Saturday, December 20, 2008

Why haven't I been writing here lately?

I have been insanely busy, that is true. But it's not the whole truth.

I had a conversation recently with a friend who is a fellow cancer survivor, and also a fellow blogger. When she was diagnosed, she kept a forthright and riveting account of her life, centered around the illness. Her words were a source of entertainment, education, and comfort to many. But lately her posts have dropped off. She is in now remission, but going through a divorce and other life changes. Because she is a great writer, I’m sure she has equal insight into these experiences, but, as we discussed, she doesn’t feel comfortable putting them out into the world, because they involve other people.
Many people use the metaphor of illness as a journey. Writing about illness is a little like being a travel writer. You see everything from the point of view of a newcomer. Illness, like travel, brings you into interaction with all kinds of characters who are unlikely to become close friends, i.e. people who will never read your blog. And as a writer, this is a kind of gift. For a while, you can journalistically document your own life, with detailed, visual descriptions, observations and quoted conversations.
What happens though, to the traveler (of whatever kind of journey), who comes home? Now the funny observations, the small rages or hurt feelings, conversations, are taking place with people who know you, and with people who know each other. It is difficult talk about yourself in a vacuum—at least without being narcissistic or a bit boring—as Alice in Wonderland notes “What use is a book without pictures or conversations?”
Questions then abound: What is appropriate material for a blog? You might believe, as I do, that everyone owns the story of their own life—their experiences, perceptions, feelings. And yet if those perceptions are of something or someone, if those feelings are about something or someone—then even if like me, your readership is about eight people, isn't it difficult to dismiss that your opinions might at some point have an impact? But should one tiptoe through life trying not to have an impact on anyone, not daring to disturb the universe? Should I commit lies of omission in regard to my own feelings and thoughts—in effect misrepresent my current state or view on the world out of deference to others?
On one hand, I pride myself on my discretion, I am, by nature, someone who can easily guard someone’s personal confidence. But on the other hand, I strongly believe that having a real connection with the world requires openness and honesty with oneself and others. How can you truly engage with anyone if you don’t let them know you? At some level, I believe that discretion is a virtue—it is respect for the feelings of others. At another level, though, what we call discretion is often a kind of complicity—and perhaps cowardice about confrontation.

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