Earlier this week, my dad, who is 89, requested to read one of my blogs. Actually, let me correct that. I think I suggested that he read my blog, pushy daughter that I am. Slightly annoyed that he wasn’t yet a follower –I mean if your own Dad isn’t a follower, you’re really doing something wrong –I sent him the link, then invited him (read bullied him) into following my blog. That way, I told him, reasonably, you will get an email with the blog every time I write one. Oh goody, Els. Can’t wait.
It’s not as though I write them all that often, so I didn’t think they’d fall into the spam category. A few hours went by, and he wrote me the following brief email:
What is your objective?
The joy of writing intimate thoughts to whom?
I sat pondering the question, searching for the reason I so enjoy my writing? Who was I writing it for? Did it matter? I bucked at the Puritan rationale that there must be an objective to everything we do, when really, the writing is for me. The blog initially came out of competition with my son who’d started one, and then became a portal, a safe repository where I could stow my thoughts.
Another friend this week referred to having read my “diary” yesterday. I was, on the one hand pleased that she was reading, but on the other, horrified, both by the idea that my writings have the banality of a middle-aged woman’s diary (which even I can see they do), but also, going back to Dad’s prompt– what is my objective?
The question has stayed with me and frankly, has been bugging the crap out of me. That must mean it’s worth looking at.
Meanwhile, Friday evening I participated in another reunion with my high school pals. The conversation flowed among the approximately 30 people there, representing about a quarter of our class. We meandered through various topics – COVID-19 was a big one – we heard from one of our classmates who now lives in Hong Kong who described the pattern of lock down there, and the very limited resulting deaths. What could we take away? Again, objective never far from our minds.
Some of the group hungered for more structure to our future conversations. Our host had instructed us all to bring an open-ended question to the meeting to share to help spark conversation. When she cued us after the period of friendly free-form engagement, there was a lull as people undoubtedly examined and reexamined our individual questions, finding them insufficient for consideration by the larger, illustrious group. For the record, I did do my homework. My questions were “Are you thinking about your legacy?” And a second, “Where’s the joy for you these days?”
But pushing those aside, I blundered forth to share my email exchange with my Dad about “what is the objective” as a way of saying that I was there because I was just so darn happy to see everyone there, and how much I loved all of them. Jeesh, did I really say that? One classmate, a civic-minded dentist, who several years back, opened a clinic to serve underserved clientele in the Concord area, spoke backlit, like a protected witness in his zoom “cell”; he heartily endorsed what I’d said. But others may have been squirming with discomfort in their living rooms.
I have always had a job and worked diligently to support my family and my creative work often as a sidebar to those tasks. Stage management and production management and teaching are all full contact sports. The pursuit of each has challenged me as a woman, a wife, a mother – in all the ways that probably all working folks can relate to. So when I blog I write what I write when I’m able to write it to take a pause from that work. I write to reflect, to take a moment to be introspective – to examine a topic or a feeling from all angles. And this is going to sound self-inflated, but I also write to share my humanity, because, especially in the last few years, my humanity has been taxed.
Taxed by the decision I made 35 years ago to ally myself with a man much older than I, knowing intellectually what stood ahead on the path, but also knowing that he was my soulmate, and to pass him by would have been a grievous error.
Taxed by the loss of a life’s love, slowly over time and then suddenly like a clean knife blade cutting off a slice of me.
Taxed by the ensuing sinkhole of absence that threatened to engulf me (as it threatens daresay anyone experiencing such a loss).
Taxed by the challenge of walking away from the edge of that hole, turning my back on it, and looking for solid ground to stand on and rebuild.
That has been my objective in these past 18 months. Getting away from that sinkhole of loss. I know I’m not alone in that regard. Especially now.
Before that, it was simply to capture and share in a more tangible way my love of the theatre and how the tentacles of a lifetime practice as a stage manager, now production manager/teacher has colored many aspects of my life experience. I’ve always loved the process of writing; organizing my thoughts in such a way as to tell a story of a moment. I like to think that sharing has value in and of itself, however intimate my thoughts. Maybe standing on the edge of the sinkhole has been too scary for others to do.
Reading over this time has been soothing, too. In the weeks following the loss, I went on a bender of Joan Didion books, finding great solace in “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
This morning, in my weekly check-in with my college pals Bob and Susan, we dissected this topic. Frequently what appears in my blog is in someway, not always attributed appropriately, but referential to those conversations. Bob advanced that today’s post was the Russian Doll of Parent/Child relationships. He also quoted the line from The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
I didn’t make him for you!
I’ve heard from many friends and fellow bloggers that they’ve enjoyed my “blunderings”, but for the sake of healthy competition and rising to answer the driving questions our parents pose to us to make us more productive entities in the world, I’ll throw a newly crafted objective into the mix.
I currently have approximately 275 followers. They range from close friends who quietly read and supportively answer, to bots who scour my site for opportunities to influence me in whatever state I’m in that day. I answer my comments when they come in. I have not been the best cultivator of community in WordPress. That requires actively discovering new blogs and following them, engaging in comments about other peoples’ writing, which my current work schedule doesn’t seem to allow adequate time for. I acknowledge that that I could do much better. But I do follow and read many peoples’ blogs, at the bare minimum, liking their posts.
I invite readers to let me know in the comments if anything at all has been helpful specifically about the writing, or the voice I’ve shared. If it strikes you as self-indulgent or purposeless, I’d like to know that, too. But if you think I have something valid to say, I invite you to give a quiet “hear hear” from your place of isolation. Please invite others to follow. My objective is to…gasp…get to 300 readers by July 4. A modest proposal.
There, how’s that, Dad? Thanks for keeping me thinking.