I have a secret that is fast becoming not a secret. I have a new job. I haven’t started yet, but I’ll leave my good and very busy mothering-writing and thinking life– Monday, February 6. I am honestly quite sad and fearful about leaving this extraordinary time with my daughter and this chance to write and to reflect and to do some other things.
I am a worrier. I am not a worrier who argues that my worries and fears are justified. But nonetheless, my brain is often occupied– I was inundated somehow, early in my life, with certain Jewish patterns– patterns of fears and worry, and a hearty dose of sadness and loss. A dose of “Oy, oy, the glass is half empty!”.
In other words, as scared as I’ve been about not having a job, I am that scared and then some about having gotten this job. It’s a legal job; it’s a legislative legal job– which is to say I’ll be doing work on a particular set of issues with a legislative body and not with individual clients. It’s a good job. It lines up nicely with many of the things I wanted to do next. I’ll tell more about it as time goes by or I won’t– but for now suffice it to say, getting this offer and then accepting it–has been a huge roller coaster. Mostly a roller coaster that has felt as though I was on a downward, gravity-intensifying plunge. And I didn’t know what to say, or how I could tell it– or whether it was prudent to tell as real decisions were being made. So I went silent here for almost 20 days which is way, way too long for me.
But this silence reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about for a while.
It’s about this kind of blog and what does one tell? What does one omit? How do I figure out those things and how do you, a reader, come to know what it all means?
In the course of my job search, one morning following a particular night of sleeplessness because the panic dial was turned up high–I emailed an old friend who I know from this city and with whom I was very close for many years– a long time ago. Later, but still a long time ago, he moved to California. We’ve had a few ups and downs in our friendship. But I count him and I think he counts me, as a Good Friend– across the miles. He’s a very good, smart, interesting, Jewish gay man.
So on the morning after the afore-mentioned very hard night, I emailed him and simply told him what a hard time I was having. How alone I felt. I didn’t do that often with many people when I was right in the thick of it. It hadn’t occurred to me that he could help, but he wrote back immediately and offered up five old friends of his here–for me to contact. He did some other important things for me too. But the most important thing was that he rose to the occasion, put his brain in gear, offered some concrete help and that bad morning I remembered I wasn’t doing this alone.
I followed up on one of his suggestions pretty quickly and then my mother-in-law had surgery, my daughter was having a particularly hard time and some other things were happening but I hadn’t written about them here. Partly I didn’t have time– and partly I didn’t have insight; I had complaints and worries.
Sometime after my friend offered some actual help and I had done some follow- up with one of his leads– and all the other things I just mentioned had been taking my time and attention (mother-in-law’s surgery, partner gone, daughter having a tough time) here is what happened. I didn’t blog about the hassles and upsets and I stopped emailing my friend for several weeks. Not on purpose; the time just passed as things were happening. Eventually, he wondered why I’d not followed up with him and with some of the leads he gave me. He emailed, just wondering, was there perhaps something wrong?
I took his email as pressure and wrote something sort of defensive at best, but with a kind of “would you get off my back?” tone. This– to my friend who had offered help in my time of need. Then there was more communication and I had the good sense to back up and explain at least a little about the mother-in-law surgery, the traveling partner, the daughter who battled about not wanting to go to school in the morning. Then I apologized. I hope sufficiently.
But in the course of straightening it out he said something that I’ve kept thinking about. He said “I had no idea things were so hard– I had even gone and checked your blog….and it sounded like all was well.”
I thought a lot about that. The difficulty and strangeness of the possible answers ran through my head. Should I say, “Well you can’t really expect to find out what’s actually, truly going on with me here can you?”
Or worse, “Well, you never know, sometimes I reveal a lot of what’s happening with me here, but sometimes I just can’t write the hard stuff and you just don’t know which is which as you read”.
I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What is the blog anyway? It’s not a short story. It’s not a poem. It’s not a how-to book. Maybe an essay from time to time. But it’s not a diary or a newspaper either. It’s intimate but it’s also not a comprehensive account of anything.
It made me think about the questions–what is worth telling; what do I choose to tell; what do I omit and how does a reader piece it all together? I have many strengths and many failings and fears to deal with– but many of those are too embarrassing or too private (whatever that means) and many of them are just not interesting. What can I or should I in good conscience tell when it involves telling on someone else?
As a woman who wants justice in this world, a woman who thinks good stories and poems and songs are part of what will help us get there– and as a mother, my business is the business of the Jewish-mother- of- a- daughter- of-color-who- came- to- me- by- adoption and a woman-writer-blogger. And in my business figuring out how to talk truthfully is a pretty important thing. My business is about raising a child, as Grace Paley once said, “righteously up”; about talking as straight as I know how about adoption, and about myself and about race and Jews and gentiles and sexism and homophobia and now at my daughter’s age, about bodies and women and fairness and a lot of other things. I do subscribe to the old saying I heard long ago– that two half-truths make one whole lie.
But truth-telling is a wide open field and very general as a guideline. The rest I have to figure out, week by week, word by word, blog post by blog post. As for you, in the name of full disclosure, I’ll offer advice. If you want to know reliably whether a particular day or week was one where I soared or hid under the covers– whether I laughed a lot or cried or just got by– you should call or email. Because to be truthful, I’m not always telling all that here.