Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Soft Spots {Part 2}


Over the course of the two years I worked as a chaplain there was one thing I became really good at: telling my story. When the educational period first began my fellow peers and I sat in a room and over the following days we each, one by one, shared our story. When our supervisor was replaced we told our stories. When we lost a peer and gained a new one we told our stories. When a new supervisor was contracted to teach a series of seminars we told our story. When I chose to stay on a second year I told my story to my new peer group. Telling our story was what we did to build relationship and community. I got very used to telling my story. I not only got used to it but I also got used to having my story picked apart, analyzed, questioned, and put through the wringer. I've had a lot of practice in story telling. And so it is not all that difficult for me to come here and share myself as openly and honestly as possible. I see it as sharing my story yet again. I am often so comfortable sharing my story that I forget that others don't share that same level of comfort.

One of the things I've learned about sharing my story is that secrets can hold a lot of power. When the are kept in the dark, hidden from view, they gain power and that power can destroy lives and relationships. Secret keeping is crazy making. When these very same secrets are brought to the light and given a little bit of breathing room the power they hold begins to dissipate. Suddenly they aren't as big and scary as they once appeared. Suddenly they even appear to be manageable. Suddenly the shame is replaced by a community of supporters who have been there too and know what it's like. Secrets and shame go hand in hand and when the secret is addressed the shame begins to be addressed too. And I for one am about ready to live somewhere else besides shame-land.

Last week when I wrote my Soft Spots post I had intended for it to be the first in a series of writings in which I began to bring to light some of the events and issues that I am addressing in my life. I wanted to give them voice. I wanted to grieve and heal and talk about the things that I've been afraid to talk about anywhere but in the dark. I wanted to tell my story to someone other than my therapist. What I had not anticipated is that in sharing my story I would actually create more pain than I was currently experiencing. But that's what happened. The story I shared last week ended up hurting and angering the people I love and for the past several days I've been trying to untangle my mess of emotions. I've been trying to decide if I crossed a line. I've been trying to figure out how to balance sharing the grief, the secrets, the failures, the wounds of life with honoring and respecting the need others have for privacy. Is balance even possible? If someone is so ready to break free from all the pain that's holding them back that they will pretty much do anything possible to find healing how do they then protect the people who aren't quite ready to live in that much light? How does one balance the right to tell one's story with the right others have of not telling their story when the stories intermingle and twist and brush up against each other? Those are the questions I've been asking myself over the past few days and quite honestly I haven't found any answers. I haven't decided if I did something right or wrong. I haven't decided how much is too much. What has resulted is my feeling the need to pull back not because I'm not ready to share but because I'm not ready to hurt others and I'm not ready to deal with the pain of hurting others.

It's easy to trust the sharing when I've built such a strong supportive community. It's easy to share when there are other like-minded bloggers out there wanting to do the same: wanting to find acceptance, wanting to find healing, wanting to let go of the shame, wanting to live in the light. It's easy to share when I don't consider you all strangers but friends, friends that may even know me better than my own family. It's so easy that I can forget that this is the WORLD WIDE WEB. It's easy to forget that you all aren't the only ones reading. It's easy to forget that others don't view blogging the same way I tend to.

So my question for you is how do you balance? How do you balance the sharing and the protecting? How do you share your story without sharing other people's stories too? I don't need to know whether you think I was right or wrong. That is something I'll have to work out for myself and I haven't done that yet. What I want to know is how do you claim your voice and own your story here in this blogsphere without crossing a very fragile boundary? How do you do it? I'm not willing to stop sharing who I am as openly and honestly as possible. I just won't do that. But I don't know how to share the parts of me that happen to intersect with the parts of others. Yet leaving those parts out is only painting a portion of the picture. It's leaving large chunks of my story out. It's like writing a book but omitting chapters. And yet I'm also not willing to hurt those I love just to hear myself rattle on about freedom and healing and living in light. These are tough issue to address that perhaps many bloggers have to face. I'm at the place where I'm having to face them and I'm wondering what answers you've found, or are you struggling as I am? What choices have you made or are you currently making in regards to sharing yourself, your story, in this blogging community?

29 Comments:

Blogger Amber said...

Hi. I don't think I have introduced myself to you, but we read many of the same bolgs, and I enjoy reading yours. I'm Amber, from Believingsoul. Nice to meet you. :)

I hope it is okay that I am the first to comment to this. But some of what you said really hit me between the eyes! I think it holds me back from really moving ahead with my writing, because I fear hurting the people I love. But I have a hard time not telling my truth when I write. It just comes out... Even in fiction, I worry that this is too much like that was in real life, or that character is too much like this real person. And it makes me hold back.

One time I wrote an essay about bad mothers, and it got published in a magazine. It was very irreverent, to say the least. I was working through some anger issues with my own mom, and about kids I was working with at the time. But I never told anyone in my family about it, because I wouldn't want to hurt my mom. I always worry now she will goggle me and find it. :(

I don't tell family about my blog, either. It is too important to me not to have to edit myself as much as I would if they read it.

:)

8:38 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

This is the classic dilemma faced by all writers--not just bloggers. When I write autobiographically, I try to protect anonymity and to avoid anything that would hurt anyone else.

Other writers fiercely disagree. They see their life as "their material," and claim the right to write about it without limitations.

As you say, you must decide this issue for yourself. Somehow, I imagine that writing this post will help you do that.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Jill said...

These are tricky questions.

The tension I feel in my blogging is between not wanting to appear to have it all together (when there is actually plenty of mess) and not wanting make relationships worse.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

I don't have any answers. I wish I did. Various family members and close friends read my blog at least now and then and yes, I worry about hurting them or making them feel like I've invaded their privacy.

What I've come up with so far is to not post anything on my blog that I'd be unwilling to have appear in a newspaper my family and friends read.

Sometimes that means not saying some things that a part of me would love to say, but we all have to figure out that line and that's where I've drawn mine, at least for now.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Sarah e.Smith said...

I struggle with being my own censor on my blog as well. I have the tendnency to be paranoid about everything latelyso I try to avoid talking too much about my personal life and my family. I will talk about my emotions and thoughts that just need to be written...but I still find myself being reserved because of some of the people who I know read my blog (family...who i dont necessarily want knowing my business) as well as those who I am unaware of...it is hard finding a blanace...maybe that is why i keep a paper journal too :)

12:13 AM  
Blogger telfair said...

I think this is a really tough question, and one I've seen addressed on other blogs. I self-censor a LOT because I know that my family, and my husband's family, read my blog. I even self-censor to the point that I know what kinds of topics a lot of my fellow bloggers don't want to dialogue about, and avoid them.

I don't think there are any easy answers. I think it's really tough to put it all out there and be 100% honest in a blog, the same way it is to be 100% honest in "real life." It's a fine line and I haven't quite figured out HOW to balance what I want to say with what people want/need to hear.

I'll be interested to read other comments that you get on this topic, because it's extremely relevant to all of us, and I'm sure it's something that we've all grappled with, or continue to grapple with.

Good luck and thanks for opening this up for discussion.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Peter Bryenton said...

Nice monochrome work, thank you. Good writing too.

As for living in the light, yes, it really hurts your eyes at first, but once the truth is out, for good, the pain eases in time. The process, as I am quite sure you know, is ongoing.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Josephine said...

I made the choice to not share my online pages with anyone in my family or any close friends.

None of them know I do this.

I justify it by remembering that my family and close friends have never allowed me to speak without too many stupid consequences.

So, they don't get let in on a lot of who I am. To me, love does not inherently mean full disclosure.

12:54 AM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

initially when i started this,
i gave the blog address to a few people.

that was a year ago
and i'm fairly certain
they never read it then
nor now...

since then,
i have decided that i would not
give the address to anyone...
surprisingly, alot of my close friends
are not that interested in the internet
(which always manages to shock me immensely)(heehee)

my husband is used to the fact
that i write (in journals generally)
constantly
and he has never read one of them.

when we first met,
he opened a journal to a page
where i described kissing the boy
i was seeing before him
(and would have continued seeing
if my husband had not come along...)
he has never read one of my journals
since...

but on the same note,
i fear putting my picture on my blog.
i did at first,
but have not since then...
and its why i don't use my real name
or give too much information
about where in canada i am...
i choose to be vague
but sometimes i would like to
participate in things like SPT...

and i hope that i am slowly
building up a network of closer-than-close
friends...that i can share
actual mail with, and emails,
and go beyond the back and forth
commenting (although, i love
comments, heehee)

hope that helps...
and thanks for making me stop and
think about what my boundaries
actually are.
:)

3:04 AM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

I deal with this problem too.

A week or so ago I wrote a post about my sil finding my site and intitially I wrote a lot of details about her and my husband and the issues they have had.

I felt nervous about it hurting their feelings.

Misty sent me a comment that helped me see that I needed to get it out- write it as if I would post it, and then I saw that I could take down some of the things and still communicate how I was feeling without those specifics.

So I guess it was a gut feeling that I tried to listen too- what I love about blogging is it makes me think about my feelings differently. It is a struggle though at times.

Hugs to you

3:46 AM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

I've been very reticent to share my blog with family and friends; very few people know of it's existence. BUT, I definitely censor what I write ~ I never write about my patients from work, because what if. I also don't write much about my dad ~ my issues aren't really with him and now that he knows I'm blogging, even more so. I also don't write about my sister although I've got things to say; she reads and it's not my story to tell, unfortunately sometimes. That said, I do try to be very honest and open about MY feelings and sometimes, that will include how I'm feeling about Marc (husband) or my daughter. He always says I sleep so well because I get eveyrthing off my chest and it's true; there's not much I leave hidden from him regarding my feelings. BUT (again) I did have a dark secret about credit card debt and it's been killing me. Well, he found out and like you said, the secret that was killing me has left a nice empty place where the truth is out, we've dealt with the emotions behind it and we can move on.
I think the bottom line is that you will have to decide what you need to say and I know that your post could be very hurtful to the other people involved, it was very true and you NEEDED to say it. Sometimes, our loved ones have to understand that by saying our truths, we aren't hurting them and even if they are involved, it's not about them you know? I think there is pain involved in revealing and sometimes the other people involved will have to recognize their part even in the divulgeness. Sending you loving healing thoughts Michelle.

6:21 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

When you read a good book, the end is not on the first page. It is in clues hidden throughout the book. I look at my blog like that. A picture here, a memory there, a painting about this... it all pieces together "my story".

Lovely photo by the way.
Hugs,
a.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Like I said last week, I am not brave enough to share my story. I keep it wrapped tight in my heart. But I think that it is very healthy to give it a voice to share if you are brave enough. I think that it is a step to forgiving yourself and letting it go.

My family does not acknowledge the past very much. They do not acknowledge their part in my story. I think just because the truth might hurt. Somehow people feel they have failed. It's all so stupid, really. It's just life. It is what it is. But my family would never heal. Maybe that is why I keep it locked away. Not so much to protect me- but to protect them. I don't know.

But I do not think you did anything wrong! It's your story. You are the main character. I wish you the best as you go through this part!

Sam

8:01 AM  
Blogger M said...

I think it is a difficult balance to find, but it sounds like you are finding what yours is. I have my journal to write things in that I'm not sure others want to see- that's where I have always processed things so for me writing a blog hasn't taken over. It does help having this community though, where you have like minded people, there to support you when you needed it, and there is no judgement- no wonder we are all so honest and candid. Good luck and I hope all the hurt feelings will be mended as you want, that you'll find a way to share your voice and still feel free- I love it and would miss it!!

9:25 AM  
Blogger Uncle Pavian said...

I told my family about my blogs, and after a couple of months it turned out that like most people, they don't care what I think.
Now, anything relating to a real person (as opposed to somebody you read about online or in the paper or hear about on cable) is camouflaged with a cute pseudonym. (Dr. Schickelgruber, for instance, or Aunt Zillah)
Since nobody actually reads my blog except by accident, it's not that big a problem for me.
Happy motoring...

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer (she said) said...

like you, i am not willing to stop sharing who i am as open and honestly as possible. that said, sometimes i have to bend a little. for example, i took a post down not long ago because it didn't fit my posting requirements, which are: is there anyone anywhere that i would not be comfortable sharing this with? is there anyone who i would feel uncomfortable writing about in this public way? i posted, i felt really uncomfortable, and i took it down. i think i've done this twice.

now i am very very honest on my site, and i have had to have a discussion with my partner about something i posted - but in that case, what i posted about him was nothinghe didn't already know and nothing i wouldn't tell anybody else. so, i refused to remove it and we had to work through that.

it is very hard to find balance when you chose to develop a community, as you've done here. i know a friend who has a secret identity, but that doens't seem to feel totally okay to her either.

so i don't know. i guess i just follow my gut and double check it with the questions i listed above. it's difficult.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous samantha said...

Tricksey boundaries.

I have several people in my real life that read my blog - I know my parents do, sometimes. This makes it hard, and it was especially hard during the past election - what I wrote really bothered some people. This all goes back to when I began blogging and I was so excited and couldn't stop talking about it, so my parents finally said, where can we read this stuff? My family is generally very supportive, but I remember one time my dad suggested I should write about mom more - that he thought her feelings were hurt (I'd been writing about favorite childhood foods and mentioned my grandma's cooking alot). I told him absolutely not, that wasn't how it worked. But of course I didn't blog about it - it just wouldn't be right. My husband doesn't read my blog unless I ask him to, but I try to never post something that I wouldn't say to him, personally. I usually tell him if I write about a fight or discussion we've had.

Anyway, it all goes back to boundaries. It's absolutely your choice and your right to write what you want, to get it out there. There's a difference between truthful about what hurts and malicious and spiteful.

11:18 AM  
Blogger megg said...

I don't have an answer. When I started blogging I happily told everyone I knew about my site & then realized how few people actually came and read it. I know my parents and my brother do so I do censor a little I guess. I think that the decision to tell YOUR story is an empowering one but I agree with the struggle when your story interlinks with someone else's. Like M I have a journal where the really dark stuff goes. I think that someday I might be able to post some of it but mostly it's stuff that I guess the whole blogging universe (read: my family) doesn't need to hear. I guess I'm struggling as much as you... do what feels right to you. Your instincts are really good - follow them. Sometimes like you said, talking about things helps them to heal.
Sending you love & support whatever you decide!! xoxo

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Charmaine said...

This seems to be a constant battle bloggers face, as well as one that several of the blogs I frequent are dealing with. I too, stuggle sometimes with my writing -- what to write, what not to write, what is appropriate -- more so now that more of my family members read my weblog, even some of my co-workers too. My boyfriend also reads my weblog on a daily basis, which has never bothered me, but I realize that I censor myself when I write about certain topics.

I guess I always try to remember my initial goals for my weblog and writing and stick to certain themes, like crafting etc. I also keep a paper journal where I write my really personal thoughts, which helps me avoid writing something that I may regret.

I have had a few times when my mom or grandmother have been worried about the pictures I put up and someone stalking me, or finding out where I live, but I always try and calmly remind them that my name and address is in the phone book and if someone REALLY wanted to find me, they could.

Good luck on your journey -- it's all a process!

11:58 AM  
Blogger melba said...

Back in November I wrote a post and in it I told a childhood story from my perspective about my stepmother. I rarely talk to or see my father. When he first heard I had a blog, was writing and creating he sent me very supportive emails, he said he was glad that I was following my dreams.I didn't think he read my blog every post so I really didn't think about how what I was writing would effect him. So after that post in November he sent me a very disappointing email. He said my memory was wrong. He chooses to see our childhood one way and we (me, my sister and two bothers) choose to all tell the same truth from our perspective. Since that post we haven't spoken or emailed. He did send Maggie a card a few days ago for her birthday and I am not sure how I will ackowledge it. I have thought about this subject alot. This is my blog. I write what I want. I am aware though that my words can effect others and I do choose them carefully, but I try not to hold back. The thing is reading someone's blog is a choice. If someone doesn't like what they are reading they can stop. Be true to yourself. I know it can be difficult, but we both know that your truth can set you (and all of us) free...

12:00 PM  
Blogger Kamsin said...

Hi,
It was a blessing to stumble across your blog. Thank you for what you write!

i'm relatively new to the world of blogging, but can identify with some of the points in this post. I guess that so far I have decided not to share anything that I wouldn't be comfortable sharing with people I trust. I guess I don't want close friends to discover something they don't already know about me, or something they wouldn't have foind out anyway from spending time with me. I guess I'm also reluctant to share stuff I haven't dealt with or shared with people in the "real" world. But that could make me a bit of a coward!

Will definatly be back to your blog to find out what conclusions you come to about this issue.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Great question, I know I do censor myself, because my family does read and I dont' want to make them feel uncomfortable, or hurt them. If I can talk about something and just not include them in the picture, I will. But some things are so sensitive, even if it does just involve me. It's really really hard. I do believe though that some things must be talked about if others get hurt or not, maybe in the long run it will help them heal themselfs.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Everyone has given such wise words of wisdom...I ditto these words...listen to the heart of your knowing what is right for you and those around you.

1:03 PM  
Blogger snowsparkle said...

it hurts my head to think about it too much...

basically, my blog is for me and for people with the same love of writing, art, philosophy and introspection. people with an ability to hold my words lightly and with some space for grace. i don't share my blog with anyone other than those i trust to possess these qualities. (none of my immediate family have my blog url.) it gives me freedom to be who i am. those who like it, stay; those who don't usually leave.

using a psuedonym is my attempt to protect my family. i'm sure there's a flaw in that plan, but it's the best i could do.


thanks for creating a space for this interesting forum.

2:27 PM  
Blogger mayseek life said...

after rolling this around for the last day--"intention" may be the most reoccurring notion i come up with. if the "naming" is vital to intention, so be it. it does seem to be an ever changing decision as to what is best in any given moment. thank you for again writing so eloquently and from your heart. breathe--the story will change.........

4:49 AM  
Anonymous Marilyn said...

This is a very, very tough issue that all of us struggle with at one time or another. For me, I've chosen to keep my 'real' blog secret from my family and most of my 'real life' friends, not to mention coworkers. That's the only way I know how to keep going with where it takes me. I find enormous POWER in sharing secrets...by stripping the secrets of theirs, I regain my own. And I'm simply unwilling to go backwards. Yet there's much I don't say on my blog. I often read on blogs that bloggers won't write anything they wouldn't say to someone's face, and I respect their choice. But as you said, not everyone is in the same place...and I choose to not hold myself back for SOMEONE ELSE'S comfort level....that's what got me into this mess in the first place.

5:26 AM  
Blogger deirdre said...

Michelle,
My heart breaks for what you've been through. What should have been a joyous time was made terribly difficult by people acting out their own fears. Your courage and grace are inspiring. I'm new to blogging and feel very aware that this is a public forum, therefore, there are things I choose not to share, and that may be only because I haven't had time to spill yet. I don't think you have to apologize for speaking the truth. Sometimes people get angriest when the light shines on their own transgressions. It seems to me you are the one who was wronged.

11:41 AM  
Blogger carmen said...

You are such a powerful writing. Use your strengths and run with them.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think soft spots are areas that are incomplete - we can get complete by having a conversation with the person/s involved. What am I pretending about it? What is really deep down going on - get really authentic? What is the impact of all that pretending? On me and on the other person? Forgive them - Forgive myself. Acknowledge them and myself. What can you create for the NOW and future - as a way of "being" (forgiveness, love etc). Sharing creates, our words create - how we are related to. What are we going to create everytime we share? What do we want to get from sharing? Always look at where we can be responsible - where being responsible is being a creator not a victim. I think its great to share soft spots, but wouldn't it be even more wonderful to get complete with the person involved in conversation first and then share the victory over the past, the experience of being complete, what is now possible? I guess it depends on why we are sharing in this format, if its story telling its one thing if its working on a particular area of our lives its another. This is all what I have recently got and it has sure helped me in healing my soft spots - each to their own. x

1:50 PM  

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