Monday, April 7, 2008

Mouse Cheese

Someone I love dearly implied, in a moment of anger, that I write this blog for attention and sympathy. That I take problems that should be dealt with privately, as expediently and unemotionally as possible, and put them on display for the world to see so that I can feel justified in continuing to be upset about them. At first I was mortified and ashamed because I had been taught from a very young age that it is traitorous to share family business (we are Italian you know) and even worse to look to strangers for support (even school counselors were considered suspect.) This mentality is deeply ingrained and even though I have been a writer, who sometimes even gets paid, for over a decade it wasn't until I started this blog that I began to write about my life. However, after having some time to reflect and recover I began to resent the judgement that I had been handed. Of course, the argument was over by then and I had no desire to revisit the whole awful experience. So I decided to bring it here and write it all out so my readers (all seven of you) can feel sorry for me.

My first inclination was to just stop blogging. It took about three nanoseconds for me to decide that wasn't an option. So, maybe I could just block this person from ever reading my blog? After all, it's MY blog and I can decide who gets to read it, right? Well.. I don't think it's that easy to do and I don't really want to learn how. Especially since Blogger help files often seem to have been written in Martian and translated to English by a foreign exchange student from Saturn. Then I got mad, again. How dare they decide what I should and shouldn't write about and why the hell does anyone think they can decide what I can or can't feel!

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I need to just let it go. It wasn't a nice thing to say but it was just an opinion, no, not just an opinion but an opinion in anger which gives it even less weight. In a perfect world people wouldn't say hurtful things in order to "win" an argument but there's not much perfect in this world and occasional nastiness is likely to occur. So I will forgive my dear friend, I will continue to write, and I will cultivate a slightly thicker skin because this probably won't be the last time someone says something mean to me about my writing.

I love the following passage from Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It's her technique for dealing with the voices in her head that distract her from writing. The critics, real and imagined, the family and friends with their opinions and the dogs... "And there are also the dogs: let's not forget the dogs, the dogs in their pen who will surely hurtle and snarl their way out if you ever stop writing, because writing is, for some of us, the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those crazy ravenous dogs contained. Quieting these voices is at least half of the battle I fight daily."

Try this!

"Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in any high-maintenance parental units, drop in any contractors, lawyers, colleagues, children, anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away, trying to make you feel like shit because you won't do what they want--won't give them more money, won't be more successful, won't see them more often. Then imagine that there is a volume-control button on the bottle. Turn it all the way up for a minute, and listen to the stream of angry, neglected, guilt-mongering voices. Then turn it all the way down and watch the frantic mice lunge at the glass, trying to get to you."

This is exactly what I did when I sat down to write this afternoon. I put that angry opinionated mouse in it's jar and watched it for a minute. With some distance I could see it was really more sad and afraid than anything and I really didn't feel like biting it anymore. I even put away the traps and put the cheese back in the fridge.

I don't write for attention, admiration, or sympathy, although I admit that in the right situation all of those are some of the great benefits of being a writer. I write because I need to. It keeps me calm and rational and forces me to slow down and think about how I'm really feeling. I believe it makes me a better person.


Mrs. G. said...

Guess what? It's your life and you get to write about it in the way that you choose. I've read many, many of your posts and I can't imagine that someone would think you crossed any "sacred lines"-I would explain to your concerned reader that he/she should not visit if he/she finds it so disturbing. Problem solved.

Swistle said...

I think people who don't blog, don't understand blogging. I think even some people who DO blog don't understand blogging---or rather, they understand what it is for THEM, but not what it is for others. I do get very tired of hearing that blogging is narcissistic, attention-seeking, voyeuristic, etc. We don't say the same about newspaper columnists.

cupcake said...

I'm with Mrs. G - this is YOUR blog. You can write about clipping your toenails if you want. If you're interested in examining the machinations of your ice maker, then have at it.

People who judge what other bloggers write about are silly, and, quite frankly, THEY are the epitome of self-involved.

Karen MEG said...

I'm so glad you decided to continue blogging! Whew! You write so beautifully, and from the heart.

I agree with the others, Gina, people who don't blog don't really get it. I guess everyone has their own comfort level and sets their own lines; but then, this is your blog, you write what you want. I have never read anything here that I thought would be overly personal/ infringe on your "real life". [Although I think I'd just skim a post about you clipping your toenails :)]

I just don't get when people are judgemental about blogging/ bloggers. I've read some pretty over-the-top stuff in some blogs that I frequent and you, my friend, are soooo NOT there!

Do what feels right, what you need, and what is good for YOU.

Family Adventure said...

It's funny - you are definitely NOT on the list of people I would suggest are asking for attention/admiration. I do admire you, probably more so because you don't court that admiration. The way I see it, you write about your life exactly as you see it. Many of us pretty up our world before we present it to the blogosphere - you don't. That's one of my favourite things about your blog.

Of course, now that we've all just professed our love and admiration for you, it looks like your friend may have been right after all?

Not so, because I know you also didn't write this post to ask for support.

What you did do is offer up a tool for all to use who are feeling hurt. I love the idea of imagining someone as a squeaky little mouse. I'm planning on giving it a shot :)


dkuroiwa said...

Okay...what Mrs. G, and Swistle, and Cupcake and MEG and Heidi all said...Yeah.

A person who makes comments like that seems to have their own issues. There is so much negativity in the world today, it's nice to read blogs that are funny and uplifting and inspiring...and..and..the list of adjectives goes on and on...Block out the negativity if you need to. No arguments here.
We all blog for our own reasons...we put things "out there" for us...sometimes in comments we get support from friends we may never meet and yet, we feel so close to those people. This whole blogging things is wonderful.
Keep it up Gina...I too have enjoyed your posts so very much!!
(and I think that I might possibly be Reader #6!!)

Laura said...

Hi Gina -- I don't get it -- we write to connect. Who takes that apart and dissects it? People who are searching for a way to connect?

I paint and my paintings are in galleries and shows and homes. Sometimes I paint my family members. Sometimes the paintings are not flattering. Does that mean that I paint for attention, admiration and sympathy? Maybe -- among other reasons. Who cares?

Keep connecting with your writing -- your readers get it.

JCK said...

That Mrs. G, she's a wise one that lady. I loved that you did this exercise, carried all the way through. Have no doubt that you are a writer. And I identified SO much with you saying you wrote because you have to. Yes. Oh, yes.

And thanks for your sweet comment on my blog tonight. It was kind.

Laura said...

Let me just chime in with everyone else and say, it's your blog - write what you want!

Do not let anyone silence you.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Sent here by Gina. What a great first visit.

Your thoughts and your life are yours to do with as you wish. If someone doesn't like it they don't need to read it.

Personally, although I've only been blogging since Christmas, it has really helped me clarify and make sense of a lot of my life.

And, oh, the wonderful women you meet!

Nantucket Dreamer said...

I hardly know where to start! My gut reaction was to confirm the identity of the offender then get on the next plane to beat the cr@p out of my insensitive brother! Calmer thoughts have prevailed, however, and I decided to give him the deserved/undeserved benefit of the doubt.

To be fair, blogging isn't for everyone. Be you the writer, the reader or the subject matter, surely blogs can appear self serving, irrelevant or indiscreet. But, they can also be just the opposite: sororal, poignant or palliative. In some ways a good blog is like pornography - you can't define it, you just know it when you see it (And NO, I didn't just compare your writing to porn! - that's not exactly my point...)

For me, your blog has always fallen into the latter of the two descriptive categories above (the ones before the X rated part;-). Not only do I gain a valued connection with someone I rarely see but your postings always seem to touch some aspect in my life. I never know what I'm going to get when I hit the "Gina" button on my bookmark bar. Some days it's a funny post about the ongoing battle of good vs reading materials (On the books... 3/6/08) that give me a head nodding chuckle. Other days I nod my head in acknowledgment of the pains and pitfalls of parenting (Halloween post 10/31/07). Yesterday, however, I shook my head in fear that the antagonist might have done damage to your resolve to keep us all informed, entertained and connected. Please keep up with your blogging, not only for those of us that can't do it for ourselves, but for those of them that don't understand!

With much love from your long distance sister-in-law :-)

Don Mills Diva said...

I agree with everything everyone else said. And also - I do blog partially for attention, admiration and sympathy...SO?

Ginaagain said...

Oh my, I'm not sure where to start. Thank you, everyone, for your support. It truly means a lot to me... especially since I read your blogs and think you are all so much more interesting than I am. I actually feel bad for the person who started all of this. I wasn't trying to blast them , I was working through my own hurt feelings. It wasn't quite fair to do it in such a public way but I needed to. If I hadn't been able to open up enough to write about it I think that would have been the end for me. Interestingly enough I have come to the conclusion that, in a way, I do write for attention and now I know that I'm ok with that.