I’ve been writing essays about my experiences for most of my adult life, partly as a record for my family and partly as a contribution to public discourse on the human condition, even when what I have to say is not very good or interesting, which is most of the time. I write about living an imperfect life and lean on my relentless fallibility for inspiration. And although these experiences are molded by a full cast of characters, I avoid sharing private details about people whose orbits collide with mine through no fault of their own. I do this to protect the innocent but also because those aren’t my stories to tell. Which is not to say they aren’t important stories. All our stories are essential to understanding the way the world works. They are the connective tissue that binds generations together, that link the past to the present and future, and that bring together all the pieces in the picture of our complete selves, even when our selves are sometimes jerks.
In the time that I’ve been telling my stories, I’ve lived a full and scandalous life. I fell in love and got married. I fell out of love and got divorced. I fell in love again, but this time I wasn’t in a hurry to get married. So I got pregnant instead.
Telling these stories, in both transparent and opaque ways, satisfies a fundamental human desire to learn from my experiences, to grow from them, to figure out where I went wrong and how to do things differently next time.
Stories have the benefit of creating a safe space for other people with similar vulnerabilities to feel like they’re not alone, because listen, we are all fucked up and we are all just trying to get through every day without ramming our heads into a brick wall.
Stories make it possible to turn pain into joy, through shared experiences and community and laughter and just fucking being alive together, because that’s pretty much all we’ve got.
Stories shape our responses to progress, change, human rights, civil rights, feminism, parenting, vegetables. They make us kinder, more empathetic, more nourished people.
Stories also piss people off. Those pissed off people then post error-riddled diatribes in the comments about how our experiences don’t amount to a hill of beans.
I was recently on the receiving end of such a diatribe from a reader calling herself “Darlene Alderson” and have decided to share it with you, as part of a story that matters to me, and to correct the record, because that’s what I get to do when I take off my armor and tell my stories, even when – especially when – some of you don’t like it very much.
Take it away, Darlene.
Wow. The Julie effect [.com]. Big surprise. Seriously, I knew that you were already the most self-absorbed person when you were back he the south, but come on.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. Since you seem to be confusing the time-honored tradition of storytelling with vanity, I have taken the liberty of sharing some resources with you here and here and here and here that might help paint for you a fuller picture of why stories matter.
The fake crap about Randy being depressed and him having the gall to have your at the time husband take him to the airport when he left her.
Ah yes, good, let’s jump right into the mud. Thank you for bringing your medical degree to the discussion, Dr. Darlene, as well as an irrefutable timeline of events that had nothing to do with you. Fortunately, a very small part of this story is mine so I’m happy to help fact-check your fake news. I was divorced for three years from my ex-husband when my now-husband separated from his then-wife, but since that story had nothing to do with me, I can’t rightly tell much more than that without a lot of conjecture. That would make me an asshole, Darlene.
Whom ever was the home wrecker, the two of you should stop, at least publicly, being the complete antithesis of utter crap and have the human decency to admit you guys left your wonderful partners for one another.
Whomever is one word, although you mean the nominative whoever; homewrecker is one word; and I think you would benefit from looking up the meaning of antithesis.
Though they are much better off without you and living amazing lives that wouldn’t have been possible with the two of you there, one has to think “what type of psychopaths do what they’ve done to spouse, family and friends?
This is a relief! What a wonderful blessing that all parties are living amazing lives that wouldn’t have been possible if none of those marriages had broken up! Which is a very common thing that happens to 50 percent of marriages! Hallelujah! There is a god!
But you do raise a good point, “Darlene.” One does have to think, “What type of psychopath makes an issue of someone else’s marriages and divorces years and years and years after they ended, especially when one just stated for the record that literally everyone is better off?” One really has to think about that, Darlene.
Yes, your child is a blessing, just make sure he the the acception to the rule, as there is obviously something between you and your narasstic life, and husband, that is, well, terrifying.
I honestly don’t even know what any of this means, Darlene, and invite you to consider using a grammar and spellchecker the next time you troll me, but let me be clear about one thing: If you speak one more word about my child, here or anywhere else, do not find yourself alone with me in a dark alley. Then you really will have a story to tell.
Especially your manipulation of your loved ones and friends. I’m sorry for the people that continue to support you as friends, as they don’t know the full story. Here’s an idea: though the spouses your let for each are much better without your lies and presence, why don’t you ALL go off the grid? The few people that have been blinded by you two are probably too good to be a part of this absolute lack of respect for those you pledged it to. Trust me, we are all glad that the two of you are gone, but we don’t hate you. You aren’t deserving of that. You do, however, deserve to be reminded of the lives you destroyed… not just [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]’s, as they thrive without all your egotistical spells. Too bad that so many of your joint “friends” have been hypnotized. Enjoy yourselves, your lives and your obvious need for attention.
OK, well this tirade is getting a little long and drunk in the tooth, Darlene, but I am truly concerned about all the tangential people whose lives were utterly destroyed by my havoc. Please do let me know who and where they are and what sort of amends they need from me to make their lives whole again.
We will also take your suggestion under advisement that ALL two of us go off the grid, but as you may have learned when someone held a gun to your head and forced you to read my blog, we watch a lot of HGTV, and did you know off-gridders have their own TV show now?
We all know that will never change and how great you think you are. Some of us were not drinking you kool-aide while you were in the south. Live a happy existence, but know your past never goes away.
You’ve clearly read my writing and you seem to know me in some small way, Darlene, so you must know my most enduring theme is how everything I touch turns to charred shoe leather. But thank you for the ominous well wishes. Fortunately for us both, Darlene, my past continues to inform my present and future. It’s as if there’s some value in telling old stories. It’s as if accepting our pasts and our stories make us better people and lovers and partners and trolls.
Also, do not insult southerners by saying you are one. If so, you would have had the courage to admit what you and your “husband” did two the other two you promised to love and cherish.
I’m not sure what kind of unimpeachable values you believe Southerners possess, Darlene, but it seems to me you might not know many in real life if you think we are all completely immune to moral turpitude, or worse yet, plain ole bad choices, like deciding to marry the wrong person when we were barely out of diapers.
For reference, to be Southern literally means “to be a native of the South,” which is an indisputable fact about a person who was born in the hills of East Tennessee and raised in a small town just above the Georgia gnat line; whose ancestors entered this country in the 1600s through the Port of Charleston in South Carolina and went on to found missionary communities in Alabama financed by the irredeemable crime of slave ownership, before settling in South Georgia, where they attached themselves to a gambling ring financed by a lucrative highway robbery operation. On second thought, Darlene, you’re probably right to assign me some moral value based on my heritage, which is, as I’ve mentioned, pretty Southern.
Though it’s possible to have many side to a story, the disregard you have shown to all of us is abominable.
I am truly sorry for all the ways I wronged you, Darlene. When something I do causes pain to people I love or once loved or was once trolled by, it really does make me pause to take stock of my behavior and how my actions impact the world around me. I accept your critique and am sharing your words as part of my story, so that we may all learn from them and go forth endeavoring to please you, Darlene, with your poor mastery of the English language; your stale, misplaced angst; and your weird desire to keep up with my doings, even when you think so little of me.
But the again, you’ve always been a cold snowman that seems invincible. Ps, we’ve been tired of your egocentric blogs for years. Get a hobby that doesn’t involve telling the world how great you and Jesus are. We don’t buy it, though you are the whore in this disgusting arrangement.
If you hated the blog, you are really going to hate the book.
So glad the two of you sociopaths found one another. Good luck with rearing a normal child. The wedding pics of you preggers we great. Hmmm, hope he sticks around.
Our son was eight days old when we eloped, which is a matter of public record, Darlene. But thank you for saying so; we quite like our wedding photos, too.
A mere mortal who is doing her best, despite you, Darlene
Like many of you, I am doing the best I can. We’re doing our best with this marriage, and our kid, and this life, and our pasts and present and future. And sometimes the best may not be good enough, because life is hard and we are new at this. Things can be shitty. Sometimes things end.
But until then, I will continue to show up and tell my stories. Because we are all vulnerable and broken and our stories matter. Because our stories are what make us who we are, not just as individuals, but as a community. Whether our stories are that we turned 30 without knowing how to cook or clean or otherwise fend for ourselves, or we discovered some pretty dark things during the sleep deprivation of new parenthood about what our unconditional love for a tiny human makes us capable of, or we fell in and out of love and hurt some people pretty bad in the process, we are still deserving of love and understanding and empathy and kindness when our stories end. Every last one of us.
Even you, Darlene.