One of the interesting side effects of having cut waaaaaaaay back on working and marketing myself last year is that I am no longer a Hot Internet Commodity. Bloggers are a dime a dozen, after all, and the thing is, I always had really mixed feelings about that whole Hot Internet Commodity thing, anyway. So now I’m doing all of this Restructuring and Goal-Setting and Planning For The Future and blah blah blah (wake up! I’m getting to a point here!) and trying to decide whether I even WANT to “raise my visibility” to where it used to be.
Even writing that out makes me want to punch myself in the face. I never did any of this because I wanted to Be Someone. I think a lot of people do it to gain some sort of fame/notoriety, but I also think more people than you might guess are more like me—there’s a love of storytelling, an impulse to write, and an oft-whispered wish that mostly, you are just normal, and therefore, forgettable.
So next week I’m going to do an Interview Thing, and I don’t do a lot in the way of actual on-camera stuff, EVER, and I told myself I should do this thing because it’s good practice for me and will give me another recent something to add to the resume as I ramp back up, work-wise, but over the last two days I realized that’s not why I want to do it. I want to do it because I feel like I need to do some penance.
The request came in like this: We’re doing a segment on blogging through divorce, and we think talking to someone who’s been all through the various stages and did it well would be great, so we’d love to talk to you. And there were examples of various things we could discuss—connecting with others in similar situations, building community, venting, etc.—and I said sure, we can talk about this stuff, definitely.
Then I went away and commenced feeling Not Entirely Right about it for a while, and last night I think I finally figured out why.
I’ve been blogging now for… coming up on nine years. That’s a long time! And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I am not the same person I was when I started. Likewise, when I started, I had little kids, and now I have teenagers. My kids are different people. I’ve tried to adapt and change as makes sense, but who knows how successful that ever really is once mistakes have been made.
My point (I know, I rambled around, but here it is): I didn’t do it right. I mean, I didn’t do it wrong ON PURPOSE, and I THOUGHT I was okay at the time, yes. But if I had it to do over? There are absolutely things I would change. There are plenty of ways in which I did not yet understand the fine line between “sharing your story” and “not allowing emotions to get the better of your common sense.”
There are choices I made when I started this blog which were absolutely correct and good and reasonable and I stand by them. I’ve never used my children’s names, here. I don’t use any pictures that would make them identifiable. [Sidebar: This is not an indictment of those who do it differently. These are my personal boundaries which are right for me.] I don’t share a surname with my kids and that was a conscious choice.
There are choices I made when I started this blog which were flat-out wrong. Back in 2004, I was sure I could just blog and stay anonymous. HAHAHAHAHAAAAA. While it’s not impossible to stay anonymous on the Internet, my understanding of how unlikely it is definitely evolved. The time came when I decided that I wanted my name attached to my work, because it was being discovered, anyway, and perhaps I shouldn’t be putting stuff out into the world I wasn’t comfortable putting my name on, y’know? But by then, I’d already allowed myself the luxury of non-responsibility when it came to talking about my children’s father, sometimes.
And that’s the wrongest wrong, right there. That’s why I am uncomfortable with the notion that I “did it right,” when sometimes I really didn’t.
My divorce was acrimonious for hundred different reasons, and with the benefit of growth and time passed, I feel comfortable saying that the two of us never should’ve gotten married in the first place, really. With a lot of hard work, we made it sort-of work for almost a decade. But when it ended, it was a fairly spectacular implosion. And there were years of continued animosity, on both sides, which was hard on everyone involved. (I’m sure it was especially hard on the kids, despite our best efforts to shield them from it.) The bottom line, though, is that without my ex I wouldn’t have these two pretty spectacular children, so thank God for him, right? I really do.
I will defend to the death (or at least to the hyperbole…) my right to share my story, my emotions, my challenges, in this space. When it comes to other people being tangled up in my story, I try to tread fairly, but I don’t always get it right. I always whip out that litmus test I hear a lot of folks using, and in most cases, I do find it apt: “I wouldn’t write about anything on my blog that I wouldn’t tell as a story at a cocktail party.” It’s a decent measure 90% of the time.
But. BUT. I might tell someone at a cocktail party about this eyeroll-inducing thing that was reported to me the last time my kids were off with their dad, and nowadays I realize that doesn’t belong on my blog. (Nowadays, by the way, would mean… oh, the last six or seven years or so. But that still leaves that first couple of blogging years where I made some bad calls.)
I never used his name or picture. We have always (even when married, to a large extent) traveled in different social circles, so the chances of someone who knows him coming across my words is very slim; the chances of someone who knows him realizing it’s him I’m talking about (making the connection between the two of us) is slimmer yet. It was never my goal to cause him pain in any way. I thought I was just venting/discussing/telling my story. But that doesn’t necessarily make it okay.
Now, let me be perfectly clear about this: I’m not saying I feel like I shouldn’t be able to mention him. He’s a part of my life, and sometimes he comes up as part of a larger story (which is—say it with me!—MY story from my point of view), but the way I handle that stuff has definitely evolved. It’s okay for me to say that something about interacting with him aggravated me. That’s fair. It’s not okay for me to write an entire post about what a jackass he’s being, even if I really and truly believed he was, because that’s not fair. Even if he can’t be identified. Even if I believed at the time that was an essential part of “my story,” it was me giving in to emotion and not me considering what such a story also said about ME.
You could say it’s easy to arrive at this conclusion now, because a lot of time has passed, tempers have settled, and while I doubt either of us is going to claim the other as our new BFF, through a lot of hard work and change, we are absolutely united in the goal of raising up these two humans we have in common the best way possible. Maybe we don’t always agree on how that happens, but we (miraculously!) handle it like adults and figure it out, these days. The truth is that I changed how I approach/handle these issues years ago, with the benefit of some time and experience and the realization that believing someone is being a jerk doesn’t actually give you license to be a jerk in return. (I’m still learning that last bit, as it happens. I am a slow learner.)
I can’t remember when it was—years ago, maybe even before Otto and I got married—but at some point my ex took it upon himself (having found my blog, reading it regularly and freaking out about the things I said even more often) to insist that I change the name of the category associated with posts that were about him.
Most of my category names are very tongue-in-cheek, and the name of that particular category was… not flattering, I admit.
So out of the blue (it seemed; maybe it wasn’t) he was suddenly demanding that I change that because IT’S RUDE AND MEAN. You know what? It WAS rude (I’d debate mean, but whatever, I can agree it certainly wasn’t NICE), but it’s my blog, and I’m not a fan of censorship, and the way he acted like it was his right to dictate my own writing to me really pissed me off. So I did the mature thing (HAHAHAHAHA) (not really, as you’ll soon see), and told him that SURE, I would be more than happy to comply with your request… if you tell me the truth about how you found my blog.
My feeling is that his discovery of my blog (back in the hardly-anyone-reads-me, I’m-basically-anonymous days) had to be a direct result of his nose being in places it didn’t belong, if you catch my drift, which in my mind spoke to larger issues of boundaries post-divorce and the difficulties we experienced therein. And he’d never owned up to it, instead offering an implausible and vague explanation that never sat right with me.
Basically my response was all AWWW FUCK YEAH, LET’S BOTH MAKE STUPID DEMANDS, THEN! Tit for tat! You want more kindness, TELL ME THE TRUTH ABOUT HOW UNKIND YOU WERE. (Stupid, all of it. I am embarrassed to share this story, not because of what he did, but because of how I handled it. But I think it’s important to be clear about what a jerk I was, too.) He offered up a couple more explanations—both just as vague and strange as the original explanation—and I eventually said, “Yeah, no. You don’t want to tell me, that’s fine. But I’m not changing it.”
The subject was dropped, with much grumbling on both sides. And really, I don’t even use that category anymore, so who cares? (My last post there was in 2008.)
As I got to thinking about this upcoming interview, and about blogging through something as sensitive as divorce and ALL OF THIS, I realized a few key things:
1) I think I may have eventually gotten it right, but I certainly didn’t have it right in the beginning. And I will definitely share that in the interview, because I think it’s an easy mistake to make.
2) How you share your reactions to other people in the name of “this is my story” absolutely IS your story—including maybe showing things about your own damn self you don’t even realize when you proceed without an appropriate measure of grace. Been there, done that. Once again: Someone else being a jerk doesn’t give you a free pass to be a jerk.
3) My bristling against being told what to do and/or censored is not, in the end, enough of a justification for a bad choice. And that category name was a bad choice; not just because of what it said about him, but because of what it tacitly said about ME. Maybe that was the person I was back in 2004 when I started this blog. It’s not the person I am today (or at the very least it’s not the person I WANT TO BE today). So I changed it.
In summary (2000 words later; GOD SHUT UP ALREADY, MIR), I’m still learning, still growing, still trying to get it “right,” but at the end of the day, I’m human, I make mistakes. I can’t change the past, but I can acknowledge and learn from stupid things I did. So that’s what I’m trying to do.