As a writer of memoir and creative non-fiction, I write about myself and those around me. I wrote in a previous post about the danger of knowing a writer because you might see yourself in print. It was written in a lighthearted voice, but it’s something that has troubled me from the time I started writing. Following is paragraph from my book recounting the conflict I felt about sharing a rather delicate incident with my Dad.
My aunt and I had a conversation about caregivers being grace givers. Having cared for her mother and her husband for many years, she has had lots of experience. She talked about extending grace not only in the way you handle uncomfortable situations but also how you talk about them afterward. She said you should handle the situation with grace to avoid embarrassing your loved one, and that you should refrain from making them an object of ridicule by discussing the situation with others. While I understood her point of view, I believe a great deal of frustration is released when we vent to caring friends. I wondered if publishing a journal about them would help other caregivers in some way or would it deny my parents the grace of silence. This is something I need to pray about.
I prayed about it, and I included the incident in the book along with my feelings, but I still struggle. Recently one of my cousins, who is also a caregiver, wrote a Facebook Note in the form of a classified ad offering his mother to the highest bidder. I thought the piece was hilarious, showing both his love for his mother and his frustration with his circumstances. I think humor is a healthy way of dealing with overwhelming situations. David and I often laughed about the days’ antics after Mom and Dad went to bed, and I encouraged others in our support group to try and see the lighter side of caregiving. But my aunt didn’t agree. I happened to be with her when I saw my cousin’s post, so I read it aloud to her.
“I didn’t like it a bit,” she said. “I didn’t appreciate what he said.”
I got a big knot in my stomach as I thought, She’s going to hate my book.”
I feel like I’ve come to terms with the issue, using the Apostle Paul’s admonition to speak the truth in love as my guideline, but it comes up from time to time. When I wrote about “My Dad, the Troublemaker,” I wondered. There was no deep spiritual truth to be imparted, just a few cute memories of my dad that I thought might bring a smile to a few readers’ faces. But would he have been embarrassed? Was I exploiting him to get a few more blog views?
So I’m asking for feedback. As a caregiver, do you think there are limits to what you should share? As a writer, do you have guidelines about what is off limits? Where is that invisible line beyond which you won’t write?