I sort of casually follow the Confessions of a Funeral Director’s Facebook page. I’m not sure what got me turned on to it. I probably saw a post or two shared by someone else and it resonated. Maybe I just thought he was a cutie patootie. He is a good looking guy, not that I get a lot of crushes anymore.
Last night, I happened to read a post he– that is, Caleb– shared about why he writes. He started it off with this: “Speak and write about your scars, not your open wounds. That’s the axiom you’re supposed to follow as a writer.” Those two opening sentences really hit home for me, since I have occasionally gotten complaints from people that I “share TMI” in my blog. Some people have said I’m “inappropriate”, and have offered the unsolicited advice not to publish certain things, because it makes me look like an ass.
Well, folks, if the truth be told, sometimes I am an ass. However, I think most people are asses at some points in time. Nobody’s perfect. I used to try to be a certain way because I felt like it would make me more likable to other people. I was also encouraged and pressured to be that way by other people, namely my parents and sisters. But then I realized that being something or some way I’m not makes me less than authentic. It’s also exhausting and depressing.
Caleb, the funeral director continues with this: “Burnout, secondary trauma, PTSD, depression, fear, disassociation, social anxiety . . . these are all a part of my concoction of diagnosed open wounds (more on the diagnosed part of things when I’m feeling up to talking about it). And these wounds rarely have time to heal when their source is your job. For some of us, like me, writing from our scars isn’t entirely possible because some wounds just remain . . . open.”
Boy, oh boy, can I relate to that passage. I write about my pain. I’m not sure if it helps make the pain go away so much as it helps me to process it in some way. Some wounds are slow to heal. Some never completely heal. I would imagine that as a funeral director, Caleb gets a fairly regular shot of pain to the psyche and sees things that may make him think about his own mortality. Like me, he writes to process.
I thought Caleb was really profound with his comments about “scars” until I read what he wrote next: “…I love spreading my darkness and pain around the Internet. SEE MY PAIN AND WALLOW IN IT WITH ME!!! I’m basically becoming the Grumpy Cat (RIP, beloved feline patronus) of the funeral industry, here to give you the pleasure of seeing transparent online suffering.”
Oh my God, YES! I totally relate. People have asked Caleb why he doesn’t just “quit”. I wonder if they mean caring for the dead, or writing about his experiences. In the next paragraph, Caleb sort of indicates that they mean “caring for the dead”, which can take a huge emotional toll on a person. He says he stays in his job because he’s good at it. He knows he can help people. And maybe, he says, he “might have a slight Messiah complex.”
I see this place as where I spread my special brand of shitty sunshine. I know I have written things that others have found entertaining, informative, or even thought provoking. I’ve also written offensive things that upset people. I own it. Some writers love to write only positive, uplifting, wise things. Me? Sometimes I feel kind of like Alison Krauss when I write. She sings a lot of sad songs and they really resonate with people. I once read that she likes to record songs that make people feel like crap. She even put it that way, although she was kind of joking. Alison Krauss, for all of her sad songs, has always struck me a bit as a frustrated comedienne.
At a concert, Alison Krauss told a story about how she’d wandered into a used record store in Nashville and found an old song by Michael McDonald called “It Don’t Matter Now”. The prospect of recording it was exciting to her, because “we don’t want anybody listening to us feeling good!” I see from the link that the reviewer attended a 2005 Alison Krauss and Union Station (AKUS) show in Seattle. I remember that year, Bill and I also saw AKUS, only we caught it in Richmond, Virginia. I also remember her telling that story. We were in the nosebleed seats, because that was during our “poor days”. Alison doesn’t seem to be recording as much these days, but her comments about singing songs that make people feel like crap have always resonated with me. If you were to meet me in person, you may catch me on a day when I’m being hilarious and entertaining. Or you may catch me when I’m feeling depressed and mad at the world. Maybe I’m like this because I’m a Gemini… or maybe I’m simply nutty. So far, I haven’t actually hurt anyone by being who I am. Maybe I’ve hurt people’s feelings, but people have hurt my feelings, too. I think it’s very hard not to sometimes hurt people. As long as it’s unintentional, I don’t think it’s a problem.
For me, writing is kind of healing, even if I’m writing about an open psychic wound and express emotions like anger. Anger, by the way, is not a negative or toxic emotion in and of itself. Sometimes anger can be very empowering and motivating. If we were all peaceful and placid every day, why would we be motivated into taking action when action is warranted? If a person lets anger turn them into someone who does destructive things, like slashing tires, getting into fights, or drinking themselves to death, that would be negative. But writing about being angry or depressed– expressing anger on paper– is not, in and of itself a destructive action… even if someone reads the words and gets upset about it. Reading someone else’s words is always a choice, especially when you’re accessing their “place”. In my case, it’s my blogs. I can write things down, but I can’t control other people’s reactions. And, unless I make everything private, I can’t control whether or not they choose to read this stuff… my special brand of shitty sunshine, which is sometimes very hot and bright, but also stinks.
Anyway… reading Caleb the funeral director’s thoughts on his writing, which he admits is sometimes kind of depressing to read, really hit home for me. Some of us are just grumpy and we exorcise our crankiness by writing. It beats slashing tires or driving drunk, and it’s quieter than singing.