Last night, well into a conversation with another mom at Jack's elementary school Valentine's Day party, she said, "I have to tell you, I read . . . " and at the juncture, before another word came out of her mouth, I was sure she was going to say she had finished FLOW and hated it. But no, she'd found my blog and had been following it, on and off.
I have to be honest here. I assume just about no one reads these meanderings I send off into cyberspace. No, that's not quite true—there are remarkable people who do read this, share their thoughts, support what I'm going through, give advice, comfort, empathy in those dark moments, celebrate with me when experiences are highlighted in neon yellow. Most are people I don't know in the real world, as in a let's-meet-tomorrow-morning-for-coffee sort of way. That, in no way, lessens my appreciation. It's just different. I open up here in ways I don't face-to-face. The people I run into on the street generally have no idea what going on inside. Conversations are more about middle school communication, neighborhood restaurant closings, tween angst, school testing, PTA drama, co-op nonsense. I don't often talk about my projects, what I've done, what I'm thinking of doing. I don't discuss relationship stuff, issues with Jon, angst over my kids. I don't bring up the fact that my design work has basically stopped, that I don't know what to do next with myself. Or fears of aging, of sickness, of what I go through with my family. As I'm writing this, I realize I don't give up much in the real world. For the most part it's surface stuff. I don't let my guard down.
Here, it's different. And cathartic. I can be as open as I want to without worrying whether I've gone too far (although I do something think that after I hit the publish post button). I don't have to wait for someone else's reaction, which I generally expect to be annoyed, put upon, judgmental. My god. It sounds like I expect the worst from people. It's not that. I suppose, down deep, I don't necessarily feel important enough for anyone to lavish time or attention on. A few years ago I was really ill, spending 5 days in the hospital on massive drugs, and I didn't tell anyone. I think I was afraid no one would help, so I soldiered through on my own.
I'm also not good at looking/feeling weak, incapable, or even just having a day when I can't handle everything. The truth is, I can't handle everything. Often, my head is barely above water. But part of me can't let anyone else know there are chinks. I'm wondering if that's why I'm having so much trouble starting a new project. Being in that place again of stretching myself uncomfortably, of having too much to do in a day, of facing rushed deadlines, internal questioning, wondering if my ideas, my words, my work are good enough is hard to go back to.
Back to last night—she asked how I felt about people I know reading these inner musings. Did it make me uncomfortable, self-conscious? I had to think about it for a moment or two. Truly, how did I feel about someone I see on a regular basis, sharing these often raw and emotional posts? And I realized, it was fine. In fact, there's something enervating about someone knowing more about me than I usually choose to share and still wanting to talk to me. In fact, by slipping past my suit of armor, it was a conversation that was real, connected, interesting, honest.
Perhaps all this sharing will spill over into my day-to-day world. More edges blurring. Perhaps, that's one of the joys of growing older. Being able to just be, instead of trying so hard to play the part you think you're supposed to.