Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Finding safety in a place without walls

talking shop

My world just got smaller.

Gail Edwin Fielding (flickr folk will know her as Gail on the Web) author of Gail at Large, visited us on the last leg of her impromptu late-summer pilgrimage to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to be with the memory of her husband, David.

Gail is the person I credit with taking me away from the mindless escapism of the anonymous Internet and showing me that my 'imaginary friends' were real.

Her public accounting of David's devastating diagnosis of and subsequent treatment for an aggressive type of lung cancer, and her hauntingly beautiful writing of the horrific experience of watching a wildfire disease devastate her strapping, young love, pulled me out of myself and my self-imposed isolation and brought me to a new understanding of this place without walls: the Internet.

Don't think I wasn't nervous to meet her in person. I was petrified. Would I be myself? Would we have anything to say? I read her writing daily and yet, she is by conventional terms a stranger to me. Would I be my usual deer in the headlights self; better in letters than in person?

It didn't take long before she was talking openly and freely. Her ease allowed me to relax and follow her lead. Before I knew it, it was three a.m. and we're sitting around our rag-tag kitchen island talking about anything and everything; laughing and crying, and sharing a tiny lifetime of memories.

This morning, in my wine-belly haze of energized exhaustion, I could only think of how ugly and clunky I find the term 'BLOG.' But I can't deny the power of it. And I no longer feel a need to defend it. Suffice it to say there is wisdom out there for those who care to see it, and proving it to those who cast aspersions is just a waste of time. This medium has such an amazing ability to allow thoughts and fears and hopes and struggles to work themselves into understanding. It is nothing short of miraculous to me how winning battles and losing wars, and taking control of it all in the first-person voice can slowly heal and inspire.

I think most of us 'cynical folk,' who lament the 21st century as if it were a disease tearing us further apart and solidifying our differences, don't always see how it is possible to meet and forge bonds in total isolation. And in a real way that isolation disappears.

I have never been more convinced that we are rewriting our own histories. And this adopted electronic format helps us organize our thoughts, and categorize, index and recall them as if they were star maps in a fresh, unlit sky. But it is still merely a vehicle by which we can reach out from our solitude and reverse the disconnect.

I just have to say, today, and for the first time in a long time, it just feels good to be in the world. And I now understand hope just a little better.

doing their thing


ECR said...

What an awesome testament to blogging. You make me feel lucky to be a part of it.

wordgirl said...

I love life lessons such as the one you just described. They don't come without a little bit of pain, however. I don't really like the word "blog", either. It sounds like something that gets caught in one's throat.

Andrea said...

I've found myself defending my blogging reading and writing to others who don't understand. I get strange looks and I get snarky comments. What they don't know is that I'm happier having discovered these jewels on the Internet. I have found a way to work out my thoughts and realize that I really am not alone. I've found that this defective friendship gene I thought I had, the one that keeps me from relating to many women I've met in my life, isn't real. I just hadn't met people who really understand me. Until now.

You speak of it so well.

Shari said...

You described exactly how I feel about Gail! Her writings also "pulled me out of myself" and my husband and I now feel like she's our friend and we hope to meet her someday. I used to think that blogging was just a way to chat with strangers. I now know that you can meet real friends through the internet. It's happened to me twice and I hold those friendships close to my heart.

Thank you for the beautiful post.

Gail said...

This is a very belated comment, but I wanted to thank you, Siobhan, for writing this and giving a perspective I've only attempted to express verbally to others but not addressed specifically on my site.

I, too, have trouble saying "blog" because I don't think a web log is an adequate label to cover the wide range of personal writing out there on the internet.

I'm very glad you reached out to me when you did, because my pilgrimage to Rhinebeck was a bittersweet one, and meeting your lovely family made it easier for me to go. There will be more pilgrimages, and it is my hope we can continue our conversations where we left off last Wednesday -- but with more time and sleep! -- to coincide with the journeys to come.

All the best for a peaceful and relaxing time off,

lynsalyns said...

Binky sent me here. How beautiful this is. And so true. I struggled to articulate my love for my blogworld recently. We're all documenting the human condition. Isn't it grand? I look forward to reading more of you.