Monday, April 17, 2006

On shame tolerance

I have been puzzling over my uncertainty regarding to have or not to have a blog. On the whole, blogging feels rather a childish thing to me - something people ten years younger than me do effortlessly, as a natural thing of "their generation". Only problem is, it just isn't so and I know it. Only today I read Ariel Dorfman's posting on the Guardian blogsite (on Beckett and Eichmann, incidentally). Ariel Dorfman must be a good ten years older than me, mustn't he? OK, so he is a professional writer. I'm sure that's what makes the difference, why he does it smoothly and effortlessly and why I cannot let go of the sense of perpetual self-consciousness when blogging. Right? (And of course, not being Ariel Dorfman, how can I claim to know whether he feels smooth and effortless about his blogging or indeed his writing in general? He might feel continuously crippled by a never-ending experience of himself writing, and – this is the crux here – keep writing regardless of it. I'll never know. Unless you are reading this, Ariel, and want to let me know. Aha, so *this* is why I blog, is it, for the impossible hope of being heard/read, and somehow deeply understood, of entering into a dialogue with someone, somewhere, maybe even about things that matter, things that I care about, things that open up life?)

Of course, I have had a keen sense of self-consciousness about writing in general for ten, twenty years? Not quite twenty, but more than ten. It is the reason I stopped writing, the cause of what I self-indulgently call my writers' block. I place the apostrophe where I do on purpose, to indicate the block belongs to a collection of writers, who have at some point in their lives experienced this same block...of course, one ought to be a writer in the first place, even if it was into a shoebox or a desk drawer, before one can claim to have the said block. But I did write, oh, I wrote so much, it came to me so easily when I was a child. Fantasy and fabulation, stories, characters, words, poems, the radio play of a hundred pages or more I typed out as a ten-year-old, about the concert visit of Elvis Presley to Finland, as imagined by myself, and so on and so forth. And then, enter adolescence, puberty, young adulthood, bad marriage, children, writing petering out, dreadful divorce and then, bang, instead of a freedom so dearly fought for, the rest is suddenly silence. I seem to have very little to say. I imagine nothing. All I can imagine writing about is me, my experiences, my life, no fabulation, no fantasy.

The awareness of myself writing is easing off, has been easing off during this my (first?) Hawai'ian year. Which must have something to do with the fact that I have written more, just made myself write, and it's started to feel more natural again. But by god, writing what is essentially a diary, a private collection of musings, isn't that what people (and not just me) have traditionally done as an intimate exercise, something not meant for the eyes of anyone else, to ensure a freedom from personal censorship? To post this material online? On the other hand, people keeping a diary are arguably not free of this imagined reader who will find the material stimulating, interesting, who will love the writer all the more for his/her self-revelation.


Even when I wrote prolifically, it was never really meant for anyone else to see. It was embarrassing, shameful, unthinkable. I recall giving a collection of my love poems to my closest friend to read when I was nineteen. (Her commentary was supportive and overall positive, so no fault can be laid at her door for my subsequent years of silence.) That is the only time I ever did so. I never sent anywhere, I never thought of the actuality of attempting to be published. And now, here I am, twenty years later, writing a fraction of what I used to, but sending it willy-nilly left right and centre. Including what is really an online diary. Which brings me to

Shame tolerance. The experience of shame I have had over my three postings before this one, plus the personal website I created, have been out of all proportion. I have literally stayed awake at night, thinking about how enormously embarrassing, shameful, stupid, vacuous, unnecessary, trivial my posting was, in its wallowing, ungenuine style of self-pity combined with selfimportance. It got so bad I actually deleted my first posting altogether. I have little doubt that this bit of writing will similarly cause me to suffer, probably beginning later on today. Which is ludicrous, of course. Ok, so the merits of my ramblings are nonexistent, but who's to know? It doesn't matter. I am going to force myself to not delete anything anymore. Shame tolerance, a concept possibly coined by my fellow countryman Ruben Stiller to explain both his enthusiasm for the Nordic walk (think cross-country skiing without the skis, done on public streets and footpaths, dressed in shell suits) and the club for men with small penises he is the founding and, to my knowledge, still years later the only member of. It is good to learn to live with my all-encompassing shame of being myself. C'mon girl, feel that shame. That's you that is. I am ashamed, therefore I am.

© 2006 Anna MR

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