Back when the Dancing with Pain blog launched, journalist Paula Kamen interviewed me for an article in the New York Times – a feature on blogs about chronic health conditions. In it, she mentioned how I had a hard time landing my story in mainstream women’s mags, because they wanted tidy narratives and the Lance Armstrong ending.
What I’ve come to understand over the years of blogging is that it’s not just the women’s mags who want a tidy narrative. It’s a whole heap o’ people. Somehow, if you are telling the tale of woe from the finish line, where you’ve already hoisted yourself out of the heap, freed yourself from the jaws of alligators, and sprinted your torn-up ass all the whole way home, people see your struggle as evidence of strength.
But if you’re sharing the journey along the way, and if that journey is one hell of a messy ride, and if you haven’t quite yet crossed the finish line, those same people may see you as a fuckup – identifying you with the crazy circumstances, instead of recognizing you as someone with the muscle to get through it and instead of cheering you along the way.
I think that’s a reflection on how people cope with their own difficulties. They simply project that thinking onto others. I keep wondering if people like Elizabeth Gilbert’s millions of fans would be so encouraging and admiring of her if they’d met her when she was only partway through the Eat-Pray-Love journey.
Blogging is an interesting phenomenon that (obviously) hasn’t happened before: Artist at Work is now Artist at Work on Display. In this blog, for example, I share my process, not just the container of a fully-developed story. And often I only share the really hard stuff, because that’s what I’m working out. Part of my process of working it out is writing it out.
I think it’s most interesting and sacred to accompany someone on their journey in life, to be with them through the hills and valleys, instead of to wait till they get home to tell the tale. To witness The Odyssey in action instead of reading about it in a book. But as I have come to realize, a lot of people just can’t stomach it.