I’ve been writing about my experience as the widow of an alcoholic and addict for several weeks now. I’d been doing it for years in the journal on my nightstand, so why go public? I’ve been accused of wanting attention or validation, or even manufacturing details to garner more followers. Of course, none of that is true, any more than you are vying for attention by posting your kid’s little league trophy or showing off your neon cast on a broken arm.
We share publicly because that is the social media culture we live in. We share because we want to connect with someone else. We share to distribute the weight of a burden, to multiply the joy we are feeling, to spread the laughter. Sometimes we share so that we can move on.
I’m a writer. I express myself with words. If I were a painter or dancer or marathon runner I would express myself that way. But I’m a writer, so I write.
I realized that the knowledge I was carrying had become a boulder in my path. I couldn’t go around it, through it, or over it. I had lots of ideas for new projects and many unfinished works and hobbies, but somehow I couldn’t get excited about them. It felt like I wasn’t “allowed” to enjoy those things because I kept coming back to this boulder.
Maybe it was a creativity block. Maybe it was a need to organize and prioritize before I could put some things away. All I know is that the boulder just kept getting bigger and covering more ground the longer I tried to ignore it.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
The difference between keeping a journal and keeping a blog is a big one. Keeping a journal tends to be about emotion. Writing a blog is more about thought. You pour out on the journal page all the things you can never say out loud – even to yourself. You wrestle with the same challenges over and over. And while journaling is an immense help, it is not always a solution. For a person who expresses themselves through writing, the printed word – even on a personal blog – is magic. Just seeing the words in typeset changes their value. The writer becomes more accountable, more precise, less lead by emotion.
To see something in print is to label it as fact. (Just look at all the things people think are true just because they are on the internet.) To write your own experience where someone else can read it means that you are telling a truth – your truth – and you cannot look away from it. You cannot say later, “Oh, I was upset. I didn’t know what I was saying.” Or, “It was stream-of-consciousness. I didn’t mean that at all.” You can’t discount print the way you do your own handwriting.
This is tremendously important when dealing with a topic that other people would rather just went away. Substance abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, racism, end-of-life decisions…these are realities most people just don’t want to know about. But if you are the victim or survivor of one (or more!) of these things, it’s a luxury you don’t have. You MUST face it, or risk being forever stunted, frozen at your worst moment.
If you’ve been helped by me sharing a few highlights of my life, I am honored. If you’ve gained some insight into another’s struggle, I’m pleased. If you’ve been made uncomfortable or angry, I’m glad – not because you’re hurt, but because that means you are being edged a little out of your comfort zone. Maybe you will start to ask some questions of yourself that help you shift your own obstacle a little more out of the path.
If you keep a journal, I encourage you to also write a blog. Don’t just copy your journal writing into a post. Review your writing and select the lessons that are buried there, the moments that grabbed your attention. Write about them again, but with a view to sharing it.
If you draw or paint or compose or dance – consider sharing what you’ve been creating for yourself. Letting people in can be scary. Not everyone is nice. Not everyone understands. But they are the minority. And the hearts you may touch are infinitely more precious than any passing criticism.