To blog or not to blog? For me that wasn’t even a question! As a lifelong diarist, I believed that the best place for my private thoughts was a notebook tucked between my mattresses. Blogging seemed narcissistic –all that living out loud seemed to contradict everything I believed about the inward life, the importance of the unobserved moment, the value of words in ink on paper–just one original that can be hidden or crumpled or burned. You can even write in code, which I did for the better part of 1979….
Why would anyone trade the raw authenticity of journaling for the prettified blog, that revises as it records, and distorts as it edits. I held my travel journals close to my chest…. Blogging seemed like a recipe for self-deception and vainglory. (Would I ever say vainglory in a journal?)
So why am I here now, blogging, imagining you?
It began when (Oh God I just found myself making something up … luckily I caught myself and deleted it) a colleague asked me to blog at a Global Health Conference over a year ago (see September 2010 posts). I didn’t dislike what I wrote, and I found that a number of my students had followed and enjoyed the blog… I did a mildly clever one where I pretended I met Bono, and people got it. I found that I was more focused in the conference sessions because I knew I had to blog about them. And when I nervously pressed “publish” for the first time, I realized that accountability comes along with the admittedly “selfy” act of blogging. I began to see that there is discipline and courage here too.
During the course of the following year, as I wrote in my journal about my global health work in Ethiopia, Ecuador, and Mexico, it occured to me that some of those entries, as well as older travel journals and more local reflections, might be worth sharing if I had a blog. I was learning through the writing, challenging myself, and sensing life more fully. I realized that if I could muster up the courage to let others read and write along, my writing had the potential to create a voice and space for the people and places and issues that I care deeply about.
Can I combine the rush of blogging with the introspection and raw truth of my journals? Probably not. But I can try. I can share my experiences and honest reflections with family, friends, students, and even readers who I don’t know… I can try to blog like there’s nobody watching. Of course I know the reader is there, and because of that I will polish and edit and censor a bit (not a bad thing, actually), but I hope always to write (almost split that infinitive, but no, not here!) with my whole self, whatever that means and whatever the cost.
We all carry so many identities, and we don’t always realize the cost of keeping them separate and expressing them selectively. As a writer-teacher-learner-mentor-mother-wife-daughter-sister-friend-seeker, I want to explore what it means to speak from the core of my whole self. In spite of the fact that my three children have forbidden me to blog about their lives (and I will honor that within reason), the well-being of our world’s children, beginning with the ones I gave birth to, but by no means ending with them, is my life compass. I blog to better understand what this all means. I have this foggy notion that if I try to blog out what I believe I may actually behave better….
I hope that I can be a witness to beauty and joy, and I hope I am kind and generous in my words. I may also get angry about suffering or injustice, and speak uncomfortable truths about myself and my world.
In case you are trying to remember the rest of that quote about dancing, and you don’t already own the T-shirt, here is the full text:
“You’ve gotta’ dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
(And speak from the heart to be heard.)”
-William W. Purkey