Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why I Stopped Blogging

I'm the type of person who has to learn valuable life lessons by experience.

The sort of girl who tries to hand-wash a dry-clean-only cardigan or who puts a metal spoon in her mouth directly after stirring honey into scalding hot tea.

As a rule, an intelligent person should really only have to watch the demise of one favorite sweater before their very eyes before they see why dry cleaners are able to charge as much as they do. Lesson learned.


Not long after I began blogging, back around 1999-2000, I learned to edit myself according to my audience. I was about 16 when a youth minister from my church called my mother and had a long talk with her about some of the things he'd read on my blog. Lesson learned. From that point forward, I was cautious with my language, my content, and I thought to myself, "would I want my grandmother to read this?" before posting anything. Problem solved.

I continued to blog through college. I had locked entries on livejournal that were a little more risqué because I felt comfortable with my small collection of other over-sharing bloggers. I wrote daily (sometimes multiple times a day) and learned a lot about myself as a result. If I wanted to see where a dating relationship started going south, I could click through my archives and literally read my life like a novel. It was fascinating. For so much of my life, writing has been my sounding board. I have written my way through the most difficult periods of my life; but not this one.

When employees of a civil rights law firm began reading my former blog and harassing me based on what I consider to be milk-toast, personal-life content, I was shocked. I was confused and I did something that I shouldn't have done: I stopped writing. I didn't know what else to do; I didn't want to create waves.

Note: To clarify before an uninitiated reader thinks I was writing things like "today I was weeding my garden and realized I just don't like black people" it was nothing of the sort. In fact, had it been something like that, the group in question probably wouldn't have wasted their time harassing me.

I was running on a Saturday afternoon with a now-ex boyfriend and when we approached the firm in question there was something going on that seemed strange to me. I didn't really know what it was all about, but I made a flippant statement in a post, asked a rhetorical question, and had no plan of really digging in to the matter. I didn't have the chops or the desire to investigate; for Pete's sake, at that time my blog mostly focused on perfecting my cranberry scone recipe and what latest purchase I'd made from Etsy.

But that's when the harassment began. First it was a comment on the post in question. Soon I received multiple comments on every post I made. My regular readers and commenters were confused but their defensiveness stoked the fires even more so that I finally turned off my comments feature. Just when I thought it was over, a friend alerted me to a parody blog that was made with the express purpose of mocking me. I'm not kidding. Vicious, bizarre lies and stories with no basis in reality began getting back to me from people in the neighborhood. In retrospect I handled it poorly, but I didn't know what else to do at the time. I thought going away would make it all stop... and it did. I stopped going into Cloverdale. I stopped blogging, period. I let myself fade from their consciousness like a phantom. And, finally, the parody blog started attacking other people (still referencing me on occasion, but very rarely). Then it was deleted. About a year later I received a sincere apology from one of the people in question. I attended the wedding of a former employee of the firm and it went without incident. It's over.

So I began blogging again. Silly, romantic talk about crying in Jane Austen films and running into old friends. The occasional conservative, political rant. A few friends read, commented, enjoyed it. It wasn't about garnering a large readership or recruiting people to give me feedback on my daily yammering - it was genuinely an effort to document my life and continue practicing an art that, at the end of the day, keeps me sane.

Then I wrote about my boyfriend.

This was not smart. While I have made a personal choice to write my life to strangers, my boyfriend hadn't made any such decision and it was unfair and thoughtless of me to yammer about our personal lives.

One of the many painful parts of this relationship has been its affect on my writing. I blogged about him; it upset him, so I stopped out of respect for him. Once again, I felt critical eyes on my blog and I cowered. I couldn't think of anything relevant or noteworthy to discuss that didn't have anything to do with how much I loved him or how much I was hurting... so I stopped completely. I put my blog on a hiatus and that is 100% why.

After everything I had been through, after the great lesson I learned in my dealings with the civil rights firm, my first instinct when my writing was questioned was to take my ball and go home.

So this was a new lesson. Instead of being able to click back through the archives and pinpoint where things went wrong with this one, I can only look to the date of my last update. It's shameful.

Let me tell you - single-me is fun. Single-me wakes up at 4am and accomplishes more before 9am than most people dream of accomplishing in a long weekend. Single-me wears red dresses and twirls on sidewalks and grocery aisles when nobody is looking. She bakes and laughs and loves her friends. She doesn't cry all the time. She doesn't try to frame her life around the narrative of another person. She doesn't get horribly embarrassed when she considers how many of her normal, happily-married friends will judge the demise of yet another relationship. Her heart doesn't break every time someone says he'll call but doesn't. She doesn't have to lie to her best friends, mother, and coworkers when they ask how her relationships are going. She can shrug and say she's focusing on her work.

We shouldn't air our dirty laundry. I get that. But this is how I cope. I sit at a keyboard and I write. And that's not good enough in itself, either - it's the posting that helps.

I've tried personal diaries. I've tried writing letters and then throwing them away... and it never makes me feel much better. I enjoy putting these words up for other silly, romantic human beings to read, too.

Hopefully this is the last time I'll have to learn this lesson.

Hopefully I can pick back up without any trouble and continue doing what I love to do, however badly I do it.