The Blogger’s Conundrum

Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to hang loose. Dinosaurs help.

One thing I struggle with constantly as a blogger is how to write things that are personally meaningful and heartfelt and yet innocuous. I often write about my family because my family is my job and my life. If I were a physician, I would write about medicine or if I were a priest I would write about faith. But, I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I write about what that is like for me. I try to be respectful. I try to choose my topics and words carefully. Sometimes, I still end up upsetting people. Sometimes, even things I feel I have written in a pointedly joking way come back to bite me because someone I know and love takes my words in a way I did not intend. It’s never easy when someone you care about lets you know your words offended, hurt, or annoyed them.

While writing about my personal life, I aspire to achieve a balance between humor and sensitivity, but sometimes I fail. And, when others fail to grasp my meaning in a written piece, I have substantively failed as a writer. I hate that. Before starting this blog, I debated about using a pseudonym. I weighed keeping my writing a secret and not publishing at all. Knowing that I write from my life experiences, I carefully considered what writing publicly would mean for my relationships. I very nearly decided not to attempt it at all. Then, one day, I resolved to be brave. I would take a risk. I would put myself out there wholly and completely, and that is what I attempted to do. Instead, though, I’ve censored myself repeatedly to ensure harmonious relationships. I feel I have barely even dipped my toe in the pool of self-disclosure. In this grand blogging experiment, what I’ve learned is that no matter how hard you try not to upset anyone, sometimes it just happens. I’ve also learned that you can’t predict what might bother someone, nor can you claim responsibility for their feelings. All you can do is write and hope for the best.

I’m down to the last 22 consecutive days left in this 366-day blogging adventure. I would walk away now (and, believe me, I’ve been toying with that idea for weeks), but I’m not a quitter. So, I’m staying until December 3rd as planned, at which time this blog will undergo some changes. I will likely reduce the amount of posts per week and I will also likely limit my subject matter. Both those things will cut down on the amount of times I’ll be able to annoy those near and dear to me.

I keep wondering how other writers balance this delicate situation. Is there a solution I’m missing? If I write honestly, am I doomed to a life of endangered relationships and lengthy personal explanations? Do I write what I want and ignore the fallout of others’ emotions? Writing is a gift to me only when I write without self-censure. I found a great quote tonight by famed poet Allen Ginsberg: “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” While that’s easier said than done with blogging, I suppose it is still possible. Maybe I just need to write what I need to say and then put on some noise-cancelling headphones and move forward and don’t look back?

Playing Favorites

My favorite sons

Have you heard about Buzz Bishop, the Canadian radio host who recently published a blog entry in which he specifically notes that his older son is his favorite? I was flipping through some current headlines online when I saw a reference to his blog and had to check it out. Since his blog post, he has been both lambasted and praised for his honesty about his parental favoritism. Playing favorites has long been a topic among parents and children. If you’re of a certain age, you perhaps remember an episode from The Brady Bunch when middle daughter Jan is upset that everything is always about “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.” My sisters and I have long joked about which one of us is Mom’s favorite, despite my mom’s assertion that she has always loved us the same equally.

I had to read more from Bishop to get an idea of where he was coming from when he wrote his blog. His assertion is that he loves his children equally but likes one more than the other. I’m sure there’s not a parent out there who can deny that in a bad moment, one child may seem easier or more pleasant than another, but I hope that feeling stems from a situational place and not a heartfelt one. I love both my boys and like them both for different reasons. They each present different challenges and they each provide different joys. Depending on the moment, I may feel closer to one than the other, but my heart knows no favorites. Beyond that though, even if my heart felt more strongly attached to one child than the other, I would never write about it knowing that someday my child might read my words and be deeply hurt.

My gut reaction to Bishop’s admission is that it was unnecessary. I’m a wholehearted supporter of  honesty in writing, but I also believe that there are some things worth keeping to yourself. This type of journalistic behavior, where we say whatever we’re thinking without giving a thought to the consequences of our message, is egotistical and self-serving. I’m sure it felt great for Bishop to get that information off his chest, but because he used such a visible platform for his disclosure there will someday be a ramification for his action. I have to wonder if then, when his son confronts him from a place of sadness and anger, he will think it was such a good idea. The written word, like the cockroach, lives on despite our occasional wish to quash it post admission. Sharing with your children your experiences is important. Sharing with them that they’re not your favorite? Well…that’s something better left unsaid. Sometimes I think it’s better if we keep some thoughts to ourselves.

Pregnant Pause

What the dress looked like in my head when I put it on for the party

Today, in honor of my son’s birthday party, from my newly set up summer closet I pulled out a cute dress that I’ve been dying to wear. It’s actually a tunic top that many women have to wear with leggings, but I get to wear it as a mini-dress because I’m height challenged. I love the dress because it’s soft and comfortable, the pattern is fun, and it’s green (I love green). At any rate, an hour before the party I threw the dress on and felt pretty good in it. So, I left it on.

I wore it for the entire party, never once feeling self-conscious in it. When the party was over, hubby downloaded the photos. That was when I freaked out. The dress was not nearly as flattering on me as I had imagined it was. I’d just spent 3 hours entertaining 20 people and, now that they were all gone, I could see what I looked like to them through the camera’s eye. Not good.

Depressed and disappointed in myself for being oblivious of the obvious, I stopped looking at the party photos and went to sit on the couch with my family. Finally, with the photos still reeling around my head, I asked my three boys what they thought about my outfit today. Steve, ever positive, said he loved it. Luke said he thought I looked pretty like I always do. (He’s a natural born politician.) I rolled my eyes. I knew they were being disingenuous. I asked for some honesty. Joe gave it to me.

“Well…when I first saw you in it, I did think you looked a tiny bit pregnant.”

“What?” I gasped.

“Not a lot. Just a little,” he hedged, sensing his brutal honesty might have been a tiny bit of a mistake.

My head was swimming. A tiny bit pregnant. As if looking a tiny bit pregnant when you’re not is better than looking a lot pregnant when you’re not. Looking any bit of pregnant when you’re about to turn 44 and are most certainly not pregnant is never a good thing. End of story.

In reality, what the dress looks like when you’re a tiny bit pregnant or merely like cupcakes a little bit too much.

“Joe,” Steve said, hoping to ameliorate the rapidly declining situation, “your mother does not look pregnant.”

“I didn’t say she looks pregnant,” he replied. “I said she looks a tiny bit pregnant. Besides, she told me to be honest.”

I reached down toward my chest, plucked the arrow from my heart, closed my hand over the gaping wound there, and tried desperately to keep from bleeding out all over our family room sofa. I know I am not at my lowest weight ever. I know I haven’t been to as many yoga classes recently as I should have been. But, pregnant? That was almost more than I could bear. I snuggled closer to my new favorite son, Luke, and tried to walk toward the light. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.

I realize that I am overly self-critical and my own worst enemy. I also realize that most people at the party probably did not think I looked as horrific as I felt when I saw the photos. I further understand that no one was paying that much attention to me in any case. Still, I can’t help but feel a bit scalded by the truth in Joe’s words. At the very least, I will never again feel the same way in that dress as I did before his comments.

He’s right. I did ask for it. I went seeking their honest opinions and I’m not sure I can fault Joe for offering his, especially when I know that he was right. Still, the entire situation left me with a tiny bit of a pregnant pause.