We live in an age of oversharing, of what many consider TMI (Too Much Information), of social media websites that make it easy for millions to bestow upon the world the most mundane aspects of their lives as though the rest of us care what they had for dinner last night.
So widespread is the belief that the world is waiting with bated breath for any given person's (usually misspelled) thoughts on watching paint dry that the president is hardly the only one who can be labeled narcissist.
(You can be forgiven at this point if you're thinking now that I fall into the same category, and move on to some other webpage.)
Today's post was prompted a few days ago when a TGB reader and friend named Ann emailed to ask about how my chemotherapy is going, that I hadn't written lately about any cancer developments. She was quick to note too, however, that she believes
“...I speak for many who understand and respect your need to keep the private, private.”
As chance would have it, I had just finished writing Monday's post with an update on the chemo treatments that had taken me awhile to get around to because there was nothing useful to say: it's going well. Next?
But it did get me thinking about privacy and the choices I make about what and how much personal information to reveal on this blog.
It was easy to decide to write about my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Such a thing is so shocking to hear, so hard to believe at first, accompanied for awhile by a near certainty someone has made a mistake that there was no room in my brain for anything else.
In that regard. I hardly had a choice. If I hadn't made it public, Time Goes By would have disappeared because I could think of nothing except cancer.
On the other hand, writing about growing old is what I do, it orders my days, and when the initial impact wore off I remembered that cancer is more common in old age than any other time of life. It is one of the "diseases of age", as they say, one of the topics of this blog – or should be - so perhaps my diagnosis and I get to be the guinea pig.
There was more. As I explained to Ann, my silence about the cancer was
”...not about privacy. I don't believe in it. Privacy, that is, although I do believe it is up to each individual to choose how much to say. I long ago learned that if it has happened to me, if I have done it or it has been done to me - so it has been with millions of others.
“And that, for me, pretty well removes any sense of privacy and more, perhaps requires that we DO talk about things many people don't want to mention.
“That thought came to me eight or ten years ago when I wrote about urinary incontinence for the first time. I wrote the blog post and let it sit in the computer for several days because it seemed there was some propriety involved. We just don't discuss such things.
“But it's a common affliction of old age so finally one day, I took a deep breath and hit the publish button. It was hours before I had the nerve to check comments and nearly fell off my chair when I did - dozens and dozens of people talking about their difficulties and/or solutions, pleased that someone had given them permission to talk about it openly.
"So nowadays, I consider privacy only if the subject involves another person whose story or information I have no right to share without permission.”
That doesn't mean my life is an open book. In general, whatever personal information I reveal relates to some aspect of ageing although I've allowed myself to stretch that definition here and there.
The thing about blogs, at least for a former journalist like me, is that they are a hybrid. It is important when I report on Medicare, Social Security, health issues, age-related politics and so on, that it be straightforward, factual and trustworthy.
But TGB is also a personal blog that hardly has a raison d'etre without my opinion of whatever is being discussed which often requires some degree of personal disclosure.
Over the years, finding the balance has been a challenge. In the earliest years, there was hardly anything about me. Nowadays, as in regard to the cancer, my personal experience is sometimes the example from which to expand and explore.
It's not always easy to decide what is or is not going too far with that – I definitely am not writing an autobiography or memoir. The goal here, while still coloring mostly within the lines, is to try to figure out what it's really like to get old.