I Am an Escribitionist

Escribitionists are those who blog about themselves, their experiences, and their reflections. It sounds like such a bad thing, connoting, as it does, exhibitionism, but it’s simply a way of distinguishing the diary-like bloggers from those who write from a more journalistic point of view.

The danger of being an escribitionist is that it leaves a blogger vulnerable, not just emotionally, but also physically. People have been known to retaliate offline for online disagreements and, more commonly, people with a felonious bent will take advantage of those bragging about being the Bahamas for a week. So not a good idea to advertise when your house will be vacant!

In the beginning, I was very careful not to say anything of a personal nature. I didn’t make my birthday known, where I went to school, where I lived. For a long time, I didn’t post photos of myself, and I protected my gender (some people were shocked when they found out I wasn’t who they thought). I even refrained from offering opinions about anything but writing and books (but even then, I sometimes got an argument from those who misunderstood what I was saying. See: “Ah, the Difference a Comma Makes!”)

I was especially careful during the years of Jeff’s illness, particularly the last few months when he was so bad off, not to write anything about my life. I was trying to establish myself as an author at the time, perhaps with a male pseudonym, and we both agreed a professional demeanor would be best. Besides, I felt it would be a betrayal of him to talk about what we were going through, and he was afraid I would seem pathetic.

After he died, though, all that care we had taken in laying the groundwork for my career as an author no longer mattered. I was in such terrible pain and so bewildered by what I was feeling (I’d never before encountered even a mention of the utter mental, physical, emotional, spiritual agony of profound grief), that my pain burst out of me. First I screamed my pain offline (I was pacing the house one day, feeling as if I needed to scream; when I realized no one could hear me, I just let the pain rip out of me). Then I spewed my pain onto this blog.

That’s when I discovered the adage “we all grieve differently” is wrong. Many people told me that they experienced the same thing that I did. We might show our emotions differently, but the pattern of grief for a spouse, life mate, or soul mate often follows the same timeline.

By the time my pain became manageable, I was in the habit of talking about my life, so I wrote about my experiences taking care of my nonagenarian father and my frustrations with my abusive homeless brother. I wrote about my travels (making sure always to post after the fact so that no one would know where I was at any given moment).

If I made a mistake and gave too much information, it didn’t matter because I was never in one place long enough for my indiscretion to catch up to me. But now that I am in my final home and not going anywhere, I can’t run away from the mistake of giving out too much information, though I fear it’s too late.

I do try to be careful, but any hope of anonymity (at least pertaining to geography) is long gone. Too many online friends have become offline friends. Too many offline friends have become online friends. Anyone who is paying attention can string together the crumbs of my life that I scatter online, and find me if they really wanted to, though why anyone would want to go through all that trouble, I don’t know.

Still, it is a concern. Unfortunately (fortunately?), it’s way to late to change my ways. If we writers are supposed to write about what we know, well, I know writing, grief, and me. Few people like to read posts about writing (they are either writers themselves who know it all already or non-writers who don’t want to know). I’ve said all I can possibly say about grief in my five hundred grief posts (https://bertramsblog.com/archives-grief-posts/) and my two books about grief: Grief: The Great Yearning and Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One.

So that leaves . . . me.

It’s always hard to admit the truth, but there’s no getting around it. For better or for worse, I am an escribitionist.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Are Online Friendships True Friendships?

A few weeks ago, an offline friend expressed reservations about making friends online because she thought we don’t really get to know people online. An online friend also wondered about the trueness of online friendships, though she admitted she considered me a friend. And another online friend (she’s probably more of a mentor since she offers me more support than I offer her) wrote a blog about the meaning of friendship and how that applies to online friends.

digital lifeSo can you have a true relationship online? Of course, though to be honest, I rarely interact with the vast majority of my online “friends”. At one time, I thought it was important promotionally to have a lot of connections, but that doesn’t seem to hold true. Still, it is possible to make real friends online.  In some respects, these real online friendships are based on something deeper and more meaningful than offline friendships because (sometimes) we can connect directly to the mind, heart, or soul of each other. We are basically electronic beings, masses of focused energy, which is sort of what a computer is. We do have a tendency to show our best side online, but that’s not a bad thing. Besides, through numerous blog comments or facebook discussions, the truth comes out.

I have never met some of my best friends. I hope I will meet them someday, of course. (Although some of my hopes for an epic adventure are fading in light of the realities, taking a trip to meet these friends is still possible.) One drawback to such friendships is that it’s hard to hug an efriend, so such friendships to endure might have to go offline. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s enough to celebrate the wonder of knowing someone who lives on the other side of the country or even the world.

The few times I have met an online friend, there wasn’t a bit of awkwardness. It was as if we’d known each other for a long time, which was no surprise because we had known each other for a long time online.

A few years ago I met one such online friend. She came here for a book showing (I call it a showing instead of a sale because we sold so few books) and we got along well. Not only were our attitudes similar, we even dressed alike. Next weekend I will be returning the favor by going there for a book showing.

Friendships of this online/offline variety are not the neighborly sort where you run next door to borrow a cup of sugar or a pinch of salt, but I’ve never had any friends like that. Nor are they the kind who could visit you in the hospital or take you to the airport (though I’m sure they would if they were in the vicinity.) But they are still real friendships. And they are probably longer lasting than other friendships because if they move or if I move, we are still as close as the internet.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire,andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Ready or Not, Change is Coming Your Way

Most of my internet hangouts and hang-ups (meaning obstacles to smooth progress for those of you who are too young or too erudite to be familiar with the term) are going through massive changes. I checked in with MySpace (one of the aforesaid hang-ups — it never seemed to be worth the effort) and didn’t have a clue where I was or what I could or should do once I arrived. I did like some of the changes — it’s easier to find things, but the constant barrage of ads is enough to give one a headache. Still, it might have possibilities, though many long-time MySpace fans seem to be abandoning the site. They say Facebook is easier.

Facebook itself is going through major changes. Not only did they revamp the group feature, which will eventually undo everything I have accomplished on the site, it makes it virtually impossible to keep control of your identity. Anyone can add you to a group without your consent, and that means that their friends and the friends of their friends have access to your information. For me, that’s not a problem. I go by the assumption that everyone in the world will see what I post on the site, and so only post what I want people to see. So far, no one seems overly impressed.

Facebook is unveiling a new message system, which supposedly combines email, facebook messaging, instant messaging, and texting, which means you can interface with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Quite frankly, I have a hard enough time keeping track of the people I am connected to. Most of them I’ve never met, so gradually I’m checking them all, and weaning out those I would never, could never be friends with. Perhaps a page, with it’s unlimited number of potential fans, replaces the facebook profile, but so far I don’t see the point. I do have a fan page, but haven’t figured  out how to make it work for me. Maybe frequent status updates? Or even unfreqent ones?  I do know sending an update (a type of message, not a status update) does not work. No one reads them. Or at least very few. How do I know? I sent out a coupon for a free ebook and to over 1400 fans and only three people took advantage of it. Of course, that could be me — maybe none of my fans want a free ebook. In which case, I’m back to wondering why I even have a Facebook fan page.

WordPress is undergoing changes. They retired the theme I used when I set up the Second Wind Blog. Perhaps the new one will work. I’d like to add book covers to the sidebar to make it more like a website and offer visual-oriented people something to look at besides the header, and the new theme has an extra sidebar. My main problem with the change is what it portends. I did not know Wordpress retired old themes. What if they retire the theme I use for my many blogs? I always liked the color variations I created (green, blue, purple, red, orange) and I would not be pleased with a forced change. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen another blog that uses this theme, which I always thought was wonderful since I could be unique. But unique means obsolete in cyberspace. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Twitter is also making changes. I like my twitter profile, and even left space for my fourth book, Light Bringer, which will be coming out in the spring of 2011, but now twitter has added more features, the main section where the tweets show up is off-center (I prefer my main reading pane to be smack-dab in the center of the screen), and my custom made screen is defunct.

The friends I’ve made online remains the best thing about the internet. I’m hoping that will never change.