Photo: Nathaniel Dahan
Day 1259 – Day 1319
I’ve been thinking about privacy and lately I’ve been feeling crowded. An old friend from childhood spotted my comment on someone’s post in an online forum for people in recovery from toxic relationships. From there, he tracked down my website and my public Facebook page. I guess this is what can be expected by being online. I didn’t think too much about it except that the man had been determined to reach out to me.
When he happened to know my dating history of more than 20 years ago, I felt really uncomfortable because I was sure I had not mentioned that old boyfriend by name and I wondered if my privacy had somehow been invaded. A few days later, I learned that he was involved in some way with the ex-wife of that long ago boyfriend. She contacted me and asked about my friendship with him. She had spotted his and my new online friendship on Facebook. She seemed to know the whole story of how my friend and I had reconnected after so many years.
I didn’t like the feeling of being talked about by people separated by decades and thousands of miles in my life. This crossed my boundaries.
When I first starting writing online, I did so under a pseudonym but my branding advisers encouraged me to write under my professional writing name on this site. So, I’ve had to turn to disguising the identity of the people in my life to protect theirs as well as my own privacy. But, the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal aside, protecting our privacy online has become somewhat of a challenge. We are tracked by our mobile phones, by the data chips in our shoes, listened to by our digital assistants 24 hours a day and our webcams can be used to watch us even when we haven’t turned them on. Privacy is something we need to protect, but new challenges to this come up as technology moves faster than our understanding of the implications.
The contact from my childhood friend was initially a delight. He reminded me of the happiest 2 years of my childhood. We had come from the same place and we had ended up in this a similar place in our lives. It was an odd coincidence but not something that, alone, was sufficient to re-forge an old friendship, no matter how sweet our childhood times had been.
He could not stop focusing on the woman from his toxic relationship. My childhood friend wanted to commiserate and discuss his ex-partener’s possible personality disorder as the answer to it all.
I was in a different place in my journey. It had taken me a long time to understand that I would never know why someone I had loved and someone who said he loved me had behaved so badlyand with such cold cruelty towards me. And more, to the point, why he did it really doesn’t matter; all that matters is that he did. And because he did, that relationship is over and I’m moving on.
After some concession to ‘sharing’ experiences, I set my boundary. To rehash a painful relationship for the sake of commiseration seemed an abuse of my privacy and was harmful to my wellbeing. I told my childhood friend that my relationship was in the past and that was where I was leaving it. I did not want to discuss it further.
When, a few days later, my childhood friend announced that he was reuniting with his toxic ex-lover, I ended our engagement with one another.
In a few weeks, all sorts of drama had come into my life through my childhood friend. That kind of drama wrecked havoc in my life once already, via that toxic love relationship. I don’t want it in my life directly or vicariously any more.
In a way, this crazy episode of intrusiveness and boundary pushing was a gift. It held up for me the mirror of where I would otherwise be, had I continued the toxic relationship with the man I loved, who said he loved me. And, it made me consider again my absolute need for peace, for privacy and for strong boundaries – especially as regards anything I might allude to in my writing.
I come here and I mine my life for specific details of my personal narrative that might speak to the universal in all our lives. That is the hook by which I engage a reader into witnessing my journey as I attempt to demonstrate one person’s attempt to live a grateful life despite the obstacles – and, hopefully, this inspires others to do the same.
I feel a Oneness with anyone who has ever loved and been devastated by another’s cruelty. I hope my childhood friend will eventually find peace in his love life – if that is what he wants. I hope that the man who treated me so cruelly will also find peace, too. But those are their lives to live. In living my own, it is my own peace that is my priority. Peace can only come, for me, with strong boundaries.
Reflecting on the ways I’ve been vulnerable through writing here, I’ve taken a break.
Instead, I have been painting a lot lately. And, for that I’m grateful.
I’m grateful that one good thing that came of my toxic relationship was the drive to learn to paint. I took the courageous step of painting because of my love for that man. One of my first paintings was created, with love, for him. I asked him to teach me to paint, but he never did. I learned anyway. Painting had long been a secret desire and it has been a gift to emerge from that toxic relationship as a burgeoning painter. I’m not grateful to him for that, but I am grateful for the impetus and the natural talent to paint. It brings me joy and a fair helping of frustration, too – just as any relationship of love will do.
I’m not sure how I will proceed with this website. Writing publicly is fraught with all sorts of infringements – not just of privacy.
Six months ago, I discovered that an article I wrote on this website about Monsu Plin was lifted verbatim and published on a site that pays crypto currency for content. This was done by a friend of his. I’ve since password protected my article but that is a bit like closing the gate once the horse has run away. I’ve sought out and had a public apology for the failure to seek permission and properly attribute the article. But my article is under someone else’s byline now, and cannot be removed from the blockchain. The blockchain is an evolving technology that is presenting threats to our privacy and what is in some jurisdictions, a right to be forgotten. To have it published without my permission was a violation – if not of my privacy, certainly of my rights.
I am confident that the meaning-making in writing about gratitude is part of the purpose of the rest of my life and living a life of gratitude is the best way to move beyond any sort of toxicity. But how I will do this, and the future of the content on this website, is still uncertain.
For what are you most grateful, today?