Monday, August 25, 2008

The Great Interview Experiment

A couple of weeks ago I took the plunge and signed up for Neil's Great Interview Experiment. (If you're not familiar with it check it out! But basically when you add your name in the comments the blogger above you sends you questions, and you send questions to the person under you. Once the questions are answered they are published on your blog.) So many great bloggers have been a part of this and I'm honored to be on the list too.

I had the honor of interviewing Mary P. Jones, (a pseudonym,) from A Room of Mama's Own. She has a great blog! I urge you to check her out-she covers so many topics you're sure to find something to nosh on.

1-Do you consider yourself a topic blogger? a mommy blogger? or something else?

My blog is all over the map, so I wonder about this myself at times, especially when I'm registering with any site that asks me what category my blog falls into! I blog about addiction, codependency and recovery, so in some ways I'm a recovery blogger. I blog about my kids, so in some ways I'm a mommy blogger. I blog about my son's autism, so in some ways I'm an autism blogger. I blog about marriage and family, so in some ways I'm a relationship blogger. I guess I like to think of myself mostly as a writer, who happens to be interested in a jumble of topics.

2-You seem to have taken great steps to remain anonymous. Has anyone in your real life found your blog that you did not invite?
2A-Talk about the aftermath of that. Was it positive or negative? (see below)

I have tried hard to remain anonymous. (Although sometimes I think I haven't tried hard enough. If I really didn't want anyone to know, the blog would be a complete secret, which it's not!) So far no one from my real life has found my blog (that I know of), but a few of my close real life friends know about (and in some cases regularly read and comment on) the blog.

In addition, I've come out to a few bloggers since I started. I didn't know a thing about blogging when I started. It seems silly to me in retrospect, because this is so obvious now, but the interactive nature of it surprised me. I had no idea that I'd form such important and deep friendships through the blog, but I'm so grateful I have. Some of the other bloggers I've met have become some of the most meaningful relationships and supports in my life.

3- You talk about writing almost as if it is your own "addiction." Are you published? (Other than the blog, of course.)

In my "real life," I have worked in writing and editing. That work is much more widely read than my blog is, but it's a very different kind of writing. I actually started the blog in part to get experience writing more personal, creative pieces than what I'd worked on in the past. However, I've found that to retain my anonymity, I can't exactly stick the blog on my resume! So I've had to build an entirely new writing life with new connections under my pseudonymous persona. And I actually had a few pieces from the blog published in the San Diego Reader last year under my pseudonym, which was tremendous fun.

4- In reading your post "Why I Stay" I was reminded of what my mother once told me (paraphrased) "No one knows what is truly inside of a marriage except those two people." Would you agree? Why or why not?

I was going to say I absolutely agree -- I certainly agree that no one outside the marriage can know what's on the inside -- but I think even within the marriage, Mark and I experience things differently. I know I certainly had a different perception of what was going on in the marriage than Mark did when he was active in his sex addiction. I think our perceptions are more in line with each other now, but I have to admit, I'll never really know for certain, and that uncertainty about what is real and who I can trust is something I often come back to in my blog and that often occupies my thoughts away from the blog. In spite of that, I do know that Mark and I know more, even when Mark is hiding things from me or I from him, about what goes on between us that anyone else either of us chooses to share with.

Of course, some of the people I'm choosing to share with are the people who read my blog. In many ways, I'm sharing much more with the blogosphere about what goes on inside my marriage than I am with people who know me in real life, and I think my readers feel they know me well. But at the same time I have to create a picture of Mark, of me, of our kids, of our marriage for people who can't see and experience us directly ourselves. People who just read the blog but don't know us in real life are missing the full experience of us as humans, those wonderful 95% of experiences and thoughts that just aren't blog post worthy. (Which is probably going to make you think, "Wow, that's the best 5% you've got?")

The people who come closest to knowing what's going on in our marriage are probably those few people who both know us and love us in real life and read the blog. People who just know us in real life but don't know about the sex addiction are missing a huge chunk of what our married life is about. But the people in my real life, who know Mark and know about the sex addiction, who have really seen us being ourselves together, see a much fuller, richer picture of us and of our marriage than either blog readers or others in our real life alone.

5- When your children become adults how much of you and Mark's experience with sex addiction do you think you'll share with them? Or will you at all?

We definitely plan to share the addiction information with our children. We already share that Daddy goes to meetings and plan to keep sharing in an age appropriate way as they grow. Addiction and the family dysfunction that go with it thrive on secrecy.

I also see this as part of their medical history. They need to know that they are at risk for addiction themselves. However, one of the things that scares me most now is knowing how powerful addiction is and how hard it can be to escape. Mark was raised by two alcoholic parents and has older siblings who are all drug addicts. After seeing the ravages of addiction in his own family, and terrified that he would become an addict himself, he refused to ever smoke, drink alcohol or do drugs. When I met Mark in college, I was so impressed with his strength in breaking away from his past and the strong stand he made by his choices; he was reluctant to even take aspirin for a headache. He definitely stood out in the party atmosphere of college, but never backed down in the face of peer pressure. And this was one of the things that really attracted me to him. Still, addiction just found another way to manifest in his life: through compulsive sexual behavior.

So, in addition to telling the kids about addiction, we are trying to build a more functional family and model for them (as we learn ourselves) healthier ways for coping with stress, anxiety and emotional pain.

6- In many addiction/recovery programs there is a "Higher Power."
Who/What is your & Mark's Higher Power and why? Has this answer
changed over time? Do you go to church? If so can you tell me the
church affiliation?

Both Mark and I were raised as Christians. My experience is in the Catholic church. Mark spent his youth in black churches. We both grew up with very religious mothers and atheist fathers. When we met in college, we had both moved away from religion; Mark considered himself and atheist and I defined myself as an agnostic. (I was still kind of scared I'd go to hell if I fully admitted I didn't believe in the God of the Bible!)

Building a relationship with a Higher Power has been difficult for both of us, because of our childhood experiences with religion and our own personal beliefs about how the universe works. Our relationship with our Higher Power has changed and is continuing to evolve and develop over time (mine has evolved significantly just in the year or so I've had the blog). We both now refer to our Higher Power as God. Using "God" for my Higher Power was a long, hard road for me due to bad associations from my Catholic youth, where I very much saw the God of the Bible as an angry, arbitrary, dictatorial alcoholic father rather than a loving presence in my life.

Neither of us sees God as a kind of all powerful, conscious, personified force directing our lives. We both experience God as an energy, as a way of looking at things differently, as a source of inspiration and compassion and love. I experience God as a light within myself and all people. The more I can connect with that light, the better I'm able to live my life, the safer and less fearful I feel, and the more compassion and love I'm able to show.

Neither of us goes to church. I don't think Mark is averse to it, but although I've come to accept my own God in my life and I've always loved Jesus, I still have too many negative associations with churches to go back to Christianity. Of organized religions, I feel the greatest comfort and connection with Buddhism. Mark connects to his Higher Power through 12 Step meetings and daily meditation and prayer. I connect through yoga and meditation, but am still working on the concept of prayer. I sometimes go to a local Zen center to sit with others in meditation and am working to make this a more regular part of my spiritual practice.

7- You say that you are "40-ish." What one piece of advice would you
give your "20-ish" self? What advice would you give to someone who is
turning 40?

I think I would tell my 20-ish self to do things just the way she did them and trust in the future. She ended up as me, and I'm pretty happy with how that turned out!

I would tell someone turning 40 to enjoy getting older and keep growing and learning. As long as I do that, I'm happier each year than I was the year before.

Mary emailed me with the following update to question 2:

And actually, I should probably amend one of my responses. You asked if anyone from my real life had ever found my blog and between the time I answered and now, someone did actually find me for the first time. A friend of mine e-mailed this afternoon to say she found the blog and offer her love and support. I'm very glad she found the blog, since I've been tempted to tell her for some time. However, my husband and I agreed a few years back that we wouldn't tell anyone about his sex addiction who didn't already know unless we thought it was really necessary. She hasn't quite met the criteria for a burning need to share, but because she's been going through some struggles of her own, albeit of a very different nature, I thought it might be nice to share some of mine. Now we do get to share, and I'm really happy about that. I don't yet know how she found me, so I remain curious about that.


Well, there you have it. Many thanks to Mary for answering my questions (I'm no journalist!). I certainly feel like I've made a new friend and learned more. Now, go check her out! And if you're interested in being a part of the Experiment head on over there (link at the to of the page) and leave your name in the comments.

Headless Mom


Kelly said...

good job headless! seriously!

PS... word of mouth monday??? :)

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Thanks for the interview, Headless Mom! You did a great job, and I'm so glad I got a chance to meet you.

Kathy said...

Wow - I might be eating dinner with the next Barbara Walters this weekend. Your questions were so interesting and really helped me quickly get to know MPJ. And kudos to MPJ for such powerful responses.

How many days?? Ready?? HG ready??

p.s. I hear you on the pool issue...two doors down has a pool and of course, "we are always welcome, just knock." But of course, when the whole world is parked in front of our HOUSE using their pool, every weekend of the summer, they are just too busy to come down and see if little S wants to swim w/ their kids. Whatever.