The Evolution of Everything In Between

Over the last couple of days I have engaged in what I believe is my very first internet debate.  While I am a long-time blog reader and participate in certain message boards, and I’m even learning a bit about twitter, I have always avoided participating in internet arguments, whether they are about attachment parenting or the Paleo diet or President Obama’s birthplace.  I just don’t find them a valuable way to spend my time, generally.

But early yesterday one of the blogs I read, which I won’t link to here, seriously provoked me, so much so that I found myself commenting over and over again, arguing with people I’ve never before spoken to over the internet, and on a couple of occasions I was even told I *should* leave because I obviously didn’t understand the intention of the author’s space (to be fair, the author herself didn’t recommend this and instead said something like “these uncomfortable spaces are where we learn). On the one hand I found myself a bit baffled…I mean, asked to leave? Do these people not know me? I am funny and warm, and I ALWAYS know what fork to use at fancy dinners! On the other, as unproductive as the whole discussion might seem, it did get me thinking about my own blog, its original and current intent, and the state it is actually in.

One of the qualities that impresses me so much about the blog I was commenting on is the author’s utter fearlessness. She writes without worrying about offending people – she writes her own truth, and be damned those who are too sensitive or too uneducated to take it.  I am not a fearless writer, at all, and it has limited my nonfiction and fiction writing as well as this blog.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this last night. One of the most well-received essays I ever wrote, about growing up the daughter of a Vietnam Vet, I ended up filing away in a box because I could not – would not – out my father in this way. A lot of the essays I wrote – the most powerful and well-written essays, anyway – I ended up putting away to revisit upon the death of my parents because I am both presumptuous enough to assume the possibility of  their publication and cautious enough to have some extreme concern about the reaction of my family if they did get published.  And this kind of cautiousness is one thing – it might not be a brave choice but it a choice I made that I am fully comfortable making. The problem is, this fearfulness has extended even to my novel writing and blog writing.

The novel I wrote, which I began while working in Michigan and completed after I moved to Pittsburgh, was admittedly quite autobiographical. I packed it away, along with a lot of my other writing, because I could recognize it for what it was – an awful first novel. Even as I did so, though, I also knew the issues I was trying to tackle – Vietnam, the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and the effects of the Gulf War, were in some ways too mighty for me.  For some reason I often don’t feel like I deserve to write about these issues – as though they belong to people far more intellectually rigorous than I. I spend an enormous time doubting my ability to tackle complexity.

As crazy as this sounds, I think the internet debate highlighted a lot of this for me. When other posters accused me of not being “intellectual” enough to handle their conversation, instead of running away and never visiting the site again, I thought “screw you.” I talk about health care policy all day long. I create messages for vice presidents and leaders in my community, and internationally.  I might not be a college professor, but not intellectual?

Anyway. My point is, some of this caution has spilled over in terms of my comfort level with blogging. For instance, I might want to address certain complexities in marriages but feel uncomfortable because a friend I know is experiencing a similar situation and she occasionally reads the blog, or I might want to jokingly post about all the vegetarians I seem to know now but I don’t want to offend anyone, and on and on. You see the problem, and this barely scratches the surface of my concerns in terms of blogging content.

Well, no more. I love writing and blogging –  and I am inspired and encouraged by all the fearless authors out there, in print and online, sharing their stories. I am going to work, in all mediums, to become a little bit braver, and a little bit more honest.  I hope over time to develop this blog into something that is updated almost daily but as I move toward that, I am first going to implement what I am calling Marriage Mondays.  I’ve long wanted to start a blog tackling all the different issues the institution of marriage creates, from deeply personal issues to larger societal issues like same sex marriage.  I imagine it a cross between my favorite parenting blog – askmoxie.org and the Happiness Project.  I am not sure, however, whether I have the time or enough ideas to maintain such a blog so I am putting the idea in beta, here at everythinginbetween. 

Here is how it’s going to work. Every Monday I will either post a question from a reader, a topic in the news, an excerpt from a book, etc.  I’ll post my own thoughts on the subject and then encourage anyone who would like to engage in the comment section as well. I will still plan on posting other blog posts ( I hope to work up to some sort of “theme” for most days of the week) but baby steps, people. Baby steps. If you would like to submit a question/comment/topic for the first Marriage Monday, email me at everythinginbetween77@yahoo.com!  Other topics I hope to post about but have been avoiding include my continued efforts as weight loss (I always think nobody would want to read about that!), our current home renovations, parenting issues and workplace issues. 

I don’t know why I let myself get so intimidated and cautious but I am trying to correct that now. Onward!

 

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13 Responses to The Evolution of Everything In Between

  1. Stefanie says:

    Onward! I look forward to your baby steps 🙂

  2. Hooray! I love your new theme and will gladly participate, one way or another. I am also one who has drawn back from blogging the complete and utter truth, mostly because I don’t like to hurt people. However, I do think it is possible to find a middle way and I am so glad you are attempting it.

  3. Jen says:

    I just opened a fortune cookie and it said, “The purpose of argument should not be victory, but progress.” I immediately thought of you and this post when I read it! I’m looking forward to all your new posts.

    P.S. I have been in a bit of a blog funk lately myself…

  4. shoreacres says:

    You raise so many issues here it’s been hard for me to focus. So, I’ll just leave a few observations, not necessarily related to one another.

    I’ve written about my mother’s illness and death, and a post or two about my dad, and they were very well received. On the other hand, I haven’t said a word about the fact that my sole remaining relatives – an aunt and three cousins – let my mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day pass without so much as a phone call. I had a post or two I could have written, but I chose not to, because they do read my blog. It’s not cowardice so much as a realization that they would be hurt to see me reflecting publicly on the dynamics of the situation, and I don’t want that.

    I’ve made a decision not to write about partisan or electoral politics. The most practical reason is that I don’t have the energy to deal with what that would devolve into. On the other hand, I write as honestly and clearly as I can about the values that inform my vote and my life, and I seem to be doing a good enough job that I can predict who’ll comment – or not – on a given post.

    When I started blogging, I used to think as I was writing, “I wonder how this will be received?” Now, I just write, post and let go. If I’m happy with what I publish, the comment count doesn’t matter. For one thing, I know there are people who read and don’t comment – often because they’re lacking in a little courage themselves! I’ve had readers tell me they don’t feel comfortable commenting because they don’t feel as “smart” as the other commenters. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about that.

    Good post – full of interesting observations. Carry on! I’ll probably not have much to say re: mothering or marriage, but I’ll be reading and contribute where I can.

  5. Pete says:

    Great idea. I’ll be happy to contribute in some way to the discussions. I’ve also found myself really constrained by what I can write on the blog. I can’t blog about marital problems (nothing major, I hasten to add, but parenthood really puts our relationship through the mill) or my job since my family reads my blog. And writing about my parents would be a complete no-no (I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I just said nice things). So I admire your courage for taking on this challenge.

  6. Anne Camille says:

    Onward, brave Courtney. I look forward to what you have to write. I tried posting something recently asking for comment — polite discussion — but in not wanting to stir up controversy, or to get my own blood roiling, I didn’t respond to any of the comments. THis is one of the few times since I started blogging again last year that I haven’t acknowledged comments on a post in any way. I lost courage just thinking about the times when I’ve posted things on FB only to have friends tell each other that they were ignorant and to “have a nice life — in whatever world you live in”. It made me so sad to see two friends (who, btw, are pretty close in their political philosophies except on 2 issues) who felt that they could berate people that they didn’t know. I so want to get back to insightful debate on issues where people listen to the other side and try to understand even if they don’t agree to agree with the other side’s position.

  7. I am so excited for these Marriage Monday posts! I’m the same way on my blog, and I’ve touched on it in the past… I always try to write honestly, but I’m unwilling or at least reluctant to tackle certain topics. Maybe this will make us all a bit braver.

    PS — Courtney not intellectual?! Sorry, no. Just no.

  8. Emily Barton says:

    I’m cautious, too, always using the excuse that I’m a minister’s wife, and what if members of the congregation find my blog. By the same token, I have been thinking more and more about the possibility of creating a new blog called “The Minister’s Wife,” in which I write very candidly (but, of course, anonymously) about this role in which I find myself, and I love your idea of Marriage Monday, because, despite having been married for sixteen years, I still have all kinds of issues with the institution itself, as well as with male-female differences. As a wannabe published writer, I can also relate to worries about hurting those you love through your writing (even with fiction. I often find myself thinking, “I hope Mom — or whomever — doesn’t think I’m modeling this mother after her” or “I hope former co-worker from 20 years ago doesn’t remember this thinly-disguised real incident”). I often find myself asking RL friends, “That would be a great thing to include in a book. Do you mind if I use it?” But, really, a writer should feel she has more freedom than that, and I wish I were as fearless as, say, Pat Conroy or David Sedaris. Meanwhile, I just wrote about a very “taboo” topic on my own blog, so maybe I’m getting a little braver, too.

  9. musingsfromthesofa says:

    Hurrah, and onward! And I promise not to be offended by anything you might say about vegetarians… (Well, I’m a veggie, I wouldn’t have the energy) Looking forward to the marriage posts, particularly as 2 years on I’m still coming to terms with the end of my own.

  10. litlove says:

    It is hard, isn’t it? I suffer exactly the same concerns as you. Only then sometimes I feel I have to write and then spend about 48 hours longing to take the post down! I figure I can say whatever I like about myself, as I have no shame in the virtual world, but am extremely hesitant to mention others. I’d love a good discussion about marital issues though, particularly in a blog where it is much easier to attack the issue rather than the spouse (so easy to confuse them!). Sounds like a community project to me. But ps, I don’t know what those other commenters were thinking, asking you to leave: you’re a lovely person!!

  11. Stefanie – thanks! We’ll see how it goes…

  12. Charlotte – I think it is going to be tough to try and achieve a middle ground but I am aiming for it, darn it! I mean it sounds like all we are writing is a bunch of terribly polite blogs, ultimately…time for a little more daring!

    Jen – well, your blog doesn’t “feel” like it is in a funk at all – I think you are tackling brave and complex topics.

    Shoreacres – I think what need to be a little bit braver about doing is carving out my own “niche” on the internet. I do tend to blog about a wide variety of subjects which brings me wonderful readers such as yourself, but in trying so hard not to isolate anyone I’m left with weaker blog. I know not everyone will want to read about marriage and motherhood and I hope to still provide some other content, but marriage and motherhood are my reality right now and I think this blog will improve if I can embrace that!

    Pete – thanks! It does help that my blog has been so lackluster that a lot of people in real life have stopped reading it – it’s given me the freedom to reinvent it somewhat.

    Anne – that is what I would like to – a return to insightful – not harmful or negative – debate. It can be hard – it seems like EVERYTHING is taken so personally these days – but it’s worth trying to attain!

    Carrie – aw, thanks! And I look forward to your contributions to marriage Monday!

  13. Emily – I would love to harness the fearlessness of David Sedaris or Pat Conroy! I think they both manage, no matter what actions their characters are engaging in, to make their characters somehow loveable…I mean, you end up loving all the mothers created by Conroy even when you think you won’t for most of the book!

    Musings – Ug, see? Really I just wanted to post a sort of funny post about how many vegetarians I have to cook for anymore but I didn’t want to offend anyone!

    Litlove – I think with regards to the other blog – I was more of a casual reader and it seemed like i was interrupting an established community. It all worked out, though, because I am much more encouraged to write about the issues near and dear to my heart, now, instead of feeling like they are just so much “naval gazing” or exclusionary.

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