Why I Blog

This post is part of the PAIL monthly theme, Why We Blog. For more thoughts on this subject, see the list of submissions.

I’ve written a lot over the years about why I blog. Sometimes I need to figure it out for myself in order to recommit. Sometimes an anniversary inspires me to reflect on why I continue to write here. Other times, like today, another post or (the PAIL monthly theme) prompt encourages me to revisit the topic of why I blog.

The truth is, I would have responded to this prompt no matter what because I, unlike most people, really like blogging about blogging. I am fascinated to read about why other people put themselves out there like I do and I love disecting my own reasons for doing so, watching them change–and stay the same–over the years. I was really excited to see the prompt this month and very much look forward to reading all the submissions.

This prompt is also serendipitously timed because I’ve recently been rethinking why I blog. For one, I’m about to (if all goes according to plan) have a second child and officially close the family building chapter of my life. This is a HUGE deal for me and obviously greatly affects my blogging because I started writing in this space specifically to process my thoughts and feelings on TTC and loss and later secondary infertility. If I am officially–and forever–putting TTC and infertility behind me, and loss no longer dictates much of my day to day experience, what will this space become? Will I keep writing here, letting this space evolve with me and my life? Or will I pick up and move somewhere else, allowing the big transition to a new space represent this massive transition in my life?

The other reason I’m revisiting the reasons I blog is because I’ve found, in the last months, that one of the things I love the most about writing here is not something I previously recognized as being important to me. And I’m excited to explore my new found appreciation for this mostly ignored (by me) benefit of blogging.

So here I go, delving into the question of why I blog. I hope you’ll take a few (or more–sorry, this post got LONG) minutes to join me.

I guess, before I can talk about the new reasons I’m blogging, or how my reasons for blogging might change, I should mention how I started blogging and why I’ve kept it up for four years.

I came into TTC differently than most people. I assumed I’d have a hard time and I was very proactive right from the start. I was already going to acupuncture, taking Chinese herbs and charting my BBT before our first official cycle. Having had amenorrhea (the complete lack of menses) for over a decade, I knew I would need help conceiving and I wasn’t about to wait around to see what my body did on it’s own.

Six months into our first attempt at getting pregnant I suffered an ectopic pregnancy. It was after this devastating loss that I decided the FertilityFriend forums just weren’t enough and I followed the advice of a fellow forum poster and started my own blog. I also started reading other people’s blogs and eventually found myself entrenched in the ALI community.

I ended up getting pregnant not long after I starting writing, which made it hard to feel–and let’s be honest–be accepted in the ALI community. But there were enough amazing women who read me (and commented) for me to keep writing. I also knew I was writing as much for myself as for anyone else–purging my fears and anxieties onto the page kept me sane during a really difficult time in my life.

I definitely wondered what would become of my space once my daughter was born but I quickly realized that parenting after struggling with TTC and suffering a loss was difficult in its own ways and I still needed a place to process my thoughts and feelings. With so few friends in my area (and even fewer in my life that had kids)–plus the general isolation of being a new mom–I also desperately needed the community. Additionally, I knew that I was not done building my family and I feared the road we’d be forced to walk down to have another child.

So I kept writing, and I kept reading and I was always fiercely aware of how much my blog, and the women who read it, provided me. Whenever I’d delve into the topic of why I blogged I would come back to the same reasons: I needed to write to process my life and I depended greatly on the friends I’d found through blogging. I blogged for my emotional well being–and my blog cultivated that well being by allowing me to organize my feelings and providing a community where I belonged, and was understood.

Those are the same reasons I will likely keep blogging after my son is born. And I’m almost positive I’ll stay in my current space. The truth is, this space feels like home and I can’t really imagine closing up shop and moving somewhere else. If I did that, there would have to be a definite reason, a specific change in the purpose of my blogging and I don’t believe having my son will change the real reasons why I blog. Even when I’m “all done” with TTC, secondary infertility and loss, they will still be a part of my life. I will still be pondering whether I should look into being a surrogate, so I can really give something back to this community. I will still be very interested in how TTC, loss and infertility are presented in the media. I will still be drawn to the stories of women going through their own journeys and want to give support when I can. Just because those topics will never again dictate the minutia of my days, doesn’t mean they will ever be far from my thoughts.

And there will be plenty of trials and tribulations raising two children  as a working mother (and trying to stay married while I do it). I know I’ll never run out of topics to tackle or problems to vent about. And I will always, ALWAYS, need a community of like-minded women who understand and accept me and make me feel like I belong. So I will keep blogging and I will stay at my space and I will hope that everyone else finds reason enough to hang around as well. Otherwise I’m might get very lonely. 😉

Another reason I don’t want to open a new space to mark my new life outside the immediate grasp of TTC, infertility and loss is because I’d hate to walk away from my archives. Lately I’ve been drawn to my past posts and I’ve realized what an incredible resource they are for me now–and will be for me always. Sometimes I wonder if my blog archives are the most valuable thing I can call my own.

As I mentioned before, my son is due in a month and I suspect he might arrive a little bit sooner. We’ve been pouring over pictures and movies of my daughter as a family, helping prepare our first born for this massive transition from only child to sibling and big sister. Watching the movies and revisiting the pictures with her has realizing how little I remember of that time. How could I have forgotten what she was like when she was an infant? The way she blew raspberries with her whole face or how her arms flapped when she was excited (pretty much all of the time)? How could I forget how her hair curled into that faux hawk on the top of her head or how chubby her cheeks were for the first year of her life? How I could forget those giant, almond shaped eyes? There are so many things about her infant-hood that I have forgotten; I’m so grateful for all the pictures and movies we have to remind me. Watching them makes me so nostalgic for that time and so eager to relive it with my son.

And yet, reading my blog from those same days, weeks, months and years paints a different, but equally true and important, story of what it was like. Just as I’ve been gazing longingly at photos of my baby girl I’m also reliving the early days through my words here on this blog, reminding myself of why it was so hard and how I got through it. Those posts from her early days are equally stark reminds of everything I forgot and I am just as flummoxed as to how those insane days could have faded from my memory. Sometimes I hardly recognize the person who wrote those posts, and yet I know rationally that all those challenges were faced and overcome.

This blog is such an incredible record of the last four years of my life. If I didn’t have the 1110+ posts to revisit I’d have almost no honest recollection from which to draw when I look back at where I’ve been. I suppose it’s fitting that I’m recognizing how important this blog is in making clear to me what paths I’ve traveled, as it will be in helping me to choose a path when moving forward. This blog, this space, is me. Or rather, it is the part of me that would be forgotten if it weren’t written down and the part of me that would never see the light of day if it were never to be shared. And that is why I blog, so that all of me can be known, so that I can have an honest account of where I’m going and an accurate record of where I’ve been. This blog is my truth. It is my past, present and future. It is me. And it is for all those reasons that I blog.

And if that SUPER long post wasn’t enough for you, here are some other posts I’ve written on the subject.

Dear Me from 999 posts ago

Blogging vs. Being a Blogger

Current and Future Purpose

THIS is why I blog

Defending this space

Blogging and Belonging

Once Upon a Blog

Why me?

I’ve read many posts in which ALI bloggers ask the question Why me? But usually they are wondering why they are being forced to endure the struggles of IF and loss.

I have been asking the question Why me? a lot lately, but I’m asking it for the opposite reason.

What I want to know is why do I get to have a second child when so many others are struggling to have their first or were never able to have a second… or have no living children to parent at all? Why do I get to have so much when so many others are left wanting, when they have struggled for so much longer than I have and endured so much more suffering? Why were we able to get pregnant despite two diagnoses when others can’t get pregnant when no causes are found? Why did we only suffer one miscarriage when others have lost so many more babies?

I know I will never know the answers to these questions. I try not to let the guilt overwhelm me, but sometimes I just feel horrible that I’ve been given so much when others are wanting. I feel like I cut in line, not once but twice. I recognize how horribly unfair it is and I feel guilty for being the one who is on the more advantageous side of the lopsided equation.

The truth is, my life is pretty close to perfect right now. We have achieved everything we worked for in the last five years. We had our daughter. We bought a house in the city we love. Mi.Vida got a new job that will better support our family and give him valuable opportunities in a field that interests him. We are expecting our second child. We can finally get married in the state where we live.

Why do we get to have all of these things while other people are left wanting one or more (sometimes all of them). Who are we to have so much?

On the one hand I feel like I should apologize for all I have, that I must constantly acknowledge the MUCHNESS of it. On the other hand I feel this great responsibility to appreciate it all, to take nothing for granted. Knowing how much others would give to have what I’ve been given is a great weight, resting heavily on my shoulders.

With great happiness comes great responsibility.

My therapist urges me to combat my anxiety with gratitude work, but she doesn’t tell me what to do when all that gratitude becomes guilt. How do I appreciate everything I have without feeling guilty for having it when others do not? I don’t know how to do that yet. It is a puzzle and I’m barely able to piece together the edges, let alone see what the picture is.

I know this community is a complicated place. I want to make clear that absolutely NO ONE has made me feel this way. I have only received love and support for my successes, even from those who have been left wanting while I have forged ahead with my shiny new perfect life. Everyone’s gracious support has been so appreciated. I know this is my own shit that I have to deal with, and I’m sure I’ll figure out how. Eventually.

Have you ever felt guilt for what you have? How do you manage it?

Defending this Space

When my friend told me she thought I shouldn’t blog here, I didn’t get upset. Of course her email upset me but I didn’t feel that knee-jerk need to defend myself, or my blogging. That was my first clue that she was wrong, just fundamentally off-base, about the whole thing. From the moment I read her words I knew they weren’t true.

And yet she was very articulate in expressing her opinions and she made some interesting points. I have certainly posed some of those questions myself, so I didn’t feel it was right to just ignore her concerns.

Instead of writing my response I turned to all of you. I am forever indebted to you for your insights. You reminded me once again how intelligent, thoughtful and well-written you all are. I am honored that you come here to read my words, to watch me muddle through this thing called life.

So back to the email, and your responses. I already knew that my friend was wrong but hearing your takes on the whole thing just made me feel… understood and validated (a common theme here to be sure). After so many recent attacks by people in real life, on who I am and how I deal with my issues, it was incredibly helpful to know that I’m not deluding myself by coming here for support.

Here is a little bit of what I wrote to her in response to her email:

… I must disagree with your belief that my blog is causing me harm, that it is a detriment to me in some way. Writing about those things that are difficult to me is not indulging my depression or anxiety, it is helping me process and deal with it. Blogging does not make me think more about TTC or anything else that I write about there, it helps me get it out, so I don’t think about it so much.

I hope you realize that my blog is not a reflection of who I am, or how I live my life. It is ONE PART OF ME. I go there to reflect on and let go of aspects of my life that I struggle with. Writing there helps me to move past those things. And if it seems like it only makes me obsess more, it is because I would be obsessing otherwise.

I didn’t even start writing my blog until I was almost done with my first TTC journey. … Not writing during that first year trying, and during my ectopic, did not make either of those things easier, in fact I believe they made them harder. Going though that alone, not having anyone who understood, was terribly difficult. One of the few things that brings me peace when I worry about losing another pergnancy is knowing my blogging community will be there for me to help me through it. It is literally the ONLY thing that brings me comfort.

I really can’t describe to you in words how much my blog, and the people who read it, mean to me. Writing there is the first time in my life I’ve felt wholly and completely accepted and understood. It is the first time I didn’t feel like a freak. …

It’s clear to me that I can’t convince you that my blog does not hinder my ability to navigate these things. I just hope you can understand that my blog is not a representation of who I am, it’s just one part of me. And being able to write about that one part openly, instead of having to hide as I am forced to do with EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON IN MY LIFE (except Mi.Vida) is incredibly healing. It might seem like I think about TTC obsessively, it might seem like I don’t celebrate the happy parts of my life, but that is simply not true. I do those things with everyone else, I celebrate Isa and I speak of all that good that is happening with my friends and colleagues and parents and Mi.Vida. I don’t talk about the stuff on my blog with anyone, except for the people who read my blog. And I assure you that the release I get from saying those things there, from having people understand when it stings a bit for my cousin to so easily get pregnant again, when it takes me I know-not-yet-how-long again, instead of berating me for being selfish or jealous or cruel, is invaluable.

I have taken breaks from my blog, two and three week breaks here and there. Sometimes they are nice, sometimes I’m dying to write. But never have I ever felt it would be in my best interest to walk away. And I won’t walk away now. But I will always know your thoughts on the matter, and I will take them into consideration in the future, if it’s appropriate.

There was more (a lot more) but I want to be respectful to my friend (even though she is no longer reading my blog) so that is all I will include (I’m also saving you all from reading another 800+ words). I think it is a good representation of the points I made and how I feel about the whole thing.

The final installment of our communication was an email from my friend. Things seem to be better between us and she claims to better understand why I blog and what it means to me. The truth is, I don’t need her to understand, because I do and I feel good about my participation in this community. I truly believe it helps, and doesn’t hurt, me and my pursuit for greater happiness.

A Return to My Roots

It’s Monday evening after the long weekend that kicks off the summer. I should be rejuvenated, ready to start the week but the opposite is true. These past four days have been incredibly intense. We hosted a family of four (my friends from London) at my parents house (my parents stayed at our apartment in the city). I thought it was going to be a collaborative weekend where we all pitched in and made things happen but instead Mi.Vida and I ended up buying and preparing food for–and then cleaning up after–four adults and three kids for four days. The almost five year old kept wetting the bed and my friends didn’t want him in pull-ups because they’re “trying to potty train him”. Um, that’s great but I have to clean and launder his whole sleeping set up EVERY MORNING and it takes forever and is a huge drain on resources. Finally I basically demanded they put him in pull-ups and bought a pack for them (SO EXPENSIVE!). The last night he peed so much he still got everything wet, even through the pull-up! I can’t believe they are/were planning on just letting him wet every bed he’ll be sleeping in for the next two weeks. I also let them borrow the brand new car seat from my mom’s car not knowing their daughter gets motion sickness. She’s already puked all over it three times. It will be wrecked by the time they get back from the next two week road trip and I’ll have to get my mom a whole new car seat. So much for being generous, welcoming and kind.

It was a fun weekend, but it’s always hard to share limited space with other parents who deal with their children very differently than you do. It was incredibly challenging but a good time.

So I spent my whole weekend having my period and dealing with that emotional fallout of that, while putting on a brave face for my friends. It was a really rough period too, I was passing a lot of tissue, which I never do. This whole cycle was so wonky, with the weird temps in the first half, my shorter than usual LP and my really crampy, heavy (for me) menstrual cycle. Needless to say I’m glad it’s over and I’m ready to just get on with the next one.

I know I said I wouldn’t be writing about my cycle this go around but I don’t think I can do it. What I can do is minimize my TTC-related posts to once a week. Once a week I can come on here and vent about my cycle, my temperatures, my CM (or lack thereof). I’m not limiting myself to once a week for you all (more on that in a minute) but for myself. My sincere hope is that if I write about it less here, I’ll think about it less in real life. Not sure if that is how it will work but I want to give it a try.

I was writing recently to a bloggy friend who told me she stopped reading my blog because of my current focus on TTC. I totally understand her doing this, in the past eight months I have stopped reading many a blog that turned TTC (or, the ever popular: surprise, I randomly got pregnant without even trying!) I just couldn’t read those posts when I wanted to be trying but was instead sitting on a counselor’s couch trying to mend my relationship. And I totally understand anyone who doesn’t want to read about it here. I mean, let’s face it, even if you aren’t bothered by a TTC blog, they are boring as all hell (no disrespect to anyone, but they are – it’s the same thing every month and none of it is positive). No one should have to subject themselves to that shit day in and day out, possibly for months. Especially if the whole subject triggers PTSD of some kind. I mean, I get it. I REALLY DO.

It’s funny, I was excited to blog during TTC this time, as I missed that chance my last go around. The only place I could rely on for support were the Fertiliy Friend boards but they just didn’t cut it for me. By the time I ended up here, almost a year after I’d started trying and months after my ectopic, I was pregnant within a month. This time I was going to have people to help me through it. This time I wouldn’t feel so alone.

But it’s not turning out that way, and I totally understand why. I was naive to think it would happen differently. Being TTC#2 in this community is hard enough. Being TTC#2 when you’re not even infertile is a whole other über-complicated issue. And being TTC when none of your readers are, well, it’s isolating.

For a while there I tried to leave because I didn’t want to focus on how alone I felt here. But then I realized that I needed to write, for me, to get it out, to exorcise that shit. I don’t think about TTC all the time (although I’m sure it seems that way) but it does consume a significant portion of my thoughts and I need a place to process how I’m feeling. This will be that place, and I’ve accepted that I am blogging for myself again, just like I was back when I was TTC after my loss, when hardly anyone read and very, very few commented. I kept writing then and I’ll keep writing now. But my focus has changed. This place is primarily for me again. I feel very differently about this space now than I did six months ago.

I also notice I feel differently about the other blogs I read. I’m not as inclined to comment now that I feel this piece of my life isn’t (currently) about community or support. I don’t find myself wanting to reach out as much. I’m kind of pulling back, keeping my distance, protecting myself, as it were. And that is fine. Our reasons for blogging grow and change. I’ve accepted that.

I’ll continue to blog at my new space. I’m chronicling our house search there, for better or worse. I might have another project in my sights–I just need to make sure I have the resources to pull it off.

Right now I have a lot of things looming, the final weeks of the school year, packing my classroom, surviving another cycle, accepting that one after is most likely a bust, giving Mi.Vida space to work on his issues and hoping when he’s done we can work on ours, losing some weight (my jeans suddenly don’t button anymore), not completely succumbing to the encroaching depression. You know, fun stuff, all of it.

And this space will get me through it. It’s nice to have this space be for me again. It really is.

What to say…

…and where to say it.

As a blogger I’ve always pondered what to say and how to say it. Now, with two blogs, one anonymous and one associated with my real name (gasp! shock! horror!) I have to consider where to say it as well. Now when each prompt percolates in my head another component is present. Where will I publish this post? And how will its place affect what I ultimately say?

I’m generally a pretty honest person, possibly to a fault. There is little I don’t share, at least that used to be the case. As I’ve gotten older, and more weary of others’ inability to provide the support I require, I’ve shut down a lot. I created this blog at about the same time as I started censoring myself more in real life. This space provides an outlet for that naturally honest part of me, the part that thrives on telling the whole truth.

I have thought a lot about attaching my name to this blog. The main reason I haven’t done so is because I am a teacher and I don’t want my students knowing certain things about me. As a teacher I have a professional persona that must be maintained; I must not only consider what I want my students to know but also what I’m comfortable discussing with their parents, who have their own expectations of what I disclose and how I disclose it. When your job involves children, you must respect certain rules that those who work exclusively with adults don’t need to consider.

Keeping my blog anonymous, I haven’t had to consider what I want to say and how I want to say it. As I made clear this past weekend, I basically put everything out there, for better or worse. Now, every topic I consider tackling needs to be weighed carefully. What do I want to say and how do I want to say it? Does the piece contain personal information? If so, how comfortable will I feel if my Facebook friends read it? My colleagues? My administrations? My students? Their parents? And of course, if the topic involves others, like my partner or friends, how comfortable will they be with what I’m disclosing?

These are all pertinent questions and require an incredible amount of careful consideration. Once my words are out there, it is impossible to take them back. I must be ready to stand by my words, defending them if need be. Is a post worth professional or personal repercussions of any kind? If the answer is no, and I’m unsure how it will be perceived, I have to post here.

I hadn’t thought about it much when I put up my new space, but its existence will change the landscape of this space. When I only have so much time to write, neither space will get the attention I want to give it. This means that this space will probably be designated for more personal subject matter while my new space will be a discussion of more universal topics, posts that are more relevant to the every day reader. This space will be a kind of diary, the other space will be my public forum, the place where I cultivate a presence I can be proud of, one that will hopefully bring me closer to my future goals.

Today, on my new blog, I published the first piece that required careful consideration, the first piece of a personal nature, the first post I was not sure where to place. It’s the first piece that puts myself out there in a raw and naked way. And I have to admit, the idea of students seeing it makes me raise my eyebrows a bit. Of course I’m sure it will be okay, but I’ve had to stop and think. I’d be curious what you think: Did I make a mistake posting it there?

Grief Appropriation?

Before I write this I want to assure you all that I am in no way trying to co-opt Mo’s tragedy and make it my own. I am not trying to make her pain about me and how it affects me. Mo’s is enduring a loss more devastating than I could ever imagine. My heart breaks for her but I know that my sorrow could never touch her own. Please know that in writing this I’m just trying to make sense of my own experience. I’m sorry if that offends anyone close to Mo. That is no my intent at all.

Last night I got a text from a very good friend, informing me of Mo’s loss. At first I was in shock. I texted back all the sentiments one would expect in a time like this but it hadn’t really hit me yet. Later, when I told Mi.Vida and he came over to hold me, the enormity of my friend’s loss hit me and I broke down into great, heaving sobs. You know, that kind of ugly crying that literally steals your breath and contorts your body beyond recognition.

The rest of the night I was in a daze, communicating with a few mutual friends of Mo’s, trying to determine what we could do to show our love and support. It’s so hard to know what to do when you feel so helpless, when you realize that ultimately you are so helpless and that there is not one thing you can do to actually ease your friend’s suffering.

Mi.Vida kept checking in on me, as I would randomly start crying here or there, for seemingly no reason at all. I could tell he was alternating between bewilderment, worry, and frustration. Before bed we talked a little bit about how both of us were feeling. I told him that I was heartsick, despondent, just so overwhelmingly sad for my friend. The magnitude of what she was losing, what she has already lost in her life, it’s just unfathomable. It’s so fucking unfair. I am afraid for her, for what she will have to endure. I can never know how it feels to lose what she has, simply contemplating it was more than I can bare. How will she possibly bare the reality of it?

Mi.Vida said he was worried about me. He didn’t want to see me taking on someone else’s grief. He didn’t want me giving into the fear that what was happening to her might happen to me one day. I understood his concern; he has seen me react poorly to the sad stories of many a blogger I hardly knew, he’s watched me internalize their tragedy and grief, twisting it into fear of the uncertainty of my own life.

I had a hard time convincing him that this was different. I wasn’t grieving for Mo because what happened to her might happen to me, I was grieving for Mo because she’s my friend and she is losing the most important thing in her life. She is losing something that just a week ago she acknowledged she could not survive losing. I am sad because a wonderful woman, who reached out to me when I felt the tendrils of depression grabbing hold of me again, who sent me Israeli chocolates to make me feel better, who accepted me and my feelings no matter what, is being made to endure a mother’s greatest nightmare, after already having done so three times before.

It isn’t about me, it’s about her, I tried to assure him.

The line between the two is very thin, he countered. I don’t think you realize.

Today I’ve walked around in a daze, unsure how to steady myself. I’m brittle to the touch, I snap easily and find myself staring into the unknowable distance. It’s not that I’m thinking constantly about Mo but the sadness is there, under the surface, always. I can tell Mi.Vida is becoming increasingly frustrated. We’ve talked more about whether or not my grief is appropriate. And if it is, does being a part of this community, which is welded together by loss and grief and struggle, ultimately offer enough light to make up for the darkness?

The truth is, sometimes I don’t know. What I do know is that my heart breaks for a woman I consider a friend, despite never having met her. What I do know is I am inspired by the love and support I see others willing, eager, desperate to give. What I do know is I feel honored to include my own efforts with theirs, to reach out to someone when she feels unreachable and alone.

What I do know is that the women in this community are stronger than I ever thought possible, that they persevere despite insurmountable odds, that they not only survive but thrive in the face of unimaginable loss. What I do know is that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this community and that I am comforted knowing that they would be there for me if the unthinkable were to mark my own life.

How appropriate is the grief we feel for our fellow bloggers? Should there be a limit to that grief? Is the line between grieving for someone and making their grief our own as thin as Mi.Vida believes? If so, how do we stay on the right side of it? Is a community welded together by loss worth being a part of, or are the costs ultimately too high?

Unrequited Blog Love (Redux)

I little while ago Jjiraffe wrote this post about Unrequited Blog Love.

Today Mel posted this in response. Basically she doesn’t believe anyone ever has any obligation to comment on another person’s blog; comment reciprocity is not something that should be expected. To make this point she uses the analogy of enjoying Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies but never expecting him to watch her own homemade YouTube videos in return.

I have to admit, I look at the situation differently than Mel does and I left a comment explaining my disparate point of view. Here is what I said:

I have to admit, I don’t think your Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy really works here. First of all, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a HUGE movie star. I doubt any blogger who reads a huge blogger, one that gets hundreds of comments, ever expects reciprocation from said big-name blogger. Second of all, actors are in the business of making movies to get paid and there is no community built off of the self-expression in their movies. Also, that self-expression is not of a personal nature in the way a blog post is. Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movies is not like reading an entry in his personal journal. He is not sharing his inner most secrets. He is not asking for support. And third, your hypothetical YouTube movies have nothing to do with the big-budget box office hits that he stars in. The two are totally incomparable except that they are both, technically movies. Whereas two smaller blogs, written by woman going through similar experiences, and read by a similar amount of people, are very comparable. It makes sense that one would feel hurt if the other failed to acknowledge their existence.*

I guess I do think it makes sense that one small blogger reading the personal thoughts of another small blogger and time and time again leaving her own thoughts in return, might feel somewhat slighted when she doesn’t receive any form of reciprocation, ever. If you know you stand out to that blogger, because you are one of the few people who comments, and you know that blogger doesn’t take the time to read anything you’ve written, well I think it’s totally understandable that you would feel a bit discounted.

Having said that, I don’t think any blogger owes it to their regular comments to become a regular commenter on the other’s blog. I’ve had people who comment quite frequently and when I’ve gone over to their blog (after the third or fourth comment) to check it out, I’ve always left a few comments in return, but if their blog just isn’t for me, for whatever reason, I don’t feel obligated to keep reading. Having said that, I do feel an obligation to go over there in the first place and see who they are and what they are about. That only seems fair.

Of course I have much few readers and commenters than someone like you has, and I certainly wouldn’t expect the same from a blogger who gets 30+ comments on every post.

I think there is third category of blogger that you interact with, besides the “friend that you communicate with outside of your blog (via email for example)” and the “person you just randomly read and comment on” that you mentioned. I think there is a third category of blogger that you wouldn’t consider a friend, but whose blog you read regularly, or semi-regularly, and who you comment on once in a while. I feel like I fall into that category. I don’t consider us “friends” outside of blogging (thought I’d love to!) but I do get comments from you every once in a while and I comment on your blog a good portion of the time that you post. I notice many other regular commenters on your posts and have seen you comment on their blogs from time to time too. I think that is the reciprocation that was being discussed in Jjiraffe’s blog and while you may not think others should feel obligated to participate in that kind of reciprocation, you do seem to engage in it yourself – which I think is awesome! And which I think is one of the reasons you are such a pillar in this community.

I know that it’s dangerous territory when we start declaring there is and is not a “right” or “courteous” way to blog. I’m not trying to espouse a strict form of “commenting etiquette” or to push any set of rules on this community. But this IS a community and we are engaging in a form of communication and, as with all forms of communication, there are ways in which we can be polite and inclusive and ways in which we fail to be those things. I’m not saying that anyone should feel they need to be polite or inclusive here, or that they should feel there are expectations of some kind of them, but it is important to remember that behind every thoughtful comment is a real live human being who has taken the time to reach back out of the ether and say, I’m here, I’m listening, I’m valuing what you have to say. If we have the capacity to do the same, I think it’s a shame when we don’t.

What do you think? If this is a community, should we look to the rules of etiquette in other examples of community to guide our actions here? Should we treat posting and commenting like we would a real conversation, where it is always expected that both parties participate? Or is the point of this (anonymous, electronic) forum for everyone to proceed as best suits their wants and needs? 

* Mel emailed me after I left my comment and said she added this on her post. Evidently her Joseph Gordon-Levitt analogy was actually quite appropriate and my naiveté made me ignorant to that fact.

I picked Joseph Gordon Levitt as the example (instead of, let’s say, Brad Pitt) because he is a someone who does indeed make movies, BUT he also is the blogging equivalent to a movie maker, running the site HITRECORD which is an open-collaborative production company where regular people work together to create art.  He is down there in the writing trenches with everyone, and so it does make sense to have that translate into “I worked on his project and I watch his movies and why doesn’t he take a look at my YouTube vidoes.”  And this is a comment I read about him on a website.  Again, I think if people get something out of HITRECORD, they should do it — it looks like a lot of fun.  But if they’re doing it because they expect something back specifically from him, I think they need to reassess if they’re putting themselves in a position to be deeply disappointed and frustrated.