Pushing Me Over the Borderline

Every time I write about my past, about my family, regardless of what I edit out or what I include, I seem to hurt somebody. Which is not hard to understand – families are complex and have many layers.

But when you want to tell your own story, because you are part of a family – just one small part of a larger whole, it’s really hard, really fucking hard to know what part of the story belongs to you and what part of the story is someone else’s. Someone else’s story to tell.

But very few stories just have one character in it. Other than Tom Hanks Castaway, on  which he was stuck on a deserted island. Even then, he had a basketball he could talk to. We don’t live on remote islands, we are all very much influencers of each other’s experiences and also influenced by the actions of others.

Think of your life. Think of events that matter to you. That changed you. Were you the only person involved. Even if your story is that you struggle with an eating disorder, like  bulimia, and  the primary activity taking place is between you and a toilet – something got you to that point. Something in your life. Something bigger than just you and the toilet in that bathroom.

I am struggling here. I want to tell you more – I have not written about my family since the post I put up last week, My Family – Part 1, mainly because I realize that for my family, I have violated some of the boundaries for what they want the world to know.

So how can I be authentic as a writer, if I can’t set up the backstory? If I can’t peel back some of the onion, how does what I write make sense? I feel it’s like telling a story with one character, and I don’t know about you, but I found parts of “Castaway” to be really kind of boring.

Plus for me, it’s just not real.

If you are a blogger – how do you make that distinction? If you are a reader, what aspects of reading blogs where the writer opens up about their lives captures you?

I wrote this post in participation with Jana’s Thinking Place, Stream of Consciousness Sundays. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. If you want to participate, the rules are here.

32 Responses to Pushing Me Over the Borderline

  • Unie says:

    I struggle with writing about others who don’t want to be written about, too. My little sister got mad at me when I used her experiences as an example for something.

  • a.eye says:

    First, your family is beautiful!!

    I read the backstory and think that it is something that opens a reader up to really understand you and where you come from with other stories that you will share about even your current life.

    There is the old saying that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I don’t even know if we can please ourselves all of the time. Wish I had answers for you…

    • Masala Chica says:

      Thanks so much – you’re right – you can never please everybody all of the time and I hear you even more about not being able to please yourself all the time. Every time I write a piece like that which is like a therapy session in and of itself, there is also a nagging feeling in my head as I press the “Publish” button. A voice that says, “Are you really ready for this, girlfriend?” And there are times I hold back – I have lots of posts that have gone unpublished.

      Came across your blog today through SOCS. 6 pieces, huh? You have some willpower, darlin’
      Kiran

      • a.eye says:

        Thanks on the clothes. It was hard at first, but then I just got into the flow of it. Made my mornings much easier!

        I hear you on the publishing of blogs. There are many that I have started and then erased and others that I posted not knowing if I really wanted to go ahead with it.

  • For the most part I don’t write about my extended family. My brother, mom, dad, husband and son are my main characters – nothing gets written that would hurt anyone. As for anyone else when I am telling a true story I just leave the real name out. I know that’s hard to do when the story has the immediate family in it. It’s easier to write my friend, my cousin, aunt or uncle and it could be anyone. And I have thought about writing something and said, “That’s not mine to tell” and I nixed it. Be true to yourself though. Because peeling back the layers is important.

    • Masala Chica says:

      Thanks, Kenya. Yeah I rarely talk about extended family or friends unless I have direct permission. In trying to address some of the trauma of my childhood, I have to sometimes explain some of the dynamics in my family. And I think my family is extremely sensitive to that, even if its an incredibly defining factor to explain who I am. I will learn to peel back the layers without having them all hate me.

      I hope.

      Thanks,
      Kiran

  • I feel this. I do. It’s a fine line we bloggers/writers walk. And there comes a point when you have to decide to either make the leap and JUMP, or stay and stagnate. Unfortunately there’s no middle ground. I have alienated people, I have angered people…it sucks, I can’t lie…But there is a relief in the telling. It sets you free.

    HUGS

    • Masala Chica says:

      “There is relief in the telling.”

      That is so true, Erin. The cathartic impact of getting it down on my screen is incredibly healing. Well, for me anyway. Apparently not for everybody. You’re right, there is no middle ground but I have got to find a way where I can still do this without hurting the ones I love. Thanks for writing your post this morning – after reading it, I decided to join in on Jana’s activity and hope to become a regular around here ;-)
      Kiran

  • See, I never have this problem, because no one in my family reads my blog. If they read my books, they might be offended by some of the stuff that’s based on personal experience, but what can I do? I can’t have someone else’s experiences.

    I was reading a book called ‘The Black Count’ by Tom Weiss last night, nonfiction about Alex Dumas, the 18th-century general whose son was Alexandre Dumas the novelist. Alex, who was half French and half African, was often the victim of racism in his later life. His novelist son got literary revenge on his father’s behalf, basing characters like The Count of Monte Cristo on Alex Sr. The point is, is it bad to write about your family? I don’t think so. it can be very, very good writing. I really don’t believe in censoring yourself.

  • I think a good general rule that we urged on Band Back Together, is that you can tell your story from YOUR point of view but make it clear that this may not be everyone’s memory of the events. For example, I can share about my sister’s anorexia, but share the story from MY point of view. Knowing that her recollection, my parents’ recollections, etc, may vary. Own YOUR story or your PART of the story. I hope that makes sense because it does in my head :)

    • Masala Chica says:

      Jana – first of all, thanks for hosting this. It was my first time participating and I did it after seeing Erin’s blog post this morning. What you said “Own YOUR story or your PART of the story” is something that is really starting to click in my brain. Perhaps it means revisiting the style in which I write. Thanks again :-)
      Kiran

  • Jamie says:

    Loved this and you have a beautiful family. I have shared about my children lots. But then there are certain things I know — that I would be violating their trust. I don’t share a lot about my husband (the real nitty gritty stuff) for same reason. Parents are a harder call because they don’t read my blog, but people who know them do and I’d never want to seem disrespectful. So like you ask, what’s a writer to do? I’m pretty transparent with myself on the subjects I choose to write about. But this is why I’m starting to get intrigued by fiction. A writer can let emotions run amok and not worry about hurting anyone.

    • Masala Chica says:

      Thanks Jamie, I find myself pulled more and more towards fiction as well. I don’t want to hurt or violate anyone in telling my story, something which I find healing. I just need to do it in a way, where perhaps I can just talk about my feelings and be a little less specific? I don’t know…I am learning every day about what honesty in writing really means. Thanks for the compliments on my family :)
      Kiran

  • Sig
    Twitter:
    says:

    I used to share a lot of my life on my old blog – it was more of a personal diary. But I deleted it because, well, there were a few reasons – one of them being that I had written about people in my life that hadn’t asked to be written about. In particular Evs and I which I didn’t think was fair on him in that sense. I nearly lost a good friend because I wrote about some of my insecurities about her on my blog (this all while I was semi-anon as well). That being said – this is your space to write about YOUR story. We’re all characters in someone’s story right?

    • Masala Chica says:

      Thanks, Sig. That’s really helpful. And its also important for me to recognize that the way that people translate what happened and how I tell the story may differ.I am so glad you didn’t lose your good friend. I will find my boundaries/borders as I keep at this, I think.
      hugs,
      kiran

  • raisedbyculture says:

    Writing about my own family isn’t difficult, it’s writing about my parents and siblings that is. I want to share so much but find myself never hitting publish.

    • Masala Chica says:

      That’s the crux of it, isn’t it. I feel like I have free license (ok not fully) with my family (still have to make some judgement calls) but writing about parents and siblings sucks. Like really, really bad.

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    I just don’t go there. I don’t write about my parents, brothers (and only occasionally about my sister, with her permission, and it’s usually something funny). When I first started blogging, one time I wrote a story about my mom (which was supposed to be funny), she got mad. I didn’t even know she knew I had a blog, much less read it. Then I wrote a piece about a friend who I felt betrayed by (though it was all very vague and I didn’t say what happened), she read it and told someone that she felt hurt that I would “put it out there”, even though no one we knew mutually read my blog, to my knowledge.

    My blog is my space, if people don’t like it, don’t read it. Click away. I write MY stories. However, for the most part, I just don’t want any grief from my family, and I don’t want to start checking myself each time I write, so I just stay away from those stories.

    Just as I stay away from politics and religion. :)

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is, you have to write YOUR stories. If it involves others (which is almost inevitable), your thoughts and opinions should be clear in the story, not theirs. If that makes any sense.

    • Masala Chica says:

      It makes incredibly clear sense to me, Alison. And thanks so much for sharing your own experiences. I stay away from politics. I ponder faith from time to time, but hopefully never insulting anybody.

      I guess one of the reasons I started blogging was to make sense of my life and see if writing some of it down would make me understand it any better, become a better person. Move towards healing.

      But I am finding that in doing that, you have to go far back. And it becomes about family and things that are hard, really hard to write about.

      I wish I could say, I don’t care, but I love them all too much to violate anything they hold sacred. I find it so hard to tiptoe around it and really write about what I need and want to write about so badly.

      But I will find my way.

      Hugs,
      Kiran

  • I think that’s why people write fiction.

  • I struggle so much with this very topic, Kiran. My story, in its entirety, is so raw that by writing about every single piece of it I would deeply hurt some of the people who I love the most. I wish there were a way to be completely open without worrying about the rest. I’m excited to meet an author who has done just this week at a writer’s conference I’m attending: Cheryl Strayed. She is amazing. Maybe I’ll find the courage to ask her how she did it. Actually, complete disclosure is one of the topics she’s talking about, so I guess I’ll find out. I’ll probably write about it in the weeks to come. Great post.

    • Masala Chica says:

      I can’t wait to hear what you learn at the conference. I need to attend something like that – not just a blogger’s conference, but a writer’s conference. I think I will continue to hold back on some things, push forward on others and just try to stay as true as I possibly can. I think fiction is looking more and more appealing!

  • Pingback: On Healing

  • *Deep sigh* As you know from reading my last post, I struggle with this exact issue. I received not one but two long emails from the family member whose comment I wrote about in that post, even though I didn’t mention her by name! I don’t know the answer but I love the topic and think you’re incredibly brave to write about family history from your perspective. Me, too!

    On another note, I haven’t been getting your posts in my reader and I’m wondering if you have an email feature that I can subscribe to? I hate to miss any of your posts and it appears I’ve missed quite a few recently! I’ll try to catch up and stop by more often. I truly enjoy your writing and your stories. Hugs!

    • Masala Chica says:

      It sounds like we are going through a lot of the same blogging “challenges right now” – I put up a post on Monday that was highly personable again and it really hurt my family. I have got to figure out how to right about me without bringing anyone else into it.

      Let’s come up with some post topic examples where nobody gets hurt. The weather? Our feet? Our favorite shirt?

      I am mulling it over.

      xoxo

  • Peg says:

    You can only do what feels right to you. I think you walk a good line especially when it involves your immediate little family.

    BTW, have you heard the Counting Crows cover of Borderline…it’s great!

    • Masala Chica says:

      Ah Peg,
      I have started to pull down all the posts that have to do with family. I have upset some people I obviously love and it’s not worth it. Which is why I will channel that stuff into fiction or maybe into the songwriting. Nobody listens to the words in a song anyway, right?

      I am going to check out the CC version today! I bet its awesome.

      xoxo,
      Kiran

  • Anamika says:

    Ask for forgiveness but please write. In the long run only good will come out of it. You have written with honesty, kindness and LOVE. The stories are factual and the feelings are YOURS.

    In my family you cannot have any discussion without drama, and nothing comes out of these discussions anyways. Hopefully this way your family will understand your perspective and think about moving beyond the past.

    I will pray for all of you.

    Anamika

    • Masala Chica says:

      Dear Anamika,

      Yeah – our family is pretty much the same way. Not much in the way of discussion. A lot of pain, but it’s hidden. Well, until it explodes. Then its just bad and usually irreparable.

      I took all my family posts down. I put one up on Monday, and it’s just too much. Not everything is my story too tell though I feel like a character in the story and things impacted me. But some of the stories are for my siblings and parents to tell and I can’t force their hand until they are ready.

      That may be never. But I will respect that.

      Thanks for your amazing support.

      xoxo,
      Kiran

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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