While blogging over the last year, I have noticed a few themes that seem to come up for bloggers. When a person first starts blogging, she might wonder who is going to read her words. Then someone leaves a comment, then another, then three people are commenting almost every day! The frenzy to check for comments begins! With this comes lots of feelings. For some there might be connections that they aren’t experiencing in their day-to-day lives. For others there is recognition that what they have to say, what they have experienced, is valid. There is also a feeling of “they like me…they really, really like me.” I know I experienced this (and still do). I admit to a high-pitched squeal when I realized one of my favorite bloggers had linked to me on her website links page. It was as though I had won an award.
I believe we have the potential to make some incredible bonds with people through blogging. During the past few months, I have met some amazing, real, delightfully fantastic people in person and through conversations on the phone. And here is the wacky thing: I have felt a deep connection to each of them. Not kidding here. And through this, I have come to know more of who they are. Pieces that may not come across in blog world because they might choose not to talk about certain things happening in their life or we simply start talking about other things and realize how deeply we understand one another’s stories. Connecting with someone in person, face to face or voice to voice, is different from connecting with someone through email and comments.
Please know that this does not mean I do not think people cannot make deep connections through comments and email. Obviously, as a blogger, I do think connections are made this way. And those of you, and you know who you are, with whom I have connected in this way are treasured people in my life. Through emails you can share many parts of who you are and form a deep friendship with someone else.
When you read a book and feel a deep connection to the author, you might want to write them a note, but never do. In blog world, we can simply leave a comment. This is one of my favorite things about blogging. At the same time, we can project a deeper connection with someone because we have access to people in a different way through blogs. Through my own experiences and understanding that as bloggers, we do get our feelings hurt here in blog world, I have been thinking about something I do want to share that I think we, as bloggers, forget sometimes.
A few months ago, I had an “aha” moment while watching the movie The Hours. The idea was that every person has a story. From the clerk at a department store who is rude to you to the barista who is kind to you at your favorite coffee shop to the man who opens the door for you at the supermarket to the man who cut you off in traffic on your drive into the city to your best friend to your neighbor to your parents. We all experience joy, grief, love, anger, wonder, and pain. We all do. Yet we can easily judge others as though they could never understand our experiences.
I have begun to think and talk about this quite a bit over the past few months. This idea goes hand in hand with my belief that the only thing we are in charge of is ourselves. We can only decide how we react in our lives. We can’t stop others from doing what they do; we can only stop ourselves. And even though this seems simple, and in some ways it is I suppose, it feels like anything but easy.
When my father was here, we were driving in the car and for some reason our conversation turned to the topic of the choices you make when someone close to you is dying. How you might suddenly find yourself doing things you never thought you would. I had brought up that during the last two days of my dog Traveler’s life, I found myself taking care of him in ways I never thought I would another being. The day we knew we were going to take him to the vet for the last time when Jon came home from work, I sat with Traveler outside, that entire early February day, because he would not come inside. I could not get him to drink water. He would not move, even when he had to go to the bathroom. I kept him clean and sang and read to him all day long. I did not once think this was disgusting or worry about how cold I was and so on. I felt a deep connection with my dear golden friend that day and was honored to take care of him and be there when he died.
My dad began to tell a story about one of his attorney friends. When he mentioned the man’s name, I cringed because I only think of him in a negative way because of my parents’ divorce. I flat out do not think highly of this man. However, I didn’t say a word and let my dad tell his story. The man’s mother had died, I believe he said, a few years prior to this man’s father being diagnosed with colon cancer. My dad explained that this man took care of his father during his illness. This included bathing him. He put on swim trunks and maneuvered his father into the shower. As he was washing him, his father looked at him and said, “Your mother would be proud of you son.”
This man, whose name I hate hearing, has a story. He has a mother and a father who love him. He has a story. He. has. a. story.
My father also mentioned taking care of his own father when he was dying. I hadn’t really thought about that. My father taking care of his dying father. My grandfather has, in my mind, always been, “my grandpa who died before I was born.” After losing my grandmother, I have begun to see that my father lost his father when he was younger than I am now.
Everybody has a story.
Here in blog world, it is easy to let your feelings get hurt when you feel a connection with someone through comments and an email or two and then suddenly they aren’t commenting on your blog. “Where did they go?” “Why don’t they like me?” “What did I do?” These are the questions that come up. It is easy to feel hurt when you notice a deep connection forming between two bloggers you want to be close to. “Why doesn’t she say ‘love ya’ when she leaves me comments?”
Even though we know so much of one another’s stories here in blog world, we do not know everything. How could I possibly explain everything here? How can you? How can each of us have relationships where we talk on the phone or email daily? Goodness. We would never have time for all of that.
It is easy to forget that all bloggers have a life away from their computer screen. We each have things happening every day that no one in blog world knows. Even though I feel like I bare my soul here, there is so much I do not say. I am sure the same is true with you and you and you.
My work hours increased earlier this summer and I couldn’t read blogs daily like I used to, which meant I wasn’t leaving comments, and I wasn’t posting daily on my blog. As a result, I experienced an interesting exercise for my ego as I saw my traffic decrease and my blog comments go down. But wait! I thought I was one of the cool kids. I thought people liked me. I thought my traffic was increasing! I had to admit that I was letting blogging become that for me: A measure of how much people liked me. Wow. When had that happened? I started this for me. Then my blog and the blogs of others became places for me to feel connections with people in ways I had seldom experienced before. But I am not perfect. I cannot visit every blog I enjoy every day, and I cannot even visit many of them weekly. In fact, there are several blogs in my sidebar I have not been to in a long time. But that doesn’t say anything about the person who writes that blog. And I want to say this too, even though I might be whispering, that doesn’t really say anything about me either.
We all have our stories. I do. You do. We cannot know each element in another’s story. When these feelings come up for you, whatever feelings they are, think about them. What are they really about? When do they come up? Why? Are you reaching out to the very blogger(s) you are having feelings about? Why are you really blogging? What does it mean to you?
Last Saturday I was in the car with my dad’s girlfriend and she told me a bit of her uncle’s story and how it affected her. When she finished I was just struck by this idea that people all have something they have experienced, but they don’t necessarily tell you the first time you meet them or the second or three years into knowing them. It comes up when it comes up. And even though it might be something that deeply shaped them and you already feel like you know so much about them, you have no way of knowing until they share it. Even then, you still don’t know everything. We cannot know. We only know us.
We have all been on a journey that brings us to this place. Right now. We should be gentle with our own feelings and careful to think about why we are moved to judge another.
And I hope that through blogging we share pieces of our stories each day to continue to seek validation, connection, and truth.