The internet can be overwhelming, addictive and all-encompassing. Perhaps more explicitly, the blogosphere can be addictive, overwhelming and all-encompassing. This can be wonderful. It helps us feel less alone, less isolated. It helps us learn, understand more about what we are going through, get advice and gather tools for coping with whatever it is we are going through. It can provide a focus when going through a difficult time, and it can help with healing. It can, quite literally, be a life-line. The ectopic forums, for example, that I first joined have saved lives. No question. The benefits of these internet communities can be incalculable. At the very least, it can make us smile, and yes, laugh out loud.
But. And yes, there is a but. The internet can keep us stuck in one place. It can make us feel obligated to read and comment, and rather than be uplifted by the friends we have online, it can make us terribly sad, or feel left out, left behind, or pressured to achieve whatever it is we are trying to achieve.
I’ve been involved in this international on-line community (in different ways – not just blogging) for about ten years now. I see women who from time to time declare their need to step away from the intensity of the internet and their internet relationships, and I want to applaud them for recognising that – at that moment – it is not helping them. But very sadly, I have also seen women get stuck in one place, perhaps addicted to the attention and comments they get for their grief, the comfort they feel being in the trenches with everyone else, rather than growing and learning from the love and caring and advice they receive, and feeling the comfort and independence of healing. I saw this a month or two ago (when I started drafting this blog), and wanted to reach out to the person concerned.
Then I stopped. “What about you?” I asked myself suddenly. “What does it say about you that you are still involved in this community, still writing about infertility after so many years? Are you stuck? Are you addicted to talking about your grief?” And that’s a fair question, one friends or family or readers might ask, given that I’ve been living my No Kidding life since October 2003, and yet only started this blog in 2010. And I think that sometimes my presence here leads others to assume I haven't resolved my infertility, or accepted my life.
My short answer – because this has already got too long – is that I don’t think I am stuck. But infertility and living my life without children is undoubtedly part of who I am. I like to think about issues, learn and grow, and I like to share lessons and get feedback. I'm not going to brush this under the carpet and ignore, pretending it doesn't affect me. And it’s not something my other, in-real-life friends might understand. I have a friend I talk about travel with, another one who will sit with me and bemoan the state of politics in the world, others who will talk books and business, and another who shares my struggles with the scales. So, just as I make time to be with them, I make time and space to be with friends (yes, that’s you I’m talking about) who understand the ups and downs of living a no kidding life. I recognise when my place in this ALI community helps me, when I need to take, when I need to give, or simply when it gets too much for me. Take yesterday as an example. Through my contacts in this community, I was reminded of my isolation, not my inclusion. But then I was also enveloped by people saying “you are not alone.” And the value of that is priceless.