The more I promise honesty, the harder it gets.
Jason Collins told the world he was gay last week, the first major American athlete to do so. I envy him.
It must feel so good to be free of everything you’re hiding. I don’t have many secrets. But when I write, I keep too much in the closet.
I hide under fancy words and well-structured paragraphs. I don’t say it how it is because I want to sound good. I want to spin sentences that sound like melodies, and inspire thoughts that deliver like prose.
I try too hard, in the way most of us do when we love something so much.
It is a relationship that is extremely volatile. One morning I wake up feeling filled with urgency, itching to express intense emotions; the next I’m slow and sluggish, hours on end with not a delight in sight.
I have no escape from this affair. I hate it, I adore it, I need it. It is the most painful test of my pleasure, and I wonder why it doesn’t just betray me in the end—walk out the door never to return.
But it remains. The deepest love of my life, and the most unreliable: the relationship I have with my words.
It has changed though, the way almost all my relationships have.
I have best friends who can no longer relate to me; their words filled with love, but forcefully delivered. I have family who’ve started to feel like strangers, schoolmates who are unrecognizable, and acquaintances who have become the most familiar.
Between any two forces however, it’s rare if dynamics don’t change. I’ve seen it a lot recently: mothers whose sons have a new priority (be it a wife or career), colleagues who turn from mentors into patronizing bosses, and brothers who fall out over inheritance.
But I envy them, too.
If a loved one breaks up with you, or a wife walks out the door; if a brother punches you in a fight, or a friend insults you in an argument—you can shout back, call back, write back. One way or another, your voice will be heard.
But when somebody leaves in the way only mortality attacks, your relationship changes irreversibly.
The death of my father has been the biggest test of my loyalty, because I know he will never respond.
I can write Daddy’s Diaries, type emails to an inactive address, scribble letters I can’t post. I can talk to him out loud or whisper to my pillow at night.
When action is only taken in one direction, you truly learn what it means to give without expectation.
I realize now, seven months since I last wrote Daddy’s Diaries, that my changing relationship with words isn’t too far off from the one Daddy had with life.
It was his greatest love, and his biggest weakness. He wanted to do everything, go everywhere, constantly feel the thrill of being alive. It was the one thing on which he survived, and the only thing he could never rely on. He lived fully, people say. But I would say he lived with certainty—on a lifeline that was most uncertain.
I hope I inherit that.
I hope I can sit in front of a blank screen and know for sure that the words will come.
I don’t know if all change can be reversed, whether old friends will come back or family will mend broken bonds.
But I do know I will not hear from Daddy. And I admit that’s why I can’t bring myself to write sometimes.
If I do, I’m exposed. Everything is laid bare. People can look directly at my insecurities. I don’t want to allow room for judgment, for criticism, for response.
But then again, I suppose I do.
Because even though I fight against my words—and can’t always uphold my promise to honesty—I realise what we’re both yearning for is the exact same thing: a reaction.