I began blogging in 1995.
At first, I blogged only to bring something uniquely human to my website; soon, though, I began receiving email comments from handfuls of readers around the world. In my then-teenaged mind, these affirming comments meant the difference between my being a dirt-poor nobody with no prospects and my being someone whose words could matter. To someone who could herself, through her words, come to matter.
By the time I deleted my prior blog a few years back, I’d become deeply uncomfortable with how I was blogging. I was sharing too much personal detail, and doing so for reasons that didn’t feel remotely healthy.
Not sure how to do better, or even how to identify what “better” might look like, outright deletion seemed like the best bet to make myself space to build healthier habits.
I’ve posted a few times monthly here the last few years.
Generally speaking, these blogs have been less about lurid detail and more, given my growing fondness for process, about how I’m approaching questions arising in my life. They’ve been more about reflecting on how I’m choosing between pathways and less about the specific pathways chosen, which has felt like several steps the right direction … while still not even most the way to “right.”
The best I could figure before last week, my earlier discomfort arose from questions of intention. If I was no longer seeking the dopamine hit of others’ affirmation, what was I seeking by continuing to test out different ways of blogging? Why on earth did it feel so important to me to keep blogging, anyway?
Last week, I got very clear on this: There’d been one very specific kind of feedback that moved me beyond words. When I got that kind of feedback, the rush of wonder at interconnectedness I got wasn’t about dopamine from having my worth affirmed. That specific rush of wonder came from knowing that the pain I’d endured, survived, and dared to write about could serve a purpose, a purpose I could see clearly each time someone told me:
“I thought it was just me” or
“I’ve always felt so alone, until I read this” or
“Your words give me hope that something better is possible.”
It was especially poignant when words like these were spoken instead of typed—when someone would take me aside and tell me, “I want to tell you something I’ve never told anyone before, because I know you can hear it and you won’t think of less of me.” When I’d listen through their sobs and know, after tears had dried and gentle words been offered: There is value and beauty in my speaking of hard times without shame for having been forced to endure them.
When I’ve written, “This happened to me but isn’t me,” I came to understand my words were also, wonder-fully, interpreted as:
“This happened to you but isn’t you”
(words to ease heavy burdens).
Sometimes, over my years on my prior blog, acquaintances—typically male ones—would express bafflement that I’d choose not only to write but publicly share such hard experiences. At first, I’d walk into arguments about how my reasons were legitimate even if incomprehensible to the specific asker.
Over time, I came to address such questions much more succinctly: “Sure, you can read these posts, but they’re not for you. The people they’re for? The people for whom I write such posts get the posts, and that’s what I care about. Not whether or not you specifically understand.”
Recalling such conversations, I am clear about for whom I am and am not writing. I am clear that there’s merit in my continuing to write—if, that is, I can do so with appropriate consideration to what, exactly, I am sharing, and why exactly I am sharing it.
Before sharing my last post, I spent time reflecting on Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly checklist for those with a history of oversharing:
Why am I sharing this?
What outcome am I hoping for?
What emotions am I experiencing?
Do my intentions align with my values?
Is there an outcome, response, or lack of response that will hurt my feelings?
Is this sharing in the service of connection?
Am I genuinely asking the people in my life for what I need?
(I also asked myself: If a colleague asked me about this post, how would it feel? Would that be OK with me, such that I could respond with kindness?)
I was comfortable with my answers for each, and especially glad to know with conviction: This sharing is in the service of connection;
in service of reminder that physical escape isn’t itself healing, and that pathways to healing do, in fact, exist
(and are so very worth the fresh pain of learning to take).
I will continue to post here. Unlike on my prior blog, I will be sparing about detail, most of which detail isn’t useful to the more process-of-healing parts of my story I’m now trying to learn—and tell—better.
Will I always get the balance right? Doubtful. As I learn more in various contexts each day, I get better at balancing only by working on my balance, not by contemplating it or reading about it or drawing diagrams on the mechanics of it.
For me, the chance to help someone in pain see how very un-alone they are? That’s absolutely worth falling in my wobbly starting efforts at finding a new balance.
I don’t need to have that perfect balance now. I just need to remind myself I’m seeking it, and to know, as I do,
it is a balance well worth seeking.
“To say I am grateful for the things I went through in childhood is a bridge too far for me. But I know these experiences are what allow me to connect to people, heart to heart.”
– Sharon Salzberg