again and I will be blogging about any writing I do over on Middle Child.
And one thing’s for sure: I won’t be thinking about when I’ll be able to “let go” or “move on” from this grisly subject I’m diving deep in to. I’ll be living it as it’s happening. That is where I find healing. Although her murder was 27 years ago now, this is the time. And I’m glad it showed up.
Hope you are all having a great weekend! I feel much better having released this!
I want to end on this song by Shelby Lynne that I just love and somehow applies.