The Problem With Keeping It Real


This is going to be short, because I’ve got Nat for the night. That fact alone should be inspiration for me to finish my NaNo book, 7 Days (even if it falls short of the 50K mark). And in part, it does. Experiencing her and her mannerisms first-hand reminds me of that week I spent alone with her, and if the seven years I spent raising her since her birth. It’s hard not to get all emotional, and feel that others may interested in reading about it.

But that’s just it… I don’t feel like I’ve been doing a good job of properly representing who Natalie is. There is no way I can capture her idiosyncrasies–all the little things that make her who she is–through mere words. And even if I could, I’m not sure I want the world to know her as intimately as I. It’s already weird enough she has the rough equivalent of another dad out there, especially considering he sees her every day, and I only have her overnight once every two weeks.

That’s the other thing… The story was never just about dealing with Natalie and autism. It was also about my struggles with my (then) upcoming divorce. The problem is, it’s hard to represent that without letting myself go to a dark place, and embrace the pain I’ve tried to carefully wall off.

Truth is, her and I have done our best to keep this whole thing amicable. And for the most part, I think we’ve succeeded. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anger and resentment on both sides. We’ve just decided it’s better for everyone involved to not make it harder than it needs to be.

Unfortunately, that makes for a dull story. And if I were to truly write about my pain, I know it would only make the situation worse, possibly undermining everything we’ve fought to achieve.

Had I gone with my original plan and written this as a fictionalized story based loosely on my own experiences, I think I might have fared better. I went back and forth on how best to write it, right up until the moment I typed the first words. I thought it would be easier to use our names and try to recall conversations and events, but that proved more difficult. Ultimately, I felt like I wasn’t properly representing anyone, and I wasn’t comfortable fully talking about the entirety of my marriage and the subsequent divorce.

Perhaps the story will someday see the light of day, with characters that somewhat resemble myself, my ex-wife and my daughter. That sounds like a book I could get excited to write.

S.L. Madden

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