Thursday, July 03, 2008

The perils of blogging

Blogging is a very strange process. You are publishing your words (and therefore your opinions, your feelings, your news) in an extremely public forum -- anybody with a computer anywhere in the world, whether stranger or friend, can read what you say. Yet the vast majority of people who know me don't read blogs or knitting blogs, and therefore don't read mine. Most aren't even aware that I have a blog. Some have no idea what a "blog" is.

Because you write in isolation, and because the process is so mechanized and impersonal -- type away, click on the Publish button and it's all out there to see -- you are deceived into overlooking the fact that you are putting a lot of yourself out there. That also means that you are publishing intimate details about your life, and of necessity, about the other people in your life.

This is an on-going tension in blogging. How do I remain true to my own voice, how do I communicate what's going on in my life (because ultimately, a blog is just an on-line journal) without crossing that line of demarcation between the public and the private? This is something I think about frequently. I often write blog posts that I never publish. I sometimes edit posts, occasionally quite extensively, even after they've been published. (Second thoughts about what I want out there in the ether forever.) And sometimes I intentionally push my own limits because there are things I think are important to get out there. Certain issues are important to me and I'm willing to start some uncomfortable conversations every once in a while, even if it alienates some readers who have different opinions. And in all honesty, sometimes it's neediness. I have met many compassionate kindred spirits through this blog, and I treasure your support.

Right now we are having some family "issues." (Isn't "issues" a great euphemism? It can mean anything from a minor outpatient surgery to a full-frontal nervous breakdown, it encompasses substance abuse, verbal abuse, incarceration, mental illness and medical crises, and a world of other ills.) Some of them have to do with my mother-in-law, who was abruptly rushed to the hospital and appears to be facing a beyond-Stage-1-but-we-don't-know-how-bad diagnosis of colon cancer, with the added flair caused by her unmanaged bipolar illness. Some of them have to do with my father, who has been an alcoholic my whole life and is on something of a bender.

When these issues feel overwhelming to me, it's hard not to blog about them. Even though I'm painfully aware that these kinds of issues fall in that nether world of blogdom, that gray area between what is appropriate to blog about and what will cause pain to the other people in my life.

I grew up in a household where unpleasant truths were to be denied and ignored at all cost. I didn't like living that way. If some people now find me too in-your-face, too open and forthright, it's because I grew up in a family that ignored the elephant in the room -- and was miserable and fucked-up as a result of it. For me, part of living an honest life is naming the things that my family dared not talk about, facing them and trying to work through them.

So that's, I guess, what this blog post is about.

Like everyone else, I'm a mass of contradictions. I had a fabulous, fun weekend -- then came home to DefCon 12 crisis mode. I take great pleasure and joy in my fiber pursuits -- and it helps me deal with ugly, intractable issues in my "family of origin" (and my husband's). Sometimes my blog posts are humorous and perky and chipper, and sometimes they touch a deeper, more conflicted part of my soul.

Today, I felt like expressing some of the less humorous and less perky parts of my life, in a way that is honest but doesn't go too far over the line of invading the privacy of my family members. If I'm especially scatterbrained, if my email response time is slow, your forbearance is appreciated. I'm having an unhumorous, unperky kind of day today.

32 comments:

Katie K said...

I know what you mean. It's important for people to do the math. And to also keep connected to the good stuff.

Hope your day improves.

Meghan said...

Hi Carol,
I agree, blogging tends to create this weird personal/impersonal grey area, and I suppose everyone has to muddle through and find their own level of comfort with it. But I think I as a blog reader often don't help things out much--it's really easy to subscribe to a blog and read happily about the details of someone's life without ever considering just how impersonal a readership identified only by IP addresses can become. So, just wanted to say hello, and thank you, from the reading side of the blogosphere; I always enjoy your posts, regardless of their respective levels of perkiness, and my good wishes go out to you and yours. Hope things improve.

Patricia said...

Don't think that you are alone. I too, have family issues. Everyone does. My brother recently said in a phone call families=dysfunction. Couldn't have said it better. Give yourself some extra time, and realize you can't fix anything, just go with the flow...and have a life preserver.

puffthemagicrabbit said...

Tons of hugs.

SparkCrafted said...

Part of the reason I read your blog is because you seem to be a normal person experiencing normal things. Knit blogs are great, but I often feel like I need more from a "friend" (online, real-life, acquaintance, what have you). And while I truly don't know you that well, it's refreshing, relieving, and just plain real to read your posts that veer off the yarn/fiber path.

I'll send some good thoughts your way. Families are tough. I hope your current issues can be resolved with little pain.

Tina M. said...

Say, do and feel what you need to. The blog, your readers and anyone else out there in the ether will wait.

Giving yourself permission to cope is hard when you're overwhelmed, but trust me, we understand.

Emma in France said...

Firstly, have a virtual hug/cake/other expression of warmth and support.

Have you thought about having a second blog that is open only to your close friends? It might make it easier to share some stuff without the privacy concerns. On the other hand, perhaps just the cathartic act of writing the post is enough for you so keeping posts unpublished is good.

Anyway, I think it's definitely OK to be honest (even if it has to be a limited honesty) in one's blog about the hard days. It helps others know they're not alone and that it's normal not to be this constantly amazing witty and productive knitter/designer/supermodel/domestic god(dess).

Finally, family issues suck, don't they.

Bridget said...

Such is life, unfortunately.

I hope that things will settle down to a more bearable level, since neither of the current "issues" sound like ones that will resolve themselves quickly. Try to take care of yourself though, so you don't become one of the issues ...

And as far as I'm concerned, if it's your blog, you can blog or not blog about anything you like!

Sarah said...

I hope you all continue to find and savor the moments of joy in the midst of these difficulties.

Luise said...

You are more than right in expressing some of the things that all families go through but certainly don't talk about, even w/in the family. For many of us, happily, that attitude is more than passe. My past 40 years have taken many twists and turns, some happy and expected, some terrible and sudden -- so true for many people. The really good thing that's emerged is the incredible honesty and openness in our relationships, esp. between generations.
I certainly never talked with an aunt or uncle about most of the things I discuss with my nieces and nephews. They had to learn a lot of things before "they should have had to," whenever that would have been. Partly as a result, they've grown up with a lot more understanding and compassion than they might have otherwise. And they've learned how to face and deal with problems when they arise. Burying them is not a choice. We're all so afraid about what people will think of our imperfections; in fact, they make us human and perhaps even worth knowing.
Sorry to go on so; clearly you hit a chord. Good luck. We're happy to share your reality, bumps and all.

Knittah said...

Thinking of you.

the hanged man said...

Carol -
A friend of mine has a blog on her facebook page. The blog is innocuous - it's about renovating her new house - but she only wanted people she knew to have access.

This was her cake and eat it too solution: the sense of sharing that comes with a blog, but control over who could read it. Public but not too public. At first I thought it was a pain ("I have to join facebook? Oy!") but now I completely understand. Something you might want to consider.

I never write on my blog just for the sake of writing. If something is there, it's because it's something I want to proclaim to the world. Consequently, I don't post that often.

Hope your troubles pass soon.

deirdre said...

I personally think it's very brave and open of you to discuss your family issues so honestly...

I wonder if maybe the impersonal tone of blogs helps in a way, makes it easier to talk about these sorts of things without having to stare someone down while doing it? Could just be me - I am always better 'on paper' because I can be less emotional and more clear, and I know it's because I don't have to be face to face with anyone...

why, yes, I can be a bit cowardly at time...

zeghsy said...

life is real and just as ugly as it is beautiful. thank you for your honesty. it's hard to do sometimes. i'll hold your hand just as long as you need me to. :)

xoxoxo

Tracy said...

Anyone who thinks that anyones else's life is all sunshine and butterflies is nuttier than a fruitcake. There isn't a single person out there that doesn't have "issues" in their life. If you want to talk about go for it Babe. If you don't so be it.

Blogging about any topic can be both a teaching and a learning tool for both the reader and the author. There is a lot of support and knowledge out there among your phantom friends of in the land of Blogdom. Dip into it if you want.

As far as to where do I draw the line about personal info on my blog? (beyond of course personal safety issues) I'd draw that line at common knowledge. If everyone in my real life knows it then what the hell do I care if a bazillion strangers know it. Besides someone out there might know the right thing to say or do having been through it themselves.

I'm sorry you're down. I'm sorry after such a wonderful weekend the freight train of life gave you a full body blow, but be assured we'll all be along for the ride if you want to send us the schedlue.

Nell said...

I hope things get better soon. Feel free to share as much or as little as you are comfortable with. We're here to support you.

anne marie in philly said...

sending good karma your way {{{{{hugs}}}}}

"I grew up in a household where unpleasant truths were to be denied and ignored at all cost. I didn't like living that way." - so did I. after getting therapy, I learned that wishing issues away or stuffing them under the rug helps no one. so now I shout 'em out to the world, and fuck anyone who gets offended. I also "divorced" my toxic family members and have been content with that decision for 20 years.

do what ya gotta do, hon. we will wait for your return.

Loren T said...

Aren't families fun? We have a "family blog" in which we post news and pics of the kids for general consumption. I'm also part of a closed group blog, where some long-distance friends and I share what's going on in our lives. But none of my family knows I blog separately, nor do most of my IRL friends. So much of my life is compartmentalized, so many of my opinions sanitized or dumbed down for public (IRL) consumption. My blog is the place where I can let loose about stuff without offending them. Recognizing, however, that the Internet is a big, giant public square, I'm careful not to say anything about anyone that I wouldn't want them to find out about. It's definitely a fine line to walk, as you've said. But I think as long as you're true to yourself and mindful of the consequences, which you seem to be, you'll be ok.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and your family through this difficult time.

elinor said...

I feel you, and when you need to talk stuff out, what better way to do it than in a place where you know people care? I try to use my own knitting blog for primarily knitting news, because that is most of what I do, but occasionally some harder, more real stuff comes out, and when I posted about the crap, people were really supportive. But it is a fine line, and I know it's hard sometimes to know what's appropriate to share in a "here's what's up" way, and what wanders into "very personal information."

Families got issues. Take care of yourself, and be honest with yourself, and things will swirl around again and put you somewhere new.

Marin (AntiM) said...

Hang in, Carol. The good news is that humourous and perky always seem to come back.

Wishing you a speedy, humourous and perky recovery.

Kathleen said...

Carol, I think being open and honest about the things in our life can only help. Shedding light on the crud educates all of us that there is crud everywhere, and no one should feel alone in their struggles. I've found being open about my (now ex-)husband's alcoholism and my mother's clinical depression has been so helpful - acquaintances have become friends and friends have become family in opening up about their own struggles which has only helped me cope more. Keeping things hidden or unspoken can make things seem shameful that shouldn't be. But it's hard, isn't it? I fully appreciate your openness and wish you strength.

Anonymous said...

I'm kinda at a loss for alot of words but can send you lotsa cyber hugs!! Hey you gotta do what you gotta do Carol. And thank you for the BBF2 Wenslydale in Nocturne - it's beautiful! Terry

travellersyarn said...

I've been thinking a lot about personal exposure in blogs, and am very interested to read your philosphy.

Good luck with your family issues - there are no easy answers. I do find that fondling yarn helps clarify my thoughts!

Aponia said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. My mom had Colon cancer for a long time, over 10 years. It came, left, came back. She was very upfront about everything with me so I actually know lots of stuff about it. If you need to vent or know about that particular cancer and its treatments let me know. Its a really treatable cancer.

You and your family are in my thoughts!

manic knitter said...

In an effort to cheer you up a bit since the arrival of my BBF package definitely cheered me, I will tell you that I took Knit So Fine with me to the new LYS, whose owner has it ordered (but was told she couldn't get her copies til sometime in August, it's back-ordered, way to go, selling those copies!). It was fondled, oohed and aahhed over, passed about and generally given rave reviews to the point several names were put on the book reservation list and yarn in sufficient amounts and colors ordered so they could start the project as soon as they got their copy of the book. Yes, free book pushing.
As for "fun" dysfunctional families, don't we all have them? And I think we pretty much all have internal monitors that keep us from going over the line when we blog, too. Better to at least post something saying "Issues killing me at present, back to coherent blogging soon" than to implode.
{{{hugs}}}

Susan in Cincinnati said...

As one if the "call a spade a spade" (or elephant) thank you for your forthrightness and upfrontness. It's nice to read a "friends" blog - someone whom you admire, and feel like your not the only one in the universe. You bring pleasure and reality to many of us around in the knit world - as well as gorgous yarns. Thank you/Hang tough/be yourself. Hugs, Susan in Cincinnati

katrog said...

Carol--
One of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much is that you write about what is important to you, whether it is your fiber pursuits, your politics, your family. I appreciate your honesty. There is enough relentless perkiness out there for those who require it :)

Best wishes,
Kathleen

Lisa said...

I wish that I had the courage to live life as honestly as you. My family has been in serious denial for several generations. Every once and a while, we notice and discuss the elephant, before we through a tarp over him and ignore him again.

I hope that your life returns to a more happy stability very soon.

Samantha said...

Ugh. Really sorry to hear this Carol. The yarn that I have got from you (through your yarn club) really brightened my day. Sorry that I can't reciprocate back.

Liz said...

In response to your mother-in-law having colon cancer--my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 47. He'd had symptoms for about 2 years prior to that but hadn't done anything about them (maybe that was a good thing, because we didn't have health insurance then). After multiple surgeries, one recurrence in his liver, and three rounds of chemo, he's been in remission for almost two years--at the end of this month it'll be two years since he finished chemo, and the chances of it recurring go way down after two years.

I wanted to give you a positive story, because so often you hear horrible ones about colon cancer. And it is a horrible disease, but you and your husband should have hope. Good luck.

Carol said...

Just back from an internet-free week in VT (can you believe such places still exist??). I'm so sorry that your weekend ended with chaos. Life can be so unpredictable and I'm glad that you do choose to share parts of yours with us. Everyone has a dysfunctional something in their lives, whether they talk about it or not. It helps those of us who keep it in to know others are out there dealing with 'issues' too. We're sending all our best wishes to you!

Patti said...

In can be chaos. I keep a journal where I can free-write when it gets to hectic and then I can put it up. It does help. I started when I was 13. Would not have survived those years without it. And the years now -- when they get overwhelming I still do it. Still have them all. With my current 35 yrs worth, wonder what my kids will think. That, good friends and my fiber. I have the best of all therapy. (I did go to therapy though for a while, it was helpful, but knowing your limits is the most important.
My thoughts are with you and your husband -- Keep at it. We are with you!!!