When this blog was a newspaper column, it held a different tenor for me as a writer. It was an honor of sorts to be “chosen” by the newspaper editor and permitted to write weekly. In the beginning, which was 1996, I recall the feeling of seeing my byline and photograph accompanied by a sense of accomplishment and pride. My editor vetted my column, rarely changing content, but sometimes correcting syntax, questioning a statement I’d made, asking me if perhaps re-wording it would be to my advantage. I was held accountable. And once published, it was a “reward.”
These days, it seems that nearly everyone has a blog on nearly everything. The newspapers I worked for in the past have, for the most part, folded – a sad sign of the times, but understandable as the delivery of news has become so immediate what with the Internet and broadcast media. “Breaking News!” flashes red on the screen so frequently that our hearts no longer stop as we see what we used to call “bulletins.”
I read about the advent of The Kindle taking over, and the notion of books becoming obsolete, and wonder how this could happen. I mean, how will we underline in a Kindle and make notes in the margins? For me, reading wouldn’t be the same. There is something comforting about a dog-eared paperback, the spine broken, the feel of the paper as we wet our finger and turn the page.
But back to the ubiquitous blogger where an adjective frequently used to describe the writer/blogger is “self-absorbed.” Given that blogs allow us all personal forums with no accountability to, say, an editor, and that The Internet allows us to “post” regardless of content, there is no editor to guide or reject us – so, how professional is a blog juxtaposed, for example, to a newspaper column? Am I a dinosaur teetering upon becoming a fossil as I ask if a blog truly represents my art and my profession since anyone can create this forum for themselves? In truth, of late, although my blog is written from my heart and soul, and redolent of my column and novels, its presentation is beginning to feel like a sham.
I could sit down this week and write about Tiger Woods (for sure, that would get me plenty of “hits” – just this mention probably did), and yet hundreds of people have already written about him from bloggers, tabloid reporters, and sports writers to psychologists and relationship experts. The latest spread in Vanity Fair (which I bought last night at Duane Reade for the simple reason that I felt I should since everyone is talking about it) made me question my integrity: No doubt, in a few weeks, we will hear that the “Tiger” issue was Vanity Fair’s biggest seller ever. All I have felt in the last several weeks is sorry for his wife and children. Did Elin Nordegren know the man she married? Was she dancing with the devil? Or was she, like so many wives, subconsciously refusing to believe what she knew deep down inside, and perhaps trying too hard to believe that she could either change him or that her instincts were incorrect and merely cultivated by the rumor mills? There he is on the cover of Vanity Fair, and I paid money for the notoriety, while wondering if Elin is anything like me and the rest of us who, if “scorned,” would just want to alternately crawl inside a hole and take a swing at the infidel – with a golf club or any other heavy object.
I could write that December was a difficult month. It was my first birthday, first Christmas and first New Year’s Eve without my mother. And although I am too old for party hats and balloons, Santa, and noisemakers, and although for the last five years of her life she was in no state of mind to be aware of the holidays and occasions that fall in December, her absence was profound. It brought me to yet another stage in my life. It was an exercise in not jumping ahead (God willing at least 30 years) and picturing my children feeling what I felt this past December. On the Monday after New Year’s, I spent the day clearing out the old and bringing in the new which ended up being the equivalent of three Hefty bags. I went through all the Hallmark cards from my husband and kids that accumulated over the last year (OK, years) and tossed most of them into the trash unless there was something personal and poignant written on them besides the printed text. And even then, it was hard to part with them. I forced myself to think about the hundreds of cards in my parents’ apartment haphazardly tossed in cardboard boxes that were clearly forgotten by my parents – the fate of the cards left for me. As my three Hefty bags bumped one another down the incinerator chute, I wondered: Am I depriving my children of memories, or am I sparing them (one day) the agonizing task of deciding what to keep, what to toss, and the questions they would have after reading old mail?
Lastly, I could write about families, and how I now believe that dynamics are rooted at young ages, and probably never change despite efforts made in the spirit of love and friendship, and loyalty and compassion. I could write about the notion that try as I might not to be, I rest on the brink of becoming jaded. And then I ask whether it’s jaded or sadly realistic. I could write that disappointment is hard to bear and feeling like one has been taken for a fool is humiliating. This, of course, leaves readers wondering why I feel this way (and then I think about Elin Nordegren again – despite her celebrity status and wealth – does she hurt any less as a woman?) And, of course, if I write about the notion of families, disappointment and dysfunctional dynamics, then I am guilty of writing a tell-all – and those sorts of blogs, columns and books (self-absorbed exposes, if you will) are loathsome to me. My mother’s words from long ago are haunting as she often advised me to “toughen up.” Then again, when I acted thick-skinned, she called me on it, “Don’t be such a starker,” she’d say. In German, ‘starker’ loosely translates as “tough guy.” Sometimes, with her, it was a no win. As much as I miss her, I have not romanticized her or our relationship. We were sometimes at odds – as mothers and daughters are. For sure, there was passion between us. But yes, I do need to be tougher while true to myself.
And so, I continue to wonder what to blog about this week, or even if I should blog at all since I’ve never been one to jump on band wagons and follow trends. Now, if I had written this blog for a newspaper, my editor might have called me into her office and advise me to “Pick One Topic.”
As a former editor, I might tell my columnist, “This blog is all over the map! Talk about Tiger. Talk about Family. Talk about your mother. Not all three. Who the hell do you think you are? Virginia Woolf?”
The bottom line is that I am a writer. Yet I am no Virginia Woolf — so does this stream of consciousness make me guilty of being “just another self-absorbed blogger?” Yet without a pen (or a keyboard, as the case may be), I am not at a loss for words, but simply at a loss.