I’ve always been introverted, shy and afraid of people’s perception and opinions about me. So much so that I always ensured that I was a ‘good’ girl, I’d be polite, always listening and letting others take centre stage. I simply did everything necessary to remain invisible! I convinced myself that this made people more comfortable with me, they knew they could open up and say anything they wanted, they valued my friendship since I always listened and I was dependable.
There was one place though where I would truly be myself – the ‘real’ me. I’d say what I wanted to, in most cases I’d say what I couldn’t, didn’t or hadn’t said in public, I’d react the way that I ideally should have, I’d be the heart of the party and my opinions would be important. It was almost like living a double life except that I didn’t create a visible split personality. Sometimes I wish I had – but guess its better this way.
I wrote diaries – yes I’m from a generation that did use them! Being a teacher and administrator, my father was always receiving or being gifted diaries in different shapes and sizes. He’d pass them on to me and I would write in them almost every day. A new diary in hand was like a fresh lease of life. Interestingly, when I wrote I realised that my handwriting would change – it would either slant backwards or forwards or would be ramrod straight. I cannot say if it changed with my moods or topics I wrote about but it just did.
I wrote about my experiences, thoughts, feelings, insecurities, fantasies, fears, relationships, parents, loved ones – everything. It was the only outlet for the ‘real’ me to surface. Of course this also meant that my diaries were personal. No one was allowed to read them. I think I survived years of loneliness because I had ‘me’ to confide in. Perhaps it also meant that I was never alone. Maybe sometimes I hated being alone but since I never confided in anyone else, I was never disappointed.
And then I fell in love. A good man with a great sense of humour, he made me comfortable enough to open up to him. I said everything I wanted to say to him and he accepted me as I am. I stopped writing – suddenly there was no need. We connected at such a deeper level that he knew how I would react in certain situations, what I wanted to say, what I wished I had said, how I felt. Talking to him made the pain less, my anger disappeared, and I felt alive and happy.
A few years later we got married and suddenly I was confused about what I should do with my diaries. Should I leave them behind? Not a chance – they were dynamites that could rock my world! Should I take them with me? NO! Also, there was no need for them now. I already had a walking-talking personal diary (read my husband) with me now so why bother. After much argument (with myself) I finally decided to burn them. I wasn’t happy with simply tearing them to shreds – something inside knew that they had to be destroyed, completely.
So one fine day when there was no one at home I did just that. I tore them up and set them on fire!
It was the right decision but as I saw the flames engulf page after page, I panicked. Those pages held the person I was – smart, confident, strong, impulsive, care free. The fire was erasing it all. Suddenly I felt as if I’d set myself on fire! I had to douse it, right now. I looked around frantic for a way to stop the fire from spreading. Unfortunately, there was nothing – water didn’t help as there was just too much paper and the wind only helped to spread it faster.
As I saw my life go up in flames, I bawled. I cried for a life well lived. I cried for a life that could have been my reality. I cried for losing my only anchor. Bereft I sat staring blankly for a long time till charred papers started flying about. The need to stop them from messing the room which could then lead to uncomfortable questions snapped me out of the stupor.
I cleaned up. I felt calm.
Many years later, the need for my double life, resurfaced. Yes I still confided in my good friend, my husband but his roles and responsibility as a husband, lover, father, son, brother, caretaker, provider made things complicated. So I started writing again. This time technology made things easier, I blogged. For the first four years I maintained a private blog which till date is inaccessible to anyone. But I felt unsatisfied – perhaps because I had grown, I had changed. I didn’t like taking things lying down anymore. I had a voice and I wanted to be heard. Yet, there was a part of me who still wanted to remain anonymous. I was scared of repercussions, back lashes, of being hurt, being misunderstood. People’s acceptance of me was at stake! For some time the battle raged within. Then I read the Secret of Good Writing by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Simultaneously someone commented, “If you don’t have an opinion, you don’t matter!” Then someone said, “If I can’t hear you, you don’t exist!”
For the first time I was faced with the dilemma- was I willing to pay the price of admission? The conflict of interest in my head- be nice or remain invisible – was becoming overwhelmingly bitter. What was stopping me from letting go of this shield of protection? Opening up meant the world would know the real me – was it that bad? Isn’t that what I truly wanted? Yet blogging meant that everyone didn’t have to know. How many people, especially those known to me would actually read my blog? Didn’t that mean that I could still be anonymous? Wasn’t this a better place to be in? I dared myself – what would happen? What was the worst that could happen? After all, I did have a fall back system in place – if it became difficult; I could always change the settings and make it private again!
It’s been two years now since I started this blog open to everyone to read. It took another leap of faith to connect it to my social networks giving access to anyone who cared enough to click on the link. And, because I did that, the uncertainty and fear does raise its ugly head now and then but I let it do its thing in my head. When it’s done, I simply write, emote, express and say it all.
I don’t worry about burning memories anymore. I don’t suppose I can ‘virtually’ burn anything! But does it really matter?