This writing business is tricky. Soul-baring and truth-telling required, but It’s a delicate balance between privacy and honesty. I hope I’ve achieved it.
The elephant in the room
by Ruth Neuwald Falcon, Seattle, Washington
When I was young, I often acted out the part of the extrovert. I’m still not sure what I was back then. The last twenty or more years, I became more and more introverted, more and more preferring to be home, often alone. I had jobs, but few of them took me out of the house. In the first years of working at home, I felt self-conscious about it. I didn’t know anyone else working this way at the time and felt that people didn’t really believe I was working. Now, work-at-home is a thing.
When this started, because of all those years of practice, working at my kitchen table didn’t throw me the way it did people who were used to having workplaces to go to. On the other hand, the pandemic became official seven months after my marriage of 33 years imploded.
Even a marriage that went south a long time ago is a loss. You get used to a person being part of your life, imperfect though the life and the relationship may be. It fills some needs, some empty spaces. The empty spaces loom large these days, for all of us. But for me not to acknowledge that I am negotiating the pandemic, while also still in the relatively early stages of grief for a failed marriage, continues a pattern of hiding out that hasn’t served me well over the years.
When you feel you can’t, for whatever reasons—fear, denial, embarrassment, protection of the status quo, a strong sense of privacy—tell the truth about your life, introversion is a logical outcome. Also, loneliness and a feeling of being friendless on any meaningful level.
This is what I’ve learned in the past months: If you want to have friends, real friends, you have to be willing to share the truth of who you are, what you are feeling. You have to risk that they will judge and withdraw from the intensity of your emotions. Or that they won’t. After the marriage ended, I had no capacity for subterfuge. There was nothing left but the truth so I had no choice but to share myself honestly with a small circle of people who let me know that they were genuinely and wholeheartedly there for me.
What I have gotten is the kind of unconditional love and acceptance that I have never received before. If you don’t reveal the truth about who you are and what you are feeling, the world is a very lonely place indeed. That is not to say that I no longer have a strong sense of privacy or that I am interested in baring my soul to all. I don’t want to do a confessional here, but honesty is essential to writing that has any real meaning. So I guess I am no longer willing or able not to talk about the elephant in the room.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. Doing it during a pandemic adds a wholly unexpected layer of challenge. It has also been the most enriching. I am aware that, were I still in the marriage, there would likely be no Corona Support Blog, that I would still be putting my creative and practical energies into the furtherance of his work, which, worthwhile though it may be, isn’t mine. I didn’t know that mine had value on its own. It’s a hell of a way to find out, but I’m grateful that I did.
And I was wrong about not having friends.