I have had this inner struggle several times a year since starting my webpage in 2005. It is a struggle I cannot seem to win completely on either side of the argument. I have my little Heather on my left shoulder telling me that to live in fear is futile and against what I strive for. And I have another little Heather on my right saying that what some people tell me is true – I am being irresponsible and reckless with what and how much I reveal online. Right now, the two Heather’s are fighting and it is truly a pain in the neck.
I primarily write and/or blog for my personal website (on MSN Spaces). But I also share some of these blogs on my local newspaper’s website which has a blogging forum. I have been a member there for a couple years and have gotten to know some of the fellow members over this time. As you can imagine, my personality follows me to whatever site at which my fingers start typing away. So, basically I am pretty much as open there as I am on my personal site. And even when I am not, it doesn’t really matter as I have a link to the MSN site anyway.
In the past couple years I have heard many comments from friends, family and fellow bloggers about the content that I share with the all too scary and unpredictable world. I have even been told that I am a bad mother because I post pictures of my children. People also tell me that I lay out too much personal information about myself. And that I make myself a target by sharing that information along with my pictures.
In my defense of these apparently ridiculous actions, I have explained that I do not feel that it is any different from being an Op-Ed writer. Their names are published and addresses can easily be found. Do they take home hazard pay? Or when it comes to picture of the kids, how is this different from bringing them in public where people can see them up close and in person? Or letting them play outside (for older kids obviously)? Or putting their pictures in the Parenting Magazine contests?
Also, the personal information I write about – I do so for, what I think are, very valid reasons. And I have discussed this before, so forgive my repetition. I have heard from numerous people how reading my stories and blogs have helped them realize they are not alone…whether it be in the realm of anxiety or tachycardia or being a stepmother. I have received countless emails from others sharing their similar stories, giving thanks for sharing mine and even just a shout out to a person with shared issues. I love that. When I first was diagnosed with my heart issue, I found it unspeakably comforting to hear from and about others who had the same feelings and symptoms. It helped me realize I wasn’t dying (yet anyway) and that I certainly was not the only heart skipping person out there. Being able to do that for someone else is very meaningful to me.
I also divulge what I do for purely selfish reasons. I find it to be extremely cathartic and calming. I do not always have someone to talk to in person or even on the phone. And so I do what I have done for most of my life – I write. Only I am not writing to a particular person – usually – I am writing to the universe in a strange way. Does that make any sense? And because I am not really ashamed of my life, I share more than most people probably would. I am not embarrassed that I have anxiety. I am not feeling guilty because I have smoked pot in my past. I try to live as authentically as possible and believe me, it is not news to me that authenticy makes some people very uncomfortable. But those people don’t have to read it. Someone once compared my writing to one of those offbeat cashiers at the grocery store who starts telling you – a complete stranger – about her failing marriage. I am sure we have all experienced those types in our lives. But it is not the same. I am not trapping a person face to face and making them listen to my ramblings. A person has a choice whether or not to read them.
I like to display my pictures because I also love photography. I love to take pictures, look at pictures, edit pictures and share pictures. I am proud of my family and I want to show them off. Just like in the segment of the newspaper on Sundays where people send in photos of their grandchildren – full names printed and all. Just like the people who post pictures of their kids and boyfriends and drinking parties on Myspace. Are they being irresponsible and risky?
So I have this duality going on. I want to be smart and a good mom and certainly not more of a freak show than I already am. But I also want to have my space to share and write and babble and joke around. I want to say how I truly feel and show the latest cute picture of my kids being weirdoes. I do not like the thought of being anonymous like everyone else. When I speak (type) my words I want to be able to stand behind them and let the world know I am not ashamed of what I say. It holds me accountable and I like that.
So…what to do? Who is right? Which Heather should I flick off my shoulder?