When I posted yesterday about Barbara Kingsolver, I meant to lead into a brilliant quote from one of her essays in High Tide in Tucson, but the post got too long. The essay is called In Case You Ever Want To Go Home Again, and it’s so lovely I want to retype it in its entirety right here, but I won’t. She talks about writing and she talks about memory and about how she can’t stop herself from writing the truth.
You can fool history sometimes, but you can’t fool the memory of your intimates. And thank heavens, because in the broad valley between real life and propriety whole herds of important truths can steal away into the underbrush. I hold that valley to be my home territory as a writer. Little girls wear food on their chins, school days are lit by ghostlight, and respectable men wear their undershirts at home. Sometimes there are fits of laughter and sometimes there is despair, and neither one looks a thing like its formal portrait.
I’ve written before about my reluctance to post pictures of my life. At first I worried about anonymity, but that’s not really a concern these days. Later, I worried that it would make my blog boring, but I can admit now that I like sites that are visually pleasing, and good photography doesn’t necessarily translate to bad writing. Now, I worry about accuracy. On our last family vacation, Robert’s sister was flipping through an album that one of us posted on Facebook, and she made some reference to our “perfect life,” with our “cute dog” and our “cute apartment” in “the city.” And it’s true. Our life isn’t perfect, but it’s interesting. We do have a cute dog and a great apartment, and we live in one of the most incredible cities I’ve ever been. Just look*:
This picture doesn’t tell you that our cute dog woke us up an hour early yesterday because he had an accident, and Robert spent the morning wiping out his kennel while I carried him down three flights of stairs in my sweats and walked him around the block twice to make sure he was ready to go back inside. It doesn’t tell you that we didn’t eat breakfast because I was late and the apartment smelled too bad.
I can’t not tell you these things. I wish I could just post a picture of my dog, but I can’t. I wish I could just tell you about how Robert cooked me a romantic dinner, just four nights after his operation, without also telling you how his cooking dinner for the first three nights after his surgery made me stressed out and resentful. I wish I could tell you about how I won my first case the week before I quit my job, and how I think it might have been the greatest thing I ever did, without telling first telling you exactly what I hate about being a lawyer.
Sometimes I worry that people read this blog and think I’m not madly in love with my husband or that I regret going to law school. I’m afraid Robert will read it and think I’m not happy in our marriage, or in my job, or my life. The truth is, I’m as happy as anyone needs to be. And I suspect my life is flawed in the way that anybody else’s life is flawed. And I don’t write about the imperfections because I need some kind of internet confessional, but because I think they make my life what it is. A little girl with food on her face is funnier than one who is freshly bathed, and a man in his undershirt is more interesting than a man in a suit, and morning spent taking care of a sick dog does more for a marriage than another quiet breakfast together, with the newspaper and tea. I hold my flaws — and yours — to be my home territory as a writer.
*Instagram for Android was released today. No more Pixlr-O-Matic!