Monday 19 March 2007

A Blogger’s Paradox

“ I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” – Mother Teresa

Personal or topical? Small posts or essays? Write for a specific audience? Purge the soul in front of thousands? So many questions face someone who sets out to blog. As a person who began formally blogging in 2000, I’ve had to question, and re-question, how I use my blog, and why.

My blog grew organically in that I really didn’t spend any time thinking about a blogging plan. Even in retrospect the idea seems ludicrous. Blogging has taken on a far broader spectrum of content and topics than what was ever anticipated. In fact, early blogs were often much like Twitter, where spontaneous thoughts of the writer would speckle the blog throughout the days. There were no real comment systems, so blogging for a time was not a very interactive experience. There were no pingbacks, there was no Technorati, blogging was in its essence a more introspective, personal experience.

As blogs became commonplace, and began to be used for a variety of things via an influx of richer tools and a very enthusiastic community at large, questions about how to approach blogging became a popular topic. And, we really don’t have any solid answers today about the “best” way to blog. Some people have multiple blogs to deal with multiple needs and interests, and some people keep a private blog just for themselves, or family and friends to share the more intimate issues.

Can I Get a Witness?

In some cases, my blog has served as a confessional. The important piece in that is that the experiences of my life, be they what I do for work or how I deal with the challenge of being human, the posts are not just confessions, but they are witnessed confessions. It is the witnessing that makes the experience work.

Whether it be community gathering influence and identity about browsers and the technologies with which we work, or community gathering to aid a suffering friend, it is that interaction that has made blogging so valuable.

I’ve had one fortunate piece, though, and that’s that because I have no significant other, no children and only have to abide by a few NDAs regarding topics, I’m free to blog my heart. And so I have.

Wearing Your Heart Outside Your Body

People have different ways of coping in this world. Since I was a child, I have never been able to keep my emotions in check. Watching Carolyn Meyer playing one day, Auntie Molly here was astonished to be looking at herself. One moment Carolyn would laugh and be joyous in play, the next she would fall down and get a boo-boo and cry and need a big hug from her silly Daddy, and then she’d be peaceful until the next go ’round.

I have never outgrown that, nor have I been very successful in controlling what is a very natural cycle to human emotions, I go from laughter to tears to laughter to needing a thousand hugs and it keeps cycling and I’ve lived that way always. Readers here, and those that are close to me surely have seen this aspect of my personality, but it took me years to gain any insight into it, and to begin the questioning of whether it’s appropriate to be that way in adult society.

Furthermore, wearing your heart outside your body means being constantly vulnerable. I believe on some level I have done this purposely because I have an incredible need to be seen as a whole, feeling person instead of this very strong, outspoken, ambitious and aggressive female. Because essentially, those things might be part of me, but they aren’t me. I’m really very gullible, easily hurt, fragile, and want people to know that because when they see me as strong, they always think I can “take it” when the fact is, I can’t always.

A Mother’s Wisdom

So I wrote to my mother and I asked. What is this paradox? My mother of course has known me from the moment of conception, and she is an extraordinarily insightful person into human nature. She writes:

“ People present themselves to you in their appearance and their verbal promises in a variety of ways: nurturing, supportive, loving, disappointing, inimical, etc. Because of your purity of heart you are forever hopeful, forever innocent, forever vulnerable because you assume always that people are their presentations, appearance, promises. Then, gradually, some people expose themselves to you as time goes by as not what they have appeared to you to be.” – Molly’s Mom, Dr. Phillipa Kafka

Defining the Paradox

After years of thinking and re-thinking whether the personal should be separated from the “work” I have come to the same decision over and over again. I am me. This blog is called for a reason. It’s about me, me, and me. Okay, and my work. But, really, it’s about me and always will be. It’s also about you, because you are the witnesses, and the friends and family who give me hugs when I fall down and get a boo-boo. So it’s fundamentally now about the strongest and most unexpected relationship in my life, a one-to-many experience that I crave and seem to truly benefit from at best.

But what happens when an issue is so deep, so complex, and involves other people arises? I’ve been struggling to deal with a very difficult issue in my life for several years now, to the point of exhaustion, near suicide, extreme grief, loss of hope and deep anger at myself for choices and behaviors I made in that time. My mother continues:

“You don’t want to admit that you live in a world where you have entered a relationship with people in which you reached out to them fully, in which you bestowed on them all the benefits of your clear, high, beautiful, trusting soul and they were ultimately not there for you. You suffer almost unbearably when you realize that once again you had assumed that based on their promise you would in the future experience mutual, beneficial, supportive, lofty interactions of loving relationship with these people whether they were lovers and friends and colleagues, even your own mother on your level. Once again you found yourself abandoned, all alone out in space with no one there.”

So you can see this is not exactly a new issue in my life, but here where the witnesses are both known and unknown, clients, students, children and so on, it becomes very difficult to know what is ethical and right. The paradox is finally a simple one: If this is about me and my life, what about situations where it’s not just about me? How do I get the witnessing I need plus the hugs that never seem enough if I can’t let it out?

And most importantly, if I can’t tell my story, if circumstances and the people in them censor me, I become weaker, not empowered. I need my tribe. I’m nothing without my peeps, and this is how I can best express myself, particularly because I am often on the road, alone, and very busy.

Addressing the Paradox

So I’ve come to a point where I’m seriously examining the ethics of personal blogging, and just how far one should or shouldn’t take their personal stories. For me, it feels absolutely stifling to not be able to do so. It has hurt me a lot to feel like I can’t express myself fully, because my personality is such that I seem to have a significant need for all of your support and love in order to make it in this life. Maybe one day that will change, but for now, I don’t have the succor and safety of home and family to hide away in. You are my home and you are my family.

On the other hand, I hold integrity, love, and kindness dear. Is it more important to take care of me or others? What do you do when faced with questions, and what might you recommend to me to make things easier as I work through the most difficult pain I’ve ever been faced with?

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Posted by:   Molly | 10:24 | Comments (53)

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