May 26 2004

The Others.

Published by at 11:13 pm under Introspection,Spirituality/Religion

When I started writing this, I had pretty definite ideas about where The Line was.  Everyone knows about The Line:  everything on this side of The Line is private business, and everything on that side of The Line is open for discussion and debate.  The Man also had very definite ideas on where The Line would be drawn, and his was further to the right than mine.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is a Line, that this is not a private thing I’m doing here, that people all over the world can read it.  To be honest, I don’t really care about those people all over the world.  I care about the people I have to see every day, who read this journal and don’t tell me about it, or who read it and DO tell me about it.  Ever since I confessed to being afraid of the dark, I’ve had to take a few pokes about that, but what the hell, right?  It’s between friends.  No, I don’t really care about them either.  My friends know what they know, and if I don’t tell them when I’m sober, it usually comes out after I’ve had a few rounds of whatever people are giving me to drink that night.  I guess what I really care about is the vast sea of Others.  Not strangers, not friends, but people who are in my life, however obliquely.  Like that friend of my sisters, who casually mentioned to me at my sister’s wedding reception that she read my site.  She wanted to know what my family thought about it.  My mind raced.  How the hell should I know what my family thought about it?  I wasn’t even aware they knew I had a web page, let alone a journal where I discussed all manner of things.  Or the people from work who read.  They know just enough about me to be dangerous, but not enough to put the things they read here into any sort of context.  Those Others who read and keep silent, maybe passing judgment, maybe dismissing what they read, maybe thinking I’m an idiot.  Why do I care about them?  Because Others talk.  They talk to people who are strangers or friends, people who may or may not know me, or people who think they know me but do not.

Several years ago, before I came to Diary-X and my main site was just a collection of stuff, I got a letter from an elder of my church, telling me that a member of the congregation had found my web site, read it, and brought it to the attention of the other elders.  I can kind of see where they were coming from with that, because the site at that time had a lot to do with paganism, which I was interested in learning about.  But can you imagine?  Some person. . . some OTHER. . . took it upon themselves to make me a topic of discussion at an elder meeting, just because they read my web site and thought my soul was in danger.  This elder (who was only six years older than me – elders do not have to be elderly, necessarily) sent me several letters asking me questions about what I believed, and how I was living my life, and lots of things that I thought were kind of nosy things to ask, but I went along with it and was honest.  I wrote him back every time, and he was a nice enough person.  A little too “some of my best friends are ______!” for my tastes, but at least it wasn’t an old crony of my grandfather’s asking me why I thought that there was other intelligent life in the universe, and if witches really do worship the devil.  But it bothered me.  Because that church is full of people  who think they know me, and they are known to be huge gossip hounds.  I imagine that someone eventually told my grandparents, since Grandpa used to be the pastor, and I cringe when I think about how embarrassing that must have been for them – one of their grandchildren breaking with the faith and someone is coming up to get their point of view.  Shortly after this happened, I pulled down my site and left it alone for quite some time.  I was angry, and sad, and frustrated.  I had worked to seperate myself from gossip-mongers and people who were small-minded, but they had still found some way to get to me.  Get not only to me, but to possibly drag my family into it.

This is the danger of Others.
This is the danger of putting my life out there for people to read.

There are many things that I want to talk about, sometimes.  I want to discuss doctor’s visits and fights and misunderstandings and fears and family and all sorts of messy topics.  But I have to remind myself that I am not shouting into a void.  That my words will eventually find a solid object to bounce off of, and that object will be a person, and that person will judge.  And maybe that person will talk.  Maybe that person is a friend, and they will be angry with me discussing their lives.  Maybe that person will be family, and will be hurt by something that they would have been better off not knowing.

But it is addicting, this writing.  Just like everyone else, I had very pure ideals when I started keeping an online journal.  I will not write for an audience.  I will be myself.  I won’t look at my stats because I do not care.  It took me awhile to realize that if I really didn’t care, I’d just lock the whole thing so that no one could read it except those people to whom I gave access.  Obviously, I like the attention.  I like it when people read my words, and I make them laugh, or I make them angry, or I make them think.  I like it when people leave me comments, telling me what they think.  I like looking at my stats and knowing that there is one person in Greece who reads my site.  I like using written English, because I don’t stutter and I can think about what I’m saying before I commit it to the page.  And I like writing on a computer because it’s so easy to erase your mistakes.

The Internet is weird like that.  It’s both damning and forgiving.  When you put yourself out there, anyone can see you.  Anyone can take what you offer and twist it into something you never intended.  On the flip side, it’s so easy to erase yourself, delete your pages, start over elsewhere.  A new name.  A new identity.  Hidden in the sea once again.  This time, I won’t use pictures.  This time, I won’t use my real name.  This time, I’ll be smart.

Even smart people screw up sometimes, right?

So I have pictures of me up.  I use an alias not because I’m really afraid of people stalking me (who would want to stalk ME?) but because I’ve used that name for years and I like it.  I like it when people call me Jas, even if it’s only online, because Jas is a simpler version of myself.  Less hang-ups about everything.   In many ways, I am more open in this journal than I am offline.  Even with The Line in play, The Line that keeps parts of my life separate and hidden.  I am much more chatty online than I am when you see me face-to-face, where I’m mostly quiet and much more cautious.

So The Line is good and bad.  Because as I keep parts of myself back, it lets me be a more carefree person.  Someone who can shamelessly admit that she’s afraid of the dark, and who bought an exercise machine from an infomercial.  Someone who you don’t have to get too wrapped up in, and who is not too wrapped up in you.  We are Others, not friends, not strangers, just people in each others lives, however obliquely.

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