“A priest once asked me a very smart question, which I’ve yet to answer, or have only answered in small increments: What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” – Mary Karr

I recently came across this quote from poet and memoirist, Mary Karr. It was close to midnight, the only time my house is quiet enough to think. I rummaged around in the stack of crap beside my computer and found my notebook. At the top of a clean page, I wrote “What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” and started a bulleted list.

When I ran out of steam, I reviewed my lengthy list and realized I’m afraid of everything.

I don’t lack material. I lack courage.

Relaying facts doesn’t usually bother me. I’m not so open about what it was like though. I’ve always held that close to my chest, leaking out just enough anger and pain language to let people know I’m not actually a robot. Even saying, “it hurt” or “I was happy” is such a cop out because life is always so much more complicated than that.

But, good God, if I write honestly what will people think? (That I’m unhinged, probably.)

I’m mostly afraid of writing things that would make other people uncomfortable. They’re important words—foundational even—but we’re all supposed to pretend our mistakes and messes never happened. That’s the polite thing to do, right?

But how can you say “this is who I am” without saying “this is what I did?”

And I’ve done some messed up shit.

But why oh why would you ever write about those things, Kristy?

Because it’s the truth. Because without those things I’m presenting an incomplete picture. Because whether I write about it publicly or not, those things still happened.

That foolish, reckless, selfish, impulsive, pigheaded girl, they’ll say.

She’s just trying to shock. She’s just stirring the pot. She’s just being rebellious. She’s just [insert motivation here].

I guess they can say what they want, just like I can go on ahead and write things that make them uncomfortable.

And we can all just deal with it.


Image credit: Chris Blakeley (flickr, Creative Commons)

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