Day 32: Mea Culpa

I will keep this short because, if you have been following these, you will know I’ve been up-the-walls busy simply by the fact you haven’t heard from me.

I just want to apologise. My last piece was ambiguous and therefore truly hurtful to some family members. I wrote what I thought was a dry caricature of family living and instead it was misinterpreted as a direct attack on my sisters – the people I love most in this world. For that, I am sorry.

I don’t really want to explain myself as it feels I am then attempting to shirk responsibility and going down a line of “I’m not a racist but…” defense but there is something I feel needs to be clarified. When I write, I use my personal life for inspiration. That’s all well and good except for the fact that, unfortunately, without the people who populate and colour my life, there’s really not much of a story. So – without explicit permission – I include the lives of those around me sometimes. This is less well and good for them, particularly if I write something they don’t like.

However, I generally don’t use names for the specific reason that I’m not describing a person, per say, but rather an experience. The people I am writing about are obviously very real but they are caricatured here. They are a springboard to an enhanced persona and a better story. When I write about my dad, yes, he does do all of the things I describe and he really is very emotionally invested in our puzzle, but I’m writing about a dad. I’m writing about a character we all have in our lives – a person we all know because it’s not just my dad – it’s a little piece of everyone’s dad. Nowhere in these entries have I mentioned how almost unbelievably intelligent he is, how successful his career has been, how he is one of the most quietly generous men I have ever known. I don’t write those things because in my head they’re a given, they’re truths that need no acknowledgement, they are so obvious as to be unremarkable. And they do not make for good reading.

When I realised the upset my last piece had caused, I realised that if you read these and only these, you would know none of these things about my dad and that, to me, feels like a failing on my part.

The same is true of my sisters. In the last piece, I spoke about being consistently interrupted, of being called all these names for needing time to myself. I sounded resentful, bothered, annoyed. Maybe, on some level, I was a little. I wrote it – as I write all of these – stream-of-consciousness and in the moment when I’d felt under pressure to hang out when all I really needed was to be alone. I suppose what that piece was expressing was this guilt I feel for seeking out solitude when with my family. That’s not a reflection of my family – that’s a feeling that I have because I need everyone to like me all the time and therefore struggle to say no.

Because we are SO close – and that should be highlighted, underlined, and multiplied by a 1,000 – and also because I know I will be moving away from them soon, I find it difficult to extricate myself to sit on my own. I feel like I am insulting them or being selfish while they, as I make the choice to write rather than play cards, feel that I am rejecting them personally. This is what I was attempting to capture – my struggle to assert myself in this cocooned environment where all you have is each other and all you’ve previously known – in the eight years it’s been since we’ve all lived together – are snatched weekends and Christmas holidays when personal time was foregone for complete sibling overexposure. We are so used to having to squeeze as much time together as possible from our busy and divergent lives that now, we are all struggling to adapt to a universe in which we don’t need to fill every second with von Trapp levels of familial bliss.

It was not about how annoying x sister is or how I find y sister too clingy. It was not about that because those sisters and those feelings don’t exist. It was simply about an experience – one moment in a million moments – of the search I think we all undertake to reclaim a sense of ‘me’ in a big household. And, being selfish, I need a lot more of that ‘me’ time than others.

Much like I don’t spend these entries detailing the minute ways in which my father is wonderful, I didn’t sanitise that piece with the context that I love my sisters more than anything and I live for their interruptions, disruptions, and even their unoriginal name-calling. I didn’t contextualise it with the fact that I listen, every morning, for the sound of each family member waking, so I know how soon they are likely to come in and brighten up my day. I didn’t say that I love being at home and hearing the murmur of them in their respective rooms, one person’s stride down the stairs at lunchtime, the other’s light canter around the kitchen trying to get their hourly Fitbit steps in. I didn’t say any of this because again, I assumed it was obvious. I assumed you, the reader, would know that one story was not the whole story and that I am not trying to describe my family, I’m just describing what it’s like to be in a family.

And I want to be honest. Speaking with those of you who are good enough to read this, I know it is the uncomfortable stuff that is best because it is the icky parts of human living that are least talked about and yet most important. I want to be able to express my frustrations, disappointments, dissatisfactions and counteract a culture of perfection. You don’t need to know my sisters and I are essentially a cooler version of HAIM. That’s not helpful, it’s not relatable, nor is it comforting. But honesty is difficult when you have the feelings, trust, and privacy of others on your hands and all of those were bruised by my willful and pathological oversharing.

And I’m really, really sorry for that.

So when reading these – or anything for that matter – please remember there is no such thing as truth. Don’t take my word for anything – I’m a spoof, a thief, a pirate. I take pieces of my day and I give them colour. I dramatise, exaggerate for what I consider comedic effect, I blur the line between the person who is writing this and the person you are reading about. What is honest for me today is a distant memory tomorrow. Crucially, I am giving you one, impulsive, badly-written viewpoint. These diaries might provide an insight into my life but they are not representative of it – they are mere snippets, isolated ponderings that exclude more than they include, and hide more than they reveal.

To the family unlucky enough to have a daughter, sister, friend who insists on using her personal life as a career, I am sorry for the burdens it puts on you. I am not ignorant of what I ask of you; I’m just too selfish and in love with words to stop.

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