Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment

A few months ago I started reading a blog that was written neither by Mama or crafter, but by a real writer. I usually tend to stick to my kind, you know? But Neil makes me laugh, occasionally snort, and he really has a way with words. He takes the pulse of the Mommyblogging circle so well that I just read him and his tweets rather than plunge into the wider world out there.

This year he brought back an idea he tried last year. The premise is to interview another blogger, the line up determined by where you fall in the comments section and the questions all of your own making. I decided to give it a try and my blogger to interview happens to be a woman who lives not too far away, once lived East but now lives West and just happens to also be a writer. I found outreach in Blogland can end up leading one quite close to home. Here is my interview with TC, a Mama/writer/cook who blogs here and here.

I started blogging due a vibrant knitting community I found online. That community has changed over the last few years as did my blog when I became a Mama. I continue to write when I can with the content changing as life changes. What inspired you to begin blogging and has it changed for you over time?

To be honest, I can't even remember.

Well, I sort of can. I started blogging in the summer of 2003 at a blog I called Tiny Coconut. (It's still there at tinycoconut; I just don't update there any more because of a bunch of boring and confusing events that wouldn't be worth the time to detail.) Earlier that year, I'd had sort of a nervous breakdown/PTSD episode after one of my husband's ex-girlfriends really ramped up what had previously been a sort of low-level stalking. It had been a ridiculously hard few months for me, and I needed an outlet.

Now, you need to understand that I've been a 'professional' writer for more than 20 years now, if by professional you mean someone who gets paid to write. (I don't actually feel like any kind of true professional most of the time!) I'm mostly a non-fiction/science/medical writer, though I've dabbled in other things. Anyway...the point is that I'm used to writing for an audience. The times in the past when I tried journaling on paper were complete failures; I couldn't find the right 'voice,' I didn't know how much information to include (after all, I knew what had happened to me, right, so why bother giving all the details?), and so in the end the writing always ended up feeling forced, fake, pointless, and grandiose.

So I had all this angst, and this need to talk, but I didn't have anyone to talk TO. Then I started reading other peoples' blogs--I don't remember who turned me on to them, or which was my very first, but I know it was around the same time--and I realized that this was the way to go for me. This was a venue in which I could talk about what hurt me and what made me laugh, and I would have an audience, however small, that I could talk to.

What I write about has transformed a bit over the years--the stalking issues are a lot less prominent much of the time, my kids are growing and changing and thus the way I write about them has grown and changed--but I haven't had the sort of major life shift that you describe. Or, rather, I'd had it a good six years before I started blogging, when I became a mother for the first time. In general, the reason I blog now is still the same as it was when I started--I need to process my life, to get stuff 'on paper,' and I need an audience to keep me motivated to do so.

Reading about your son and his current struggles and challenges really struck a chord in my heart. I worked with children in rehab for many years, but always in the physical arena. I thought it beautiful when you brought into focus that your son is the crux of the issue, not his diagnosis. As you continue to identify ways to better give him assist and opportunities, I would ask you what are your greatest hopes for your son? And what are your greatest fears?

There's pretty much no chance I'm going to get through this without crying. But here goes...

My greatest hopes for my N are the same as they are for his older sister, Em. I hope that they will grow up to have lives that make them happy, that satisfy them, that are authentic and real and meaningful. I hope that they will grow up to make a difference in someone else's life. I hope that they will love and be loved.

Here is what I often say to my husband and friends: I truly and completely believe that N is going to be just fine as an adult. More than just fine. I think he's going to be a kick-ass grownup. I think he's going to be special and unique. I think that who he is now is going to serve him really well once he's on the other side of these years of struggle and growth and learning--but only if he makes it through those years having grown and learned. If he's been beaten down by life and/or his peers, if he's been passed through the school system without anyone figuring out how to reach him, if he doesn't learn to navigate through life on his own, then the adulthood I envision for him will evaporate, and in its place...Not something I want to think about.

But that's not even my greatest fear. My greatest fear is that that kick-ass adulthood will evaporate on account of something I did, or didn't do, or tried to do and failed. That in trying to help him, I will instead somehow hinder him. That I'm not doing the best I possibly can by him. That he deserves better. It's not necessarily rational, but it's definitely my greatest fear.

What are three things that you have done of which you are very, very proud?

My two books.
(I'd have added marrying my husband, but that doesn't feel like something to be proud of; I didn't do anything other than say 'yes' at the right moment. It's just something that makes me happy.)

What is one thing you have done that you would change if you had the chance?

Is it pathetic that I really can't think of anything? Or, rather, I feel as if the choices I've made have led me where I am, and I don't think I'd have wanted to wind up anywhere else. I'd love to see what would have happened if I'd made other choices along the way--for instance, I lived in Scotland for a year back in the mid '80s, and dated a boy there; I'd love to know what would have happened if I hadn't found living on separate continents too hard to maintain the relationship for a few years until we could be together. Would we have married? Would I be living in Scotland now? But I wouldn't want to redo that part of my life if it means losing the life I have now.

I noticed that you were awfully close to the recent Signal fire, which places you squarely in some part of suburban Southern California (not far from me, actually). I also noticed you have family back East.

What is the biggest difference you notice in the people living on opposite edges of this country? I ask because I grew up here in California but went to school in NYC for five years. I would love to hear the perspective of another bi-coaster.

I'm actually right at one of the borders of the Station fire, and yes, that means I'm in an LA suburb. I've lived in LA and its environs since 1993, but before then, I'd spent the bulk of my years in New York. In fact, I was born and bred in Queens.

The biggest difference between the two cities, to me, is their energy levels. New York gives off a level of frantic, hard-edged, high-voltage energy that it a bit off-putting to me these days. When I'm there, I feel manic; I'm irritable; my speech and movement feels pushed, pressured. I feel hard. And it's claustrophobic. I used to ride the subways without a second thought; now, a subway ride sets my heart pounding, my palms sweating. It's an instant panic attack. For many, many people, that energy literally feeds them--their mood, their creativity. But for me, it's all just too much.

LA, on the other hand, is more open, calmer. Since I'm not in 'the business,' though, it tends to feel like a place without a center, without a specific identity. West Hollywood, Pasadena, Brentwood, Northridge; these places have almost nothing in common. The idea that the temperature on any given day may vary by 10, 20, 30 degrees from one part of LA to another...that just blew me away when I first got here. But it's sort of emblematic: There's no single way to define LA, no one temperature that fits across the board. Which is why it pisses me off when I hear people make generalizations about what LA is like. It's like nothing. It's like everything.

Oh, and the other difference? I, still a New Yorker in many ways, carry a pocketbook, when the rest of you carry a purse. And I wear sneakers, not tennis shoes or running shoes or walking shoes.

If you closed your eyes right now and imagined a place you would like to be, anywhere, anytime, what does that place look like?

It's a house, set far back, no neighbors in sight (though it's not completely isolated). The house has tons and tons and tons of natural light; I don't like dark places. It has window seats, a library, and lots of land with gardens I can play in. It's quiet, and warm. There are hills--I like my landscapes hilly--but there is sand and water nearby.

And now if you open your eyes and look around you, what does that place look like?

It looks like my bedroom, with my husband asleep net to me, the cats curled up by my feet. My bedside lamp is on, even though I don't really need the light. (I told you I don't like dark places.) I need to put away those clothes piled up in the corner, but I love this room; it's airy yet cozy, and it has a huge picture window at one end that offers a gorgeous view of the foothills we live in, at least when we haven't let the amber tree get overgrown and block the view. It's a good room.

Pirate, bounty hunter, or cop? Which would you choose to be and why?

Cop. I need structure and predictability, and rules--laws--provide that. I would make a terrible pirate or bounty hunter, always butting in with, "But are you sure it's OK to do this?" I'd be walking the plank in no time.

Thanks, TC, for indulging me in my questionnaire. It was actually really fun musing on questions to send you way.

And for those intrigued and reading, I think the GIE is still open, if you want to hop in check it out here.

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