I’m not the most out-going, sociable person, and I get throw-up nervous while gearing up for a social outing. My 25 year-old self would be shocked to find out how quiet and shy I am at 35. The 25 year-old me was once described as a social butterfly whose wings were too big. I took it as a compliment. It was a compliment. But in the last several years, I’ve done a three-sixty and moved from the extrovert camp to the introvert tent. I think I’ve always been an introvert at heart, and my stint as an extrovert was just a twenty-something searching for an identity. Or maybe it was just the alcohol.
Blogging has let me be an introvert while I play extrovert. I started to purge my story. It became a re-entry to the practice of writing, all while building connections through similar stories and appreciation of craft.
I didn’t know that when I started. I image it’s similar for many bloggers.
There is comfort in the disconnect the internet provides, but one cannot live by screen alone, and so, when the opportunity presented itself, I ventured into afternoons with three people whose words I had only read until Hi, are you (insert name here) was spoken, and it was so great.
The beer was cold and the atmosphere was warm. Conversation began when the hugs ended and jumped from story to story, and time passed without notice or interruption, save that of laughter that flowed freely between two friends.
His was one of the blogs I started following when I first ventured out of my comfort zone. He was divorcing, I was divorced, misery loves company, and humor is the best medicine, and there was plenty of that. It was a welcome deviation from what had become my norm.
I can’t remember what first led me to read what he was writing, nor what it was I commented on when I first left my words after his. I knew it was time to read beyond the domestic violence category and looked to more everyday life writing, the little things that make life tick as the clock ticks, and I looked for funny. Comments became conversations, and after months of reading and commenting, emailing and facebooking, we planned a meeting.
He was as funny in person as he was in writing, and as genuine and honest, and it was hours of conversation much like our blog commenting, but without the delay. Talk moved right past the usual tell me about yourself that happens when meeting a regular someone, someone whose live journal you haven’t been reading for half a year.
There is a connection the blogging community brings writers, and it brought us together, voicing ourselves to another, being heard on a new level. Blogging was a common ground, a place we had turned to release words, but became a place of kindness and support, of friendships and connections. We had each put our written word out to the world, and the written word turned to spoken word over a couple of beers and a weekend of laughter.
We talked so much we walked 8 miles. The rails-to-trails path was crowded with walkers and bikers, families and individuals, and we joined the afternoon bevy along the straight and narrow, so opposite of the journeys we had each navigated in our recent pasts.
Hers was one of the blogs I started following when I first started out. I was drawn by her strength and the quality of her writing. I wasn’t looking for what she was giving, but I took it anyway and found myself better for it. I was looking for writers who had or were experiencing a very specific kind of divorce, and hers wasn’t that, but I identified with the trauma she experienced, felt a commonality in the recovery timeline, and found inspiration in how she used the bad to learn and grow and become a better and stronger woman.
And she has. She laughs with her whole body. She smiles with her whole face. She knows how far she has come, and where she still has to go. She radiates survival.
It started with a comment on her blog. She had attended an event I had considered attending. I was very much, as I am still today, content to remain home, isolated by my own volition. I didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything, except big venue parking and large crowds, until I read her post. Oh darn, I thought, I could have met this woman, a source of inspiration, in person; so I said as much in a comment.
We made plans to meet, and then life happened. Six months later we met.
Conversation began immediately and flowed with ease. As the solid ground of the trail passed under our feet, the common ground from divorce and blogging, moving on and growing stronger passed the miles. We had each made a decision to share our story with the world, and it brought us together with like-minded and supportive people in the blogosphere, and it brought us together for a Sunday stroll.
They said there was no one sitting alone waiting for someone, unless I happened to be someone named Barb. I wasn’t. I sat on the bench in the bar, took out my phone, and browsed Twitter. I was interrupted by an email. Turned out there was someone sitting alone waiting to be a party of two.
His is a blog I would not have come to were it not for an unlikely post. I first read him as he battled with another blogger in a friendly debate, counting yay and nay comments for votes. I grew excited as I explored his blog and realized he was from my hometown, and left it at that. I followed him later, after a guest post, out of his usual style, appeared on another site I follow; a guest post which opened my eyes to the hypocrisy of a few of my thoughts and words.
An off-handed comment, a next time you’re in town sort of comment, led to a few attempts at actually meeting in person. It took a couple tries for our schedules to align, though it probably helped that I planned this trip in advance rather than my usual on Monday I decide I’m leaving Friday habit. Not that our meeting was planned in advanced. On yet another blog, not related to the blog-debate or life-changing posts, because WordPress can be as small as it is large, it came to be that we had lunch.
Nicknames became real names, stories from blog posts grew, and the people, the places, the life moments we knew so well took on new life in words spilled over the table. Talk of home and children, life and blogging muffled out the noise of the lunch time crowd. The voice of the man was that of the blogger I had come to know through his words, with the same presence of humor and wit dashed with seriousness. Blogging is a big dinner table, and chairs are always ready to gather more people for the chats, and it brought us together for lunch at a neighborhood restaurant.
Meeting in Person
While I stepped away from life after divorce and re-figured my life and myself, I stepped into a world I never knew existed. Blogging isn’t word count and post views. It’s conversations and friends. It’s people whose names and faces we may never know, whose voices we may never hear, but people who are confidants all the same.
Meeting one (or three) of these people makes it all the more real, like the writing and commenting was a rehearsal for a grand performance of personal interaction, and once the audience was no longer imagined, the connection became tangible as it turned from word choice and turn of phrase to hand gestures and facial expressions.
If you haven’t met another blogger, I recommend it if the chance comes up. If you have, tell me about it.
*featured image: Handshake Stylised, released to the public domain
P.S. This is one of those posts I worry I will never get just right, exactly where I want it, no matter how much I work on it. It really was a great experience to meet these three, one I hope to repeat, and I also hope I’ve done the encounters justice.