Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blogging Bare-Assed

"There ain't much time left, you're born out of this insane abyss and you're going to fall back into it,
so while you're alive you might as well show your bare ass."
--Jim Carroll

I've been reading Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters (2009), by Scott Rosenberg.

That, and other stuff I'm looking at about online social media, has got me thinking about my history as a blogger, and about a central question it poses:
How naked are you wanting to go?

The Internet took this question out of the private or artistic spheres--diaries, bedrooms, poetry, portraiture--and forced it on computer users.
Right away, we have to decide how honestly we're going to fill this in:
Name: _____________

All my life I've wanted to get naked down to the bones.
In my first computer tutorial, in April 1992, I drew this self-portrait on Mac Paint (below). There was nowhere to share it online of course. I printed it out and pasted it next to a self-portrait as a sea creature in my visual journal.

But I'd grown up feeling ashamed (the psychic equivalent of dental pain), and I wanted to hide too.
I labelled my journal the Stay Out Coloring Book.I'm sorry I was so afraid, but since I was, it was smart of me not to expose myself too much.

LEFT: My first computer tutorial, April 1992, from my visual journal. (Thank you, Fred Zinn!)

(Hey! Remember that classic Mac bomb screen of death? I'd totally forgotten it till I saw it in this drawing (click to embiggen).
It meant the system had crashed, and you'd lost all the work you hadn't backed up.)

Because I worked in a college library, I got online earlier than I would have on my own.
The World Wide Web was barely two years old in 1992; Gopher was operating out of the University of Minnesota, down the road.
But the new library director who came on board was frightened by change, and we never used these. Our computers served as superTypewriters and mail-delivery systems.

But e-mail! What a dream.
I started to spend my evenings at the circ desk writing. I bombarded friends and wondered why most of them didn't write back in kind. Weren't they bug-eyed with delight too?

I really needed a blog, but they didn't exist yet; and when they began, I didn't find them for a long time.

I was afraid of a lot of things, and one of them was men. If I hadn't been afraid, I think I'd have made friends with the sort of guys who'd have introduced me to cool computer stuff. (Yes, I was even afraid of nerds and geeks. I know.)

I finally found blogs through just such a guy: a friend's husband who'd blogged from almost the beginning. I commented so much on his blog, he encouraged me to start my own. (Thanks, Tim!)
He also gave me great advice:
"Don't stop blogging. If you don't have anything to write, post something from the NYT."

I started blogging "flightless parrots" (named after New Zealand's kakapo, right) on September 10, 2004.

By September 13, I was already talking about how slippery it was to present myself honestly:
"I was playing around with different ways I could describe myself.
Here are two descriptions of me, both true:

1. I'm a half-Sicilian ex-janitor who lives with a parrot.

2. My ancestors came from Scotland, some of them. I worked for many years as a college librarian, and I keep a pet bird."
I wrote almost every day. I rarely mentioned my mother's suicide (less than two years earlier), but looking over some of the posts I'd saved, I can tell it's the ever-present baseline.

I posted this quote as my guiding philosophy:
"When I think about people with whom I have the deepest sense of community, I think of people who have been able to share with me their contradictions, their brokenness--thus allowing me to share mine.
When we present ourselves to the world as smooth and seamless, we allow each other no way in, no way into life together. But as we acknowledge and affirm that the cross is the shape of our lives, we open a space within us where community can occur."
--Parker Palmer (He's a Quaker; that's why he uses the cross to symbolize suffering, courage, and renewal.)

So, I wanted to be emotionally naked. (There was no easy way to post pix, so physical revelation wasn't an issue.)
Or I thought I did.
But I ended up exposing more than I really felt comfortable with.
The work left me feeling, as I wrote, "like a sock that is turned inside-out. All the tender inside is pulled to the outside."
Twice at parties, friends of the hosts--people I didn't even know read my blog--told me they liked it. I realized I wasn't anonymous and invisible, which kind of freaked me out.
Then some blog-friendships hit rough road, and I didn't know how to ride that out.

I ended up deleting the whole blog in 2005.
I've written about this before, but I guess I'm still doing the autopsy.

After a two-year break, I missed blogging so much, I risked starting this blog in October 2007. Maybe one day I'll stop blogging? But I promised myself I'd not delete a whole blog again--that ended up feeling too violent.

What does blogging honestly mean to me now?
I'm not sure.
I'm not particularly afraid anymore (or not of the same things).
Emotions and men don't make me want to run for cover (usually).
Posting photos of my ass veiled in 3M window film doesn't bother me (much).
And I've come out about so many things so many times, the closet door fell off.

But it's still hard work to uncover the naked bones. It's still tricky to handle the fragile sea creature without damaging it.
My blog is still where I try to strip off. (Sometimes more, sometimes less.) I'm often more interested at midlife in uncovering ideas than raw feeling (that was reversed when I was younger), but the work is much the same.

My blog is my Come In Coloring Book.
I'm glad to be here.
I'm glad you're here too.


Rudyinparis said...

Love the skeleton drawing.

Also, love your two descriptions of yourself. I mean, it's so true, if I wanted to come up with a succinct little overview of Who I Am I could come up with easily half a dozen, none of which had much in common. So interesting.

I'm glad you started blogging again.

Lill said...

When you go into yourself, Fresca, there is always beauty. It takes a great deal of courage to put the posts out that are showing your emotional bones. Those are the ones I wait for while enjoying everything in between. This is one of those I wait for, knowing it will come, but never when.

There should be a place in the communications book for this history. Maybe you will do another book about people's stories of being freed (or not) by communications technology.

Anonymous said...

Jeeeezuzzz! I love you, grrrl! Thank you for your gifts of willingness and waiting and not waiting to jump anyway and of wisdom! you are helping to make my own getting shit done feel more purposeful and therapeutic than it seems most of the time! Cuz of course, I'm engaged in sifting through artifacts from my and daughters' pasts...
In response to this and some other words, here's what I meant to share through your blog back in April, but didn't: a poem by the English born Tasmanian Sarah Day, from her first published collection, A HUNGER TO BE LESS SERIOUS.


It occurred to me today, the difference,
yours and mine, out there among the rockpools
on the beach.

Even now you hang back,
loath to touch the fleshy female forms
recoiling from the plump translucent lips

of scarlet sea creatures--phantom lives
which float unanchored and without direction
beneath the glassy surface.

Oblivious to sound and touch and smell you only see
and only what you want to see.
A little boy you knelt for hours on end

beside the smooth shallows,
absorbed by tiny patterns, subtle shadows,
species only patience will reward.

I could not wait, I liked to see things move,
to hold them in my hand, to feel a hundred
tickling legs wriggling through finger spaces.

It gave you the willies the way I'd poke inside
the magic sequined rings of broken shale and shell
to feel the life inside respond and hold.

Keep doin' what you love and lovin' what you do!


Clowncar said...

A brave piece of writing, Fresca.

I love this: "When we present ourselves to the world as smooth and seamless, we allow each other no way in, no way into life together." Showing contradictions and brokenness, cautioning not to present ourselves as complete and fully formed. As we never are.

Though I must confess I pretty much do just that. I'm not too naked in my own blogging. I present my life and self as pretty seamless, though I do let the occasional broken edge show. I'd like to believe I save my truer self for my fiction. That a deeper honesty can be obtained through fiction than non-fiction. There's truth in that. It's a different kind of naked. But I must admit I like that distance that fiction allows.

Clowncar said...

One more thing. This - "I rarely mentioned my mother's suicide, but looking over some of the posts I'd saved, I can tell it's the ever-present baseline." - is marvelous. That phrase "ever-present baseline" is so succinct, and honest, and true.

Glad you ask us to come in. Glad to be here.

Margaret said...

All I have to say is: para-verse.

(That is not all I have to say.)

I was just thinking about this: I was going to post a picture set in my room, but I thought "they can't know where I sleep, christssake!"

I've come out about so many things so many times, the closet door fell off.

I love this image.

I think part of the reason someone might be hesitant to blog honestly, is that you usually blog about something on the premise that it matters; and it feels dangerous to say "I matter" because there are a lot of other nouns in the world - it feels silly, so you blog about stuff you can be sure doesn't amount; that way if anyone's laughing, you're laughing with them, (even if you don't think it's funny).

. . . somehow similar to the Voice of the Sock Monkey.

femminismo said...

Beautiful post! So happy, too, you are still blogging. Maybe you've even reinspired me! Going down to the bones (is there a blog named this?) would feel good ... but do even I want to know that much about myself? I guess I won't know until I try. I too loved all those great sentences/metaphors/expressions you've coined. Great blogging, girl!

momo said...

I have resigned myself to the dual situation that I am refraining from writing about many things in deference to people who have told me they don't want me to, yet knowing that they almost never read my blog. As a result, I'm writing less and less. Maybe I need to start up another one and not tell them about it.

Your willingness to write truthfully is one your best qualities!

Fresca said...

RUDY: I'd love to read a half-dozen descriptions of who you are!
Or---that'd be a fun game, to ask friends to write our profiles.
It's so hard to describe ourselves in small bits--we are multi-faceted. That's why I'm always changing my "about me" profile.

LILL: "This is one of those I wait for..."
Yeah, I like writing these too--I LIKE getting down to the bones, even though it's hard. Probably more than fear, it is time/energy that keeps me from writing more like this.
(It took me 5 hours to write this! Including time to find and photograph the old journal, and to get up and make coffee, etc. And then I was drained for the day.)
The more I work on other projects, the less I have the oopmh to do this sort of personal writing.

STEF: That brought tears to my eyes---the poem about poking into the anemone to feel life. Thank you for "seeing" me.

CLOWN: "I save my truer self for my fiction"
You know, I can see that.
Of course I'm reading myself into them (how not?); but I see in the fiction you've posted chunks of raw bleeding flesh or exquisite shooting nerve pain.
E.g. The dance class = the pain of standing outside Eden looking in, after the fall from grace
and The children's teeth = how the fragments of death keep us re-experiencing loss over and over and over--are they gifts, because they keep the loved one in our presence? or curses, because they won't go away?

MARGARET: "it feels dangerous to say "I matter""
I struggle with this over and over too, from every possible direction. Like, the Gulf is awash in oil and I'm blogging about my tooth?
Or, You're almost 50, get over "it" already (where "it" every pain I've ever felt.
But you know, I don't honestly believe those inner voices--they are the voice of reduction, and I believe in expansion.
Each of us DOES matter.
Since "us" is a collection of 'I's", each "I" is gifted with the chance to live as bigly as possible.
Whatever that means to each "I" is up to that individual.

I think it's way too easy to disclose too much on this modern technology. There are so few checks and balances.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was when I bought my first laptop and a stranger turned to me as I left the store with my Apple in a box and said to me, "Take it slow!"

FISMO: I don't know if there's a blog called "Going down to the bones" but there's a great book about writing called "Writing Down the Bones," by Natalie Goldberg.
It inspired and informed me, way back when, and it's probably somewhere behind the imagery I used in writing this post, along with a whole bunch of other influences.

MOMO: Other people... that's a whole 'nother dilemma.
It's great to blog with the censorship off--sounds like a fresh more anonymous blog might offer a kind of liberation?

Lill said...

Perhaps the tone of reverence with which I responded to this post did not come through in my comment. Five hours of your life you gave to us, and to yourself -- five hours, in my opinion, extremely well spent. Thank you for your generous gift.

Fresca said...

Thanks, LILL. No, I did hear your praise--sorry if I wasn't clear--and appreciate it, and you're welcome. What I was trying to say is that it's great when what I want to write is what other people want to read!

aleph said...

Your blog is juicy indeed, Fresca! This post is also really interesting, specially the way in which you perceive yourself and are able to verbalize and share. Me myself... I panic at the idea of getting too naked in my own blogm and at the same time I only post when I feel naked enough inside and able to flow from my cave/interior. And the expression "like a sock that is turned inside-out" perfectly describes the sort of "overexposure" I fear so much. Again, thks a lot for sharing these thinking & feeeling of yours, :).

Fresca said...

Thanks, Aleph! Yes, the balance is tricky---maybe we are like photographic film--we need the right balance of light and dark, etc. to creates a good picture...
(Or some metaphor like that---I'm not sure exactly how developing film works. )