My aunt Sarah keeps asking me why I have to write such depressing stories.
“Why not focus on the happy things? Why dwell on the negative?” she’ll frequently ask.
And at first it makes me angry. How can she not understand? How does she not “get” what I am doing here? I’m immediately defensive and sometimes I even end the conversation abruptly, vowing to not speak to her for a while.
But when I reflect on her question, I realize that it is a valid one. Why do I always seem to write about such sad topics? Why do people tell me that they cry after reading my stories and yet I keep writing them? Do I get gratification from upsetting people?
My family even has a phrase for my innate ability to “bring the crowd down.” They will make the sound “WAH WAH” like they did on the Debbie Downer skits on Saturday Night Live. It’s a signal that I’ve taken a happy conversation and turned it into something sad or depressing.
So I thought I would dedicate a post to this very question. Why do I write such depressing stories?
I think the best way to explain it is to tell you about last night.
Being that I’m in California on vacation with Chris, I took the opportunity to meet up with a girlfriend from high school. I haven’t seen or heard from her in 15 years, with the exception of Facebook status updates of course!
We chatted about family and jobs over a beer at a nearby pub. We updated each other on our families. We reminisced about our days in the band and church choir.
And then it happened.
She told me she had been reading my blog.
Now please understand, this is always an uncomfortable moment for me. Because it means that this person whom I know little to nothing about knows everything about me.
And I’m sure I turned red, embarrassed that I have written about my stint in the psych ward. Embarrassed that my husband was involved in a lawsuit. Embarrassed that I’ve shown such vulnerability during my grief for my daughter.
But she doesn’t seem to notice. Instead, she tells me how much my writing has affected her. How much it has meant to her that I’ve written about my struggles and how it has made her feel better about her own.
And I think, for a moment, how lucky I am to be sitting across from this woman who is opening up to me so bravely. I think I am the luckiest person in the world to know that my words, my stories, my experiences, have impacted someone across the country. And I wonder how many more people like her there are.
My writing teacher and friend, Kate Hopper, calls what I do “writing the hard stuff.” Trust me when I tell you that it is no picnic to write many of these stories. I cry just as hard while I write them as you do when you read them.
But in the end, I know that these experiences I have survived have gotten me to the place where I am today. And I hope that after reading them, you see me as a survivor, a warrior and not just a “Debbie Downer.”
Because one thing that I’ve learned these past five years is that nobody is immune to pain. Nobody gets through life without loss. Nobody lives without some sadness.
And if writing about how I’ve dealt with pain, loss and sadness can make even one person feel they are not alone, it is worth doing.