Not alone

Footprints in the Sahara

I’ve always been a bit of a loner, quite content with being by myself. Too content actually; a result of childhood experiences I’d rather forget.

Writing suits me.

But sometimes it’s not the best for personal growth. After all, we are social beings. But because I’m such a private person, this social networking stuff is way out of my comfort zone. By looking at me most people wouldn’t think so.

For more than a decade I owned a large Physiotherapy clinic in Vancouver and now I look after my family (including two dogs). Years ago I made a conscious effort to connect with friends every week. I run with three different groups, go to exercise and yoga classes, try to walk weekly with a friend that’s had a head injury, paddle on a dragon boat team, and am a member of this serious writing group. On the weekends I make an effort to connect with more friends. All of this is in my comfort zone.

But does anyone other than myself really know me? The inner core stuff, what makes me tick, what terrifies me, what I’ve tried to leave behind, what I’m struggling with at the present, what my prejudices are, what I’m ashamed of, what I can’t accept but I know I should?

We all have them. Right? And I’m sure it’s not easy for most of us to talk about them.

Take society’s question we all ask one another.

“How are you?”

In general we answer, “okay,” or “good,” but come on, not everyone is always okay. And to be honest, when we ask, we don’t really want to know when someone isn’t okay. Right?

Why not?

I think it’s because we want to (and society expects us to) be social. Being social makes us think of sharing good things like parties, fun times, the intense juggling of one’s life with family and friends, or the looking forward to and planning of holidays, get-togethers, etc. When we think of being social it doesn’t include expressing the deep hurting or critical decision-making stuff. But, we all have those issues too.

So if we’re not okay, we don’t say it because it’s the un-fun side of being social, and who wants to be un-fun?

Therefore I’m guessing that what some of us do when we really want to get emotionally connected is we READ. We can get involved without putting our own lives at stake. We can laugh and cry and relate to the un-fun side of our social needs without putting the effort in ourselves. Let’s be honest, it hurts to spill out what terrifies us, or to work through or talk about abuses we’ve endured, or to reveal our flaws or unsavoury thoughts.

I know.

And that’s what I love about writing. I’ve had those deep hurts. I have my prejudices and ugly thoughts, and I’ve had the exhilarating highs too. For me, writing is part therapy and it’s over-the-top cool to have those feelings come out in my characters. But, have I opened myself up and let others really know me? Is it important?

I believe that being outside one’s comfort zone is necessary for personal growth. So I’m growing with this writing challenge and all the Twitter, Facebook and blogging we are doing. And I’m getting used to the idea that having ‘followers’ doesn’t mean I’m being stalked. I’d be more comfortable simply running with my friends, going to yoga, being mom to my three wonderful adult children, and yes, writing alone.

Yet, maybe because of this 5Writer’s challenge, I’ve decided to push myself on a deeper personal level too, and open up to a few people and let them in where it hurts.

And it helps. And I’m thankful for your support. You know who I mean.

I’m not alone.

Paddling together

(And in case you are wondering, I’m getting a lot of writing done too.)

Photos by David J Greer

12 thoughts on “Not alone

  1. Karalee, you’ve tagged your post with the words “personal growth”. I don’t think any of us envisioned, when we embarked on this challenge, how much closer we would become as a group. Perversely, our actual face-to-face time has been minimal. As a group, we’ve not met in person since September 6th, when we ironed out the ground rules for the 5writers challenge. Yet in the ensuing weeks, through these public posts (and also in our ‘closed’ Facebook group), I feel we have learned more about each other than in all the hurried critique group meetings that came before our challenge.

    Social media is indeed for most of us, a ‘ brave new world’ – we do not yet know where it will take us, but I applaud your courage in sharing, and am confident you will experience both personal and professional growth as a result. Thank you for your candor. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks Paula. Funny how this social media stuff is actually a venue to keep us together even though we’re apart. Lets hope society doesn’t get to the point we don’t need face-to-face time!

  2. That was powerful … and moving. I share some of your traits and inner motivations, but wouldn’t have had the guts to put it all out there.

  3. I heard poet Susan Musgrave give a talk at a writers’ festival on Saltspring last February (Words Without Borders). Her topic was exactly this: the inanity of these ritualistic ‘social’ conversations we have … the ones that often start with “how are you” without expectation of a truthful answer. It was quite hilarious as she (burdened with her serious poet’s mind, and inclined to deep thinking) struggled to keep herself from answering literally, or philosophically, and forced herself to simply say “fine, how are you?” It sounds like a light topic. It wasn’t. Let me compliment you again on this very fine post Karalee!

  4. This struck a lot of chords with me Keralee, and you touched on one of the fundamental reasons why we need stories. It also made me think that, however bland and trite our social exchanges are, they are absolutely necessary to our social well-being. As a writer, I am fascinated by the way cliches and simple everyday language can gain great emotional weight and significance from repetition, association and context. There is no better example of this than Of Mice and Men- but I can’t aspire to be a Steinbeck. Good luck to you- your writing will spring from honesty, which is probably the most important quality of a writer!

    • Thanks Connie. I’m finding that in developing my characters, I am drawing on personal emotional responses to give depth. I trust it will work. I’m relating to my characters more if nothing else!

  5. Hi Karalee
    Just read this post. It struck a chord with me too. I’m on the same page as far as being social, and for me those things are always “work”. For whatever reasons, some of us aren’t as comfortable with the extroverted and very often ritualized nature of social exchanges, even with the people we know well, and who ostensibly know us a little bit. And I totally get what you’re saying about both reading and writing allowing us to connect on an emotional level in ways we can’t do in person, and express parts of ourselves for which there is no other avenue. All humans need that. Even, or perhaps especially the people who are “good at” being social. They put a lot “out there” but how much of it touches the deep, truthful, or painful parts of ourselves. Is writing a safer way to be yourself? I don’t know the answer. I guess that may be one of the reasons we are so protective of our writing, why sharing it, reading it aloud or submitting it to be judged by others makes us bleed a little. Great post, great topic of discussion. Thanks.

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