Ok, so first things first: sorry for disappearing. I had to. Thank you for all the nice things you said in the comments, and in emails, and sorry for not replying. Thanks, as well, to all the people who carried on coming here during the gap – about 60 people a day, on average, which is extraordinary, given that I haven’t been saying anything.
Second things second: today marks two-and-a-half years since my first post. I was in two minds until very recently whether I’d be marking the occasion with a mock obituary for Aethelread, or a return to the blogging fold. Anyway, I’ve decided to return, so, yeah, let’s have a party, with, like, balloons and party hats and stuff:
I’m not here in quite the same way I was before, though.
The first major difference is that I’m going to be writing in a slightly different way, and, in particular, I’m going to abandon my attempts to tackle really serious subjects. Which is not to say that I’ll be reduced to the level of posting lolcats to summarise my current mental state
but, at the same time, I’m going to give up on my attempts to put the world to rights. There’ll still be interesting – I hope – stuff about the wider world posted here, but it’ll be on aspects of the wider world that don’t really matter. When I tackle things that are actually important I feel way too much sense of responsibility for getting everything I say just right, and that self-imposed pressure towards perfectionism is (he said, understating wildly) unhelpful.
The second major difference is that I’m going to be a lot more absent from the comments. In fact, from here on in it’s unlikely I’ll ever say anything more than “Thanks for commenting”, possibly supplemented by “I agree”, “Good point, I hadn’t thought of that” or “Well, I don’t agree”. Sometimes I won’t even say that, because I will be restraining myself from reading the comments altogether. I regret this change more than I can say – I’ve really enjoyed many of my comment-chats, and I feel like I’ve made real friendships with my regular commenters – but it’s something I need to do. When the drive to perfectionism is interacting with low-level paranoia about saying anything in public, I can lose half a day to crippling fear as I agonise over a comment of three sentences, and that is also (he said, again understating wildly) unhelpful. And then, as well, there’s the fact that I’m really not a people person, and I find managing multiple interactions – even via the medium of comment – really very stressful. I hope some of you will keep commenting (though I will understand if you don’t see the point anymore) because nine times out of ten I’ll be reading just the same. One tiny request though – if you are going to comment, please be gentle with me, as I’m more fragile than I sometimes allow myself to appear. Thank you.
The third major difference is that I’m going to (try to) allow myself to be a little more spontaneous in future. Over the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been putting a lot of effort – I mean, really a lot of effort – into trying to look ‘normal’ on this blog, but the fact is that, whether I like it or not (and I don’t; I really, really don’t) I am a mentalist loony person. What has tended to happen is that, as I’ve started on one of my periodic disintegrations, I’ve worked harder and harder to maintain a normal façade, becoming more and more long-winded and formal and just off, and then had a massive meltdown. This is a clear pattern – there’s evidence of it happening at least three times if you trawl back through the archives. So. I’m not going to do it anymore. As I start to turn weird I’m going to be weird (or, rather, I’m going to try and allow myself to be weird – I remain a very private person, and this stuff is just humiliating, goddamn it).
This will likely mean a few more strange posts, or otherwise normal posts where the logic suddenly skitters off into the long grass. I may also become more capricious – suddenly turning posts private, or closing them to comments: that sort of thing. The aim is not to be weird for weirdness’ sake, but to avoid the recurring pattern where I exert huge reserves of mental energy on, for example, keeping the blog public when the exposure that entails feels like ants crawling over the inside of my skull. Instead of doing that, I’ll just take the blog private, or close comments, or hide posts, or whatever it takes to feel comfortable, with the intention of reversing that when I feel better.
If I’m honest, this feels like something of a defeat – it feels like I’m giving in – but it reflects a change in the way I’m thinking about the blog. When I started it, I thought of it as a line in the sand after I’d been driven back and back from a normal existence, a place where I could start the fight back; I would be normal in the blog, and from that would build to being normal with real-world friends, and normal in work, and so on. That approach has clearly been a mistake; it hasn’t worked, as the recurring motif of blog meltdowns testifies. I don’t think being more open will make any real difference – the meltdowns aren’t, ultimately, caused by the blog, so changes in blogging behaviour are unlikely to resolve them – but it will result in me being more honest about what I can and can’t do, and when I can and can’t do it, and that honesty is probably a more stable footing for working out how I’ll get my life back.
Anyway, I should probably give the big I shalls a rest now, because I’ll just end up looking silly when I completely fail to live up to any of them.
I haven’t been living completely under a rock during the course of my blog-pause. For a start, I have actually been periodically blogging, although I’ve kept all those posts private up until now. I’m going to go through and de-private most of them so you can see what I’ve been saying to myself (hence the ‘return of the repressed’). I’m not sure what effect doing that will have on my RSS feed, so sorry if it makes it explode – although there’s not that many posts that I’ll be un-disappearing, probably only three or four.
What have we learned?
- Aethelread is back, after a fashion