Bravery And Its Discomforts

I thought a lot about protecting the privacy of people I wrote about in The Wrong Calamity so they’d be comfortable when it was published. I also thought hard about my own comfort if, say, my students read it, or my clients. Two recent conversations made me realize I hadn’t given enough thought to the impact my memoir could have on my friendships. 

One friend said, “You were brave to put your story out there.” I explained that, earlier, I’d been unwilling to share it but by the time I submitted it for publication, it felt fine. “By then it didn’t take bravery at all,” I said. When others had mentioned my “bravery,” I’d left it at that. This time, I asked a question: “Are you uncomfortable knowing so much about me?” She thought a moment, then said, “I’m comfortable because you’re comfortable.”

Later, another friend said, “I’ve read the first chapter. Should I keep reading? Do you want me to know this much about you?” I thought he was joking, and without stopping to think, I assured him that yes, it was fine with me.

When he’d finished the book, he said, “When we first me, you told me a bit about you, I told you a bit about me . . . over time, this was how we became friends. Now I know way more about you than you know about me.” 

In a flash, I realized that now our friendship was unbalanced. Did he feel obligated to tell me more about himself—maybe things he didn’t want to share? 

“I don’t think so,” he said, “but I’ll have to give it more thought.”

I’m giving it more thought too. 

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