With almost 14,000 views since January 19, 2010, “anonymous” seems to be kind of a joke. One could argue that my blog — with my real name, information about the region where I live, the type of work that I do, the names of my family members and friends — was never anonymous. One could argue that I was making a very public declaration when I wore my”Marathon B4 Mastectomy” bright pink shirt at each road race and asked my teammates to wear pink and teal sweatbands. One could argue that I was never anonymous going into college cancer classes and talking openly about my personal choices of surgery, surveillance, and child bearing.
Yet, when I wrote, I wrote for me. I wrote for the women who I hoped one day would come across Marathon B4 Mastectomy and nod knowingly with each word and sentence. I wrote for my children who are too young right now for me to talk with on this level. I wrote this for my husband from whom I shield being emotionally open and honest with about my surgery. I wrote this for my few friends as a way to reconnect. I wrote this for my plus sized soul sisters who have either been told or felt like they didn’t have strong bodies. I wrote this for myself, to keep me honest, grounded and truthful in a way I can’t always be in my “real life.”
Though writing on this blog has always been for a small audience, it’s hard to ignore that, with nearly 14,000 views, others were reading.
The other day, my good friend Anne put out a message to the entire community where I work. At the close of her email, she linked my blog.
I admit, I felt both proud and embarrassed. Thankful, and well…. horrified. “They are reading about my boobs!” I yelled to my husband. “My BOOBS! The JUGS! The TWINS! That which fills the OVER THE SHOULDER BOULDER HOLDERS!!’
“I think you’re over reacting,” said Jorge. “It’s pretty cool that everyone will now know about your mastectomy journey, Liza.”
My imagination ran wild, picturing who was reading my blog and what they were thinking of it.
“I.. I… I gotta write a post. I gotta post something fast. Something Brilliant! Something, I dunno, not Boob-Related!!” I screamed like a frantic chicken.
“Stop, Liza. That’s exactly what you should not do. Your blog has been great because you haven’t written for any audience. You haven’t censored. You haven’t held back. Why now?”
“One word, Jorge. B-O-O-B-S. Do you want your entire work knowing about your boobs? (pause) Okay, you know what I mean….”
Jorge, of course, was right.
I haven’t written this for any particular audience in mind. I have been honest — in some cases, really, really honest — about what this struggle has been like for the past few months. I’ve posted my weight, posted depression, anger, sadness, and also joy, warmth, and encouragement. Yet, there was always something protective about being anonymous.
Or, was anonymous simply a state of mind?
This past week, I hosted a number of programs at my work, and in the end, I asked for evaluations. Because I was pressed for time, I had people simply reply to my email with feedback. “What did you like, what did you learn, what did you wish you had more of, what questions do you still have?” were the four quadrants of the evaluation form.
Evaluations began to come in, all with their emails attached. Yet one participant commented this: “I wish we could do this anonymously. That way, we could all be more honest.”
Hmm. My first reaction was, “Yes, you’re right! Sorry, just didn’t have enough time to put together an anonymous sheet.” However, after a moment, I got to thinking: What is it about anonymity that makes honesty more real? Why can’t we — why aren’t we — more honest when people know who we are? Have we lost our sense of ownership?
I believe anonymity has taken away more than just our identity.
I showed up to work a little later, on purpose, the day after Anne’s email went out. I was worried about what people would say, how they would look at me, what they would think of me. But, as I passed each car, passed each building, and passed each person, life still was very much the same. Stripping me of my anonymity was merely a perception.
When I encountered people who read my blog that day, I was greeted with smiles that have never been shared, with hugs that have never been given, and with kind words that were never spoken prior to that email.
“I had no idea, Liza” and “Wow, I wish I had read this blog earlier” and “I wish my sister had done this before she passed away” began to wrap themselves around me. I felt warm, connected, embraced, and protected by a community that was unaware of my struggle. Removing the wall of anonymity allowed me to experience the love that had been building up behind it all these years.
I realize now that sometimes the greatest gifts are the ones we keep away from ourselves. The greatest friendships are the ones we never nurtured to blossom.
And, the greatest strength comes from the courage to expose your own weakness.
Peace, love and knowing who you are,