This Is Not Me. I Was Not Here.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I was out in the world this weekend, read by thousands of people, debated on the radio, dissected in blog posts.
I was huddled in a children’s hospital waiting room this weekend, praying for good news.
If you’re a blogger, you come to realize that you do not exist on the internet except in snapshots; you write a blog post, which may or may not be an accurate representation of what you felt because words are a poor man’s telepathy, and then it’s published.  It’s out in the world now as an independent entity, this imperfect avatar of you, and people react to it.
I think every blogger with a mid-sized audience has made a post, then gone off to a dinner or a movie, and come back to find that your entry has taken on its own life.  Sometimes it’s a cancerous discussion in the comments that needs to be cut down; sometimes it’s a misunderstanding that’s undercut your argument; sometimes it’s a misphrasing that makes you appear to be a racist or a misogynist (or, worse, a proper phrasing that reveals subtle racism or misogyny).
Regardless, the point is that your blog isn’t you.  It’s a representation of who you are, yes, but words are fragile things even in the hands of masters.  And people can have these vivid discussions of who “you” are without you even being present, and some of the most personally relevant moments of your life don’t exist in avatar-land until you commit them to the blog-world.
And this weekend, the schism was total.  My “Dear Daughter” essay zoomed past over a million shares on Facebook, shared across multiple platforms.  It was discussed on national radio.  Television shows were emailing to ask if I’d appear on.
And I could not have cared.  Rebecca, my dear goddaughter, was in deadly danger from a brain tumor.  I was taking care of the Meyers’ other children while they tried to save their daughter’s life, coping with life-threatening cancer.  My life was not on the Internet; it was rubbing Kat’s back, asking questions of doctors, organizing logistics.  My world had contracted to one sick girl, and the family I loved…
…and the death of my youngest cousin…
…and my grandmother, dying on hospice…
…and my wife’s week-old grandniece, in the hospital, unable to digest food.
This week has been perhaps the most stressful of my life.  And while I’ve been retreating into personal issues, blog-me has been exploding, flourishing, shaking hands and making inroads.
I could not have cared less.
It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the attention.  I think “Dear Daughter” is an essay with a lot of things I believe in, and I’m glad someone is saying it.  It’s an added bonus that it’s me, sort of.  But that me is a very different person, and I’ve never felt that distinction more so while the meat-me is watching a sick child asking for popsicles, irritated every time I check my mail as I scroll past hundreds of responses to see how my Grammy is doing, to see if the flowers arrived for my cousin’s funerals, to see if Kat’s updated on Rebecca.
Usually, the halves of me are joined to some extent.  I’ll go for a walk with the dog while blog-me piles up a few responses, and then return to discover that blog-me’s generated some amusement for real me.  But this weekend?  Real-me had no time.  Blog-me was subsumed in driving frantically to New Jersey, orchestrating logistics, texting my father.
Blog-me’s back, because blog-me is how I unwind, and God how I need to unwind today.  And it’s related, close enough that if you like blog-me you probably like real-me.  (Though it’s not guaranteed.  I have some friends who hate my blog, and some strangers who hate my blog who wound up liking real-me against their will.)  But they have separate lives.
This weekend, blog-me was out on the largest publicity tour he’s ever had, touching thousands of people, advocating for sex-positivity, inciting debates on feminism, discussing parenting techniques.  Real-me was taking care of my friends, completely ignorant to anything outside those bland blue walls.
I’d never felt that difference more keenly. And I don’t think you can understand it until you’ve lived it, that bizarre echo of you that people read and discuss and maybe even come to love but doesn’t truly exist.
These words.  They’re close.  A shadow, a representation, a sketch.
But not me.  Nor is any blog.  Nor is any piece of writing.

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