Thanks to following Alejna’s ever-clever lead, I signed up to participate in The Great Interview Experiment over at Citizen of the Month. I tried this once before and was a total failure. I couldn’t get out of my own way and get any questions together … and I guess the blogger who was supposed to interview me had the same problem because I never got any interview questions. But when I saw Alejna’s bright, shiny success, I was inspired to try again.
Happily, Neil paired me up with Discovering Jade. The Chinese call Jade the Stone of Heaven. Its color is described as being a green like no other. Yes, exactly. The first post I read seemed to be written straight out of my own head, and I thought: “Ok, yeah, this is going to work.” Jade and I are really not at all alike, as it turns out … but we are, too. I’ve had a pleasure reading through her blog and an even greater pleasure emailing her and figuring out questions to ask her and reading her answers.
You get to do that last part, too. Everyone, meet Jade.
You started your blog as a kind of meditation to help you get back to your spiritual practice. Has blogging been helpful to you in that way?
Blogging has really helped me get in touch with my spirituality. What I have come to understand about my own spiritual “self” is quite different from how I felt when I first started, and that has been very surprising. When I started this blog I was just extracting myself from an online Wiccan community/forum. I loved the folks there, but I sort of outgrew the interaction there and the responsibilities I had taken on. When I went my own way, I felt a little lost. That community was such an every-day part of my life, and I developed true friends there and I wanted something like that. I started my blog, and every day that I write something there I feel like I’m talking to an old friend.
You said that writing on your blog is like talking to an old friend. I get that feeling, too, but I also get the voice in the back of my head that tells me I could say all the same stuff in my journal, so why am I bothering to put it online? Is there something that particularly draws you to the public journal-writing that is blogging?
I think it was partly the community I was searching for — with an online journal I had the benefit of the few friends from the forums in which I used to participate; they could keep up with me (and I them) and comment/interact with one another via our blogs.
I have had others ask me this question, and that’s the answer I give, but… it doesn’t resonate with me as the whole answer. Honestly, there’s more and I don’t really know what that ‘more’ is. It seems like the thing to do; everyone’s got a blog. Major (and not so major) companies have blogs. My husband has a blog, and he doesn’t even write on it.
I have always kept a journal; during my angst-riddled teen years when my mom and I didn’t communicate so well, she read my journal and I often got into oodles of trouble for what she found there. I hated that, hated the invasion of privacy. Maybe putting my ‘journal’ on the Internet is my way of sticking my tongue out at my mom-back-then. My privacy can’t be invaded now if I’m the one spilling my guts. Maybe?
You write very frankly about Colin. Has that writing also been a kind of meditation for you, a way of helping you process?
Absolutely. Writing about my experiences with Colin has helped me look at things from a bit of a remove. I try to think very clearly about the experience, or at least to represent it with as much truth as I can; that has forced me outside the experience. Sometimes that reinforces my feelings numbness and isolation, but more often it helps me see the experience as opportunities to understand myself better, and to accept whatever lesson I might choose to find there.
I read your Colin posts and my heart ached — still aches just thinking about them. Do you think you could have blogged during that time, that blogging could have given you the same contemplative, safe, healing space it gives you now?
I don’t think I could have blogged during that time. It has really taken me a long time to get my head out of that trauma and pain. The pain itself never really leaves, but my thoughts are no longer clouded by the pain. Back then, I couldn’t see past how much I was hurting. I saw no life lessons, no opportunities for growth and spirituality. I saw only his selfishness, his brokenness, his mother’s failure to teach him to cope, my own inability to see his pain and help him. I was so busy finding fault and blame and both judging and being judged to use blogging as a healing tool.
I periodically find pages I wrote back then, shortly after his death. It’s unpalatable stuff. It isn’t even the sort of raw, sexy pain that makes for such emotional writing; it is just babble. Soul broken babble that I really needed to go through, but I wasn’t ready to accept that someday I’d be past it. Back then I couldn’t function enough inside to even start the healing process.
Do you think blogging has changed the way you communicate? Has it made you more open, more of a storyteller, more willing/able to share about yourself?
Definitely! I have noticed that I tend to be clearer in my meaning now; I tend to be rather stuck up and snotty AND I’m full of opinions – sometimes that can really come across as downright unpleasant. I have learned to really think about what I mean to convey before I publish it, especially when commenting on other people’s blogs. I am really not shy in my personal life when it comes to sharing my opinion, but I have learned the value of not saying anything if I haven’t got something nice to say. I have learned that I can still be honest without being mean.
Blogging has also opened me up to really hearing other people. When you’re reading a blog, the other person always gets to finish; you can’t interrupt them. And maybe you’re thinking about a counter-point before you’re done but you have to get to the end before you can get on with your own point. That has helped me in my professional life and even at home with my husband.
I don’t know if it has made me more of a story-teller or more open about what I am willing to share. I tend not to talk about myself or my life with peers or co-workers (with the one exception of a very good friend with whom I work), and that hasn’t really changed with blogging.
Can you imagine a time when you’ll be ‘over’ blogging? What do you think would make you feel finished?
I rather hope not. I know other bloggers who have experienced that, and honestly I hope never to. Writing is really what I do. I am not published and I’ve won no awards but I am a writer, from eyeballs to entrails. Part of the reason why I wanted to participate in this experiment is because I believe that everyone does have a story to tell, even if the audience is small. I blog for me more than anyone else; I published my blog online because of that community that I was missing, but I don’t think I’ll ever be done having a cup of tea with my blog, telling it about my challenges. The Internet might someday be ‘over’ me, though. 🙂
Your post about being ‘girly’ really resonated with me. We come at ‘girliness’ from very different physical places (I am tall and big compared to your short and tiny) and from different choices around femininity (I strove to help people see that I was feminine while you were rejecting your ‘girlness’). What did you do/change to help you start embracing your femininity? What made you decide to start on that path? What differences do you see in/about yourself now as a result?
This is somewhat hard for me to answer. The catalyst was probably my step-daughter; she was 12 when I started dating her dad and even though she was old enough to think for herself and had been taught to do so rather well, I constantly worried about what I might be unintentionally “teaching” her. Either in lessons she would internalise or in doing things that just weren’t worthy of her respect; I began looking at a lot of my behaviours and the ways I expressed myself. It was a subtle thing for me, but I was careful to make sure how I was acting around her wasn’t in conflict with how she was being raised otherwise. The general awareness of my own actions led to me examine that sort of expression, which in turn led me to begin questioning my behaviour and my thought processes.
I have also been studying and practicing some form of paganism (and now Buddhism) for several years; these paths lead me to that same questioning of myself. Wicca especially honours femininity and the strength inherent in women, but also balance between the forces of nature. I think I simply began accepting my own femininity to balance out the masculinity that I so readily embraced.
You seem very accepting of yourself — clear about your skills, your strengths, your feelings, your challenges. And maybe my question should be: are you as self-accepting as you seem? But the question I wanted to ask was: How do you do that? How have you gotten to the place where that’s true?
I think I am as self-accepting as I seem, or at least how I have tried to portray myself on my blog. I am a perfectionist, so it should be understood that I have periods of self-doubt, of confusion and trepidation. But they don’t last. How do I do it? I mentioned earlier that I’m stuck up… My mom encouraged me my whole life to be myself, to stick up for who and what I am, and to make no apologies for myself. It’s a lesson that really stuck. My parents have always accepted my choices and have really reinforced the belief that if I know I’m doing it right then that’s good enough.
I am reminded of the saying: The people who care don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t care. Maybe I’ve got that wrong, but the truth for me is: I truly don’t care what other people think of me (as much as that can be possible); there are a few exceptions, people whose love and respect I desire but for the most part I feel as though if people can’t accept me for who I am then I don’t need them in my life. The standard applies to me as well – if I disapprove of someone else’s choices or lifestyle, then they don’t need me in their life. I try to be as accepting of others as I am of myself.
You write a lot about your work life … and sometimes that includes things that you maybe wouldn’t want your co-workers to read. Do you worry that one of them will discover your blog?
I try to be very, very careful about the things I write on my blog in relation to my co-workers. I do have one co-worker/friend who reads my blog; when I write about work or the people in my office, I make an attempt to write about how I am feeling about an experience with them, instead of just griping about them. I’m sure I have done a bit of griping, but if any of them were to find it and take exception to what I have shared, I feel that I could explain to them that I was attempting to express my own experiences there, and that I have a right to do that. I don’t have the right to be mean about them, and that’s something I will try never to do.
As for the personal details I have shared about my own life, I don’t really worry about that. I wouldn’t feel obligated to explain anything to any of my co-workers (provided I hadn’t said something disrespectful about them); if they gleaned personal details and wanted to talk to me about it, I’d probably just encourage them to bookmark the page and check back often for updates before telling them to quit wasting company time talking to me about my blog. 🙂
I have a strong sense of you as a poet — not only because you have some posts that are clearly poems, but from your blog as a whole. I am always and always trying to help my students (and myself!) find their way to the page, and you’ve written about writer’s block, too. What do you do to ‘prime the pump’ when it comes to writing, to keep your writer’s mind limber? Do you share your writing in a formal way (a writers’ group, public readings …)?
I am not part of any formal group – I am honestly quite terrified of sharing my work in that way. I can puke it all over the Internet, but if I had to hand it out to others to read or [gulp] stand up and read it myself… well, I’ve nearly wet myself just now thinking about it. I don’t even know if I keep my mind limber; I have books about writing, tools, writer’s kits, little games I play with myself to get my creativity flowing, but mostly it just comes when it wants. I wake up in the middle of the night with words that need to be written; at work, in the loo, while at the market – the most inconvenient times words steal into my head and stay there until I write them down. Sometimes I pretend to check my calendar during meetings, and really I’m typing notes about the things I need to write about later, just to get the thoughts out of my head so they will stop drowning out everything else. I am so disorganised as a writer, it’s no wonder I haven’t written anything of substance.
The best advice I can give anyone wanting to find their way to the page (as you very poetically put it) is to make a habit of writing every day. Like prayer or meditation or exercise, make time for it. My favourite exercise in writing used to be a box of trinkets I kept as a teenager: old jewelry, a broken chunk of concrete, one of those wretched troll dolls with purple hair, programmes from high school dramas I was involved in. The exercise was I would reach blindly into the box and pull out an object – then I would write about the object: where I was when I got it, how I felt the day I found it, why the object went into my box.
I surround myself with treasured objects: a small cat carved of Jade that my husband gave me the first year we were dating, Colin’s ashes, sand from the desert, dozens of symbolic objects. I see these objects every day and every day they put words in my head that must come out.
What attracts you to a blog, keeps you coming back to read after the first discovery?
Heart. And humour. The raw honesty that I see in my favourite bloggers is what keeps me coming back. I read blogs about drug and sex addiction, about other writers, mommy-bloggers talking about the challenges of parenthood (which is so incredibly alien to me), bloggers who knit, bloggers who are clinically insane… people whose lives don’t intersect with mine at all, with whom I seem to have nothing in common apart from the pain of being alive. These bloggers pour their souls into their blogs and offer it up with some sort of naked, crazy honesty and I simply want to read it because they cut their own hearts open and bled it all over the page for me.
Who is one person you would love to have read your blog and why?
Predictably, Colin. I would love to know what he thinks about what I go through these days. He was the first person in my life to really listen when I had something to say; and he often either deeply loved or intensely hated the things I said. In a lot of ways we brought out the worst in each other, and I sometimes wonder how he’d feel about all my big, deep pain. Or when I say things that are harshly cavalier about his death; he used to really hate it when I would marginalise my own pain and it’s something that I still do. I can’t help but poke fun at my own hurts, like jabbing my index finger into a bruise over and over again, and I sort of wish he could see me sticking my proverbial tongue out at him on my blog.
Also, I was really young and immature when we were together, and I’d like him to see how much I’ve grown up. I chase my own tail with the logic of being forced into growing up because of his death and wanting him to see how much I’ve matured.
When you get to be my age — old enough to be your unwed teen mother — what will you look back and wish your 2010 self had known/done/tried …?
Finished college (still the eventual plan!), pursued having a book published (that’s been the plan since I was four!), spending more time with my parents (this one I have a lot better control over). I’m glad you asked this question. I needed reminders about how not to let another year slip between my fingers.
Do you have a theme song?
I feel like I have a new theme song every few weeks, but Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock & Roll is sort of my favourite-favourite. I hear it and I remember all the best things about being a little girl. It makes me think of not being able to let go, of holding onto the one thing that makes the most sense to you, no matter what other options you have. Half the time I think holding onto what makes sense is the best thing to do when I’m confused; the other half the time I think I should let go of the very thing that makes the most sense, just to see if I survive.
Which makes me think of “I Will Survive”, which may sound totally corny. But honestly, that song comes up on the rotation and I have to stop what I am doing and sing it at the top of my voice. And maybe it is a cliché, but that song is really about owning yourself and your own choices; about not letting some fool man walk all over you and get away with it. It’s about surviving on your own merits – rejecting someone else’s vision of you and carving your own path without them. Something I feel deeply in touch with.
Is there anything you wish I had asked? Anything you’d like readers to know to have a clearer picture of you?
I can’t think of a single thing.