You know what? Keeping up this blog ain't easy! I don't just mean that it tends to gobble up, Pac-Man-style, the choicer cuts of my weekend days and post-work evenings, hours that could be spent crafting short fiction or attacking the Big Rock Laundry Mountain heaped directly behind me as I type this.
I mean that there are all sorts of moral and ethical conundra that you necessarily encounter when you're maintaining a public (i.e. no special password required), blabbermouth of a blog that purportedly attempts to especially lay bare and investigate the uglier, harder-to-swallow truths about yourself and your life. This endeavor is all good and well, perhaps even nigh-noble -- until you remember that no one (except maybe for the dude Tom Hanks was playing in the movie where his only friend was that volleyball named Wilson) lives in isolation; if you're going to write about yourself and the things that happen to you and how all of that makes you feel -- you are going to be writing about other people.
Sometimes they will like this. One friend of mine was delighted to see herself make a cameo in a post I wrote about how yes, a handful of people actually read and seem to get something out of reading this blog:
In the afternoon I went for a
stroll through the Kunzang Palyul Chöling Buddhist Peace Park in
Poolesville, Maryland, with a friend whom I've long admired. Soon after I
got to "Facebook-know" her, having run into her briefly at clubs and
been introduced through mutual friends, I thought, "This chick is one of
the most 'together,' enlightened-seeming people I have ever known!" Her
posts were wry and obstinately free-thinking. She seemed to emanate
rare inner strength and clarity of thought.
I felt enormously gratified when, on Monday as I followed slightly
behind her on the muddy trails of the peace park that she knew better
than I did, she told me that she liked my blog. Again, it didn't come
off like just some nice, polite thing you say to fill in the silence --
it sounded deliberate, as if she'd been meaning to tell me that.
Granted, all of that was nice stuff that I'd written about her. I'm not always so nice on here. Worse, I'm not always as smart or perspicacious about protecting people's privacy on here as my admittedly laissez-faire ass would like to believe. I'm fine with using my real first and last names on here, and even a contiguous combination of the two. My face is up there to the upper right, in super-high, pore-obliterating contrast and peering out you with haughty and gothic-eyelinered eyes. I wrote a whole post about -- and linking to -- nekkid pictures of me. If you tell me to tone it down a bit, you will get a reply from me that's basically (a nicer, more polite, more self-deprecating version of) my statement in that post:
dislike the notion of shaping my entire life in such a way that I never
have to worry if a boss is looking over my shoulder. I don't want to be
lying on my deathbed someday saying, "I sure did live a life that was OPSEC-compliant!"
I write about getting drunk before a presentation at work, I write about getting drunk and crying after receiving less-than-glowing reviews at a writing workshop. I write about getting my cherry popped by the dad of my junior-high boyfriend in a hotel room in New Orleans. I even write about those two times when I lashed out in anger at my manic-depressive ex-boyfriend during two of his self-destructive episodes. Not to say pretty much the most cliché thing ever, but my life is an open book.
There are a handful of subjects that -- while they sure as hell bleed into my fiction (or "fiction," as the case may be) -- will never see the light of day on this blog. I will talk to you about them if we're sitting at a bar or ensconced in some squeaky plastic booth at a Denny's, but I won't post about them here. A biggie is my relationship with my boyfriend, or anything about his life. I've told you a few things -- I've mentioned that he's been to war in Iraq, I've told you that he's "nigh-godlike" in the sack. OK, so maybe those are too-personal things to share. But the Iraq thing is hardly a secret, and the godlike thing is just a funny compliment, so I let those two sail on past the censors.
Part of me feels bad about that. I mean, whatever's going on (or not going on) in a person's romantic relationship(s) is going to be a pretty big determinant of how that person feels about themself and how they're feeling about life in general, and is very likely going to shape the direction of their life and inform nearly every decision they make. Maybe that's not the most PC thing to say -- and again, maybe you're somehow reading this via your deserted island's absurdly good Wi-Fi connection next to your volleyball named Wilson -- but I think it's fair to say that for many (most?) of us, our romantic relationships, or lack thereof, hold a hell of a lot of sway over our lives. That's not some un-Oprah, un-"You go, girl!" thing -- it's just human.
But this blog is not the place for my airing of any less-than-rosy moments or feelings that I might have regarding my relationship with my unnamed-on-this-blog boyfriend. The thrust of this blog is, or is supposed to be, my journey (to use a sort of barf-inducing, self-help term) toward being the person I want to be. So far, aside from a few inexplicable and regrettable forays into not even tangentially related topics, it's been about finding a good job, training to volunteer to help monsters not be monsters, venturing out of my writer's hermit shack to really work on creative writing with a short-fiction workshop. It's been about my struggle -- ongoing still -- with drinking.
Recently two of my beloved friends e-mailed me to thoughtfully express concerns they had about the nature of some things I've shared on this (again, public, no-password-required) blog. I can't go into too much detail without pretty much directly violating my promise not to ever even paraphrase a word of what one of them has ever said to me, but the gist is that I agreed with both of them -- I've taken the openness too far.
I'm just about one of the most anti-censorship people you will ever meet; I have this utopian idea that more honesty can only lead to enlightenment and a deeper understanding of one another and of human nature in general. I don't like to think about things like some corporation's "Code of Ethics," upon receipt of which you have to sign some form lying and saying that you read the damn thing.
I don't like to think about computer-science wizards in some secure office bunker somewhere masterminding technology that will enhance an employer's ability to do a background search on you, linking together all of your various accounts and doing nigh-psychic searches for not just specific names but any other relevant descriptors or identifiers (e.g., my English-professor friend's association with haiku; his autobiographical novel has the word "haiku" in it... uh, I probably shouldn't have just typed all of that). At the risk of insulting a friend whose job is to create this very technology... I kind of wish the wizards wouldn't do this. (My gut reaction is similar to this James Coburn scene in "Payback," the only thing that I remember about that movie: "Man, that's just mean... That's just mean, man!")
But the wizards are doing this. And I'm lucky enough to have non-volleyball friends, and they have lives, and they deserve to have me respect that privacy for a whole spectrum of justified (and sometimes dire) reasons. So I'm doing a tiny bit of clean-up. I've already changed some proper names (such as the name of the short-fiction workshop that I'm going to, and all the group members' names), and am changing the name of my ex-friend (the one whose batshit e-mail I can't seem to stop referencing and linking to on here) to "X." (As in "ex-friend;" clever, right? [No.])
One of the two friends who e-mailed me worried about the ethical correctness or incorrectness of my posting "X." 's entire e-mail. Ordinarily I wouldn't post private correspondence verbatim on a public blog -- except to maybe refer to an amusing or encouraging couple of words, in quotation marks, in a message from a friend that I truly don't think that friend would mind my sharing.
But in the case of my ex-friend, well, I'm leaving her e-mail up there. I would freely grant her permission to rip me apart in a similar fashion. All of that said, if she ever asked me to take that stuff down, I'd take it down. As it stands now, with only a handful of my close friends having a clue whom I'm referring to in those posts, I'm leaving it alone.
I try to consider what I post and what I obfuscate on a case-by-case basis. To use the aforementioned English professor/dad of my junior-high boyfriend as an example: I'm very open about everything that went on with him, even some seemingly shocking secrets of his (the love doll named Mai, for example) -- because he has written, in detail, in his autobiographical novels and even in goddamned haiku, about his various sexcapades and gleefully deviant sex life. That stuff is all part of his self-image; a former altar boy, he's worked hard to make peace with the sexual parts of his life, and to not feel shameful about them. As far as sharing any shocking secrets that his employer or family could find out about him -- he has beaten me to the punch.
So if you're a friend of mine and this blog has got you feeling reluctant to write or talk to me, here are a few promises I'll make to you:
-If you ever have a concern about anything I've posted on here -- you let me know, and I will take it down. You won't hear so much as an exasperated sigh. You won't get me standing up on a soapbox spouting about my First Amendment rights -- if it bugs you, down it comes. I have done this already for one friend, whose e-mail has thankfully caused me to think about what I post here in a more circumspect manner.
-Except in very rare cases, no more real first names on here. If need be, I'll use an initial (probably not your real first initial) or a pseudonym. Otherwise, you are "a friend" or "a writer friend" or "my buddy at the goth club" etc. You don't have to worry about your name popping up here. Unless it already has. In which case, if it bothers you -- see above, i.e. I will take it down.
-If you're my friend -- if you are someone with whom I have shared the URL or link to this blog -- you're not going to read anything mean about you on here. It'll either be some glowing thing like what I wrote about about going with my pal to the Peace Park, or it won't appear here. (It might make its way into a short story, if you and I have some spectacular bloody fight or if you do something to me that's both despicable and makes for interesting story subject matter -- but you won't read about it here.)
I'm not going to lie and say that everything's great, that all my friends are consistently wonderful and supportive and never hurt my feelings, that all I hear at the writing workshop is truly constructive feedback that I can put to good use -- it's not, they're not, that's not the case. But if you're my friend, if you're one of the trusted few who read this blog, you don't have to worry about my blabbing bad things about you here.
After receiving first one and then a second e-mail kindly imploring me to put some clothes on my naked blog, both within the span of a couple of days, I felt panicky in that way that I sometimes get when I worry that I'm secretly some kind of emotionally tone-deaf psycho. My petulant knee-jerk impulse (internally; not inflicted upon anyone else) was to want to hide, to sulk and say, "Fine, then! I'll just take down the entire blog!" To extend this new hiding ethos to my Facebook profile, change my profile picture to a photo of nature or just deactivate the sucker. To shave my head in a gesture of ultimate self-effacement and go become a Buddhist nun in the Himalayas and rid myself of my sense of self once and for all, to become pure.
Sometimes I overreact. (I did not do any of those things.)
And then the inevitable backlash tide of defiance washed in -- "The reason people read my blog in the first place is because I'm so raw and honest and real, man! I'm unconventional; I'm an iconoclast! I don't cow to the Man and his Code of Ethics! Someday they'll appreciate my genius... They'll all be sorry when I'm dead!"
OK, pretty much always I overreact.
But then I chilled out and thought, "All right, I'll change a few proper names; what's the big whoop?" So I changed a few proper names, and there was no big whoop. I'm not deactivating anything. I'm still here, gazing at you haughtily (geez, I have got to find a friendlier-looking photo for up there) next to the ill-considered name of this blog. Gosh, keeping up a blog is hard, you guys. But I'm not going anywhere.