Wednesday, January 02, 2008
I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about the purpose of this blog. I started it as way to keep my friends and family informed as I headed off to Uganda in the fall of 2006. I kept it going after my return because I was still processing photos, establishing Change the Truth, as well as exploring the magnitude of the trip and how it had affected me. Posts about the orphans in Africa sometimes transitioned into musings about life as a mother of a high school senior and as a photographer making pictures on road trips across Kansas and Missouri, etc. I figured I’d quit blogging when I had nothing else to talk about or no new photos to share, but then those musings turned to focusing on preparations for a second trip to Uganda, the trip itself and well… here I am, posting about my family’s vacation in Florida and wondering if it’s time to close up shop. After all, how long can I expect people to maintain even a modicum of interest in what I am doing or thinking or saying or shooting?
My daughter recently suggested that most people who journal or keep diaries do so with the secret wish that someone will eventually read them.
If this is true, then the explosive popularity of blogging makes a lot of sense. No secret wish is involved, though, and certainly there is no time lapse before readers get a peek; the words and sentiments zoom onto the cyber highway full speed ahead – and everyone can see them immediately with only a couple of clicks.
Someone else, an extremely well read woman who happens to be a terrific writer with a gentle, sensitive soul, wrote me recently in response to a question I asked her about the possibility of getting too personal on the blog. (I know her only through the wonders of blogging and email; I’ve been fortunate to “meet” many amazing people this way – a benefit I hadn’t even imagined when I first started this process.) Her letter was kind and reassuring. She said, “One aspect of your writing that has impressed me is that you have tackled some of the darker issues in a way that casts light upon them. Your writing has never slipped into the morose. You have celebrated life even in the face of death. The writing about your mom's illness and death, pieces about concentration camps and survivors, the pieces about the situation in Uganda, and the entries about cancer survivors. You presented those with (this phrase is overdone but is appropriate here) grace and dignity. You informed and taught while -- casting the light -- while enlightening the reader. You have brought us all into the kinds of real-life, real-death crises that people face. Part of the realization is that, ‘We are not alone.’ A comment stuck with me from C.S. Lewis. He was asked, ‘Why do we read?’ ‘We read to learn that we are not alone.’ You have shown peoples of all colors and religions and, more, shown that what makes us alike is far greater than what makes us different. Our hearts all beat the same. Our hands all join together. What makes us alive is each other.”
At the risk of scaring away (or boring) some readers, I am giving myself permission to delve into something more personal than usual. I don’t want to turn this blog into anything other than it currently is – a collection of thoughts and photographs and a tool for keeping everyone up to date on the children we are helping in Uganda. I will continue to write about photography, my family, next year’s medical mission to Uganda and whatever else pops into my life. But I also now intend to occasionally write about the breast cancer with which I have been recently diagnosed, because it definitely pulsates just beneath the surface of everything I do or think about these days. If I avoid it much longer on the blog, it will feel as if I am being less than honest.
I am not aiming for any sympathy or pity. This is just another experience in my life, and I obviously (for good or bad) enjoy sharing my experiences with people who genuinely seem interested in how things affect me, my way of thinking and the photographs that I subsequently make.
Fortunately, what I have - ductal carcinoma in situ - is considered a very early stage of cancer (some even define DCIS as a “pre-cancer”); it is non-invasive and highly treatable, so the prognosis is a good one. They say (those smart “they” people, whoever they are) that if you are going to get breast cancer, this is the one you want to get.
Making my way to the other side of being “well” is likely, in my particular case, to involve some challenging stuff. I will probably share some of that with you, my kind and loyal readers. You have, in a sense, become a circle of support for me over the past 15 months. Perhaps some of you have gone through a similar health experience; hearing from you would be really nice.
So, maybe that is ultimately why I have kept this blog going: sharing – and the knowledge that… we are not alone.