Finding Balance

Lately I’ve been doing some thinking.

Crazy, I know.

Not about another healthy and delicious raw ball, though you know how I love a good ball (or better yet, a good ball pun). Not even about gluten free baking, since I’ve been kind of lax on that front ever since Bunky’s birthday. Baking burn out, anyone?

What I’ve been thinking about is this blog, what it’s about, who it’s for, why it’s here. Yeah, that kind of thinking. I believe they call it existential.

My first existentialist experience.

Read this in high school.
My existential introduction.

It didn’t come out of nowhere, this sudden burst of brain function. It came out of necessity. Have you ever lost a friend or upset a relative from something you wrote and published on your blog? It’s possible I’ve done both, though I’ve only got documented proof on one count. So far.

Out of respect to my friend, I’m not going to talk about the specific post, but it got me thinking (see above) about what it is to blog. In a way, blogging is like journaling. Long before blogging, I was a journal-monger. I loved, loved, loved, buying gorgeous journals and writing the crap out of them. My first journal ever was red velvet and had dates on each page. I wrote a handful of entries in kindergarden. Bunky is nearly in kindergarden. (Yes, that’s still blowing my mind.)

Some of my first journals, or diaries, had locks. Keys, combination locks, you name it. Of course those never really worked, but it was symbolic, like a proverbial Do Not Enter sign, though it’s possible my brother did anyway. The point is they were supposed to be for the writer. And maybe her kids, someday.

pink diary

But online journaling, or blogging, is public. Duh. I mean, that’s not a news flash to me or anything, but when I started this blog no one was actually reading it. You build readers over time. You make connections, friends even. It’s kind of awesome. Over the two years since I began, more people than I realized were reading. Including some friends and family. It’s certainly not a secret that I blog, but I also don’t tell every single person I know about it. Perhaps because sometimes I write personal stuff; and sometimes that personal stuff happens to also be about other people.

When I started this blog in June of 2011 it was by sheer instinct. It’s in my nature to write in order to understand, and I did NOT understand celiac or what it meant to be a parent of a celiac kid. There was a vague fuzzy idea that maybe what I wrote would resonate with other people dealing with celiac. Maybe I would find help and offer some at the same time.

I was pretty sporadic at first, not finding my rhythm (or time to have one) until Bunky’s first anniversary of her celiac diagnosis. That is really just one year of regular blogging, which doesn’t sound so long now that I’m thinking about it. During this year I’ve written about the challenges my family faces, but also about our successes. I’ve documented my struggles with birthday parties, holidays that focus on food (which ones don’t?), and what to eat while out in the world. Sometimes I just like posting pictures of my rapidly growing children. I also post recipes, more regularly than I ever imagined.

I recently read this awesome post called, How To Blog, by Jenny who runs Dinner, A Love Story (great recipes + great writing). Among other things, she is very into mission statements and well thought out posts, as she spent years writing for magazines. Maybe that’s my problem. I don’t always think so much (ha). I still write on instinct. Partly because I have such minimal time, but also, perhaps, out of habit.

Do I need more focus or a mission statement? Am I trying to find and offer solidarity, or am I trying to educate and illuminate – or all of the above?

I may work on a mission statement, but for now it’s got me thinking about this space. Here’s what I DON’T want – for people in my life to be afraid to hang out with us for fear that I will write about them (in a less than flattering light) on my blog. Here’s what I DO want – to write honestly about living with a child who has celiac.

Any writing comes with risk. I know that from being, well, a writer. But my writing before blogging was fiction. I could (usually) hide behind made up names and made up stories. I could change incriminating details if I wrote from experience. Even then there was risk. We all know how easy it is to try to read between the lines of our favorite fiction writers. Did that really happen to them? Is that character based on their spouse/parent/child/friend/lover? But in the end, a fiction writer can always find safety behind their chosen genre. It’s just a story, they can say. Blogging about your life is a different kind of story. It’s your story, and sometimes, other people’s, too.

True story: I always try to be respectful when I write, especially about people in my life. I know that the things I write might be read by well, anyone. This is not a totally negative space – I don’t think so, anyhow. It is not my intention to just rant and rave my upsets and frustrations about celiac indiscriminately. But when writing about my experiences with my daughter’s celiac, I often end up writing about community and family, because that’s where food is, people. And food is what divides us from everyone else.

Gluten Fest flickr USDAgov

Can’t eat any of that.
flickr USDAgov

Does this sound dramatic? Maybe, but it’s still true. Here’s a quote that taunts me on a daily basis: Food is such a small part of life (an actual quote from an actual book for kids who have celiac). Food is HUGE in our life. I should know since I think about it 24/7.

So, how do I honor those closest to us and also write about our challenges, that occasionally involve some of those same people? How do I write honestly and with respect? Do I stop writing about certain things, certain people? If so, am I doing that out of necessity (um, so poor Bunky doesn’t get blackballed to every birthday party and so we don’t get disowned by relatives) or fear?

shhh poster

If friends and family are reading this, I hope they will understand my appreciation for ALL their efforts, even the ones that happen to fall short through no fault of their own. No one is perfect on this gluten free road, certainly not me. I still make mistakes regarding Bunky’s diet and I suspect I always will, so perfection is not what I am seeking from my loved ones. We carry no expectations that others should cater to our dietary needs. That’s our job as Bunky’s parents. We BOOF (Bring Our Own Food), it’s cool. What we’d like is compassion, support, but mostly acceptance. Acceptance that this is our family’s journey. For the rest of our lives.

The word I chose to work on this year was nurture, but maybe it should have been balance because that’s what I think this is all about. That’s what I need to work on. But balance isn’t a one-shot thing, it’s ever changing, elusive, shifty. It’s something I will probably always struggle with, on the blog and out in the world. But I’ll give it my best shot.

flickr D Sharon Pruitt

flickr D Sharon Pruitt

I’d love to hear how all you fellow bloggers deal with the inevitable collision of real world feelings and the words you write. Have you ever alienated friends or family? Are there topics or people you just don’t write about? What keeps you in balance? Any thoughts and advice are welcome, just keep it constructive. I’m a sensitive gal, if you couldn’t already tell.