Wow. On August 1st in 2011, I posted “What am I up to at the moment?” sharing my artworks She Blooms in oil and New Growth in ink and talking about my plans. Funnily enough I’ve just started making prints of She Blooms and I’m working on gilding one for sale… Funny how life goes!
Four years on, and 1,151 posts later, here we are. Wow.
I’m really proud of this blog. Like nearly everything I do in life, I started it without having a clue what I was getting myself into, and felt my way along learning and adjusting as I went. Intuitive and process driven. It’s been an amazing experience! I now consider it a massive ongoing work of public art.
I’m often asked if it helps me to write a blog, or costs me to be so public. The answer is yes.
There’s a cost to it, like everything we choose to do in life. I’ve found myself feeling exposed, stretched, confronted, intruded upon, misunderstood, mocked, and way out of my depths at times. I’ve doubted myself and my work, accused myself of narcissism, hated my impulse to expose my vulnerability even when people are telling me to be more professional and only show my polished side. I’ve wrestled with the uncertainly of process driven art – feeling completely at sea at times – what am I doing and why?? I’ve had the occasional nasty comment, confronting discovery, challenging cross over of being out into a space I wasn’t out yet, and so on.
But I’ve also had some amazing experiences. I’ve made a lot of friends, many of whom write blogs I follow too. (I’ve just added a blogs I follow widget which will show up on a pc!) I’ve had people write to tell me something I wrote saved their life, or saved a relationship, or helped them handle something really hard or feel less suicidal, which makes me cry (every time).
I’ve had people I don’t know come up to me in public or at face painting gigs and tell me how much they love this blog, which is surreal but wonderful. A couple of years ago the lovely Amanda came up to me at Feast and said you don’t know me, but I love your blog, and took a photo of herself with me. I wish I had a copy of that photo. We became friends. When she killed herself a year later I was heartbroken. I’m so damn glad I got to meet her, she was amazing.
I’ve had people reach out across the cyberspace and be with me, in some of the hardest and darkest times. People sending me back the same message I send out – I’m here. You’re not alone. You’re not the only one. You’re okay.
I’ve had people send me money. Recently someone has contacted me to let me know they value my work and are funding me monthly for the next 9 months. I went to bed and cried hysterically for a couple of hours, Rose rubbing my back. I ran out of money for fuel at a mental health conference out rural and asked for help and people rallied around me and I was breathless and wordless with gratitude. People are helping me with marketing, mental health research, higher education options, information and emotional support. I give and my tribe gives back to me.
Since writing this blog, a tribe has formed around me. Not some homogeneous unit, but a huge, varied, organically grown network of people in diverse overlapping communities, affiliations, passions, identities. They range from the closest of friends to someone who sent me a tweet sometime, or answered my question as a friend of a friend on Facebook. They connect with me, teach me, support me, need me, love me, learn from me, argue with me, and witness my life. I have come from a place of bitter isolation and loss, running from a world that was killing me and burning all the bridges behind me. I’ve endured and everything is different now. This blog has been an essential part of that.
So yes, I benefit from blogging. I used this blog to out myself, in stages as I felt able to. About having a mental illness, about being multiple, being bisexual, being genderqueer, being psychotic, being pregnant and our baby dying in my womb. About being ‘high functioning’ but still having bad days. About having physical illnesses, gynaecological disorders, invisible disabilities. Being out and public helps my mental health. It connects me to communities, it helps people understand me better and treat me better. It helps me find people like me.
I use this blog as a place to reflect. I use it as a place to be relentlessly human. I use it as a place to help other people feel less intimidated by the polished versions of self we present to each other in our lives, the imitations of intimacy and chronic dishonesty that characterise so many of our interactions with other people – online and in real life, with the burden of constant ‘professionalism’ and chronically degrading ideas about what it is to grow up and be an adult, with the misery of loneliness in crowded places, feeling broken and unseen and unknown, like the only one of your species. I write here because I need these things too, because they kill me too, and in creating spaces that are more authentic and connected, I thrive too. In making the private public, with care and sensitivity and attention to how and why, I am able to see and be seen, to see myself, to be present woth less anxious disguise and less unthinking obedience to cultures of taboo that keep the complacent comfortable and silence the different and the suffering among us.
Happy Fourth Birthday, Holding my childhood to ransom. You’ve been special. I love you. Thankyou too, all those of you who read here, even if we never cross paths or talk. Hope it’s been good for you too.