Coming Out Whole – My Birthday Gift to Myself

Driving through Pennsylvania  #landscape

~It looks like this where my people come from.~

Last weekend, while at a family reunion with people I see only once every three or four years, my mom whipped out her iPad and began pulling up this blog (literally, this one) to show my aunt and uncle. I felt immediately embarrassed. So much so that I actually said, “Oh Mom, please don’t. I’m really self-conscious about my blogging.”

She got so far as showing them the adorable photo of Ruby The Hairstyling Kitteh and then we changed the subject. It all passed painlessly.

Now, seven days later, as my 43rd birthday looms half a day away, I’m questioning my insecurity.

I’ve written publicly at this site since 2007. At first, it was an anonymous endeavor. I kept a boundary between my day-job self (public – “in real life” – 3D – Ruth) and my soap-box-activist, melodramatic philosophizing artistic self (roolily – Ruth at Mary and Bob’s Journal). My disguise wasn’t absolute — people who knew me well enough to have my roolily email address could find the blog, but the separation was adequate enough for my comfort.

A couple years later, when I began posting blog links at Facebook, it was like a passive coming out to my friends and family. I progressively became more and more open, and now I tweet under my full name with a link to this blog. It’s not an unusual path.

Last month, perhaps as an early birthday gift to myself, I purchased my first domain name (currently under construction). I sit at my computer every morning around 7:00 to read about CSS. I’ve dusted off the Photoshop tool box and am rubber stamping my way to my very own logo — all in preparation to fully integrate my fragmented online presence. Cobbled together with my bookkeeping work and Andy’s support, I am self-employed.

I’m in control of my time and I spend a lot of it writing and blogging. These are good things.

So why, when my mom wants to share my creativity with people who love me, do I clam up and cringe?

I hate that I’m self-conscious about my blogging; It feels immature (not the blogging, the self-consciousness). I want to be confident about my work. No — more accurately — I want to do work worthy of confidence.

When I surf the blogs of my friends, like An Acorn Dreaming, and read the stellar work of writers I learned about at BlogHer ’12 — Citizen of the MonthEdenlandMocha MommaNative BornSchmutzie, (to name only a handful), and especially when I encounter a gem like Susannah Conway, (who a cousin recently recommended) I’m struck by intermittent bouts of inspiration and envy. But mostly I’m grateful, but because it’s so uplifting to see that sharing deeply can be done with professionalism, humor, grace and intelligence.

These writers help me realize that I am not a freak for making the choice of disclosing highly personal thoughts and feelings in this completely public forum.

In the not so distant past (like yesterday) I felt my openness was a mistake that I was somehow getting away with. Have I been a sheep in the pop culture of self-exposure? Has this been a years-long bad habit? Am I too hungry for connection? Desperate for attention? I would ask my shrink these questions, but I know what his answer would be: “What do you think?”

Two years ago, when my personal life got messy (simultaneously wonderful and confusing, and eventually tragic), for better or worse, I used blogging as a healing tool. I still do.

The things I’ve written about here — god, how could I? How many elephants are in this room? Just one? Two? Neither of them are elephants, though. They are human beings I care about.

Blogging about my grief despite its odd circumstance has created even more awkward circumstances. When I’m vague, it’s to protect other people as best as I can while trying to be true to myself. But I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in protecting anyone. Mostly, I’ve just been trying to keep it together.

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I wrote fiction. Damn, though, making stuff up is hard. It’s a craft I intend to develop because I suspect that fiction might be the only way I can be open about my most profound experiences.

Preserving memories with words feels like a reasonable way to mimic sacred moments. While language can only approximate the holiness, it’s better than nothing — especially after relationships transform, after people die.

So I’m conjuring the past? Conjuring lovers? Conjuring myself?

And to conjure with witnesses — a magic blogging affords us — is to receive nods, handshakes, and hugs. An assurance that someone has heard the tree falling.

No shame in that.

Maybe acquiring confidence requires a rehearsing a script. Here’s one:

I’m a writer who blogs. I am learning to tell entertaining stories by practicing publicly.

My readers appreciate it when I write about what’s really going on rather than the first (gag-me) Yahoo headline I see in the morning. Today’s was, “Before and after plastic surgery – Ali Wentworth was tired of looking like this.”

Yeah, I don’t give a fuck about that. Sure, it could be bouncing off point for a post like the one I did recently about covering my gray hair and how I feel about appearance and gender roles.

But when I’m having a hard day, to hell with the safe topics, I write my truth.

Now the blogger in me is saying, edit some more, woman, this thing is too long. And don’t post on a Saturday night, no one will read it.

But I’ve been writing this post since the sun was rising, and now the sun is setting, and my only break all day long was to sit in a three hour French class.

Plus, I turn 43 tomorrow. The candles have been lit, they won’t last forever.

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20 thoughts on “Coming Out Whole – My Birthday Gift to Myself

  1. Oh Ruth – as always, I love your stuff. Writing is one of the most intimate things you can do in public – it is the equivalent of walking down a busy street completely naked, afraid that people will laugh or point out your imperfections. And for that reason, most writers keep their work hidden from view, editing constantly – not because it needs editing, but because it staves off the inevitable; the naked walk down Wilshire Boulevard during rush hour. The only problem I have ever found with blogging is that feeling of solitude that often comes with the territory. Sometimes the only worse feeling, from the fear of derision, is the fear of invisibility. Both of ’em just ain’t so. As someone once said – “people who know you will understand – the ones who don’t, who the hell are they anyway?”

    Good one – you’re my favorite stranger!

    Gordon

    1. Thank you so much, Gordon. You’re so kind to encourage me. You’re so right about the fears: derision, invisibility and how they’re really both best overcome.

      Coincidentally, when I got your comment, I had JUST walked down Wilshire Blvd. to the building that used to be the Mexican restaurant where I watched the dreaded 2004 election the season we “met”. I was wearing clothing, though.

  2. I agree making stuff up is hard..and for now my blog is anonymous…me getting my thought out rather than anyone I know knowing..if that makes sense :-)
    I prefer reading the personal stuff, other people’s stories, I think everyone’s story is important..and there’s a book or a zillion in there somewhere.
    So make up stuff that’s real and make it a book? That’s my hope.
    I wish you a day of peace and joy tomorrow x

  3. I’m a new reader of your blog and I understand much of what you stated here. I too keep a bit of a “veil” around me, maybe because we do feel vulnerable with our words out here for so many to read.
    Either way i enjoy your blog and Happy Birthday!!!!!

    1. Thanks, free penny!

      Yes, the veil we wear … issues of privacy, anonymity, vulnerability, etc., are complicated, but meanwhile, isn’t it an exciting time to be a writer?

  4. Great post!!

    Being true to yourself (especially when you’re vulnerable!) helps others to feel that they’re not alone in what they’re going through! It’s a good thing!

    Yup, 43 is time to give up insecurity!! You can never be questioned about your personal testimony, or your personal saga!! It’s yours, and you can express it however you wish!! Amen!

    Keep blogging!!

  5. Everyone tells their story or some version of it, large or small, every day. It’s part of the human condition. It’s how we connect with each other. It’s how we learn and it’s how we grow. Writing a blog is just telling your story. It’s not really any different than answering the question, “How are you?” or “Tell me about your day.” Actually, I take that back. It is different. It’s better because, when it’s done well, the words you use express not just your story, but the story of other people who don’t have the words to tell it themselves. That’s not something to be self-concious about. That’s something to celebrate. And you have the words. Celebrate it.

  6. I feel exactly like this. I’ve only just started my blog, and I’m worried that I’m doing it all for myself in order to get attention! I think only two people actually know about my blog from my real life, and I worry a lot that what I’m talking about is stuff that no one wants to hear about. It’s great to hear that I’m not the only one, and I hope you had a great birthday :)

    1. Hi Runes. Welcome to blogging! I’m so glad you commented. Checking out your blog reminded me of how it felt 5 years ago when I was starting mine — happy writing memories & lots of friends made along the way. Enjoy! & Good luck on your dissertation.

  7. “I kept a boundary between my day-job self (public – ‘in real life’ – 3D – Ruth) and my soap-box-activist, melodramatic philosophizing artistic self (roolily – Ruth at Mary and Bob’s Journal).” I feel the same way — and not only kept a boundary in terms of my writing, but in terms of the feelings I show people — or, I guess, don’t show. I’ve always had a wall up. But I posted one of my most personal essays on my blogs a few weeks ago, and felt the exact same way — a bit terrified, nervous, silly and … at the same time … relieved. A “coming out”is a great way to put it — I do have feelings, and I do like to write about them and even share the in a public online forum. Love your blog, keep it up!

    1. Thanks so much, Alyssa. So, I just popped over to “your place” and saw the quote about building ships — something like, “A ship in harbour is safe, but that’s not why ships are built.” It occurs to me that that could be an analogy for writing. Blogs let us set our compositions to sail (where they promptly run into storms and capsize. :) … ha, no) where they land on distant shores and afford adventures previously unimagined.

      Oh, I don’t know.. I guess there’s a time and a place for walls, too. If only I could reconcile it all. Happy blogging to you.

  8. In many ways, I don’t deserve to be included on that list because I frequently hide behind fiction or half-truths. I completely understand the embarrassment about blogging because it can feel so raw. It is not just writing. It is YOU. With fiction, you can hide behind the characters. It is more of a product for others to read. Blogging is an open source personal diary. You know others are reading it, but it is scary when others acknowledge that it is being read.

    1. Thanks, Neil. I so appreciate your reading & commenting. You bring up a good point. Who’s to say it’s not fiction or half-truth, right? And what’s non-fiction to one is totally imagined to another. I guess I ought not let over thinking get in the way of story telling.

  9. woww… awesome post Ruth… you are me!!!… thats totally me talking…. each and everything you wrote there was bang on…except for the age, and some other things… thats exactly how I feel about my blogs… finally i ve opened up and started posted on facebook… but seriously its been feeling like a big mistake lately… because these are things I dont even talk to my best friends..and these things I definitely I dont wana talk infront of those who are just dying to hear some stories about me… but i ve gone too far in expressing my slightest feelings and truths abt me that I hadnt shared before… its like alot of things about me are out in the open…still behind a thin sheet of cloth, because i ve kept it vague but i m sure they all can make out the whole outline of the entire activity behind the cloth… but then i tell myself that i dont care about these people… I ve decided to be open, and soon I will be over the stage where what people think matters…and i ‘ll get through clean and safe….
    and woman what you said about fiction, thats exactly what i’ve been thinking that may be i shud write about my feelings and stories, and they’ll be camouflaged in the entire fiction, nobody will be able to extract the truth from fiction… but then i am stuck with the idea: how on earth will i be able to write fiction…i cant make up stories…
    i loved reading your post… that sounded just like me, but more because i ve been questioning myself lately about being open, that is it a mistake?… because when certain people come up to me and ask me ‘has this happened? is that why wrote this’ then it just seems foolish sharing my posts with people….or may be I just avoid these people… ah some confusion!

    1. mirrormon, I’m so glad this post resonated for you. Hopefully, with practice, we’ll both become more confident and make communication choices we can feel good about. Thanks so much for reading & commenting.

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