Me on Blogging, and My Childhood, AGAIN

comments: 120

Thankyoupcs2This blog is becoming rather meta-blog, I know. But I read a really poignant post yesterday called "To Blog or Not to Blog" by Autum. She was talking about blogging in a way that I thought was so sincere and interesting, and important to consider, especially at the beginning of this season of joy and fun and, let's be honest, busy-ness and potential stress. Blogging can be lots of things. Most bloggers will say that they enjoy the sense of community; the inspiration; the ability to share and be shared with; the nice, neat feelings of being organized somewhere, at least; the profoundly moving experience of being listened to. But almost everyone that I've ever talked to about blogging feels, at some point, something else, something . . . not as wonderful.

I obviously don't know what those un-wonderful things are for everyone — I think they probably vary more for each individual than the positive aspects do. I know that for me, blogging itself — the actual writing of posts and taking photos — comes pretty easily. But I went to school for years to learn how to write and, you know, I actually worked for a photo-essay-book publisher for several years. So . . . that's helpful. The blog is the first time I've ever written about myself, in first-person; I hadn't known how much I'd needed to do or would enjoy doing that. Many times I write things that I never set out to say, and I do wake up every day wondering what the hell might come out of my mouth. The medium seems to fit the natural . . . environment of my brain. But I must admit that the most important thing about blogging for me is just doing it. I love the real-life friendships I've made, I love the supportive community that I'm lucky enough to find myself in, and I love feeling connected to so many people from other countries, regions, and cultures I never knew anything about.

But mostly I really like the sense of organization and expression that my own blogging has given me. I am someone who has always been easily overwhelmed; and expressing oneself in our family was really not encouraged. It actually wasn't even allowed. The smallest of dissentions was typically met with my father becoming hysterical and threatening (seriously) to have a heart attack, the guilt from which (he avidly threatened) would haunt us forever. Many, many times I thought that exact thing would happen, and it definitely did serve to keep us in line. The only conversation I clearly remember having with him about an opinion I had that didn't end in me crying alone in my room happened around 1977, when we both stood in the living room and agreed:

Me: "I love bell-bottoms!"
He: "Yeah, they're pretty cool."
Me: [Smile smile smile smile.]

That's exactly how it went. I still remember it. For years of my childhood I would also say dialogue that was not my own; it was how I tested out my theory that there was something wrong with the way my family communicated. I read often and everywhere, and I knew a lot about fictional families. I studied them. I memorized their habits. Then I'd walk into the kitchen, take off my boots, and say, "Snow, which was fun in December, is just boring, dirty, and downright cold in February." I liked that line. It was from A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry, one of my favorite then-and-now young-adult novels. But whereas in the novel it was clear that when Meg said things like this, her father pleasantly agreed (and probably even thought "My! How clever, her!"), people in my house would look at me as if I'd just farted, say "Shut up," and then go back to what they were doing. I tried this experiment many times, with dozens of different lines, and I never got the same kind of reaction the characters did. In fact, if some twelve-year-old started spewing stuff like this to me now I would know exactly what she was up to, and I like to think we'd be sitting down and having a nice talk about her life. (Actually, if someone else in my family had walked in and said something like that I probably would've told them to shut up, too.) (And actually, there was one time when I insisted that my family gather 'round to do a dramatic reading of Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and that did not go over well, but if you know that play you might know that they really can't be blamed for that one!)

But my dialogic experimentation was helpful in a lot of ways, because I thought that mostly the books were right and mostly the way we did it was wrong, and so from a very early age I started trusting books to show me other ways of being, and I feel lucky that I was able to do that. So while being a regular blogger has helped me stay organized within my life in a way I never have been before, it's also fostered a voice and a place where it's no big deal to lurch about, saying this or that, whatever it is, testing things, figuring out what I think, what lots of other people think. And that is something that has been invaluable to me, something I'd not experienced much before.

Minilanterns On the other hand, I think that for many Reserved (one of the best descriptions of introverts I've read) persons like me (and, I expect, many other crafters) the challenges that come with having any audience at all can be difficult to manage sometimes. All of us want, I think, to be able to respond to everyone's comments and questions, to check-in on our friends, to give help and advice when its needed. But the reality is that there is only so much time in a day — especially at this time of year — and only so many . . . relationships . . . one can do well. The nagging feeling that certain things, people, and opportunities have fallen through the cracks can be frustrating but . . . inevitable? I made a promise to myself early on in blogging that I would give what I could, when I could, because the important thing was to find a way to keep doing it — happily, without it feeling like a burden or another bundle of expectations to be dealt with. As women, I think we are well-trained to do whatever we have to do to meet anyone and everyone's expectations, and blogging can create even more of those. But to me, there are lots of kinds of blogs, and I don't mean genres like "craft" or "political"; I mean: some are sporadic posters, some are personal, some share tutorials, some gather work from others, some show only one's own stuff, some are brilliant at sourcing products, some have ads, some invite conversation and debate, some just put it out there and leave it be, no comments necessary. There's room for them all. I hope we can allow ourselves the freedom to let our own, and each other's, be just whatever they are.

As the postcards say, thank you. As always. For listening, and contributing, how-ever you do.


Reserved. Yep, that's me also :) The description fits like a glove, and it's nice to know there are actually so many out there. Lovely post, as always, Alicia.

Wonderful post Alicia.

i love your open-ness, Alicia! in many ways, i wish i had the guts to say so myself, share my personal history and feelings. i myself am very "reserved" (love the term. i used to call myself "a snail" when i was little), largely due to a chilhood lacking completely privacy and personal space and a very overbearing mother with control issues. it's funny and sad but to this day only two people know me to who i truely am, one of them is my partner.
i think that when i started blogging it was about trying to make new friends (a difficult task for me), looking for validation in many ways. recently i find that i've been sharing more, being more natural and more frank with myself - by writing to complete strangers. that's some sort of a relief.
i personally, still hold back, though. not because my parents sometimes read my blog, or some strange sense of "what will the neighbors say" (a recurring theme in my childhood). maybe it's me, naturally needing thoughts that should remain just mine, maybe i'm just not yet strong/confident enough. i don't know. time will tell.
thank you for that post, it really got me thinking.


Thank you for sharing that slice of your childhood. The detail of using fictional dialog blew my mind sufficiently enough that I need to go make a cup of tea before I continue working.

I feel I am on the verge of a blog rebirth or something, and your words are a big comfort. As always.

I almost feel guilty leaving yet another comment when I know how busy you are! I love what Autumn and you both wrote.

I had a more personal blog for years and after my daughter was born almost two years ago I started sharing pix of her that sometimes got strange and uncomfortable (deleted!) comments from strangers.

I also would write posts now and then that would cause people to lash out at me (I didn't know breastfeeding and parental rights in the workplace could cause so much hate mail!). After the last horrible comment I deleted that blog without hesitation. I never meant to anger people and I didn't like the stress it caused...

I created a new blog (inspired by the great crafting community I've found!) that I hope will be more of a joy to write.

Dood. Yeah.

It's so amazing how off-putting a single "harumph" can be, much less a series of them.

I've been trying to teach my husband the #1 rule of improv acting: say YES first. Beginning of a good improv: "What a nice day to be on the beach." "Yes, let's skip rocks."
DEAD END: "What a nice day to be on the beach." "We're not at the beach, we're skiing." (Read: You're an ass, I'm in charge.)

You don't have to agree wholeheartedly: "Yes, but I'm rather tired now and ready to go home." "Yes, but I don't like the sand between my toes." "Yes, but I do prefer the woods."

The "Yes, BUT" can get a little old, but it's worlds better than "Nuh-uh!" or "Shutup" "Who cares?"

In improv, starting with No makes it boring, impossible, and painful for the audience (and participants). In life, responding with No is the same way, and it means you can't play or do or even just be cooperatively. Bleh.

"from a very early age I started trusting books more than I trusted my parents judgment on many things"

Wow...I so relate to this, tho I've never been able to express it so eloquently. My family officially dubbed me the bookworm as I spent every waking hour with a book in my hand, even spending lunch breaks at school in the library. I guess it was a great way to escape the not-so-happy family I was a part of....tho I won't complain. Books are still my best friends. ;-)

when I started to read your blog and look at your beautiful photos..and crafts.. I enjoyed.. but then came out some special post..where you had put so much of your soul.. I felt so near to you..
I love your special posts lşke this one.. the words you choose.. the way you figure out an analyse.. I love words.. and emotions..
sometimes there are so many ideas popping in my head during the day.. but don't have the time or opportunity of sharing this with people.. then I write them..and leave them in the virtual floods.. like the message in the bottle..
thank you too for sending a message in abottle..I am sure they reach someone in immediate need..

dear alicia,
i am a new blogger and new to your blog... this post is stunning, thought-provoking, moving... thank you so much for writing it. it's wonderful too to read your comments and see how much this resonates... i am still trying to find a comfortable space, a comfortable voice, but i hope that it will come.

I love who you are and the things you share with us

Not having my own blog, I find that just coming to visit yours makes me feel listened to, surprisingly. When you articulate something that I feel but hadn't thought through before, I feel understood and validated. I love the written word and love how you use it. It's magical what you do. Visiting your blog makes me smile. Thank you!

jeanne-marie says: November 30, 2006 at 07:42 PM

God, I wish I could do it, Ali. I just can't let anonymous people into my head. I can barely let the people I love into my head. I still write, a lot. I have half-filled marbled composition books stashed all over the house. But anyone who comes across them knows they are not to be opened. Yet. I don't know when I'll be able to open them to other people.

I took 13 years of piano lessons before arriving at our college. Ever heard me play? I play beautifully. Only a handful of people know this, and then only as a myth. They've heard I can play, but they've never *heard* me play. This is because I only play when there is not a soul in the house. I know that once in a while my mom will be coming home from an errand, and she'll open the car door and hear me, and she'll stand there, or creep to a window where she can hear me better. On these rare occasions I keep playing, even though I know she's there. Other times I bolt. For everyone else, I bolt.

I can sing, too. I'm a lovely alto. Not that anyone's ever going to hear it. It continues to drive my mom crazy. "God gave you talents! Use them! Don't hide your light under a bushel!!!"

But writing is scary. I was thumbing through Little, Big the other night (I love that book -- I can open to any page and just start reading) and the theme is true, at least for me. The farther you go in, the bigger it gets. I honestly fear for my sanity if I were to really take it to the wall, you know? So I never go that far in. Or away. Or down. Or up. What if I can't find my way back? What if the place I come back to has changed since I left? What if I come back changed?

You're my hero. (Dead serious, here.) I'm just a chicken hiding a light under a bushel.


bushelhead jmc

p.s. -- The fact that I'm doing, right now, what I declare to be my nightmare -- to publish -- is not lost upon me. I'm doing what I say I can't do. Vicariously. Through you.

Maybe I should just open my blog back up. Aaaaaaaaaaarrrgh! Why do you always push me into doing stuff I don't want to do? Like ironing. Like cooking. Like wearing clothes that have flowers on them. Like pestering me to make that call to that boy who became my husband. Like inspiring me to start writing in earnest again. AAAaaaaarrrggghhh!

I'm in complete awe of this post.
Beautiful images, inspiring words.

Absolutely perfect. I am so lucky to have found your blog, it has become my touchstone in the evenings. Thank you for speaking from the heart what so many of us feel.

Beautiful thoughts.

lovely post, thank you. One of my favorite articles about introversion is an Atlantic article from a couple years back. I thought you might enjoy it.


That's EXACTLY how I feel and you've managed to write it in so beautiful a fashion; written out all neat and clean and linear! Thank you for writing this, you have managed to (in a way) tidy up my stacks of unorganized thoughts in that dimly lit brain of mine.

You are my blogging hero tonight!

Wow. Thank you for this post. I found it very moving and meaningful. I'm subscribing to your blog right now! (found my way over here from little birds)

Thank you so very much for this post. I, too, am going through my own struggles about how much I invest in this whole crazy blogging thing.

I love how honest you are about your past. I hope I see my past in the same clear way you look at yours.

Thank you for sharing.

big kiss.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at