20 March 2003
It seems hard to believe that this journal turns three today. People had been
telling me for years that I should write a newspaper column. I didn't know that I could
meet the deadline of producing a column a day. While these entries rarely rise to the
level of high enough interest to qualify for publication to a daily newspaper, I have,
indeed, managed to meet a daily deadline (with very few exceptions). What's more, the
readership has grown from a handful of friends and relatives to several hundred daily
readers from, if my counter is to be believed, all over the world (for which I am truly
humbled! --don't you people have something more interesting to do? ).
I always had aspirations of being another Erma Bombeck (doesn't every mother who likes
to write?) I did, for a time, write a weekly column called "Airy Persiflage." It
was for a local free paper which dealt mostly with local politics, but I was on staff (a
staff of 3) and convinced the editor to let me write my own column. I discovered during
that brief time how difficult it was to become another Erma Bombeck. What she made seem so
easy was hard work. I produced a handful of columns--a couple of dozen, perhaps--and I
think only one or two of them ever really satisfied me.
Some time later, the local "real" newspaper asked me to write a "school
news" column. They were beginning a new feature, with reporters from each of the
schools in town. I was part of the first group of reporters and it was kind of fun, though
eventually it became repetitious and, as our own kids moved on to higher education, I gave
up that post.
Then they needed a mental health columnist. Since I have absolutely NO
qualifications to write about mental health, naturally they asked me to do it. And since
I'm basically crazy (maybe that was my qualification!), I said yes. Wow was that a
struggle! How to sound intelligent about something you don't know anything about. What I
ended up doing was spending a lot of time personalizing it and writing about angst from my
own life. People used to tell me they got a lot out of the column, but I still don't feel
good about it. I finally gave it up after about a year when I decided I had exposed all of
my family history that I was comfortable exposing.
That was, of course, before the Internet came along and I discovered the wonderful
world of on-line journaling.
I don't know that I'd ever heard of such a thing until I encountered Steve's journal. His was about the fifth
journal ever go to onto the Internet (so he's kinda famous, though nobody knows it). Steve
started his journal in 1996 when he thought he was dying of AIDS and it was a convenient
way to let his friends and relatives know what was going on in his life.
But then he started getting...gasp...readers. Like a daily soap opera, people
would tune in each day to find out how many times he'd vomited or how much diarrhea he'd
had (he was quite graphic in the early years). Then as they discovered medications that
would work and he began to feel better, and as the musical The Last Session
began to take shape, he developed a real following. I was introduced to the journal after
it had been running for 3 years, when The Last Session was already an award winner,
and when Steve's own death sentence had been commuted to probation.
After reading his journal for awhile, I started getting itchy fingers. By this time I
had learned HTML code and discovered that I loved designing web pages. When Davis
Community Network gave its subscribers web space and I took a class or two in web design,
I started putting together a web site that
just grew, like Topsy. By the time I encountered Steve, I had pretty much run dry with
ideas for new web pages, but had this hunger to create more... more... more.
It was a natural progression to an on-line journal. Peggy had recently given me a
digital camera, so the world opened for me...I could write journal entries and take photos
to go with them.
Ned was a big help too, because when I was wondering how to begin, he moved into a
playhouse as a fund raiser for the radio station for which he worked. It was just offbeat
enough to make an interesting way to start. And the rest, they say, is history.
I've become addicted to writing this journal. I bought a laptop so I could keep it up
while traveling. When in a foreign country, I learned about cyber cafes (and even found
one in the back of a bakery in the far reaches of Orkney).
The journal has helped me work through some painful issues. I've grieved
openly for Paul and David here and it has been very helpful being able to put a lot of
feelings down on virtual paper. Most difficult was "Speaking Ill of the Dead,"
where I addressed the negative feelings about Paul--it was the most difficult to write,
caused the most pain in the family, but also had the greatest response from people with
whom it struck a chord.
I also amazed myself by working through a lot of feelings about my father. In a Father's Day entry, I just
kind of "free associated" and discovered that by the end of bleeding all over
the screen and keyboard, I had come to peace with my relationship (or non-relationship)
with him. I never quite achieved the same level of intensity again...all the anger,
frustration and everything else was just...gone. The power of writing.
It's been fun writing about travel--the great fun I had for six weeks when Peggy was
here, the trips to England, travel to Boston to visit Jeri, and other shorter trips. I'm
looking forward to recording the new experiences in Australia this fall. Sometimes
people's travel tales are terribly boring--and I'm sure mine have been as well--but it's
been a wonderful record for me (and since I keep all of these journal entries on CD, it's
like having a paper journal too).
You've indulged me by reading my diatribes, especially about the discrimination of the
Boy Scouts of America, speaking out for equal rights for same gender couples and against the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.
And whatever would I do without the support of this marvelous unseen audience for my
weight loss efforts over the past year. It has been an incredible thing to be able to be
so open about a lot of things, and to get both cheers and "me too!" back from so
many people. You all are a huge part of my continuing with this "new lifestyle."
I've happily painted myself into a corner and it would be too embarrassing to give it all
up--I feel like I've made a commitment, not only to myself, but to everybody who is making
this journey with me, or who is standing on the sidlines cheering me on.
An on-line journal is a strange and wonderful thing. It has brought me much more than I
ever dreamed when I decided to design a few web pages three years ago. I've made such
wonderful friends as a result of this journal. I've sat here laughing and crying as I
write and as I read other journals. There are those who say that this isn't the same as
"real life." Those people haven't sat where I sit. I am grateful to every one
who has stopped by this journal and found something worth reading.
I'm not going away. I'm in this for the long haul. I love you guys.