Love like Treacle, Hate like Quicksand.

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I find myself feeling irritated by my experience within the blogosphere of late. Endless arguments about the nature of writing. It’s my own fault. I bring up a topic and then others come in with counter arguments. I do not object to counter arguments by and large but I find myself increasingly irritated by a tendency I detect within the blogosphere to emphasize the good and the lovely, to steer clear of the negative and for some to read my writing as though I write in absolutes.

I’m as bad as the next person. I try hard not to insult people and I write comments of praise here and there to all manner of people whose work I appreciate. It is not this to which I object, it is more the emphasis on writing that does not distress or surprise. This troubles me.

It probably hits on a raw nerve. I think of a paper Jane Adamson presented several years ago in which she talked about the poet, John Keats. She talked about the way Keats valued an openness of mind. It was Keats who coined the term ‘negative capability’, the notion that ideally we seek to approach our work without expectations or desires, that we keep an open mind.

Keats tried to practise this in his poetry but it was more difficult in his personal life. There was a chap by the name of Charles Dilke. Keats despised him. We know this through correspondence in which Keats berates Dilke for his closed mind, his rigidity of thinking. The paradox is that in his considerations of Dilke, Keats himself was doing the very thing he railed against.

I see this tendency within myself. I rail against the ‘sweetness and light’ I find throughout the blogosphere and yet I do it myself. I try to be friendly and sociable and I do not enjoy carping comments anywhere. I want appreciation and good will, too.

Given my interest in life writing and the desire for revenge there must be something of these impulses within me, and with which I must grapple. I own up to this. Millions I suspect would not.

I own up to wanting to see my enemies suffer, but it stops there. I do not spend my time in pursuit of my enemies, seeking to bring about their downfall. I make a point of avoiding the people I dislike. It seems the best way, the safest way and if the feelings are mutual and we stay clear of one another then all goes well.

At the Freud conference in Melbourne last week, Salman Akhtar talked about the way we invite certain people to our dinner parties. We invite those we love. We invite those we like and we also invite those we hate – those we hate are typically married to those we love. Akhtar meant this as a joke.

We invite those we hate, he said, because after they have left our dinner we can feel relieved and virtuous.
‘Phew, thank goodness, they’ve gone’. And then we can talk about the ones we hate behind their backs and we can feel good.

I think this is my struggle within the blogosphere – the effort to integrate all three aspects – the loving, the liking and the hating – both internally and externally given my suspicion that these elements live within me as much as I experience them outside of me.

If my world – internal and external – were populated by only one or another of these elements, if it were all love, or liking or hate, it would be a dreadful world indeed. Boring and/or destructive.

Too much love is like treacle – you get stuck in it. Too much hate is like quicksand – you drown, your mouth filled with dry gritty bits of earth. Too much liking and life becomes a sort of blancmange – all of the one sickly sweet consistency with nothing to get your teeth into.

This then becomes a sort of plea to allow for more robust and healthy ‘hating’ in our lives. Healthy in the sense that we can know about the feeling – even speak about it in our writing – without necessarily acting upon it.

One of my brothers once kicked me. His foot landed on my pubic bone. It landed with such force that I fell over. He was angry about something. I’m not sure that even he knew what he was angry about. Perhaps I had provoked him, little sister that I was. Perhaps he resented the circumstances of the moment. We were about to get into the car, all nine of us – the two oldest had left home by then – in any case the car would have been full.

One grey station wagon packed with nine bodies, adults and children alike. We four in the middle, aged between eight and twelve, squeezed into the back section of the car, the place where these days most people put their dogs or groceries.

There were no fixed seats. We sat legs out in front and leaned against the rear side windows, my sister and I on one side, my two brothers opposite. My brothers’ legs were longer than ours, and there was never room enough. They needed to bend them and hold onto their knees to fit. My sister and I irritated our brothers by stretching out from time to time. They did the same to us.

We knew to keep quiet about any disagreements about who took up too much space. My father in the driver’s seat did not tolerate noise. My brother kicked me before we climbed into the car and I forgot to keep quiet.

My brother’s punishment, my father’s sharp tongue, a slap across the face, was worse than any kick I had received.

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54 Comments on Love like Treacle, Hate like Quicksand.

  1. Ann ODyne
    May 29, 2010 at 11:09 am (7 years ago)

    another fine piece from you dear 6th.
    People seem to be afraid of strong feelings in any direction.
    The cost of my therapy would have paid for a car, and I exasperate them by failing to forgive, forget, and move on. My blog isn't called 'Trying to be anodyne' for nothing, and it isn't called 'Succeeding at anodyne' either.
    Peace and love to you

    Reply
  2. BwcaBrownie
    May 29, 2010 at 11:14 am (7 years ago)

    re the Freud para of your post:

    I wish I could remember the author of this favourite quote:
    We seek the teeth to match our wounds.

    Reply
  3. Nancy Devine
    May 29, 2010 at 11:54 am (7 years ago)

    lots to think about. i am much gentler on my blog than in real life. the public (very public) nature of the blogosphere certainly tones me down—perhaps because i am so aware that my audience could include my students. (yet i flatter myself to think they'd look for me online)

    Reply
  4. Reader Wil
    May 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks for your visit and comment to Scotland. I have just returned from my holiday on Texel, one of the larger island in the north of the Netherlands. It was lovely.

    Reply
  5. The Weaver of Grass
    May 29, 2010 at 2:19 pm (7 years ago)

    Interesting post. I think one of the problems is that some bloggers get very offended if anything critical is said. I often post poetry and ask for criticism – I expect the good and the bad and really wish people would point out where the poem goes wrong in their opinion, but I find them very loath to do this – I assume because they don't want to offend. There is such a fine line between criticism and offence I think.

    Reply
  6. Eryl Shields
    May 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm (7 years ago)

    Have you read Irvine Yalom's Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy? In it there is a story of a man who had extended his 'core' to such an extent that even the mildest comment made him aggressively defensive, as though his life had been threatened. It strikes me, now, that some people find anything distressing or surprising a threat to their core and react accordingly. I have a relative who can react as though you've tried to stab him in the guts just by not finishing your cake, or saying you're cold/hot/tired. He is impossible to reason with.

    Also, I've noticed a tendency out there to shift responsibility for one's own happiness onto everyone but one's self.

    I find your blog makes me think and learn, and thus it strengthens me. There's so much in this post to ponder. I'm particularly interested in your tussle with your own feelings and actions. One day, when time allows, I'll treat myself to a trawl through your archives.

    I must get hold of a copy of Keats' letters. Have you seen the recent film about his love affair with Fanny Bawne, it's incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking?

    Reply
  7. Beth Niquette
    May 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm (7 years ago)

    I find your writing to be thoughtful, unexpected, sharp and poignant. All of which are necessary for greatness when writing.

    Reply
  8. Harry Kent
    May 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm (7 years ago)

    Well, at least let's all be grateful that this isn't Facebook, a very shallow pool indeed in which one can neither sink nor swim. You are absolutely right in your assessment, Elizabeth (this is not praise, just a clinical statement of fact).

    Perhaps there is so much niceness about in Blogland because it is a country of immigrées. It is a self-selected population composed largely of introverts, i imagine. The extraverts are all out kicking footballs.

    So here we all are operating with our auxiliary functions (with introverts the general stays in the tent and instead sends his adjutant out to negotiate). Our strongest and preferred mental and emotional skills remain concealed while our proffered selves lack the puissance for authoritative rough and tumble.

    I mean, there are no social drinkies to dampen those introvert inhibitions. Only the syrup of feel-good from the can of Yes-We-Can.

    Or maybe the stakes simply aren't high enough to warrant coming out fighting. What turf do we really need to protect? Yes, feelings are invested, but seldom staked.

    Or maybe we simply recognize that each blogger is trying to build something worthwhile, each according to their lights. And so we tread softly between houses of cards.

    Didn't all us nice boys and girls, who have found our ways here, learn not knock down the other children's sand-castles and kick sand in their faces?

    So no, Elizabeth, none of us want to end up with a mouthful of grit. As Bob Dylan once sang, “I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”

    Reply
  9. Kass
    May 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm (7 years ago)

    Sometimes the niceness of people in the blog world gets to me too. What I notice is that when someone comments with glowing adjectives on a post of mine, then also glows on someone's else's blog about work I consider kind of trite, I feel diminished, but like Eryl said, it's my responsibility to find happiness (and meaning, I suppose) from what I write and what others write about what I write. (Now that little bit of writing deserves criticism)

    I like strong, unprotected writing. I like to think and I like people who think. I like what you write. As Sherry O' Keefe recently said, some scars feel good when you rub them.

    Reply
  10. Anthony Duce
    May 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm (7 years ago)

    I enjoy you pondering and analysis of yourself in context to the subject matter. I don't believe there are very many really open minds, not really. Some handle praise and criticism better, some are more expressive, others get excited or smolder until they burn. We may realize we learn more from criticism, but in the end we allow ourself to learn more to improve enough so that in the future there will be hopefully more praise, or of course maybe just as a check to be sure we achieved the result we were looking for in the first place.
    I will be thinking about your words for the rest of the day, maybe more. Thanks…

    Reply
  11. Rachel Fenton
    May 29, 2010 at 10:11 pm (7 years ago)

    Very early on in my blogging life (erm, less than a year ago) I posted a comment on a blog. Another blogger also visited the same blog where I had left my comment but didn't comment there, instead they posted a "rant" (their word) about my comment and what that insinuated about them. My comment was not aimed at them nor was it, I reitterate – on their blog. This person's post roused up a lot of anger and I suspect there was an exchange of emails between some parties as a number of people who had blogged me previous to my comment suddenly stopped either blogging me or responding to my comments on their blogs. Very sad. Yet we are what we are. I can no more criticise them for their behaviour than I can censor my own. People are apt to be offended when they want to be or, conversely, when they least expect to be.

    I guarantee my views will offend some people but I retain, indeed forght for the right to uphold my views or change them as I see fit without asking permission from the world wide web.

    I have already commented this, Elisabeth, but I repeat it now: we do not have to read. We can avoid being offended. But I for one am glad to have my feathers ruffled because that, even that, is living and feeling….far better than a life of custard!

    Reply
  12. Marja
    May 30, 2010 at 1:14 am (7 years ago)

    MMmmm You have expectations about bloggingsphere I am a bit different. For me there are enough complications in real life and I keep them there
    Blogging for me is pure relaxation although I love some discussion and I think it is important that to be done with respect eventhough disagreeing with someone.
    I really believe in focussing on the positive That at least helped me forwards in life and to get out of the dark side. The negative things in life made me stuck.
    I worked in a childrens home and learned to praise the kids (only when appropriate) so some could start to believe in themselves again. Call me a softy or what but
    I Hope blogging sphere stays a friendly place.
    It cleared up here for a few hours You over there must have had some rainy days as well.

    Reply
  13. Ronda Laveen
    May 30, 2010 at 3:04 am (7 years ago)

    To cause another pain by your action, unconsidered, like you did your brother, is a stark illustration of your point.

    One of the things I really like about blogtopia is that there are no rules. Write what you want, be who you are at any given moment…that's a gift.

    Reply
  14. Elizabeth
    May 30, 2010 at 5:03 am (7 years ago)

    So interesting — I especially loved how you started out this post quite testy (something to which I can really relate) and then built up to the surprising personal story. I liked that.

    As for comments, I am often embarrassed by the accolades I receive on my blog but I'm also aware of many folks who start reading my work and then stop because they just can't relate. I am like a fly to shit, too, and lurk around on conservative blogs, making comments here and there that aren't nasty but are clearly defensive and then I think, what's the use? and why am I wasting my time, etc. etc. I do think, though, that I seek the opposite and hope that others would seek me out. Then again, it's always wonderful to have like-minded souls with which to share one's trials and joys (how's that for trite?).

    Reply
  15. Jim Murdoch
    May 30, 2010 at 10:34 am (7 years ago)

    I have also found myself becoming increasingly irritated with the blogosphere of late. I’m a serious person and I enjoy listening to serious people. I subscribe to over 100 blogs but there is literally a handful that I read faithfully. And I should qualify ‘read’ before I go on. By ‘read’ I mean read, think about and respond to. Yours and Art Durkee’s are the top. I won’t distinguish between the two of you.

    That’s easy to say because I’m being nice and essentially I am a nice guy. There are, however, many blogs that pop up in my feedreader that I barely scan and wonder what possessed me to subscribe to them in the first place. Those I can’t mention by name because we’re in a public place. And that is the problem with the blogosphere in that it feels intimate (this is a one-to-one comment from me to you) and yet at the same time is so public (anyone can peek into our conversation and so I have to watch what I say). Exchanging e-mails is impractical. We simply don’t have the time to engage in a dozen personal conversations. It takes us all the time we have (and I suspect more time than you anticipated) dealing with our blogs.

    There is sweetness and light and then there is this artificial sweetness that permeates many blogs and forums. It makes me sick. It’s dishonest. I’m a grownup and I want grownup talk. I want topics to be raised that make me stop and think, not necessarily things I’ll go, “Aw,” at and make some witty remark about. Not that there’s not a place for that and there are a few sites I subscribe to where I do go, “Aw,” quite a bit of the time but even those sites generally have a bit of depth about them.

    My main reason for being online is to plug my writing. I think I’m quite balanced about it. I’m not exactly ramming my writing down people’s throats and I suspect that most people appreciate that. I learned very quickly though that to be read I need to read. It’s very quid pro quo the Web is and I sometimes wonder whether the effort I put into coddling my readers is worth it. To my mind there should be a clear distinction between reader and writer and that doesn’t exist online. Very few of us only read or only write. And there are a great many pluses to that. We might never have become friends were it not for that. But you became friends with Gerald Murnane and he doesn’t have a blog and he certainly doesn’t read yours.

    Gerald Murnane has no control over who buys his books, nor should he, and the same goes for us, we have no control over who reads our blogs. Some will get us. Many will not. I expect that a great many people who own Murnane’s books, if they’ve ever managed to finish them, don’t get him. And that’s fine. He’s looking for the one or two who do. So should we. And try and not allow ourselves to be dragged into long drawn out exchanges, which is hard. This is supposed to be fun, not a burden. And it can so easily become one. It’s difficult though because we want real responses and, as with good conversation, interchange takes time. Our problem is that we don’t know how busy anybody is. I’ve just looked back on your ‘Autobiography is not confession’ post and there are 99 comments, real comments, over 14,000 words. And the next post has 69 comments – I didn’t count the words – and goodness knows how many this one will generate. That indeed is a burden. And I can see you feel the need to respond to everyone on a one-to-one basis, your replies are considered and must take time, a lot of time. I know how long a thoughtful response takes.

    Your blog has picked up quickly, far quicker than I expected, which says something. People want something meaty that they can get their teeth into. So you are rendering a service but there is only one of you and I’m a little concerned that what’s just irritation wears you down and takes the fun out of this. Because this is meant to be enjoyable. Why else would we do it otherwise?

    Reply
  16. melissashook
    May 30, 2010 at 10:43 am (7 years ago)

    A wonderful vignette to end with….nine!!!! of you squeezed into the station wagon, four of you where dogs would sit…
    I find your blog responses most gracious and supportive and thank you for that..
    and for this post….

    Reply
  17. John Baker
    May 30, 2010 at 10:56 am (7 years ago)

    "We seek the teeth to match our wounds." Kenneth Tynan.

    Blogging is, primarily, about self-expression. If you find and use your own voice you have to upset some of the people some of the time.

    C'est la vie.

    Thanks for the article. It was great.

    Reply
  18. Elisabeth
    May 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi All

    I'm going to try something new here. I'm going to respond to you who comment here by name to acknowledge my gratitude but I will touch on certain points only that one or another of you raise.

    As Jim points out, I have been trying too hard to respond to as many comments as I can individually and this has given me cause to think again.

    AnnODyne, I mentioned this to you elsewhere. I had a long chat with a friend, a fiction writer, who suggests that I should not worry so much about satisfying my readers rather I should let my writing stand on its own and people will respond as they see fit.

    I like to respond to comments, though. Unlike the people you mention, Harry, I don't consider myself to be much of an introvert. I am fairly gregarious in the main. I generally love gatherings of people and the possibility of meeting new and interesting folk, as I do in the blogosphere thrills me, especially when there is so much opportunity to have rich discussions.

    I shall tell you all that my problem cropped up when a seemingly thoughtful blogger who has since decided to leave my blog, suggested that I had tricked her into reading my post and that I had not sufficiently forewarned her of the content such that she felt shocked and warned me by email to take more care of my readers.

    More follows

    Reply
  19. Elisabeth
    May 30, 2010 at 1:02 pm (7 years ago)

    I have thought about this at length and discussed the issue with my supervisor who has helped to clarify for me – and here I quote – that this blogger seems to have 'conflated the protagonist of my story, (the child Elisabeth through whom the narrative focalises) with the adult-Elisabeth who writes.'

    To this degree it seems this blogger might resent squandering her empathy on me, the author when she discovers that I am not as emotionally ill-equipped as my child self in the story.

    This is a feature of autobiographical writing, that readers can sometimes resent 'wasting empathy' when they discover that the person who writes the story is not the same as the character about whom they write. This applies particularly when writing declares itself to be autobiography. Readers enjoy the empathic response drawn from them through autobiography because it is after all a ‘true’ story but then resent it when they realise that the author and the protagonist in the story, the one who has suffered are no longer the same. The identity of the protoganist, in this case, my child self, by dint of fictionalising techniques and the shifts that inevitably occur through memory and the passage of time are no longer the same.

    It’s different with fiction because we are told from the onset that 'it is only a story' not necessarily 'true ' and therefore there is not the same need to expend empathic energy on the story, as one does when we believe the story really happened.

    I do not believe that I can be held responsible for my reader’s multiple responses to my writing as has been suggested by this disaffected blogger.

    Only one blogger you might say, why bother taking offence but there have been other hints of this criticism elsewhere, not from you people who comment here thus far but elsewhere from time to time and I sense the same sort of censure towards other writers on their blogs.

    It seems unfair to load us up with their wishes and expectations. It’s hard enough to write let alone to then feel we must take responsibility for the manifold feelings of our readers.

    So I direct this long comment to all of you who have responded thus far, and no doubt I will need to divide it into a few sections.
    More follows.

    Reply
  20. Elisabeth
    May 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm (7 years ago)

    My thanks go to AnnODyne and her many alter egos. I love the quote from Freud, please note that John Baker in a later comment offers a similar quote from Kenneth Tynan.

    To Nancy and her gentleness in the blogosphere, and of course you have to be wary of those with whom you might have a conflict of interest like your students.

    To Reader wil, my Dutch friend just back from Scotland.

    To the wonderful Weaver whose request for honest criticism I can recognise. It's hard to get people sometimes to put in the effort to fairly apprise our work and maybe that's where we writers might expect too much of some of our readers.

    To Eryl. I know of Love's Executioner but haven't read it yet. Sometimes our writing can get to people's core and it's hard for some readers to measure their counter transferential responses, as I think I have described above.

    To Beth who does not seem to object to the unexpected, a sign of an open mind.

    To Harry whose wonderful paintings and thoughtfulness in the blogosphere appeal to me enormously.

    As I mentioned earlier I'm not so much the introvert but I agree that many in the blogosphere probably are and it is hard when we cannot see one another, when we cannot pick up on tone of voice, facial gestures etc, when we all come from such disparate backgrounds and at the same time are desperate to find some commonality. I'd love to be in your dreams and given the number of times now I’ve seen your self portrait, Harry, who knows you might yet feature in mine.

    To Kass. I'm glad it gets to you too sometimes, the niceness that is. You'd know all about the sort of niceness that cloys on you given your background.

    To Anthony with whom I can only agree about the limitations of our open minds and how true it is that we learn more from criticism than from praise and still we long for the latter, as though the former is not of any value. I think though it depends on how the criticism is worded. Certain criticisms can be destructive. Others can be life enhancing

    To Rachel, It's good to read I'm not alone in this business of giving offence when none was intended and you are right, people do not have to read anything they choose not to read. If they don't like it they can flick the switch.

    To Marja, I wish blogging could simply be a source of relaxation for me. I take it all too seriously in some ways and must counsel myself to be more like you and lighten up

    To Ronda, there are no rules in blogtopia and yet I find there are a few who'd like to create some and get others to stick by them

    To Elizabeth, who likes to lurk around conservative blogs and add a comment or two that might ruffle a few feathers. Subversive for sure, but why not? As Ronda says there are no rules and I cannot for a minute imagine that you would be cruel. How easy it is to be cruel in the blogosphere. Maybe that's why we try so hard – sometimes too hard – to be kind.

    To Jim, who always offers such wonderful and intense thoughts that I could write him a letter as I write letters to Gerald Murnane in response but I’m trying hard to take your advice here Jim and not devote too much time to keeping people happy.

    To Melissa, who writes and writes and writes even when her body lets her down and does not judge but expresses her struggle so eloquently, I'm always pleased to hear from you.

    And finally in this long stream of thanks, and thoughts to you John Baker for your wonderful quote and for your encouragement.

    Reply
  21. dana
    May 30, 2010 at 7:04 pm (7 years ago)

    My mother had munchausen by proxy and made me ill, sometimes hospitalized, so that she could enjoy the attention of having a sick child. When I told her that I was being molested by a neighbor, she told me to keep my mouth shut. I now assume that there may have been a bit of resentment or jealousy on her part, for I would have then been in the spotlight if I had told my father.

    Married off to an equally abusive husband, and often hospitalized due to organs that were damaged from my mother's "elixirs", I've been told to FORGIVE, since the "sin" of non-forgiveness only hurts ME….. I've wasted my life living a victim's nightmare.

    With a new start, and a new husband who has a heart that bleeds compassion, I have now stopped telling myself what I should and should not do.

    I find it hard to "like" most people. I find it nearly impossible to "love" except for my husband and my fur child companion.

    So what.

    I see no reason to be around people, with people, or belong to a group of people, whether its a holiday or not.

    My help did not come from above, or from others. MY * HELP * DID * NOT * COME.

    In other words, I find it totally unnecessary to HAVE people, or a spiritual life.

    Yes. I have hated. Yes. I now have love in my life and return it, but beyond my tiny circle, I have no needs……none that would be fulfilled anyway.

    So I don't bother judging others but I DO find myself getting very angry when my faults are pointed out to me.

    I assume that, somewhere along the line, I developed a rather hard-nosed attitude (call it "bitter") and dislike having a "bit" forced in my mouth so that I can "do as others think I should".

    Reply
  22. Karena
    May 30, 2010 at 9:48 pm (7 years ago)

    There are so many excellent blogs to read depending on your leanings/ interests. Some are challenging, some informational, even the diary-like. Somethig for everyone!

    Most people try to be open minded, however many of us have a deep rooted black and white, not gray look at the world.

    I feel the same as many, if someone dosen't like me or my presentaions, then don't read my blog.

    Karena
    Art by Karena

    Reply
  23. Jesse
    May 31, 2010 at 3:45 am (7 years ago)

    On the door of my boyfriends bedroom there is. The first time I woke up there I wondered what sort of person this was whose bed I had slept in. What sort of person keeps something that disturbing so visible.

    I asked him about it more then once. He explained that it is to remind him that although others pretend as such it is not all sweetness and light. He tells me he doesn't believe in happiness, because it pretends that other things are not there.

    The room my mother stayed in was the opposite. Her room is like mine; I take so much from how she was in my life. My aunt and I came to pack everything up and looked for signs of sadness, pain, any hint of why she left us. We found nothing. There were quilts and projects. There were little charms and feathers. There was a tree she grew from an orange seed. Where was the darkness in her life? I knew she was not always happy, but here there was no sign of it.

    I know I was like that in public school. I never thought as such, to do so would put me in the category of those angsty youth, as my grandmother put it. I think I was lonely and cut off, but did not know as such. I often wonder if that is still the way of things. I used to hate the writers who tried to bring the dark and the gritty. I would say, 'but life is this way, why do I want this in stories? Stories are supposed to make me feel happy, because that's how you need to be.'

    Reply
  24. Elisabelle
    May 31, 2010 at 11:58 am (7 years ago)

    I wish I could write in French to tell you exactly how I feel about your writing. In that case I would say que j'aime leur réalisme sans concession et sans apitoiement. I would not be able to translate this correctly in English: sorry.
    Each time, I read one of your autobiographical story (like this last one with your brother), I am brought in a different world and I wish I could read the whole book.

    Reply
  25. Elisabeth
    June 1, 2010 at 12:23 am (7 years ago)

    I wrote a response to you four last night, to Dana, to Karena, to Jesse and to Elisabelle.

    Now where did it go? It doesn't appear here so I suspect it's flown into the ether.

    First I want to thank you all for your comments.

    Jesse, I wondered what it is that features on your boyfriend's door. It's not clear to me from your comment here. Something nasty by the sound of it.

    Dana, it's good to meet you here. I asked last night whether you have read Julia Gregory's 'Sickened, the story of a proxy Munchhausen childhood'. I suspect you'd resonate to Gregory's experience from what you write here.

    Karena, I couldn't agree with you more. No one forces people to read their blogs. People are free to come and go as they please.

    And finally here, thank you Elisabelle for your kind words. My school girl French is rusty, but I gather you resonate in some way with the story and that's as much as I can hope for, that it moves you in some way, for good or ill and causes you both to feel and to think again.

    Reply
  26. Titus
    June 1, 2010 at 12:58 am (7 years ago)

    As a horrendous extrovert, I love it all: praise, criticism, offence.
    Comments in blogland are very polite, but this gentility has its own charm. Plus you can usually assess something's worth by who of your usual circle chooses to comment and who doesn't.
    I liked the progression from the general to the personal, and enjoyed your writing.
    I'll be back (see, I'm not afraid to reference seminal pop culture and demonstrate my unfailing shallowness. Hmm, maybe that's why I enjoy blogging so much…?).
    And it suits the hours I keep.

    Reply
  27. Annotated Margins
    June 1, 2010 at 7:08 am (7 years ago)

    Every time I click to send a post from my blogging program, I know there's a chance that someone may take offense. I write the way I talk—a lot of asides that openly display my opinion. Well, like I say in the side-bar of my blog, I don't intend to offend, but… I could say that I think chocolate is the greatest invention prior to duct tape, and someone would find a way to take offense. If they want to take offense, then I should feel happy to have given them what they wanted, because surely they didn't take offense on accident. (Should we be offended that they took offense, when we didn't intend to offer it?)

    Truly, any autobiography that wants to touch reality will offend someone, because the truthful autobiography is going to delve into some bleak nooks and crannies.

    Too much light, my eyes get tired and I turn it off. Too much darkness, I lose sight and fall asleep. A bit of each is easier to read.

    Yes, you blog about darkness, and you blog about the light. I keep reading.

    Keep on writing.

    Reply
  28. Annotated Margins
    June 1, 2010 at 7:16 am (7 years ago)

    On the subject of niceties… I usually only say nice things on the blogs that I follow, because I follow only blogs that I like. If I read a blog on which I wanted to post a not-nice comment, I would be wasting my time.

    Reply
  29. BwcaBrownie
    June 1, 2010 at 9:00 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks to John Baker above, for knowing his Tynan quotes. It has been a synchronicitous day, as The Times, aptly for Elisabeth's topic, published an interview with Damien Lewis who said:

    My favourite quotation is by the writer Kenneth Tynan:
    “Rouse tempers,
    goad and lacerate,
    raise whirlwinds”.

    Reply
  30. Alberto Oliver
    June 1, 2010 at 9:14 am (7 years ago)

    I think i know what you are trying to express Elisabeth. But i think what sometimes drive us crazy is that kind of invisible law that states that we have to be always politically correct. It is part of being human to feel angry, or frustrated, or to want to be nasty sometimes. What is wrong with that?? What i don´t like is when people deliberatedly want to hurt somebody. There are people that really enjoy to go around there annoying and letting the world knowing about their lacks, traumas and frustrations. "Equilibrium" is the key, of course, everytime that it may be possible, life isn´t specially a fertile soil for a fair mind and mood. And I also think that there is a huge gap between sincerity and cinism. I think nevertheless that is easy to distinguish between them. But i would like to know what do you personally would prefer as the writer you are?? a straightforward attitude, or indiference?? Despite it all, sometimes art is about provocation.

    Reply
  31. Kittie Howard
    June 1, 2010 at 11:15 am (7 years ago)

    Elizbeth, thank you for finding me! Really enjoyed your writing voice. And, I'm not just being nice, but your well-written post voices what I've also thought about. Sometimes I think, because the world appears so dysfunctional, individuals seek the opposite sweetness. Don't know, don't know. But I do think that cornerstone of Buddhism is at play: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Reply
  32. Ocean Girl
    June 1, 2010 at 12:04 pm (7 years ago)

    When I started blogging, my then 16 year old son told me that I will get nice superficial comments, that I will have to continuously struggle for muse, and that I must be thick skin.

    I have recently started tweeting, he is seventeen now, and he told me that if I tweet, I will kill my blog. The inspirational pressure will be released and I won't be able to blog well anymore.

    You don't just write so intensely but your topics are so intriguing, Elisabeth. I feel like I never want to miss any of your post.

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    June 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm (7 years ago)

    Thanks Titus. I'm curious about the hours you keep, but i have vowed to myself that I will resist writing too much by way of responses to my wonderful commenters because I find I spend too much time in blogland and not enough time doing the other things I need to do. That said, I appreciate your comment here. welcome.

    Thanks to you Mike for your 'nice' commemts. That's a terrible word, isn't it, that word nice. Do you have 'Nice' biscuits available in your neck of the woods? We have them here in Australia. They are fairly bland sweet biscuits covered in a thin but glittering coating of sugar. I agree with you it is easy to offend in blogland, hence the need much of the time to stick to the niceties. Thanks, Mike.

    Wow, Bwca Brownie, Kenneth Tynan is right on the pulse. Shall I repeat the quote? Why not? Loud and sharp and wonderful: “Rouse tempers,
    goad and lacerate,
    raise whirlwinds”.

    A reminder to us all.

    Thanks Brownie.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    June 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm (7 years ago)

    You are right, Alberto. I think I prefer a touch of outrage to indifference, if that's the only choice. But mostly I prefer tolerant efforts at understanding when people don't agree.

    What I hate most of all is to be preached at or condemned. Thanks, Alberto.

    Lovely to see you here, Kittie. That's a terrific notion from Buddhism: 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction'.

    I wonder if it links to the 'talion' principle – an eye for an eye. That's pretty negative, though, though. I suspect Buddhism's aims are more benign. And then there is the christian notion of 'turning the other cheek'. Aphorisms abound. Let's keep up the dialogue.

    We learn so much from our children, Ocean Girl. I don't think I'm up to tackling twitter yet. I tend to be too verbose.

    My children have also warned me of the dangers of blogging. It's a brave new world for anyone over forty, I imagine, still I'm glad to be part of it. Thanks.

    Reply
  35. Marja
    June 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm (7 years ago)

    A surprise; just let you know that the hug campain is an initiative from australia and went all over the world

    Reply
  36. Alesa Warcan
    June 2, 2010 at 8:11 am (7 years ago)

    I would differentiate malice from negativity… While negative emotion and thoughts are a natural part of the human psyche and creative landscape, it is very hard to differentiate from malice. There are emotional and intellectual vandals who derive pleasure, or impressions of deluded superiority, etc from breaking and crushing things. From the receiving end it's not always easy to tell them apart.
    ___

    Agreed, the blogosphere is unnaturally sweet (yes, I dare say it, twee) and I still haven't got used to it. I recently got kicked from a prominent blog for what that person described as snarkiness. I thought my comments innocuous, and still think so after going back and checking. I don't resent or mind being banned though the manner in which it was done was a disappointment to me.
    Another paper thin ego pierced as I dance on eggshells…
    ___

    It also raises the question of how one encourages posters. There are posters whose works I love and so I say so… But on the other hand there are posters that I love who make valliant efforts but do not have the talent or skill to fully back their efforts… In retrospect, I can see how my comments to both might, to some extent, appear similar from the outside, though the intial impetus for the comments is radically different. I try to resolve this by being specific in my comments…
    Perhaps this phenomenon addresses what Kass was saying about having people glowingly praise her work but then also praise less glorious pieces…
    ___

    The sweet and brightness is doubly prevalent in the writing blogger's community. Have you noticed how horror, drama, and thriller authors seem to be a such a minority?
    And yet I understand that for aspiring or published authors, their blog is not an extension of their private persona but one of their public persona. And I see how that can add pressure for them to act a certain way.
    ___

    As I commented elsewhere a while back,
    "I try to act towards others as I would have them act towards me, and I'd rather have silence or heartfelt insults rather that something that is merely a polite courtesy."

    That said, before blogging publicly I was in a community where people were openly unpleasant with each other as matter of custom and that was essentially trying and left me silent for the most part.
    ___

    The niceness was one of the first things to appeal to me as I started blogging just a month or so ago… But it is also one of the two main disappointments.
    I'm not sure where this experiment is going to take me, but overall it's an interesting ride and I've gotten to meet half a dozen or so bloggers that have made a strong impression. Thanks for being one of them.

    There is so much more to think and say about this… Really, this comment feels like disjointed chicken scratches at surface of things. Your posts often do that: hit upon something that I have been pondering and I feel impelled to reply. : j

    Reply
  37. Gabriela Abalo
    June 2, 2010 at 10:28 am (7 years ago)

    Powerful post Elizabeth… gives lot to think about.

    loveNlight
    Gabi

    Reply
  38. Dave King
    June 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm (7 years ago)

    I quite like a bit of cut and thrust. It becomes irritating when folk begin to suggest that theirs is the way or point of view or whatever. On the whole I have found most bloggers respectful of other opinions and/or experiences.

    Reply
  39. Snowbrush
    June 2, 2010 at 10:40 pm (7 years ago)

    First kicked and then slapped. I am so very sorry you experienced such abuse.

    I enjoyed your thoughts about writing about writing and then being jumped on. And I thought religion was a difficult subject!

    Reply
  40. Kirk Jusko
    June 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm (7 years ago)

    Bad exists. Why not acknowledge it?

    Reply
  41. Elisabeth
    June 3, 2010 at 2:56 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the message, Marja. Fancy that, the free hug campaign began in Australia when I had thought it might have been a no no here.

    I agree with your differentiation here between malice and negativity, Alesa but those so-called emotional and intellectual vandals are in the minority, I would hope.

    Sorry to hear about your horrible trouncing in the blogosphere. Why do these wounds feel so deep? Is it because we receive them when we are alone – generally – at our computers and with no possibility of direct response, nor can we see faces, hear tones and murmurs, get immediate nor give immediate feedback.

    It certainly heightens the intensity of the experience. Hence as you suggest, all this hyper- sweetness in blopgland.

    It's true about those mixed feelings towards the niceness, as you say, you enjoy it and it disappoints you simultaneously.

    For this reason I prefer in depth responses like this one from you here. Such responses feel more like part of 'good' conversation, neither cloying nor nasty, but thoughtful, considerate and challenging, certainly nothing like the 'disjointed chicken scratches at surface of things' you suggest.

    Thanks, Alesa.

    Reply
  42. Elisabeth
    June 3, 2010 at 3:02 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks, Gabriela. I'm glad the post set you thinking.

    I agree Dave, a bit of the old cut and thrust is terrific, especially when delivered in such a way as to suggest a sharing of different points of view. I cannot abide feeling that I'm being preached at or told how I must behave in blogland, as if by almighty decree.

    Thanks, Snowbrush. These are difficult subjects but worth the effort.

    I couldn't agree more, Kirk. 'Bad exists'. We ought to acknowledge it.
    Thanks for the observation.

    Reply
  43. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    June 3, 2010 at 7:30 pm (7 years ago)

    For me life is far too short to spend it around disagreeable people or blogs so I tend to avoid both. And yes that probably does mean I’m stuck in a sort of blancmange, but at this point in my life that where I’m happiest.

    Reply
  44. angryparsnip
    June 4, 2010 at 5:15 am (7 years ago)

    Elizabeth…
    I don't know why I had such a hard time finding your blog … but I found it !
    Thanks for the kind comments on mine.

    cheers, parsnip

    Reply
  45. A Cuban In London
    June 4, 2010 at 8:22 am (7 years ago)

    Loved it, loved it, LOVED IT! But this specifically:

    'I own up to wanting to see my enemies suffer, but it stops there. I do not spend my time in pursuit of my enemies, seeking to bring about their downfall.'

    Actually, there was a time when I pursued my enemies, wishing them so much ill that it made me ill. But it made me feel good, too. That was in my teens and early twenties. Since I met my wife I have calmed down a bit. Just a bit. 🙂

    I'm not surprised that we belong to the same Zodiacal sign, fellow Scorpio. I've never been heavily into signs and all that jazz, but I think they got it right with mine. And yours. No wonder I follow your blog.

    Have a brilliant weekend. Or maybe not, or maybe it won't come out the way your expect it, but whatever you get up to in the next couple of days, do it because you feel it. 🙂

    Greetings from London.

    Reply
  46. Frances
    June 4, 2010 at 9:44 am (7 years ago)

    "He hasn't got a mean bone in his body," my husband would sometimes say of someone: but, it was actually true of him. Me, I'm riddled with mean bones.
    Some people do not have a dark side. Some people, like my husband and my daughter and some others I know, are pure light.
    Their intelligence, wit, empathy and good hearts make them sought after, delighted in, and enjoyed. Interacting with them elevates and enhances one.
    They are far from "like treacle."

    They are the pure hearts showing us what is possible.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    June 4, 2010 at 11:31 am (7 years ago)

    Jane, blancmange is fine if that's what you enjoy. I'm sure for some it's quite a delicacy and of course it depends on the ingredients and how it's made.

    Thanks, Jane. I don't find your posts bland, despite your penchant for French style custard.

    How wonderful to meet you here at last, parsnip. I'm glad you found me. I enjoy my visits your way.

    Reply
  48. Elisabeth
    June 4, 2010 at 11:40 am (7 years ago)

    Good to meet a fellow Scorpio, Cuban, though, like you, I don't put too much store by star signs. still it's fun to compare notes however illusory.

    Thanks, Cuban. I suspect most of us calm down with age, though not too much I hope.

    And Frances, thank you. How lovely to be married to such a man, a man without a single mean bone in his body.

    You are different from what you say. You are riddled with 'mean bones'.

    Do you ever wonder how it is that such a kind person can get together with one riddled with meanness? I suspect each of you carries something for the other. It often happens.

    My husband and I tend to balance our attributes out. In the old days when I was a gentler soul, my husband tended to be more aggressive. I think he may have carried some of my anger for me then. Not so any more.

    I enjoy speculating on the synchronicity of partnerships.

    Thanks, Frances.

    Reply
  49. newjenny
    June 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm (7 years ago)

    What I really think, then, is that your thoughtfulness is much more contained than my own. I wonder if you have a paradigm of neat balance.

    But I like softness, I like kindness.

    I note the speaker's assumption that Freudians host dinner parties with some vague amusement.

    Reply
  50. Elisabeth
    June 5, 2010 at 12:07 am (7 years ago)

    The idea of 'a paradigm of neat balance' is wonderful, Jenny. I only wish I could find it.

    This morning I struggle with thoughts on how haphazard and chaotic my work is. I cannot pull the necessary strings together to write a long enough piece, namely my thesis.

    I'm flooded with bits and pieces. I need to create dams and waterfalls and enclosed pools here and there but at the moment everything is like a swirling mass, including a whole lot of unnecessary and unsightly litter.

    Thanks Jenny, I take this opportunity to respond to you as a chance to rant about my frustrations. Please forgive me and thanks for visiting.

    I hope I haven't frightened you off.

    Reply
  51. newjenny
    June 5, 2010 at 10:49 am (7 years ago)

    Please repond to me as a chance to rant about your frustrations anytime, Elisabeth.

    The paradigm of neat balance occurred to me from your 'a little bit of love, a little bit of hate' position.

    Kindness and honesty are so frequently at odds. I honestly like your thoughtful writing. I hereby give you licence to respond to my words with intellectual hostility and psychological penetration.

    Reply
  52. Robert the Skeptic
    June 9, 2010 at 5:14 am (7 years ago)

    This is one of the side benefits of blogging, discovering new blogs where people actually have something interesting and/or meaningful to convey. I am put off by a lot of women bloggers as they blog "hearts and flowers". That is not necessarily bad, just not interesting to me. Yes, many blogs reach into my heart but I also like my brain massaged from time to time as well.

    I am fairly new to blogging, or at least, serious commitment to blogging. Some of my fellow bloggers say they don't do Religion and Politics. Too bad. I don't try intentionally to promote controversy, but I neither shy away from it. I put my thoughts out there and I am willing to hear where people may differ with me. Perhaps I don't know what I'm getting into, but… enough rambling. Anyway, you have captured my attention.

    Reply
  53. Dominic Rivron
    June 16, 2010 at 7:02 am (7 years ago)

    The comment by Salman Akhtar you quote reminded me of the Robert Graves poem, A Slice of Wedding Cake. (OK, so it's "of it's time"):

    Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
    Married impossible men?
    Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
    And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.

    Repeat 'impossible men': not merely rustic,
    Foul-tempered or depraved
    (Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
    How well women behave, and always have behaved).

    Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
    Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
    For whose appearance even in City parks
    Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.

    Has God's supply of tolerable husbands
    Fallen, in fact, so low?
    Or do I always over-value woman
    At the expense of man?
    Do I?
    It might be so.

    Reply
  54. Elisabeth
    June 16, 2010 at 11:25 am (7 years ago)

    That's a terrific poem, Dominic, however dated and yes I'd agree it does connect with this strange juxtaposition of love and hate, idealisation and denigration with which we battle all the time.

    These opposing feelings are so hard to integrate.

    Thanks, Dominic.

    Reply

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