Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our three lives: Public, personal, private

I write weekly letters to my teenage granddaughter. She is a survivor. As with nearly all teenagers she can use emotional support of her family. Sometimes I share here parts of what I write to her. Here is one from this week, modified slightly to read here.

V, another topic that I wanted to write about concerns the three lives that each of us lives. This description has been resonating with me the past few weeks. Each of us has three lives at the same time, our public life, our personal life, and our private life.

Our public life is that which we share with mostly everyone. For you I know that it includes that you are married to Douglas, that you are Russian or come from Russia, that you are smart, and young and beautiful. Some people do not share that they are smart. Others don’t think of themselves as beautiful. For those people they have other qualities that they share with most everyone.

Our personal life is usually shared with those we love, including dear, close friends. In my message at the top of this letter that I sent to my family I include thoughts and feelings about my personal life. I would not and do not share that with customers at the ministry-which-is-the-Episcopal-Bookstore or with most of the people at church or in the community choir, or at the boxing gym.

Our private lives include those thoughts, and perhaps actions, that we do not share with anyone. They include what we think and know that we should not say out loud. At each age in our lives I think that the private thoughts change. What a middle school kid would not want to be caught dead saying may be perfectly acceptable to that same person at age 40 or 50. I think that it is our private lives that are what we share with a counselor or therapist when real work is getting done on our individual issues. If with a counselor we only share the public and personal lives then it is a waste of time for both people.

Each of us works at deciding what thoughts we share as part of each life. I see some people who share personal stuff on Facebook (and for me Twitter is worse at this) that they shouldn’t share. Other people act out in public in ways that I think are at least personal and perhaps private. I know a man in his twenties who scratches his crotch and such when with a group of people. Perhaps he did not learn to not do that in public. I often have wondered about that about him.

And, there is, I think, the constant decision of how much of our private thoughts to share with our spouse or family. You may see in my message to my family that I waited to write to them. I did not want to take away from my brother the trauma that he is going through about his prostate cancer. Finally I decided, with some help from Nancy, that I should share it with them.

Some of our dreams fit into the category of “do I share that with my best friend/spouse or is it better not to?” Further, I think that for some people it is the old slippery slope. I would be embarrassed to share THAT with Nancy so I won’t. Then later something else comes up, “Oh, I would be embarrassed to share that with her.” After awhile there is a long list of things one does not share with anyone. The dam holding the water which are our personal thoughts gets fuller and fuller. Sometimes the dam breaks and all sorts of stuff come out, most of it should have come out much earlier and it would have been easier to deal with it earlier, but I think that is part of our nature.

Perhaps there are other personalities that share way too much. Their private dam does not fill up. I’ve met some whom I have thought should have raised their dam a little bit higher, like “I really did not want to know that personal item about you.!”

In my humble opinion we each decide what to share with others in our public lives, in our personal lives, and what we keep to ourselves in our private lives.

1 comment:

Katharyn said...

I think society has been moving for a more public private life since the late 60's early 70's, and with internet social nextworking such as blogs, twitter, and "facetube" (as my husband calls it) that movement is on steroids.

I'm not sure the movement in its entirety is a bad thing. Being very open adds more possibilities to relate to others who like you feel alone in your personal thoughts, but it also opens you up to the possibility of being shunned, ignored, and angering even more people. Nothing is simple, and I think this issue definitely has a six of one half a dozen of the other complex.

At Diocesan convention of '08 during the bible studies my group talked about how personal approval or disapproval of homosexual marriage is irrelevant; those of us at the table felt that without condoning homosexual marriage you wouldn't be able to bring younger new members to the Anglican church. The point of interest, is that we all agreed that the point of disinterest involved isn't necessarily personal opinion, but the application of that personal opinion on others. In other words, we felt that even people who are personally against homosexual marriage are turned off by the church not condoning homosexual marriage because they believe their personal believe shouldn't be forced upon others. Discussed, argued, but not implemented.

I think that such a thought process, that personal convictions should be discussed publicly with emotion but do not condemn those who do not share my convictions, comes from the popularity of public personal lives. As more people become so public with their personal thoughts, people as a whole have had to become more tolerant and indifferent to those thoughts, opening up new possibilities for coexistence.

Of course while I'm open about my Paganism, and Endometriosis in detail that some find to be too much information while others find the information helpful and hopeful... I have also stuck my foot in my mouth, offended people in ways that I did not intend and ultimately regretted, and a lost friend over my openness.

If nothing is perfect, then nothing is in it's entirety bad.