I used to love taking long walks at night through quiet neighborhoods. From the darkness of the sidewalk I often got glances of life inside those houses. I am not a voyeur of the peeping-Tom variety, but there is something so intimate in catching glimpses of a family sitting down to dinner; a man washing dishes staring out into the darkness; a woman watering her plants in the living room while listening to music. There is something comforting about seeing some people live lives like yours and something so exhilarating about seeing others live ones quite different.
That is one of the things I love most about reading blogs: getting little glimpses inside distant lives. I know they are only glimpses. I know all writing, even auto-biographies and memoirs, are limited to what the author wants to exhibit—there is no tell-all. We choose what stories to tell and how to tell them: we edit details; we add flair; we tone down; we exaggerate. Even when we think we have been as honest as possible, it is still, at best, one side of the story. Yet, there is always a grain of truth, a moment of authenticity that gives you a sense of a real life being lived.
Even though this is decidedly a personal blog, there are personal things that I don’t write about, that I choose not to write about. Some stories are not mine to tell. Others involve people I don’t want to hurt or expose.
Limiting the personal is especially an issue when it comes to my husband. I am not perfect; he is not perfect; we have struggles like every couple. I share some of my annoyances with him. I try to be honest about my defects and failures. I even mention arguments we have had. But just as I would not want to leave anyone with the idea that it is much rosier than it is, I also don’t want anyone to think it is bleaker than it is.
The writer of a lovely blog I read recently came under attack for something very personal she wrote. She was writing about the ups and downs of marriage, particularly, a current low point—no details, just that she was struggling. But she opened her heart, made herself vulnerable, and someone said something insensitive, as is bound to happen eventually in the blogosphere. It made me want to say something, to come to her defense.
What I have come to understand about human relations, is that even with those who are closest to us, who spend years by our side, we can never truly comprehend their depths: the motives, the desires, the intentions, the pain and suffering, the reactions, the losses, the bitter disappointments, the dreams, the joys of another human being. So, why judge so harshly someone you don’t even know?
Anyone who has been married past the initial “honeymoon” phase, and perhaps even sooner, will tell you that marriage is hard work; it is both bliss and agony; it is a haphazard assortment of shared joys and individual resentments. There are complications: children, jobs, financial strain, natural disasters, car problems, stress, gloom, loneliness, sickness, disagreements, insensitivities, egos. Fortunately, there is also joy, beauty, security, companionship, laughter, and intimacy to balance the scale.
It reminds me of a poem I have loved forever by a poet I adore; a poem I translated into Spanish for my husband back when we were dating and going through a rough patch; a poem that, for me, gets to the very essence of human relations, how complicated and vulnerable we are as individuals and how both sweet and bitter it can get when we come together.
by Marge Piercy
When we are going toward someone we say
you are just like me
your thoughts are my brothers
word matches word
how easy to be together.
When we are leaving someone we say
how strange you are
we cannot communicate
we can never agree
how hard, hard and weary to be together.
We are not different nor alike
but each strange in his leather body
sealed in skin and reaching out clumsy hands
and loving is an act
that cannot outlive
the open hand
the open eye
the door in the chest standing open.