~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 Month, Edenland, Mocha Momma, Native Born, Schmutzie, (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.