Everything I Never Told You

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I don’t often write about the books that I am reading. But when I am not writing, I am reading. As in reading all-of-the-time reading.

(When’s my walk, our dog asks. Where’s my dinner, my very tolerant husband wants to know. Sorry, but I’m in the middle of a really good book, I respond.)

Last night, or rather very early this morning, I finished an amazing novel called Everything I Never Told Youby author Celeste Ng. It was her debut book, a New York Times best seller, it won all sorts of awards.

(I’m jealous! Writing a novel is #1, #2 and #3 on my list of life goals. If only someone would invent a device to get the book that writes itself in my head nightly while I am dreaming onto paper.)

I won’t ruin the plot of “Everything I Never Told You”, but truly you need to race out and read it. The author manages to combine the elements of a mystery (my favorite literary genre) with the story of a family that kept their true feelings about themselves a secret from each other, to their own peril.

After I reluctantly finished the book, I pondered its title further. So opposite from my own family. We have always told each other everything. Candor to a fault. Critical when not necessary. Over-sharing well before that became a “thing.”  As my cousin told me after our recent Passover Seder, sometimes you just can’t get in a word edgewise at one of our family’s meals.

My husband says I am a “truth-teller”. But lately I’m finding it easier to write through my feelings rather than say them aloud.

I may have been influenced by this TMI trend. Let no difficult experience go unmentioned. Share every moment, express your inner feelings to all.  The comedian, Margaret Cho, said in a recent interview that she “can’t think of a thing that should be hidden.” In her life, as in her show, her interviewer commented, “nothing is too private, too sacred or too humiliating to be turned into a punch line.”

I am not, nor do I wish to be, a comedian, although I do enjoy making my friends laugh at what I believe is my witty repartee. For years as a lawyer I also liked to amuse my clients in our non-legal moments. I relish drawing praise for my punch lines.

But where do you draw the line at using your own personal life to create a good punch line?

Last Friday I met two friends who I had never met for lunch.

Translation: in an online writing class I took this winter (plug here for the terrific Her Stories Project) three of us in discovered we lived in the DC area so decided to meet each other in real life after class ended. We already “knew” each other through the drafts of our shared essays. I knew about their kids, their husbands, what they worried about, what they didn’t, as they knew about mine. We had a wonderful lunch, we were instantly at ease with each other, as I expected we would be.

The three of us talked a bit about over-sharing. About how much we should be making public to an unknown crowd (hoping it is a crowd) of readers through our essays, our blogs, our  published work, about us and our kids. When our kids get older, as mine already have, what will they think when they read what we have written about them, we wondered? Is it enough of a cover, an acceptable justification to say that we, as parents, are writing our own stories, not theirs, even if our kids often play leading roles in what we write?

May 21, 2015 will be the one year anniversary of this Blog. 48 posts, one a week. (the math may be approximate here.) I have been enjoying it immensely.

But have I occasionally been guilty of using people from my real life as punch lines?

I think so. And after much thought, I am going to stop – or at least try – to stop doing so. Celeste Ng wrote so eloquently in her book about a family that was not candid enough with each other. Hers was a novel but I sense her words rose from a real life place. In my own real-life place over-candor can be hurtful, not helpful. Whether in private or in a public forum.

Announcing My New Plan: Write my own truth but at no one else’s expense. And think hard about signing up for a new writing class – this time in fiction. Look for my first novel – in, say 2018?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Books, Communications, Family, Female Friends, friendship, Moms, Over-Communicating, Parenting, Raising Kids, Reading, Social Media, Women, Writing

15 responses to “Everything I Never Told You

  1. Could over sharing and joking be a cultural difference among people? For example,people talk about the weather as small talk and to ease into conversations unless you are in LA and then it is your route to where you met.
    I will be looking forward to Your book and thanks for the recommendation of what sounds like a good read!

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  2. I read that book last year and loved it, too.

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  3. Yes, what does one tell, and what does one not tell? My newest blog posting (link to it is in my contact info) is all about my experience with music–and the woman who helps me get photos to the blog said, “Boy, you’re really letting it all out there, aren’t you?” I was puzzled, because to me, the stuff in this posting is no big deal. But I guess others are more private! Ultimately, it’s what you are comfortable revealing… and also, will any reveals permanently hurt anyone? For me, that’s the line in the sand. BTW, I joined Twitter and you are one of the first people I decided to follow! 🙂 I also have a wonderful book to recommend… This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. A collection of memoir essays by Bel Canto author Patchett. 🙂

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    • Hilary – thank you for the book recommendation. I love Ann Patchett so I will look for her “This is the Story…” – I will look for you on twitter so I can follow up back!

      Nancy

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  4. greg

    Tell the Truth…how do you pronounce a name with no vowels? (This is pretty deep stuff.) Ng…Ngh…Nghp…Nghpr…you get the idea. Existentially is this equivalent to reading a blog?

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  5. I know what you mean. Many people encourage me to write about the adventures of my daughter. She is mildly cognitively impaired. Some of her insights and expression are endearingly funny. Her adventures in life are eye opening to the way we all process information. Still, I resist because I don’t to objectify her.

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  6. I think that we all think of this to some extent although I feel that for us it may be a little easier because our children are adults. I do try not to embarass my children but since I never accomplish that in real life I don’t think they expect in on my blog either…not that they’ve ever read it!

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  7. mithraballesteros

    I love reading someone else’s reaction to a book. You make a case for this one. But I didn’t feel the same way. I felt a detachment not just from the characters within their family unit but also from the author. I do think it would make a great movie, though!

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  8. Stephanie Sprenger

    We’re so glad you took the class, Nancy! And I’m thrilled/jealous you were able to meet up in “real life” with fellow classmates. It’s so rewarding to see those online connections go a step further. It was an honor to read your finished essay– such brave, beautiful words. Thanks for the shout-out to our class! 🙂
    ~Stephanie from The HerStories Project

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  9. I think this is a major issue for writers of nonfiction– and I do wonder sometimes at the “share every moment” thing happening with the uber-popularity of personal essays. I find myself mentally combing through my life thinking– is that essay material? Often times the moment I’ve thought about seems too trite, too boring, but the more interesting bits would possibly embarrass someone else. So . . . I haven’t written any personal essays in a while!

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  10. Oh and other topic– I love getting together with online friends!

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  11. Sarah Sparks

    I do not remember how/when/why I signed up to receive your blogs … So I guess you would call me an ‘accidental’ fan of yours … But I just wanted to say thank you. Your words are a blessing. Sarah

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  12. mamdy snow

    Hi…i was just totally moved by your kvelling story.. I need a group like yours.. do you still have that face book group and can anyone join? I didn’t realise there were people out there just like me….pride that my boy took his meds on his own…pride that hes made it to tafe 4 times out of 12. Parents of young adults adults who are struggling..

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    • Hi, Mandy – our local DC group of “parents of young adults who struggle” decided to take down our Facebook page for privacy reasons. So sorry! I’m not sure where you are located but there are other parent support groups for parents of kids, teens and adults with mental illness – look up NAMI and DBSA, they have chapters in many cities.

      And thank you for liking my “kvelling” essay, appreciate your praise and good luck to you and your family, Nancy

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