Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Getting Blogged Down

I believe I’ve written before about my blogging woes. Not the ‘howcome I can’t spend my whole life blogging?’ woes, but the ‘ack, people I actually know might be/could be/are reading this,’ ‘might be/could be/are ridiculing my dorky/lack of discretion/boring/lack of ingenuity’ woes. I’ve worried about school people, family people, hypothetical people. Coming in a close second are the ‘this could have consequences in my personal and professional life’ woes. They aren’t much better.

This is part of a blogger’s struggle. I realize. Once again, I don’t feel as though I’m being very creative here. I have friends who have written much more eloquently about this than I ever could. [Two that stand out in my mind this minute are Dana’s A Visit from the Overshare Fairy and Kathy’s Muted No More: How Memoir Complicates the Notion of Privacy.] So while I won’t say this well, or uniquely, I’d like to get the troubling thoughts off my chest.

It has always been difficult for me to write or act in most circumstances without wondering what others could think, which is both a blessing and surprisingly inconvenient. On the one hand, this makes me a born communicator. I have my audience in mind. I can anticipate communication gaps or difference in style. I write and behave according to the situation at hand. This probably also helped my acting abilities back in the day. On the other hand, I unconsciously, and sometimes more consciously, self-censor pretty extensively. Though it is very habitual and not a thing I set out to do everyday, it can be very frustrating in hindsight, and exhausting. I have a very hard time with more explosive people. My mind runs a marathon every minute thinking about how to avoid nuclear war. At worst, I worry that this “flexibility” makes me a shape shifter – a fakey-fakerson that just “acts” depending on who she’s around. Only upon reflection do I worry. But I digress. The point is I’m very conscious of others. This can make me sensitive but can also make me silent or different than I would otherwise be.

I’m slowly coming to sense that part of my reticence can be attributed to my, er, upbringin’. I come from a family that is and was about as publicly or politically active as a cotton ball. I can think of only one publicly vocal member of my family – an actual card carrying party member. This family of mine is the opposite of radical or staunchly ___ or anything that you could point a finger at and name. It would be fun to blame it on my parents’ growing up in an era of dictatorship and repression. In reality, I think it comes down to humble people living their lives and keeping their heads down. I don’t know that anyone else would see it that way. However, like my family, I am not prone to public displays, conflicts, or embarrassment of myself or others.

As it turns out anything I say or do can display, conflict with or embarrass someone, me included. I don’t kid myself. I know that I’ve probably cheesed off a good number of people in my day, both on and off the blog. But I like to keep that sort of thing to a minimum. These concerns have for the longest time kept me from intentionally expanding my readership. I have been quite comfortable limiting the readers who know where I live to a couple of friends that I might cheese off occasionally but that I suspect will accept me anyway. Only very recently have I highlighted blog posts on Facebook, though in passive fashion I’ve listed my blog as my website from Day 1.

My most recent bout of anxiety came when two of my school friends, Jess and Racquel (hi, ladies!) subscribed to my blog. While I was in no way concerned about these particular superstars of telling it like it is following along, their appearance served as a stark reminder that people I know in life might also read my desperate attempts at whatever this is. It was scary.

And thus I marvel at those of you in blog-land who dish it out, take it, talk about your families, spank your friends or otherwise deal with life. I know some of you sweat it more than others. Some of you have very difficult and painful reasons for sharing, or not sharing. For others it’s merely a practical matter. Many of you rage at censorship in all its forms. Some would perhaps tell me to strap on a pair and start living.

Admittedly, some of my boundaries are imposed by others. Some I’ve assumed on behalf of people who know nothing about this “secret” of mine. I haven’t really sorted this out much. Nor am I facing a particular dilemma. Frankly, I think it’s hard to blog the way I’d really like to without being self-employed and completely orphaned – for me. I’m not prepared to deal with the consequences. I imagine there are creative solutions I haven’t yet grasped.

In the meantime, a friend recently wrote to me that she enjoyed blog intimacy, referring to mine to some extent. I was stunned. In the vast expanse of all that I haven’t written, I’ve managed to evoke intimacy in one valued person’s opinion? I’ll take it for now.

Happy Friday the 13th – I promise it’s still the 13th here. You’ll be pleased or disgruntled to know there are three F – the – 13s this year!

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January 14, 2012 Posted by | Community, Self-reflection, Writing | , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Anything I set my mind to – Part 1

I’ve always felt conflicted about that child-encouraging adage: “you can do anything you set your mind to [doing].”

At the risk of sounding like Ms. Negative, can you really?

On the one hand, I think that the support and faith that this phrase reflects is fantastic. I certainly wish someone had taken me aside and told me this when I was 5, 8, 10, 12, 16, 22 – repeatedly. [This is a rare case of me not blaming my parents. This was so far outside their cultural experience, I could not expect it. But if someone had taken it upon themselves to let me know, I would have been quite pleased.] I truly believe that being told this has empowered people around me, given them confidence and drive to pursue difficult, mysterious, and seemingly out of reach things, and find success in that pursuit. If we set a goal, pursue it doggedly, take initiative, share our passions, there is a great deal we can accomplish.

On the other hand, I think that treating “you can do anything” like dogma can get us into some disconcerting thought patterns. Some people face extraordinary barriers and some do not. Many who do have barriers overcome them fantastically. They contribute to their community and the world in ways we would have never imagined. But some don’t. Maybe I’m being too black and white about this but, isn’t there an implication that if we believe anyone can do anything they set their mind to, and they don’t achieve that goal, that their failure is somehow their fault? That if that person had just tried harder, they too could have been a star on the path of their choosing? In revering those who can, are we shaming those that can’t or don’t?

To give a concrete example, I was talking with a colleague of mine about people with disabilities who have to advocate for themselves for the accommodations they require to succeed academically. Some are able to do so and in the best case scenario, are accommodated accordingly. One can easily recognize their ability to overcome adversity. In some cases, others who were not in a position to so advocate, struggle more to do so, or give up on accommodation entirely, are not given the opportunity or are seen as having failed in some way. We may think that they don’t have the valiant spirit necessary to succeed.

Is it helpful to tell a person with severe depression that they’ll feel better if they make it their goal to do so when just getting out of bed may be a daily struggle that person faces? Can we help but wonder if another person in a similar situation was able to do it, why can’t they?

I  suppose it’s complicated. I suppose the real message is that we should set our sights high. I suppose we should similarly be able to accept when we fail, or at least forgive rather than blame ourselves. As humans, we have limitations. Where do they fit in?

October 11, 2011 Posted by | Bad TV References, Childhood Complaints, Doing it the hard way | , , , | 6 Comments