Sunday, September 30, 2012

Take 100 lines

Ah well. Anonymous finds me irritating because I sometimes whinge about missing my absent offspring. I should count myself lucky that I have them.
I sympathise with Anon because I too frequently find myself irritating. I apologise to her and anyone else who feels the same. The trouble is, no matter how much you feel you should count your blessings – and indeed no matter how much you do count your blessings – it doesn’t necessarily make you feel better. Not all the time, not completely.
However, though I can’t help how I feel, she may be right that we bloggers should stiffen the upper lip. One of the questions this raises in my mind is: who do I imagine is reading this? The rather naïve answer is: the twenty or thirty regular commenters whom I’ve come to think of as friends, even though we're unlikely ever to meet (though in fact I’ve met a surprising ten of them). And they probably don’t all that much mind me complaining, as I wouldn’t if they did. (Indeed, some of them sometimes do.) Another hundred-ish people read the blog most days but I very seldom think about them because – it's hard to think about people if you know nothing about them. Do I write for them? Well, perhaps slightly. Really I write for myself. My natural reaction to life is to write. The comments are (almost always) a bonus, an accumulating relationship with individuals.
Most of us, I imagine, have burdens of sadness that we carry around; usually we never find out about those of passing acquaintances. The bloggy world is rather different – we’re mainly strangers to each other but some bloggers unburden themselves to some extent – in some cases, a lot. By contrast, other brave souls are consistently sunny. But no one tells it all. We present a picture of ourselves on our blogs. It’s probably true but it’s not the whole truth. I have other big worries that I don’t blog about. Does that get me any credit?
Yesterday morning on Radio 4 a chap was offering to suggest poems to console people with particular sorrows. He asked listeners to contact the programme. There was an immediate response, and I smiled wryly to hear him say that the vast majority of the first responders were parents missing their children who’d just left for university. I wondered if Anon was listening to that and tutting.
Anyway, I do take your point, Anon, but  … a suggestion. If I irritate you or anyone else, I really am sorry but - just don’t read me. There are lots of better, jollier, funnier, more interesting blogs around.


  1. Anon should woman up and be brave enough to acknowledge her existence, and that of others! I listened to that article yesterday morning too, and found it enchanting. Prescribing poems instead of pills. Fabulous. Come on, Anon, get a poetry book! I love this blog. I love its reality, its poignant emotion in the face of reality, and its irrepresible faith in this life itself.

  2. Ah so Anon has found a voice - but not a name!
    He or she is a very busy blog reader I see the comments he/ She leaves on many, many sites.
    If I was you I wouldn't change a thing. You do write about the joys in your life, so why not the reverse?
    I am unable to express on my blog the things that worry me most, so mostly bottle them up. It is just like not saying to people's faces exactly what one is thinking. Generally the old saying "if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all" is good advice when it is about family or close friends.
    On the other hand when I think it appropriate I do say what is on my mind, especially if I think it may change something for the better.

  3. i stopped writing posts for months because ... well ... because of a lot of things ... but mostly because i could not be consistently sunny and self-deprecating and honest all at the same time ... we (you and i) were going through some of the same experiences on opposite sides of the Pond and your blog was Breath to me at times ... Life is not Black or White, just as Time is not Linear and Emotions are Ambivalent ... Great Joy is accompanied by Considerable Sorrow, innit?!?

    we are all fighting demons...

  4. I'm just back from a long weekend at the lake which was lovely, though I forgot my camera and so have no pictures to share. I'm catching up on blogs and was sorry to read this. I wonder if anonymous has a blog...Maybe not.

    I have seen people whose blogs I enjoy and who have begun to be very real people to me though I've never actually met them, be quite hurt by the remarks of others in the comments section. OTH, I have one daughter who went through difficult time not being able to get pregnant before she and her husband successfully had two wonderful children with IVF and I remember her telling me what a painful thing it was for her to go to baby showers and see her friends become pregnant when she was so longing for a child and wondered if she would ever have one. She rejoiced for her friends but it made her feel a great sadness.

    This probably sounds like quite a ridiculous tangent. I suppose, though I wish anon had not commented, that I feel she was being honest and trying to be kind. Perhaps she doesn't grasp how much you do count your children and grandchildren as blessings, regardless of where they live.

    But I am in more of your position and honestly sad because my one daughter lives rather far away and will probably not be able to change to a job nearer us for about six years. When one is 67, six years sounds long....We're just doing all possible to get together when we have the opportunity. With skype and computers it's pretty good.

    And may I end this far too long essay by saying that I really love your blog. You express yourself so well, or at least so I think.

  5. rosemarie8:05 am

    I don't have a blog, but do enjoy reading yours. I enjoy reading about your adorable grandson and about your absent offspring (and how you miss them) and also the ups and downs of your life in general. Ignore 'anonymous' comments, there are always killjoys in life. Keep up the good writing.

  6. (A response from Anonymous - part 1 of two.)

    Dear Isabelle and commenters all,

    It’s most interesting to read the responses to the comment I left on Isabelle’s blog.

    I read your comments and wonder how many of you are single and childless. Not maliciously, but out of curiosity. It’s my repeated experience that those with partners and children have little memory and often little understanding of being without either. Their lives, naturally, have been shaped by their experience of partners and families. I am reminded of the most varied responses to Bibi Lynch’s article in the Guardian earlier this year.

    This is how she ends the article:
    “This rips you (and your future) apart because, as my friend who has been through this said, as I wept over her once again: "You won't heal – because this is deep in you. What you're supposed to do. What's inside us to do. What we're born to do. And you didn't do it."

    I will never be pregnant, never be protected by the father of my child, never be loved as the mother of his child, never love like you love, and never be loved as you're loved. I will never mean as much to anyone as you do. Imagine that, mums. Believe me, you don't know you're born.”

    I read Isabelle’s piece about her boys several times. Realised my reaction, as it’s a theme I’ve read here before. Slept on it. Woke, and felt compelled to comment. Whether or not any blog/social media piece is written for a specific audience (as Isabelle says, herself and the regular commenters), by publishing it it becomes public and open to comment/discussion.

    Whatever you all may think, I’m not a troll. I don’t go around putting snarky comments on blogs to spark reaction. I worked hard on how I expressed my original comment so it wasn’t a snark, but an honest reaction. The hostility saddens me. A couple of months ago I had a medically required hysterectomy. Even though I hadn’t reached menopause, I was, realistically, too old to have children. But the long, vertical, painful scar on your belly as you lie in the women’s ward and hear around you the cries of newborn babies such as you’ve never had and never will (an interesting cruelty of modern medicine, lumping us all together on the one ward, as though there could be no possible impact of one on the other) and the all-day sounds of children and families visiting them…. walk a mile in my shoes, perhaps. Did I need to tell you that private information so you might better understand? I had to keep my door shut all day or I would have been in tears all day. I’m utterly grateful that thanks only to my sister’s intervention I was not put in a shared room with a new mother.

    (the second part of this comment follows)

  7. (A response from Anonymous: part 2 of three)

    Isabelle, you write brilliantly on so many things; clever, insightful comments and observations on ordinary life (which is what most of our lives are, whether or not we blog). I’m not in the UK; where I am, some blogs are archived by the national library as documents of people’s lives. More than once I’ve thought that if the Scottish or UK national library has a similar program, yours is a blog that should be nominated, as a window for the future on twenty-first century Edinburgh, social history of the kind that all too often gets lost. So I don’t want to move on, since there is so much here that I do enjoy. As I said in my comment.

    “Irritating” was not a word I used. Nor “whinge”. Any blog is a construct, a version of a life/lives, and I did specifically say that you can write what you choose. I’m not one for “tutting”. I didn’t hear that radio program: if I had, I probably would have agreed with the idea, as poems can express with great clarity and comfort how we feel in sorrow and loss. Maybe so many of his first responders being parents whose children have gone to university is a reflection of who’s able to listen to radio programs at that time, the particular demographic and their particular circumstances, and who has time to phone in with their response.

    To your commenters:

    “Woman up” – I’m not sure what is meant. That my point wasn’t valid? That my point of view is not to be acknowledged? I did not say I didn’t appreciate this blog. I am sorry you feel the way you do. I have to say that ‘woman up’, in the context of my recent surgery, leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth (although you could not of course have known this when you made the comment). As one commenter said, we are all fighting demons. And I do own poetry books.

    The absence of a name seems to have bothered a lot of you. I apologise for this. I was so focused on trying to express myself with clarity and care that I omitted a name. Does it make you feel better to know I’m Megan? Or Margaret? Or Mary? As I said earlier, you can clearly tell I’m neither a troll nor a troublemaker but an honest commenter and reader. Do you want to know if I have a blog so you can leave comments on that? You are entirely happy with Isabelle’s family being (anonymously) Daughter 1 and Grandson, but attack/reprove me? Call me Mary if it makes you feel better. Having told you something so personal about myself, I’m not now comfortable in giving you another name.

    (this is going to take three comments to complete, so the third and final piece follows)

  8. (A response from Anonymous, part three of three)

    No malice was meant. If you read it into what I wrote, then I’m sorry you feel that way. I guess, given my recent experiences, the blog entry pushed a big button for me, hit a most tender spot. In my work, I engage every day with teenagers whose lives span the range from very much wanted to not much wanted at all, so my working life is full of the children I will never have myself. I am childless, but my life is far from being so. But it’s not the same, just as Isabelle’s students were not the same as her own children. It’s funny/sad (especially since they’re teenagers) when they forget themselves and call you “Mum” – they’re hugely embarrassed. It’s the only time I get called that, and it’s by accident. But with decades of working with them, I also know it’s my job to help them learn and think and grow wings and undertake their own lives and journeys, that they will grow up and out and on into the world and leave their childhoods behind. I take joy in all the children in my personal life, those in the wider family and those of friends and so on. I’m not a cranky child-hating crone. I know very well that every moment with a child is not a moment of utter joy.

    So, you’re as entitled to your opinions as I am to mine. No harm was meant, but an observation/perspective from a different life. I wish so very badly that I had children, but I never will. Nor grandchildren. I count the blessings I do have and make the most of the good life I do have. Better to see the glass half-full than half-empty.

    Is this my 100 lines? Do I, like an inconvenient pedestrian, have to now move along and go away? Do I not deserve a seat at this table, or a voice here unless I agree? I find it hard to believe that is what is meant.

    Best wishes to each of you in the varied lives represented here,


  9. Each person has a point of view. Each feeling is valid. We mothers/wifes are blessed and we know it....and hopefully no-one gloats about their situation. I am sad for Mary but hope that she continues to read and Isabelle continues to post.

  10. Mary and Isabelle: this exchange is so powerful, I hope you can both see it as an enriching and honest response to the most basic of human experiences.

  11. Thank you for all your comments but please, that's enough on this post.

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