I want to believe that most people want to help; want to find some way to make things easier or better; want to offer something of value. It is terribly hard to sit with someone who is hurting, and just be there with them in their pain. Being thrust into the role of witness, without the power or wherewithal to DO anything is not simply uncomfortable, it is frustrating. So, the very human impulse is to try to fix it (whatever "it" might be). There is, I imagine, something that borders on "compulsion" to find words to say what needs to be said to save the person on the other side of the computer screen; to rescue the fellow human dangling at the end of the words we read. We all do it, to one degree or another -- the trick is to remember what we are about as decent persons, avoiding the precipice that takes us down into judgement and criticism and negativity.
Here are a few things to consider (as I see it) based on false steps / erroneous beliefs outlined in "Miranda's" comment earlier today:
...we feel like we know you. But ... we don't really ... we put ourselves and our own histories into your story.
This is really important. I write about my life here. We write our stories in bits and pieces, all of us. We've done it for a long, long time. I can't imagine that there are many who have the time, inclination, or patience to go back through the archives and read the whole story. However, even if a reader were willing to do that excavation into the story we've been weaving here for so many years, they would still only have snapshots of what and who we are. There is no way to convey all the minutes, or all the thoughts, or all the interactions that would flesh out the picture for a reader. You do not know me, and I don't know you (at least in the majority of cases). We've never met. We are not neighbors or colleagues, and to the degree that we consider ourselves friends, it is mostly an "online relationship," and likely to never include long, cozy, friendly chats over a nice cup of tea. We are not close, and we are surely not the same. We don't have that kind of access to one another. The other part of that is that we are not simply mirrors for one another. My life does not and should not be the looking glass that you use to measure or manage your own life. So, don't make Miranda's mistake ... do not try to use me to mirror your history back to you. Do not assume that you know what I'm doing ... and why.
... it's hard for readers who only get bits and pieces of your lives ...
This is hard. I continually struggle to maintain the balance between what we might share here, and what we really ought to keep to ourselves. I know, from experience, that this blog does best; thrives even, when I write regularly and at some depth about what is happening in my own personal world. But I am a busy person. I have obligations inside of the family, and I maintain a demanding professional career. I do not have time to give readers ALL of my life -- even if I were so inclined. The picking and choosing of topics and subjects can vary depending on my moods, and the stresses of my days. Readers will never have more than bits and pieces.
We read ... and we get angry ... we write to give ... support
Read. Understand. Keep a leash on all those emotional responses. Strong feelings about what is, about who is right and who is not. If, out of an abundance of sympathy and generosity, you find you want to offer support, consider how you might be supportive without taking sides; without declaring a "good guy" and a "bad guy." Supporting me "against" Tom does not make things better. It is not, honestly, supportive. It undermines the very basis of my life. So be careful. I don't need rescuing.
A blog feels like a dialogue rather than a private journal. But it’s not ...
It is not a "dialogue." Not classically. It is more than a private journal for most of us, but it is not a dialogue. What you find here is private, personal, and terribly desperately intimate. Be gentle.
... And would I be less anonymous if I made up a name to sign these comments?
Yes! You are going to be more welcome here if you introduce yourself, and tell us how we might recognize you when we see you again. Not all anonymous visitors are obnoxious and ill-mannered, but nearly 100% of all obnoxious and ill-mannered blog visitors are also "anonymous. I know that what you choose to call yourself online will, most likely, be a pseudonym; a handy way of facilitating the social discourse while still protecting what should be protected.
So there you have it. I've ranted about anonymous commenters before, but I've seldom had the opportunity or space to help people get ready to participate here and elsewhere around the circle in ways that are positive and supportive. Maybe the simplest way to think about that thing you are just dying to say -- if the situation were reversed, and you were the one in turmoil and pain, would you find your advice to be helpful? If not, maybe the better thing would be to listen further, ask an honest question, offer something kind.