An airtight box

Dear Reader,

In writing to you today I am pretending that you are one person, instead of the unwieldy and three-dimensional herd of actuality. It’s kind of hard talking personally to a herd. Condense yourself if you will. There, that’s better. You and I are sitting together over tea.

I want to talk to you about some of the feelings that led to my thirty-day vacation—peculiar feelings of rising panic.

Do you know those jokes you can only tell when there are no men around? Okay. And the stories you can’t tell your in-laws? Yeah. And the church issues touchy with your parishioners? Uh-huh. And the childhood allusions only Minnesota folks would get? And the deep stuff you want to tell your besties? And the chit-chat and old recipes you’d only share with new acquaintances?

What am I to say to you??

For you, dear reader, are my husband and my grandmother.* You are my parishioner and my mentor. You’re the younger lady I am to teach and the older lady I am to learn from. You are a man. You are a harried mother. You are a virgin. You are old and young. You live in affluence in America and at a mission in Paraguay. You are my childhood playmate; you are my dearest friend; you are a casual passerby. You are almost entirely unconnected with my real life; you are deeply intertwined with my affairs; I will never meet you. You are profoundly conservative in lifestyle and beliefs; you have been liberated from legalism. You are in great need of rejuvenation. You want to laugh. You are crying today. You care about health. You have been hurt by the church. You are crazy about Jesus. You wish I would stop these rants already.

*I am not making this up.

What am I to say to you?

In the real world, I spend my whole life talking behind other people’s backs: not maliciously, but judiciously. Friend X would be offended by a discussion on birth control; Friend Y will spread my words to the end of the earth; Friend Z has been hurt by this issue in the past.

Jesus said “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Strong words.

I must think of you and your needs, what will make you laugh and what will hurt you. Yet the more I think of you, the less I write. Filtered through a security system that would make an airport run for cover, little is left to say.

I confess it: I cannot write when people are reading over my shoulder. My brain completely freezes. Yet you read over my shoulder each day. When I sit down to a blank Word page in an empty room, you are there, checking.

I admit still more: Blogging is of great popularity and limited usefulness. The demotivational poster from comes to mind: “Blogging–Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.” Did you know that over 100,000 new WordPress blogs are created every day? I don’t even believe in blogging.

And I get sick of hearing Me. So I invite in these charming, talented women to talk to you, and it quickly becomes obvious that you are chary of newcomers. I feel I must give that part up, though I am quite cross with you about it.

I felt great trepidation as the month of March drew to an end—rising panic that I must write again. “Must write,” I say, though my bones ache for it and it’s one of the things I was made to do. I yearn for it and shrink from it.

All my life I have majored on keeping people happy and not saying the wrong thing. Here I am being squeezed into a place in which whatever I say will be the wrong thing to someone; a place in which it’s hard to say anything at all; a place in which I cry for a nice safe cage. But I must write! And I can’t write only what I think you want to hear. Packaged into such an airtight box, all the spark dies out.

Your expectations of me are high; you like me a lot and believe in me. I blog to practice, to play. Yet you insist on calling it a “ministry;” what does that mean about the irreverent posts and the objectionable language? You take me seriously at a time when I am most earnestly striving to do the opposite. So I cannot listen to you, cannot watch you hanging over my shoulder; but it’s hard to hear something in the background for 365 days and not be changed by it in some way.

There are still deeper layers of reluctance. Layers within layers.

You praise my honesty. I look vulnerable to you, almost unbearably so. You send me private emails to compliment and confess, because you cannot bring yourself to respond so publicly. (I love them.) Do you have any idea how many things lie beneath my words to you? How many dark secrets I would never touch? How many bright dreams? Have no doubt it is fear in my eyes.

Happiness by way of blogging is an illusion; just like happiness by marriage, happiness by money, happiness by chocolate. (No wait. Happiness by chocolate still works for me. But even so.) Happiness is only by security in the Lord Jesus Christ, and blogging is one of the least secure places I know.

We have come full circle, back to the rising panic with which I began this letter. I am comfortable keeping secrets from you, but not comfortable ignoring this one big secret that was growing between us, walling me into unhappiness and shutting you out: There is a gap between who I am and who I want to be, and another between who I am and who you want me to be.

I had to tell you this, though I’m not going anywhere with it. I will keep writing. You will keep reading, if you wish.

Let’s be good to one another.



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11 years ago

Don’t sweat this too much. Be yourself. I’m sure the Lord can sort you out, given a little time.

11 years ago

Keep writing Shari, keep writing! Write for your “audience of One.” I’m honored you allow the rest of us to laugh and learn, sigh and cry along with you.

11 years ago

I think anyone who blogs struggles with this, so I do understand how you feel. In fact, there are times that I feel like getting something out there but I want to turn the comments “off” so I can’t hear what anyone thinks about it, or even start a blog anonymously so I don’t have to filter so much.

Every post is different from the last so one may strike a chord with one person while another may touch the heart of someone else, or one may just be lots of fluff and fun. If you enjoy blogging, do it, but I understand the “guarded” feeling you feel and that’s OK, too. Thanks for sharing this, I totally get it.

11 years ago

I have no idea how you can put to words emotions that I have not yet articulated even to myself.

Thank you. And thanks for continuing to write.

Janelle Glick
11 years ago

I promise to be good to you.

11 years ago

oh, thank you Shari. you have put into words why i do not have a blog and i love you all the more for writing a blog anyway. some days i am bored, other days what you write or more often what commentators write makes me angry or a mad sad, some days you make me laugh, some days you make me cry, but mostly i come away from reading your refreshingly honest blog hopeful of better things and inspired to reach higher and further than before. I am so glad you are back, thanks for writing, Rosanna

11 years ago

What Gina said. I’m glad you’re still writing!

11 years ago

I don’t even know how to thank you. This post touched me at a very deep place. Thank you for sharing!

11 years ago

This is so good. I hope you don’t think I’m flattering you if I tell you that you’re positively brilliant. I really, really like how you put the yearning and shrinking into words. Thank you for writing. I’m so happy that you’re back.

11 years ago

Others have said it very well, but I want to add my voice: Thank you for writing, and please keep on… I understand what you are saying, yet I haven’t yet been offended by anything you’ve said. Maybe I haven’t agreed with something, (not thinking of anything in particular) but that’s okay. No two people agree on everything. I love reading your blog, and it lifts me up, simply because you articulate common human experiences in a way that makes me feel you are in my shoes! And I find myself laughing a lot. Two things that always make my day better. Also, you make me think, which I like. I guess what I’m saying (in a rambling sort of way) is that your blog is good for me. Yes, it may offend some people sometimes, but blogging is like teaching school… it’s not for the thin-skinned. (I am sure that applies to pastors as well!) I am grateful there are people willing to blog anyway.

I do understand and feel what you are saying in this post! It’s a deal… let’s be good to each other. (Sometimes I even find it difficult to post a comment for fear of how others will perceive it.)

11 years ago

love, love, love this… and you, my dear. It is not easy to live real publicly…. and I am proud of you for addressing the elephant… and I hope to never make you criminal or perfect =)

11 years ago

Yes. Yes. Yes.

11 years ago

Dear Shari,

As a friend and a blogger, I enjoyed this post. I agree with one of your other friends who said that she thinks most bloggers feel what you’re expressing at one time or another.

I have had a running dialogue with myself over the matter of blogging – something with which I both love and detest. I ask myself why I blog almost every time I post (And even blogged about that question, here: Your post had me thinking for a good part of the morning… Why do we blog?

We write because we must write. You said it! As I thought through your post this morning and mulled this matter of blogging over and over again in my mind, I thought too that maybe another reason we feel this great urge to write – to blog (even when we don’t believe in blogging) is also because of that ingrained, natural compulsion to be heard. We want to feel like people know we’re out here wrangling with life too, with something to say, something to offer. (Even as we speak more for the benefit of our own hearts, as I think most bloggers blog (and writers write) – to process.)

And whether you blog it all raw or not, those who care about you (the writer of the post) will see past the words unspoken or furtively posted, and catch your heart.

And this is kind of an aside, but I think it fits too. It’s original with Stasi Eldridge but I’m going to speak these words to you: “You are a woman. An image-bearer of God. The crown of creation. You were chosen before time and space, and You are wholly and dearly loved. You are sought after, pursued, romanced, the passionate desire of Jesus. You are dangerous in your beauty and your lifegiving power. And you are needed.”

Love and grace to you. Welcome back.

11 years ago

So good to read this, and I understand completely. What I don’t understand is how people so quickly shoot down someone on-line. They do it in real-time and space too, but even more quickly and thoughtlessly in cyber-space, it seems.
I’m on a quest for living in truth AND grace. That’s harder for me to do in real life than it is on-line. I’m glad you’re flying in my galaxy!

Wendy Zook
11 years ago

I am glad you write just for the fun of it, because I always feel like I am laughing at the wrong moments. Maybe I will have to tell you more about them if I know that you won’t be offended. 🙂

I will be good and I will keep reading!

11 years ago

Oh how I understand!! But here I go saying the very thing that makes me want to run and hide when others say it to me: I’m so glad I found your blog! Blessings.

1 year ago

Well put. Anyone who feels the compulsion to express themselves through written form will understand exactly the sentiment that you write about. I have just learned about you and other Plain writers. I am fascinated.

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