Her Bad Mother

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Writing in the dark

Mrs. McFeely Friday/The Weekly Squeeze (and visiting blog friends) will resume after WonderBaby's Royal Tour. HBM is currently blog-challenged, and struggling to overcome...


I’ve been having trouble blogging.

In part because I’ve been off the electronic grid for four days: there’s no wireless connectivity in the small desert town where my mother just bought a home and where she plans to retire. (Yes, Canada has desert. Semi-arid desert, with cactus and tumbleweed and rattlesnakes and everything. It’s desolate, and beautiful.)

But being off the grid shouldn’t have stopped me from writing. I’ve drafted many a post off-line. And, ordinarily, I’m constantly working words, weaving sentences, knitting ideas in my mind. Crafting posts as I nurse, rock, sing, walk, play.

But I haven’t done this. Not since Tuesday night.

Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, long before dawn) I sat up awake in the guest room of my sister’s house, WonderBaby asleep in a Pack’n’Play beside me, computer open on my lap. A Serious Family Drama had played out that evening, the second evening of our trip, and I couldn’t sleep until I had purged my mind of the surging emotion and clattering worry and slowed the pace of my frantically beating heart. So I wrote. I blogged. And as I blogged, I fretted about the destination of my words. Would I publish this post? Could I publish this post? The words were so fraught with worry and confusion. They revealed so much.

Was I blogging too close to the bone?

I was. But I had nowhere else to go. Husband was dead asleep, miles away in Toronto, not answering the phone. All I could do was write. And the place that I write – the place where my writing lives and breathes, the place where the writing becomes real – is the blog. So I sat there, in the dark, and wrote a post. And when I was done, my fingers hovered over the mouse pad. Hit Publish? Or Save as Draft? Publish? Or Save?

If I hit Publish, somebody might read, and understand, and send words of commiseration, of comfort. But more importantly, I would be advancing the true story of our lives – my life, WonderBaby’s life, the life of our family – in all of its gore and glory. I would be honest. WonderBaby’s Royal Tour is not, will not be, a series of picture perfect snapshots, family portraits against postcard backdrops, amusing anecdotes and colourful stories about eccentric grandparents and boisterous cousins. The story of this trip is one more instalment in the serial narrative of our lives and it has more than its share of pathos and drama. It's a messy story, as full of tears and anxiety as it is full of laughter and kisses. Writing this trip honestly – holding true to the narrative as it unfolds in our real lives – means writing the truth. But what if the truth is sloppy and naked and scared?

How much revelation is too much? Where is the line between writing honestly, and exposing one's self?

I hit Save. Better safe, as they say, than regretful. Better safe.

But I haven’t been able to write since.

All of my thoughts and feelings and worries over the past few days have defied composition, because I begin each mental post with a caution to myself: you can't blog this. You shouldn't blog this. You won't blog this. And that stops me cold.

My determination to stay safe is choking the writing. I need to find a way to write honestly, without crossing whatever line exists between honesty and overexposure. To tell my story, our stories, without violating trusts, without divulging secrets, without baring souls too completely. And without turning pathos into bathos.

I have to find that way. So that I can continue writing, in a way that keeps my mind and heart and conscience clear. And so that the stories I pass on to WonderBaby are true stories, the truest stories, so that she can know her mother, her father, her family. Her history.

Her story. Her true story.


Blogger Unknown said...

HBM, Tim O'Brien writes in The Things They Carried that there is a difference between story-truth and happening-truth and that story-truth can make things present. He says that sometimes story-truth communicates better what is felt. Your post reminds me of this struggle between happening and story.

I hope that you will find the balance you need to communicate the truth that is trying to get out of you. For you and for WonderBaby.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Cristina said...

What a great post! Sloppy and naked and scared is when writing can be at its best. And yet revealing too much also leaves me feeling vulnerable.

I hope that you find a comfortable amount of information to reveal and that whatever has been worrying you gets resolved soon. Luckily, there is a wonderful community of women out there that is just waiting to support you.

9:26 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Family drama is always the most difficut to talk about and to not talk about at the same time. It took me years to be able to talk about the major source of our family's drama to anyone without losing my shit. Now I'm mostly comfortable, but still, when people talk about their relationships with their mothers, it does bite into me that it's not like that in my family - because of the same old problem. It's so cathartic to write it down, but I think it's true and wise to put a little distance or at least one night of sleep between you and the publish button to gain some perspective if you're unsure. I hope things are calming down a bit there, travel is stressful enough without drama.

9:39 PM  
Blogger bunmaster said...

Oh badlady I wish you some ease of mind. And yet I know what you are saying all too well. You want to write what's true & real to you & yet if you do there are those close to your heart that may be hurt as a result. Or offended. Or insulted that you divulged to the public what they thought was private.

I know my blog writing suffers because of this, because of the lack of anonymity. I want desperately to rant & rail against those that drive me batshit insane & to tell the true story but I'm too exposed & I don't want it to come back & bite me in the ass. It is very hard to find that middle ground & still satisfy your soul.

9:44 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

You struggle, but not alone. This has just been on my mind. If you decide to share with us, I'll gladly listen. If you decide not to I won't think less of you. You are consistently honest and true. That does not mean everything is said, always.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Sometimes the first step is to get it down and hit save as draft. Because then it is out, but safe. An in the middle place. Which isn't bad, it just is.

I have lots of posts like that. Too naked. Too raw. Those I save as draft. Maybe someday I will finish them, but they exist and that is the most important thing.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

This self-exposure thing is so much harder than it looks. Several times now, I have made up my mind to tell a story in a post - not a difficult story, even, just a harmless personal story - and somewhere along the way the story turns into a theory. Expounding a theory is so much safer (and a bit of an addiction for academics, probably). It's hard to predict, sometimes, the things that will make us feel so exposed and vulnerable.

Now matter how many details you choose to divulge, or conceal, there is something so honest and present in your writing - I feel immediately (and falsely, I'm sure!) that I know you.

Maybe part of the appeal of mommy-blogs is the combination of our tortured attempts at de-cloaking with those wide-open, totally guileless eyes of our little babies. And none of those eyes are wider or sweeter than your WonderBaby's - it's nice to see her again after a few days' absence.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so get where you are coming from. I walk that fine line all the time since EVERYONE in our family reads my blog!! There are days I wish I had an anonymously blog too! I just do not have the time and energy to do that!1

I am hoping for you to find your balance!

11:28 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Many times have I written a post in the heat of the moment, a fresh idea raging in my mind, but then hit Save as Draft because I worry about exposing a little too much or hurting someone close to me who may read it.

I think we all need to release our feelings, and writing is sometimes the best way to do it. But writing it doesn't mean releasing it out to the world, and you must decide what you want to release and what you want to keep inside your computer, hidden away from the rest of us.

Oh, and dear god that's an adorable hat! I want one for Cordy!

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without even hitting "publish" so that I could read, I understand. As honest as I can be on my site, there's so much more that just isn't fit for public consumption. I'm not denying it, nor am I presenting an unnaturally rosy picture, but it's just not the right time to share it. Obviously there's a continuum of drama, and mine is surely on the tame end of that continuum, but there's no need to dump my purse out in front of everyone.

Enjoy the tour. As much as possible.

12:05 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I have been thinkin' of you today. Hope you won't be driving down, Coq is a disaster they say? Ah well, give it 24 hours and everything will change.

Try that with your family and good luck, Pollyanna!

(good choice, and remember even once you publish you can still delete, I've done it tons of times.. you are at another frontier of the Onterweb, one in the atmosphere of da family good luck with the decision -- thank god it ain't all cherries and sangria! phew I was worried there a mo')

12:18 AM  
Blogger Haute Mama said...

Ohhh may i suggest Sundance Ranch in Ashcroft just a few km away?? Horses are so healing. It's one of my FAV places on earth.

12:26 AM  
Blogger ninepounddictator said...

Well, I've missed you.

I think you were probably right to save, not publish. I think if you are worried, then that's your gut telling you what's right...

but we've missed your posts!

3:29 AM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

Hi HBM and Wonderbaby - you are missed in the blogsphere :)

HBM, I'm not sure if this will come out right because I'm not that eloqeunt or coherent most of the time but: Her story is just that - her story (and your story and dad's story) and what you chose to air for the blogsphere is what you are comfortable with (sorry to end that sentence grammatically wrong but it's Sunday morning and I'm tired). I think I know what you are talking about because I have struggled since I started my humble blog. I can't quite tell the truth yet (not that I'm lying - just - the whole story isn't there) because it's not ready to air. Yet. Or maybe never. OK - without hijacking your comments, I just wanted to say: I think I understand what you are saying and I just want you to know: I love having you share what you share and you are missed right now. Okay, I'm rambling (what else is new?) so I'll stop now. Take care and see you soon.

7:20 AM  
Blogger metro mama said...

I just started my blog, so I'm new to this. I'm still trying to decide if I should tell family members about it.

I think it's important to be as real as possible. I think the reason a lot of people blog is self-exploration. That said, I wouldn't want to post anything that would hurt someone I love.

It's a fine line. Good luck!

8:00 AM  
Blogger mamatulip said...

I blogged about this very subject a little while ago and have struggled with the same sort of things several times before. I've got a bunch of posts that I've saved as drafts and you know, as much as I want to post them, my gut says no so I don't. I just follow my instinct on some things, you know?

11:20 AM  
Blogger The Domesticator said...

What a fantastic post. I know exactly how you feel!!! I cannot tell you what a raw nerve this hit with me. I am also struggling with something and I want to write about it, but it would reveal certain truths that do expose myself and OTHER people (one friend in particular) and I am not sure doing that is fair. It is a hard decision between wanting to write something meaningful, but not potentially hurtful at the same time. I say follow your instincts on this.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is very hard to know sometimes what to publish and what to keep private. I sometimes seem like I'm being very open on my blog, but there are many things I do not write about -- things closest to my heart and most painful.

I think what you are doing makes sense, getting the words out which gives you a release, and reserving the posts in case you do want to share them in the future. There's risks in sharing, and there's risks in not sharing. Everyone has their own comfort level, and discovering what that is with respect to the blog can be a challenge.

Just so you know, your readers are here for you whatever you decide. We respect your decision to share or not -- we won't pressure you to share if you are uncomfortable, and will support you with commiseration and kind words if you do choose to reveal. Take care.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Namito said...

This is why I haven't told anyone but the Hub that I started a blog.

This doesn't mean that I'm going to bring out our extended family skeletons for all to see.
I can tell my story. No one else's. But quite frankly, if I knew my parents were reading, I would self-censor for them, not for me. And I have a hard enough time with it already without worrying about what Mom & Dad & siblings would think.

Good topic. One that I think about a lot, particularly as I hit that "save as draft" button.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

hmmm, intriguing and it makes me want more. all i can say is that one of the reasons i love blogging is because i can be honest without worrying about who i'm going to offend. no one knows about my blog, no one in my family anyway. the other great thing about blogging though is that you have total control. the power to push save or delete and if you're not ready, not willing to share your secrets, then don't. plain and simple.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

I understand this more than you know.

I've made some very conscious decisions about what I will and will not write about on my blog. I don't see it as my diary or as my therapist. I see it as a column or a series of short memoir pieces. And so I feel there are still imperfect moments I will save for The Record, that Thalia may know them one day. But I don't need to share them with the world to give them to her.

This is not to say that I don't open up completely on my blog. I do. But sharing truthfully and sharing all are not the same thing.

If you hesitate, do not publish. That's my two cents. It's okay to have something for yourself.

11:21 PM  
Blogger ms blue said...

I want to write it all and bare my soul but what will that gain? Compassionate words from my blog friends that will make me feel good inside. However it may change how those closest to my family thinks of us. I don't think I should give my words that kind of power. I don't want to hang my head every time I get together with friends or family in fear that they have discovered one of my secrets.

It was bothering me that my writing felt like an exterior thin shell, so I decided to start with sharing things that are messed up with me. I'll leave out problems that I encounter in relationships for now.

I hope you find what is right for you to get through this.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Jezer said...

I'm way behind on reading and commenting, but I must respond: You're not alone in the struggle between "tell it" and "don't tell it." Even in my semi-anonymous (I only know for certain of two real-life friends who read me--not even the Mr.) state, I hold a lot back. And it does affect my writing. I think we all have to find our own level of exposure with which we're comfortable. I know you'll find yours. In the meantime, I wish you peace of mind and peace in the family.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Baby in the City said...

Years ago my husband gave me a beautifully romantic, lovely gift and I showed it to a close friend of mine. She said' My god he's special, and it's special - although a little less so now that you've shown it to me". And she was right. It was. The point is that privacy is tied to intimacy, which is so closely tied to love. Keeping things private can show respect and love so making things public can really deminish how one feels respected and loved by someone. (The flip side of this is secrecy, which has nothing to do with respect and love.)

The brilliance of your blog, of your wrinting, is that you can share emotions and thoughts that are not tied to specific events. Its always larger than that. This post is a perfect example: we get that you are sincerely distressed and contemplative and struggling to untangle the string of said evening's events - even without the details. So I say protect those that you must - including yourself and Wonderbaby, it doesn't seriously take away from your readers' experience, at least not for me.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

I so feel you in this post. T

he truth so often is "sloppy and naked and scared" and I can relate completely. There are a few topics that make up the messiness of my life and my story that I am not ready to blog about. When the chaos of them happens I usually resort to silly distracting posts that day which may be a dishonest representation of my day-to-day narrative to some extent but you can only share what you are ready to share. What you won't regret in sharing.

I hope to have the strength to share all my sloppy truth in time and I have every confidence you'll find your own way too. Sending plenty of hugs your way my friend.

2:41 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

You've described quite aptly the way much of my creative process works. If there's something too big in the pipeline that I can't finish or get past, it stops up EVERYTHING ELSE. And I mean everything...no matter how small. I wish I could change that.

I wish you strength and peace as you deal with the decision post or not. Embrace the lull in writing. Something will happen eventually. I promise.

3:05 PM  
Blogger L. said...

I`ve almost always erred on the side of hitting "publish," but that`s just me.

It`s your blog -- do what feels right!

7:58 PM  
Blogger Piece of Work said...

I think it's different for everybody--people use the blog for different reasons. For me, I tend to be much more open and honest on the blog than I am in real life--for some reason the blog makes me feel safe. Even so, there's plenty of times that I save as a draft--for a day, a week, several months, or forever, depending on the post.

We'd love to hear it if you feel like you want to share.

11:09 PM  
Blogger macboudica said...

This is a good post because I think it is something we all deal with. I think it is important to work within your comfort level. Only post the details you are comfortable with. However, for some things, if you can find a way to portray the ideas or emotions involved without betraying a family member or someone close's identity, then that may help you exorcise that within yourself that needs sharing.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

Tough call.
I do the "save as draft" thing because it is cathartic and for me right now the only outlet I have is my blog. So far I have only shared its existence with my sister, but I always think "what if....found out about this and was hurt or angry that I wrote this?" It does throw a stumbling block up, but as Mom-101 said, "sharing truthfully and sharing all are not the same thing. "
I did have one major family drama I shared once on my blog, even though I felt rather exposed by it. I let it sit for two days, got some wonderful feedback and advice in the comments, and then deleted it.
Hope whatever you are going through ends soon and well. Missed you.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

You are not alone with this struggle. I find myself wrestling this demon all too often. And I too choose to err on the side of privacy.

I miss your posts. I hope you sort things through.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly if you are feeling conflicted, you shouldn't rush to a decision, but if it will help you from feeling stifled by whatever is troubling you, then by all means, publish and we will be here to be supportive.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are with you, and I have a rule of thumb that has helped me in the Publish/Save as Draft struggle. If it's not my story to tell, I don't tell it, and if it would hurt my feelings were I in the shoes of the person being written about, I don't publish it. If there's a way to convey it without specifics, just with feelings and without explaining who and what and who said what, then I blog it, like a poem or a short story. If I can't do that without being specific and risking hurt feelings, then I get out a pen and a notebook, write it there, and then put the notebook away for the next time I need to rant about something that isn't appropriate for the blog world.

I think Jana (Something Blue) said it wisely when she said that if she writes it and gets comfort from her friends in the blog world over the topic, but it hurts the people close to her so that she averts her eyes, then it's too painful to publish.

Maybe it's that certain subjects are just off limits. My in-laws are off limits on my blog. Mostly, I love them all. Sometimes, I roll my eyes at them and just want to get away from them for a bit. But no matter how angry I can get with them, I can't let myself blog about them, or the tension will just blow up in my face. That falls into the "were I in their shoes" kind of risk.

Andrea (www.littlebalddoctors.blogspot.com) (Blogger comments on hold today I guess)

2:19 PM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

we all share your dilemma. it's a tough one--the line between a blog and a journal. she is blurry..

my hubs has likened the blog to "a couple of hundred people turning up at our house"--this sums up his ambivalence about it. he respects my writing, but there is a line... for him at least.

in the end, the blog is editorialized--it can't necessarily be a place to process and vent about everything and everyone in our lives. but that mandate can be really paralyzing, you're so right. tough. tough, but interesting.

hang in there! and you'll be back.

4:43 PM  
Blogger tomama said...

I'm big on save. I'm big on delete. Write what you need to write. Publish (or not) when it feels OK.

And thanks for the motel pic. Brings back memories of childhood family trips out west.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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8:48 AM  
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5:43 AM  

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