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It started with driving directions. I was headed to Christmas dinner. Long story short, my family, just like yours, is complicated. The lesson wasn’t in the players, so much as it was in how I dealt with my own thoughts about the incident.

Though I spent many years in Boston and its neighborhoods, I am now officially paralyzed by traffic and the crowding. I’m sure people see my dirty Subaru and my license plate from NH spells lost redneck. But the density of humans and the lack of privacy overwhelms me; homes are “cheek to jowl” and windows face other windows, everyone’s life is on display.

In contrast, earlier today I dragged Alice out back to look at the logging project. We haven’t been up there weeks. The Christmas thaw has sent a deep warmth into the earth and torrents of water are rushing down from the ledges. Our usual route was detoured though I could see clearly where we wanted to go.

DSC_8492 DSC_8496

The first directions I carefully printed out (because the last time I tried to use my phone’s GPS and  drive it didn’t go well) were to my destination, when it was confirmed that I was picking up someone else first, I printed a second set as well.

As it turned out, the driving directions weren’t necessary. I remembered where I had gone wrong the last time I was lost in the city. The instructions, however, for living my life of writing are nowhere to be found.

When I arrived, she chastised me for a post someone had shown her, and demanded a promise that I would never write about her again. She said she felt I had violated her privacy. To  think that I may have offended someone so dear to me was devastating. When I write this blog, I never set out to inflame, insult or in any way negatively impact a life. Writing is something I do. I try to be interesting and fair to those I write about. I strive to not  include enough information to cause them any cyber harm, using pseudo names in most cases.

I am giving a lot of thought to seeing life through the thoughts that flow into this work, and how  others might view it. If there is no understanding of or a genuine fear that the Internet will somehow intrude on their privacy, then I must accept that as their truth and agree I can not 100% guarantee they will never see an impact on their lives from my words. I would like to think my obscurity would some day filter away to recognition, but I have no illusions nor am I convinced I’d be any happier with notoriety .

When she asked if I had written any other posts about her, I honestly said I had not. But I was bothered by the image she mentioned, an old photo. A quick search of posting history brought up a post from six months earlier. Though both pieces were loving and meant to honor her influence on my life, I felt sad and guilty.   I need to sit with them awhile and not react from emotion. I set my music to “LET IT BE” by the Beatles and sat with the words washing over me.

There’s a time for directions; and a time to fly by the seat of your pants, as my dear dad would say…

14 comments on “Driving Directions…

  1. Doppleganger says:

    “you can’t please all the people all of the time” so the saying goes. I would think if this person is “family” they would know you better than to ever assume that you could even once write something harmful, thoughtless or hurtful about someone you personally care about… I mean really… And for edification sake, I have no idea who you are referring to in this blog, but feel I know you well enough to say what I did. If they read this, hopefully, the will too. “Goodwill toward men”…

    1. On August 20th of this year I published a post about you, including photos and your age. Were you embarrassed or hurt by that? I’m not asking in a snarky way, I really want to know how you felt?

      1. Doppleganger says:

        Loved every single word…warts and all, Because I know it came from your heart…I was honored.

  2. Marie Keates says:

    When I write I also change names, for the most part and, like you, I would never wish to offend anyone. The fear of causing offence or hurt keeps me from writing some things or telling some of my story. Some of the secrets I keep are not my own, even though they have had a massive impact on my life. The story deserves to be told but the only way I can see of doing that would have to be heavily disguised as fiction. Even then it may be too easy to see through for comfort. In the end, all we can do is tell our stories in the best way we can and hope other people understand.

    1. Ah, secrets. Yes my wise friend, we all do keep those confidences. I have read and re-read the posts and honestly tried to put myself in her mind. I saw only that what I wrote was from my love and admiration of her.

  3. julieallyn says:

    Trust yourself, Martha.

    That said, I’ve had a couple of experiences where photos that I’ve posted of others – photos that I thought were extremely flattering of the people in them – have prompted this individuals to request that I remove them. In both cases, I was stunned. But I complied with their wishes.

    I guess it’s hard to know what will strike a nerve with some folks. Know that you meant no harm and you have already conveyed as much. At some point though there’s that question of hesitation that such responses will elicit. At least in my case that has been true and then I second guess every ‘editorial’ decision I chose to make.

    Shrug. Despite what Marie says above, maybe even though the story deserves to be told, it (unfortunately) becomes a decision to be made after your own due diligence and a thoughtful survey of your own heart.

    I sense and feel for your anguish in this and wish that it were not so…

    1. Thanks Julie. I don’t know why this is such a sore spot right now. Could be the phase of the moon or the phase of life I’m about to enter. Whatever it is, writing from my heart is the only way I know to communicate and I will put a band-aid on my little ego and move on. Carefully…

  4. I’m glad that I have a nature blog and the nature that I visit is (usually) empty of humans. Personally I don’t want to see myself on a blog, ever.

  5. I guess it just fascinates me to see how others, or the world at large, views me. I love to hear my young roommate, Julia, talk about how she describes her living situation to co-workers. I think to myself, “Wow! That sounds so much more fascinating than reality!”

    I find humans intriguing and that is why I write about them…that and hopefully it helps me understand myself better…

    You have been written about, or mentioned with glowing reviews! That’s how I found your blog.

  6. Susan says:

    People do surprise us with their reactions, don’t they? I also change names of people I write about – unless it is a fellow writer or someone in the entertainment business who might be happy with a mention of them or their work. But however careful we are, for some it is not enough. I always enjoy reading your posts for that slice of another kind of life. I think you are a generous, insightful writer, and I can’t recall reading anything that you have written which could be construed as uncomplimentary. Please don’t let this change the way you write your wonderful blog-posts!

    1. Thank you Susan. I have been struggling with this for days and it is helpful to hear from others on how they handle similar situations. It is painful only because this particular person means so much to me.

      But, a writer must write and I can’t change my style to suit others’ tastes so I guess I will just apologize to her and move on…

  7. Touring NH says:

    Even if you could print out the directions for living your life, there is no guarantee you wouldn’t take a wrong turn now and then. Sometimes perceived wrong turns lead us to shortcuts or an entirely new destination. As far as the family member goes, if she was that upset about your post, why didn’t she pick up the phone? Why wait until a get together to talk to you about it? I have never read any posts by you that I thought might be construed as hurtful. As you said above, but a band-aide on your ego, let it go and keep writing the posts we all love to read!

    1. Thank you Laura. Band-aid applied and I am going to think about how to move forward. Here’s to wrong turns in the new year that will bring bright, open paths to new destinations!

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