Yesterday I received an anonymous comment on my blog. I am not sure, but I think it was taking me to task for “doing private things in public places”. I have asked myself, too, why I share so much of my personal history with perfect strangers. Here is what I have come up with.
It is my belief that we are all much more alike than we are different. The personal is the universal. I learned this when we lived in Nashville and I was learning to write country songs. If you listen to a country station, you will notice that a lot of the songs are extremely specific and personal in nature. A few titles that come to mind are, “How Can I Help You to Say Goodbye”, “That’s Not My Truck”, “I’m Looking For Something In Red”, “Don’t Take The Girl”, “She’s In Love With the Boy” . . .It’s not hard to think of good examples. The human condition is spelled out loud and clear in every one of these songs. That’s why they work. When you listen to songs like these, and many others, you feel as if someone has been reading your mail.
And how does it make you feel when you hear a song that fits your own situation like a key fits a lock? Well, speaking strictly for myself, it makes me feel good. Even if the emotion of the song is heartbreakingly sad, it feels good to know that I’m not alone, to know that somewhere out there is at least one person (the writer) who understands. This is not a small thing. And if the writer was skilled enough to include personal details such as the name of the best friend who moved to another town, or his daddy’s watch that he gave to the mugger in exchange for his girlfriend’s life, or the phrase ‘hayseed plowboy’ which an angry father used to describe his daughter’s boyfriend, so much the better! That gives the whole story an authenticity that reassures me the writer wasn’t just making the whole thing up.
One of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling of isolation. It’s become a cliché that whenever they’re interviewing the neighbor of someone who turns out to be a serial killer, the neighbor says something like, “Well, you never would have known. He was kind of a loner – Never said ‘boo’ to anyone!”
All of our mythology, our classic drama, our movies, our “sit coms”, even the comic strips in the paper, are ways of connecting us to our larger human family. Life can be scary and lonely. Life can be bewildering and overwhelming. Life can be tragic and unfair. Life can be hilarious and touching. So when we find out that someone else is having the same kind of life that we are, we feel better for it. We feel supported.
And for the writer, the effect is the same, only in reverse. I reach out to my audience and immediately feel connected. I like knowing that somewhere out there in the world, someone is reading my little story and nodding their head in recognition, or chuckling, or sighing, or even just thinking, “Well, I didn’t feel that way when I was in that situation”! It really doesn’t matter, because all of it is connection. And for me – That’s what it’s all about.
© 2005, Robin Munson