And, evidently, you can’t please them all either.
This whole experience has been really eye opening for me. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before. My blogging experience has consisted of the same twenty or so people commenting with varying degrees of regularity. Mi.Vida reminded me that you haven’t really “arrived” until people start cutting you down. So, I guess I’ve finally arrived, though I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I mean, now I have someone saying he is using my blog to illustrate a point in his psych classes (it remains to be seen if he is actually a psych professor or just posing as one in my comment section). The point he is making with my posts is that a woman can “have it all” and still be miserable. Wow, now if that is not some sobering shit, I don’t know what is.
And evidently this guy has been reading me for a year and a half. Or maybe he just combed through my archives looking for posts that furthered his cause? If that is the case I hope my categories and tags helped him find what he was looking for.
So I’m not sure if he’s been reading all that time and using my writing as it came out, nor do I know if the whole purpose of his reading me was to find fodder for his class, but it has really raised the questions, why do these people read me? And what prompts them suddenly, and seemingly out of no where, to comment?
That is what is most confusing to me: the people who profess to being long time “lurkers,” who suddenly felt the need to surface and tell me what’s what. Why is it that people only show up to express their disappointment, and not to offer genuine, non-judgmental support? (I’m not saying this is bad, necessarily, I just don’t understand it as I’ve never done it myself). I have, over the years, had a very small number of people offer a positive comment out of the blue, but for every one of those I’ve gotten two or three times as many negative comments from someone who confessed they’d been around forever but just then felt the urge to express their disappointment.
The truth is, the “hey, I’ve been reading forever and appreciate your honesty, except for at times like this, when I find it rather disheartening,” comment is an odd one. On the one hand I’m honored to hear that someone has been reading me for a while, that she had found my writing compelling enough to return month after month as I tackle whatever is going on in my life, but it’s also a bit unnerving to know that she couldn’t be bothered to clue me in on her existence until I let her down in some way.
Now here is where I add a paragraph or two about dissenting views in my comment section. One very articulate and thoughtful commenter yesterday counseled that Mi.Vida’s response, along with other posts of mine, suggested I might not be appreciative or welcoming of dissenting comments of any kind on my blog; evidently my attitude is more “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” (I’m not saying this in a hurt feelings sort of way but in a straight-forward kind of way.)
And honestly, I DON’T want that to be the vibe on my blog AT ALL. I want people to have differing opinions and I want them to express them here. I just want them to do it in a respectful way. But maybe sometimes I feel hurt and then my defense mechanisms kick in and I shut people down instead of engaging them in conversation. I would like to think that I can tell the difference between a thoughtful comment that opens dialogue and one that presents irrelevance for the sake of shaming or inflicting pain. I would like to think I can tell when concern is genuine and when it is judgy. But I don’t know, maybe when the topic is my mental health and my ability to have another child I don’t see things like I should.
And that makes me wonder, when the topic is my mental health and whether or not I’m fit (or worthy) of trying for another child, or whether or not I should even want one, is any kind of dissent productive? Does anyone have a right to say anything unsupportive to me about those things? When I am discussing relevant issues, topics of debate that grace the pages of blogs and new outlets the world over, of course I want to engage in productive discussion and of course I want people to challenge my thinking in a respectful way. But when I’m baring my heart and soul to the world and the topic is my life, nothing more and nothing less, I would hope comments would be first and foremost supportive, and that if someone felt the way I was handling something needed to be addressed, that they would do so for my own good and not theirs. And that they would do so gently and with respect.
I guess all of this is just teaching me the hard lessons about blogging, especially about blogging in an honest and raw way about such socially unacceptable or taboo subjects as TTC, loss, anxiety and depression, and the green monsters of jealous and envy. You can’t possibly please everyone all the time, especially the hundreds of people who never announce themselves except via anonymous hits or untraceable reader subscriptions. Heck, you can’t even consistently please the people that you DO know read your blog. I’m sure some of my bloggy friends didn’t love Mi.Vida’s post and that is fine. I put it up for my own reasons, mostly because I appreciated that Mi.Vida felt protective of me and respected his own personal feelings of being attacked by some of what was written on my blog. Also, I find his crass wit incredibly funny and I his post made me laugh my ass off, while simultaneously prompting me to love him even more than I already did.
This whole experience brings me back to that realization, that basic and fundamental truth, that you can’t have it all, at least not all the time. And I’m not just talking about how women can’t tend to both their familial and professional obligations with enough dedication to ensure everyone’s satisfaction, least of all her own. I’m talking about how no one, anywhere can ever have it all (I’m sure there are exceptions to this, there always are).
It’s just like I can’t pursue my dream job of writing and maintain the financial security that a tenured teaching position affords (not only do I make a decent salary but I can’t be fired unless I commit some heinous act). Similarly, I can’t afford to buy a house and live in the parts of the city that I really love and I can’t have another baby without giving less of my time to the daughter I already have. There is always give and take, there is always something lost for another thing gained. Most people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars get to enjoy lots of perks in life that I don’t enjoy but they also have to work 80+ hours a week and rarely see their families. There is almost always give and take, you can almost never have it all (the top 1% not withstanding).
And I suppose it is the same in blogging. You can’t lay it all out there, without dressing it up or pretending it’s something it’s not and then expect everyone who reads it to appreciate what you’ve said. You can’t have more and more people read your blog without some of them expressing their discontent or their judgement. It’s not like I’ve ever made decisions with the specific intent of driving up traffic, but having more people read my blog has always been a plus. And now I realize that at a certain point that positive starts becoming a negative and you have to live with the less savory aspects of writing for a less intimate audience.
The point of this blog has always been two-fold: 1) wade through the murkiness of my life and 2) give and receive support. I suppose both of those can continue to happen, despite what feels like a morphing of this space into something foreign, that I don’t readily recognize. I don’t think either will look exactly like they did before but I’m sure there will still be plenty of honesty (bordering on the inappropriate at times) and support (both given and received with gusto). I guess the only difference is that sometimes there will also be discontent and judgement and that is okay. I can handle it. And I will endeavor to handle it gracefully and to welcome it when it is appropriate and thoughtfully presented. I know what I’ve had to deal with here is incredibly mild and maybe this will be the end of it, but I must admit, now I will be wary, waiting for the other shoe to drop, checking the author of a comment before I get excited to read it, wondering if the next one will make me smile or cringe or furrow my brow.