(or Who Are You?)
The other day I received this notification from WordPress: Your stats are booming! the unSecret Garden is getting lots of traffic.
It wasn’t that a blog post had gone viral or that I was lucky enough to be featured on the WordPress Discover site. It was just that someone had found my blog and was busy reading their way through nearly the whole thing – which at current count stands at 40 posts and 62,625 words.
I continue to be amazed and heartened that anyone even wants to read what I write. It becomes more compelling when others find my experiences and reflections to be meaningful and helpful. It makes some of the nonsense of this world seem less senseless.
So I am particularly moved when someone takes the time to read the whole thing. But then I also wonder: who are you? And yes, I’m singing those very lyrics from The Who in my head as I write this (and also picturing the opening credits of CSI: Miami with the agents on that airboat, racing through the swampy waters with the wind blowing their hair because the connection between that song and image is now, sadly, indelibly linked in my brain):
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
I never know how people find me. I know I get a lot of traffic courtesy of Google and other search engines, but I can’t see the actual search terms that drive people to my site. All I know is that I have readers from all over the globe and that really moves me.
I do find the concept of “anonymity” to be an interesting one. I choose to write under a pseudonym, not because I am embarrassed or ashamed by my story and what I have to say – quite the opposite in fact – but it’s because I don’t want to be Google-able. I get the irony of wanting to hide from the very search engine that probably brings a number of readers to me in the first place.
But I want to be able to write freely, without having to worry about my manager or work-mates or neighbors or mere acquaintances – past, present or future – having access to these inner-thoughts. Same goes for my immediate family. I’m not sure I’d want my mom reading this, although maybe if we had a more open relationship, where these kinds of thoughts could be expressed, we wouldn’t now find ourselves estranged. Truth is that if anyone who knows me really well happens to stumble upon this blog on their own, they would probably figure out that it’s me. There are enough clues along the way that are uniquely mine. My closest friends would likely put it all together and realize that I am the writer.
And I can see that many readers would also want to read this, and perhaps many other blogs, anonymously. There is something to be said for entering a space and taking things in without needing to announce your arrival or disclose anything about yourself.
One of my new favorite podcasts is NPR’s “More Perfect” which is a spin-off from Radiolab. It’s about the U.S. Supreme Court and the many influential and pivotal decisions made by this branch of our government. There was an episode last November titled “The Hate Debate” about the limits of the first amendment online and in social media. This episode was a live debate between several prominent experts on the limits of online free speech, and there was a segment about the very role of anonymous discourse in our society. One of the debaters, Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, made this poignant comment:
Anonymous speech is probably the most important form of political speech that we have. The ability to speak, especially online, without fear of retaliation means that you have the ability to speak your truth.
So I have yet to tread very far into the political landscape on this blog. Aside from being pro-gay rights and, more generally, pro-equality for all, the only political post I’ve written was right after the disastrous U.S. presidential “election” in 2016. However, I have most definitely spoken my truth and I’m not sure that would have been as possible, or as honest, if I was writing under my real name. There is something freeing about just saying what I hold in my heart, stripped of any other label or association that defines me out in the real world. This is just me, all of me, just as I am. On second thought, maybe my friends and family wouldn’t recognize me at all (although I hope that’s not the case!).
I wrote a post about having a therapist with cancer, after I realized that the prognosis was bad and before she dumped me. The ex-therapist tweeted a link to this post to her legions of loyal fans – and did so without asking for my permission first. A few hundred people read it. We spent our final session talking almost exclusively about this very action. At the time I was touched by this gesture, as I was grasping for any proof that she would not abandon me. She even left a comment, telling me that she loved me! I had forgotten all about that comment until only recently. In my purge of all things related to the ex-therapist, I had missed that one (which I’ve now since deleted). And with the benefit of hindsight and reflection and distance, I realize that it was actually terrible judgment on her part to do this. She could have pierced and destroyed the very veil of anonymity that I need in this space. She definitely jeopardized the anonymity that I was entitled to as a client.
I am entitled to write, in this space, anonymously. And you are entitled to read anonymously if you so choose. The decision to move out of anonymity is with the individual alone and should never be forced by anyone else. Writing and reading without fear of retaliation – and I would also add without fear of disclosure or exposure – means that you have the ability to speak – or hear – your truth. There is immense power in that on both sides of the story.
So I am glad that people come to read. I hope they leave with a new perspective or at least something to think about it. But I also love it when people comment too, or email me, and open the space to have a dialog. Many of the comments left here spur my own thinking and reflections and lead me to realizations that I might not have come to on my own. At a minimum, these interactions made me realize that I’m not the only person to have been abandoned by a therapist in the throes of cancer – and that my reactions are completely normal. For a time I thought I was going crazy. Having others in the blogosphere assure me that I am not has been unexpectedly grounding.
This garden is open to anyone who wishes to visit and read. Stay for as long as you wish. Take a new perspective when you go. Leave a comment. Come back if you like. I will still be here, tending to this space, as I navigate the turbulence of life, hoping to always create something beautiful and true, even amidst the mayhem and noise. Gardens that aren’t watered and weeded will wither and die. Just by stopping by, you help keep this garden growing and blooming.