Wednesday, March 25, 2015

how much to say and how to say it: the blogger's dilemma

I'm finding my blogging constrained these days by thoughts of how others, particularly my family, are feeling. I'm especially concerned that my children could be reading, if they chose to do so. How could I possibly put my very darkest thoughts here, as well as my most hopeful, happiest, meanest and angriest, knowing that they could read these words and not understand that how I feel in one moment is not how I feel all the time?

Do I protect them or do I just be honest and know that those closest to me have the real me to talk to and reassure with my presence? Does silence actually protect anyone?

It's hard, even in the most banal of times, not to feel self-conscious - something that definitely hampers writing.

I feel a need to write but also a need to be read. I've considered password protection of my posts but that feels like locking people out when I want to be accessible. I don't even have much security on my Facebook profile because I think gives a false sense of security. I prefer to only post to the internet things that I'd be comfortable with the whole world reading. I can write, edit and even delete before posting. I am in control.

Or perhaps not. How can I know who reads and how they are affected? Are my thoughts embarrassing or even wounding to those I love? Months of silence on the blog have not meant that there has been anything wrong, just a lack of inspiration brought on by ennui and the self-imposed imposed limitations that have grown with the years.

My oldest son, who is beautiful, brilliant, funny and talented is a pretty private guy so I don't often write about him here. I have lots I could say but I respect his boundaries and don't share about him without his permission.

My youngest is more outgoing and happy for me to post photos and discuss our adventures. He's almost 12 though, so I know that door could soon be closing.

I've always considered writing about myself and my fears and foibles to be fair game. But perhaps it's not. At any rate, I'm conflicted. We'll see how it all shakes out in the coming weeks and months.

I have kept a journal for years. It's where I purge everything and I seldom feel a need to go back and re-read my words once a notebook is finished. One afternoon this winter, I threw a bunch of these journals into the fire and watched them burn. It felt very cathartic but created an awful lot of ashes. I think I'll just gather up the rest when I'm ready and throw them out with the re-cycling (I'll do it on pick up day, so no one actually has the chance to try and decipher my writing).

This blog, however, is permanent. I do know a woman whose family deleted her blog after she died but that felt really wrong to me. I want my words to live on but hat very thought makes each word weigh more heavily.


Rita Arens said...

I had this moment this week. I told my daughter I have owned the URL for her name for years, and it made her start reading my blog. I felt totally conflicted about that, but she is almost eleven and I know full well there's no way I can stop her if she wants to if it's public.

I'm not so much worried about what I've said about her, as I've always painted her in a good light since she's had a voice (I mean, I complained about her not sleeping when she was a baby, but I do that to her face).

I'm more worried about her seeing all the ugliness that co-exists with the love and light inside me.

I suppose it's silly of us to think they don't see that already, though, right? And love us anyway? That's what I'm telling myself.

laurie said...

Rita, this is so beautiful. I suspect our children see much more of us than we think they do. I'm always surprised by what my children have taken in over the years, even when I thought they weren't paying attention. Thanks for helping me to think of this in a new way.

JuliaR said...

Very thought provoking. I haven't blogged in some years now, but I still write letters to the editor and comments, and I always consider all of that to be fair game and totally public.

I really liked your statement "has silence ever helped anyone." I find I am guided by the 3 truths they make you swear in court: 1. the truth, 2. the whole truth, 3. nothing but the truth. Many times, I leave out #2 as it is just hurtful to tell the whole truth all the time. Is this self consorship? Of course. But it's in the same vein as "never speak ill of the dead."

Maybe we should think of a word limit as limiting what we say. I recently wrote a "life story" about my Dad for the Saturday Citizen (should be published soon) and was limited to 750 words (then I saw that it is down to 600 but they said not to worry.) What can you say in 750 words? You have to leave out a lot. It just means you are being selective, not silent. Maybe if your kids read what you write and then ask you about it, that would be the best kind of conversation to have.

So back to "who has been helped by silence." If you cannot think of anyone, then I say you have your answer there. Editing is our friend! Or as Stephen King says, you have to kill your darlings (i.e. writing that you love but that doesn't work anywhere!)

JuliaR said...

Can I edit the typo in censorship? Argh. But I thought of something else, based on what Rita said. What do kids know of their parents? Some know more than others. Some want to know, some don't. I think when you have a good relationship with a parent, you do want to know about them. But maybe that might wait until the child is an adult. When you are even a teenager, you have your own issues and don't want to know that your parents have issues too. In fact, I think kids are helped by thinking that their parents have their basic stuff together, because otherwise, the kid has to take on too much responsibility, too early. (I am speaking about issues over which we do have some control, not issues over which we have no control.) Then again, some kids have come through major adversity very well, but maybe that's because the parent did have her important stuff together. I don't know - maybe a lot depends on the kid! What about children who grew up in war time? Sorry, now I'm just rambling!

laurie said...

As Tim said, lots of good questions. No easy answers. And Julia, I didn't even notice your typo until you pointed it out. :)

Zoom said...

I know the feeling of liquid boundaries - where does my story end, and someone else's begin? Just because my life is an open book, what happens when our stories overlap? How do I even know where someone else's boundaries lie unless they tell me *after* I've overstepped? Where's the appropriate place to draw the line between discretion and openness in my own life, let alone the lives of people whose lives overlap mine? What secret truths will people glean about you from what you've written? It's all so complex, the blogger's dilemma. I have no answers, because the answers shift and drift. Maybe you could ask your kids what they think and feel about it? It might help. xox

Caroline said...

I blog only what I am ready to talk about. I find that is the only way I can have any privacy. If it is ready for the internet, I'll talk about it. I don't have children but my mother reads my blog and then calls me to ask how I am doing.

laurie said...

I don't really want to put my blog on my kids' radar but I do want to talk about it with them. Challenging...talking about them is hard enough but what about the ways my story overlaps with theirs? That's exactly the question, Susan. Thank you for framing it.

Lene Andersen said...

I think there is sometimes a great value to be found in not working so hard to protect others from knowing your feelings. But then, I'm not a mom, and what is true for adults is quite another thing for kids. On the other hand, kids are often much more resilient than we assume in breaking the silence might help them in other ways.

Your blog is about you and what you are comfortable sharing with the world. It's about your journey and your truth, both of which have important things to say. As someone else said, we may not write the entire truth, but only share what we are ready to share. Perhaps there are some guidance in that.

MoninaW said...

You know I have struggled with this and ultimately stopped blogging. But as Amara has gotten older, she is more cognizant of her surroundings and is asking more questions. She has also taken to reading old posts of mine. While I have a "new" blog, I don't write as often, and it makes me sad. It's cathartic to write and post, and I feel a part of me is gone because I no longer blog as authentically as I once did.

I must say, I am impressed you still kept a handwritten journal - something I have struggled with since I began blogging. I have thrown out old journals before and know how bittersweet it is.

As I've rambled on here, I realize I have no words of wisdom to share. Just wanted you to know you're not alone.

laurie said...

It's really hard not to become self-conscious as we realize others are reading but even more so when those others could be our kids. Writing authentically is better writing so much of the time but there is a price. I think most writers struggle with this and come down in all kinds of places. I have read memoirs where authors have been quite scathing of their parents and then dedicated the book to them!
And Mo - I miss you online!