Reading through all of the posts from the last few weeks, I took a step back and looked at our community and thought … what a beautiful mess we are. At our core, each of us is a deeply flawed and broken human being trying to make our way through this life in the best way that we can. And you can call me optimistic or naive or whatever, but I cannot help but think that in doing the best that we can, there are very few of us who set out to hurt someone else in the process.
That is part of what of makes this community so precious to me. We open our souls and expose the pain, the longing, and the loneliness that we feel sitting behind these screens. We throw it out into the ether and hope that some kindred spirit will find it, and by that, we’ll be a little less alone. That instead of our otherness, we’ll feel togetherness.
I think that what happened was very much like an earthquake. It may have been a sudden release that blew up on us, but the tension that was released has been a long time in the making. We are divided, whether we like it or not, by our circumstances in life. Those circumstances have the potential to drive a wedge between us if we don’t make the effort to stay empathetic and reach out outside of our own narrow worldview. But we are all connected as well, by the pain that brought us to blogosphere in the first place. With children, without children, trying, not trying — and infinite subdivisions beneath. Those subdivisions, those subcommunities — we string them together, identifying with one and then another, like pearls making up a single necklace.
I offered up three topics in my salon:
- If your infertility journey was resolved via parenting, do you think of yourself as a parent who dealt with infertility? Or as an infertile who is now parenting? Do you think that there is a difference between the two? Does your self-image shape the way you write? If your infertility journey was resolved (or ended, I’m unsure of how best to phrase this) without children, how did that affect your self-image as a writer in the ALI community?
- If your infertility journey was resolved via parenting,when you gave birth or were matched with your child, did you continue to post with the expectation that your readers now knew you had a child, move to a new blog space, change your blog name, provide “children mentioned” warnings in your titles, or some other path? If your infertility journey was resolved without children, did you continue to post with the expectation that your readers now knew you were not longer pursuing parenthood, move a new blog space, change your blog name, or some other path? What factors went into making your decision? If your infertility has not been resolved, how do you view and/or respond to the transition of those who are moving between states?
- Whose responsibility is it to protect the reader’s heart, the author or the reader? [This question to is very interesting to me because I have seen discussion on it outside of the IF community.]
The answer to the first question was mixed. And it seemed from the responses that the self-image of “infertile” or “parent” was correlated with how closely the respondent was to TTC. Then Moxie went and dropped the “Mental Infertility” bomb on us and answered the question that I was trying to ask, even if I didn’t quite get it phrased right. If you haven’t read that, go, now. Read the comments. And then read the rest of the series.
For the second question, most of the respondents were writers who had achieved parenthood. And most of those respondents have slightly modified their blog title, added information to the “about me” section, added a PAIL badge, moved to the PAIF room in Mel’s blogroll, or in some other way tried to identify their blog as a now-parenting blog. Most do not give post-by-post disclaimers, but instead rely on the reader to be aware that they are a now-parenting blog and to thusly choose to read or to click away. I think it is interesting though — three respondents made the choice (or had the choice made for them) to stop treatments and live without children. Of those three, two chose to start entirely new blogs and the third started blogging many years after stopping. The researcher part of me now wants to go and survey the entire childless/free-after-infertility blogroll and see if that path is more common to that demographic than for writers who are now parenting-after-IF…
The answer to the third question was almost unanimous: a blog is the writer’s space, and the reader has the choice to be there or not. Almost all of the respondents said that they use their blog to talk about their lives, their fears, their frustrations and that if they lose readers for being honest, well, so be it. Which I really think is healthy for our community. I think that the moment we start censoring ourselves, we put ourselves back in the box of “otherness” that drove us to blogging in the first place. I think if we are blogging in order to make connections and to find our tribe, the worst thing that we can do is to put on a false face. At that point, what IS the point? The internet is a big place. The ALI community is a big place. And as writer/readers, we have a plethora of potential friendships — but you have to be true to yourself, to be authentic to pick out the ones that matter to you.
I think it is important for us to take what happened and to learn from it. So for the record, here is the list of all of the other Healing Salons, and here is the list of summaries. I’m going to leave comments open on this post and on my original Healing Salon post (hah! like I ever close comments) so if you want to talk more about these topics, the space is there.
Now, to quote a friend, go forth and do good things.
*Better late than never, eh? Life, I swear.