I’m a talker.
I’ve always been a talker. You give me a couple of chairs and a table and your undivided attention, and I will find us a topic to talk about. My friend Ben calls me “The Riddler” because of my propensity to ask a ton of questions, in hopes of furthering a deeper (or sometimes just more entertaining) conversation.
But it’s very hard for me to talk about my own history and shortcomings. We all have skeletons in our closets, personal demons, dirty laundry. We all have our Achilles heels and vulnerabilities. I’m hardly the first person to clam up about something in my past.
Why bring this up on a site about writing? Because I feel like many writers have this undercurrent of shame and regret they wrestle with more than most. It could just be my own perceptions. But from the conversations I’ve had in the last two weeks with my peers, I feel this awful weight of secrecy surrounding me like an aura. I’ve talked more around this subject in the last month than I’ve actually talked about it.
It. See, there I go again. Let’s name this demon, shall we?
Yesterday was April 4. It’s a day I know well. I didn’t even realize it was April 4 until about 5 p.m. yesterday, after having a pretty poop-tactular day. And when I realized it, I wondered how I was going to turn that day around.
The answer came at Big Ass Beer night.
A friend texted and asked a bunch of us if we wanted to go to a local watering hole to watch the NCAA Championship. I’m not big into sports, but I am big into people (and it was UNC…), so I went. And somewhere during halftime, I got brave enough to propose a small, quiet toast. It went something like, “23 years ago tonight, I almost died…” and then some garbled mess about life and living, or something like that. My friends, two guys that surely indulged me in letting me make my little speech, had no idea that they were the first audience for my confession into the universe. There were few questions, which was a relief.
Coming off the relief I felt from that, I then texted four of my favorite “down here” people, and without giving too much information, said the thing about 23 years ago, and that I thanked them for their friendship. Keep in mind, I’ve known these four friends, plus the other two at the bar, for less time than it takes to completely gestate a human.
And finally, I texted Jeanne, my friend of 27 years. I text her every year (or email, or call) on this day, because she was the one who saved my life.
You can read between the lines here to figure out a hazy picture of what happened on April 4, 1993. I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty details, but I do want to say that it felt good to let a piece of my story go out into the world last night, as coy or misunderstood as it might have been.
I don’t want you to tell me how brave I am for sharing this, because the fact is I am not brave. I just wanted to put a little vulnerability out into the world as karma, hoping that someday, people can have real conversations about such things without feeling ashamed.
I’m still learning how to do this.