I went to the dentist yesterday.
That’s no easy feat for a recovering agoraphobic. It was only for a cleaning, so it was relatively low on my panic scale. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to get me there and keep me in the chair.
One of the things I try to focus on now when I leave the house (to get my mind off of myself and my nerves) is conversation with other people. I don’t wait for someone to talk to me first, I start the ball rolling right away. If I can concentrate on talking with somebody I can usually trick my mind into forgetting I’m sitting in an office and not in the safety of my own home. So yesterday, as the technician was escorting me to the dental chair, I gave her my best smile, said hello, and asked, “How’s your new year so far?”
The young woman hesitated, and was silent for a moment. Her pause gave me pause. Was I asking too much? Should I have just queried her with that obligatory, “How are you doing?” – the question that everyone always answers with, “I’m fine. How are you?” Maybe I was being too specific, too inquisitive by narrowing the question to the beginning of the new year.
“It’s been…interesting,” the dental hygienist finally answered.
By her tone of voice I knew not to pursue it, not to ask, “Really? What’s been going on?” I also knew what was coming next.
“How’s your new year going?”
I gave her the same pause that she had given me.
There was a lot going on in my life, but it involved other people, not just me. 2013 had rushed in impatiently filled with big decisions and even bigger emotions. But I realized that everything happening in my life wasn’t mine to share. Not just in this dental office, but also on the page.
One of the freeing aspects of writing is being able to write anything you want. Carefully disguised in fiction, names can be changed, and events somewhat altered. It feels good to be able to purge yourself of some deep hurt, some great moment of drama, or to just reveal the hilarity at times of being human. But when you write a blog, it’s a whole different kettle of fish.
I feel an obligation to be careful about what I write here about the people I love – the ones who are unlucky enough to have a writer living among them. I won’t write something if I feel it violates their sense of propriety or their need to remain private. After all, they’re not celebrities who have given up a portion of their privacy in exchange for notoriety. That’s a bargain that’s struck by anyone who chases fame. I write about everyday people, and there are some days when I simply won’t write about them at all. I’m sure my friends and family feel much better knowing that.
But it sure makes for a quiet blog.
(Where do you draw the line as a writer? Do you feel a need to protect as well as create? Or are all bets off when it comes to your writing? Have you ever written something only to find out later that it’s hurt someone that you love? Or have you put down the pen, pushed away from the keyboard, and waited to write about something else on another day. What’s off limits for you as a writer?)