The longer I write here the nicer a person I become.
When I started, I had about 4 readers, and 3 of them lived in other parts of the country, friends from college. Friends told friends, and then there was that post about our fish fry rebirth, early into my blogging career, that caught my former pastor's attention. And Sr. Hildegard's. Not sure how they found it, but the circle grew wider.
I started a 365 project, in which I wrote 32 words a day, each about a person who was in, or had been in, my life. I met a bunch of folks this way, everyone working on a similar project. None of these people censored what I had to say, of course, since they didn't know me in real life. But now I had two blogs, with a third quickly on the heels of 32x365, and I had more local readers. Several parishioners were reading, and I started yet another blog about parish life, which I loved writing. It cut some of my harsher corners down, though, because I love my parish but some of the bits about it drive me up a wall. Like any good place. I didn't want to just whine about that, though. I wanted to be creative about what I said.
Family members started reading. My sisters, my mother, my brother down in Houston. This ground down even more what I could or could not say--for the better. My mother-in-law, probably a few casual visits from Jake's extended family. His brothers and their wives. Godparents of my children.
People who knew people I wrote about (thankfully in a good light).
Friends of friends of neighbors. Tangential folks. People would ask Zelda if she were "South City Musings" even though it was clear by the pictures that she wasn't (although those could all be made up, sure).
People I met via the blog here in St. Louis, either from the 365ing or through random chance, I know in person now. They are part of my girl scout troop. They live in my neighborhood.
Sometimes it is suffocating. What I can or cannot say. What language I should or shouldn't use. What I should refer to obliquely so those who already know the story know the story, and what I should just come out and say.
I've made mistakes, most in the first two years. I've said too much or said it too harshly. I've had my share of trolls in the comments, too. I'm sure I've used language that was not what people wanted to read, and I'm sure I've disappointed or upset folks. When I started this, I was so much younger...and needed a lot of work. Not that this work is done. Just that it's much further along.
There are still moments when I ask myself, "should I write that?" and then I don't. Nowadays the questions are about privacy, not opinions. And more often than not, I censor myself. It had been months, many months, since I felt that "oof, I shouldn't have published that" feeling when I clicked the button, when I wrote She's Already Made Up Her Mind and felt it all over again. But I didn't betray anything there.
It has been a hard fall and winter for me--more than could possibly be written here. A lot of loss. But having this blog as a public face, at least to a few hundred folks a day, has helped me figure out what I need to figure out. What I can say. What I shouldn't say. What I should call out across the rooftops. And then carefully climb down because, man, they're like nearly vertical slopes up there on the third floor.