In a 12-step program I practice, we tell newcomers if they stick around a while, they’ll eventually hear their own story. Some seriously doubt it. They are the ones who think they can’t be helped as others have, because, you see, they aren’t like others. We call that being terminally unique, and I suffered from it when I was a newcomer. The main symptoms are martyrdom, loss of perspective, and  a wildly distorted perception of your own part in the grand scheme of things. It’s also been aptly called “the belief that you are the piece of shit the world revolves around.”

For people thus afflicted, hearing someone else give voice to the very thoughts they have been thinking, the very feelings they have been feeling, is the miracle cure. Someone else’s truth can set you free.

If you know where to go for the good stuff, if you hearken to authenticity, blogs can be like that sometimes. Like sitting at a table, hearing story after story. You might react, you might judge, you might get bored. And then, there it is, your story. Or a page from it, at least.

This happened to me last night, reading  Cafe Mama. I’ve gotten to know its author, Sarah, just a little. Enough to guess that we don’t have much surface stuff in common. But when I read this passage, from December, I wished I could run down the street to Portland and give her a big hug:

The only people to whom I am expressly not writing this blog are certain of my in-laws. Why? Because they use my words, often out of context, to dig up dirt on me, and by association, my husband. No one cares about this dirt except other members of the family. So it swirls around like water in a clogged sink, angry and poisonous, sticky and yet bound by its own porcelain borders, sometimes splashing out into my life in the messiest of ways.

(December 13, Losing Grace) 

Some of that same brackish water has backed up into my own life this past year, and I am surprised to admit that it has given me pause. I suppose I have been spoiled by an overwhelmingly supportive community of readers and a string of lucky breaks. It would be naive to expect it all to be a lovefest. But as the writing goes further, and reaches more of the people I want it to reach, there are other, less welcome people, who latch on.

They are so much like each other, their emails to me could all be written by the same person. The details—the specific grievances—change, but they are all in the same key. Each has penned a drama with themselves in the starring role. Each is utterly convinced that what I’ve written is all about them. It would be funny, if they weren’t so obviously sick and unhappy.

I thought I’d moved through each incident with as much grace and detachment as I could muster. They seem to come nested in each new level of success or exposure for my writing, and I’ve shaken them off as tests of my commitment to it. But my hands have not been as loose at the keyboard recently, in spite of my mother’s emailed encouragement to never let anything keep me from writing my truths.

Sarah’s words would have had no fire in them for me if I wasn’t feeling a little chill. The truth is, as big a girl as I am, it’s unnerving to realize that not everyone who is reading means well, or is well.

“…you need love and compassion and grace,” wrote Sarah to the poisonous people she wasn’t writing for. “You need what I do not have today.”

Neither do I have what my ill-wishers need. Though they look hour after enraged and lonely hour, they won’t ever find anything in me or my words that will fill whatever it is they are missing from their lives. 

I do wish them love, compassion and grace. I hope they find it somewhere. And mostly, I wish them a seat at a table where, if they stick around long enough, they’ll get to hear someone tell their story, and realize their own truth.