And then, suddenly, it gets real…

By Caitlin Kelly


It was a sad, sudden shock to read this from a fellow blogger recently:

It’s raining, and the sky is overcast.  I cried.

I woke up to an empty apartment.  The water leaking from the ceiling is hitting a tin bucket, sending out an echo.  I cried.

Today, I am not strong.  But I’m giving myself permission to feel it all.  And I’m not so sure that’s weak, either.

It turns out, losing what feels like home is much more difficult than I thought.  Buddy.  Georgia.  They were my home.

I respect him and what we had far too much to shell out details to a semi-faceless-web, but I feel that to move on, I have to say this “out loud”; Georgia and I have gone our separate ways.

The blog, Key and Arrow, written by a young schoolteacher in Austin, Texas, has been a source of pleasure for me for a while now. Every Monday, she posts “Seven Things”, a recap of seven pleasures from her past week, charming and inspiring, with lots of photos of meals, her man, her dog…

Now the man and dog are gone and I, too, feel a little bereft.

The Internet is odd that way, all this uninvited intimacy with strangers, people we will likely never meet in person, but whose children and pets and lives become a part of ours for a while, possibly for years.


Some people disclose a stunning amount in their blogs, as I have occasionally as well, including infidelity, mental illness, family strife and addiction. The Internet sometimes feels like a safe place to park difficult and complicated feelings, hoping against hope that someone else out there will read you and say:

“You, too? I thought that was only me!”

Admitting publicly, especially to strangers, that your life is actually complicated and difficult takes guts. We’re not all perky and shiny all the time, and blogs that reveal little of the writer behind it quickly lose me. There’s plenty of that faux fabulousness on Facebook already.

But doing so also means trusting that others will read you with compassion and empathy  — not schadenfreude and voyeurism. (It happens.)

It takes trust.

I like that it demands trust, as when intimacy is met with kindness, friendship blossoms.

In the past few years, I’ve become friends with several readers of Broadside and plan to finally meet and visit with two of them, both living in England, this winter; both moved from reader to new friend after I posted this very dark and personal piece about my mother.

I find these web-created friendships sustaining, as sometimes people thousands of miles away better comprehend us than our own families, colleagues or neighbors.

Do you feel close to anyone whose blog you read?

Or to your blog followers?



36 thoughts on “And then, suddenly, it gets real…

  1. I’ve started drafting a blog similar in sentiment. The internet does create strange friends. In my professional life, I have also adopted an on-line alter-ego. I made it person, with my name rather than that of my agency, and people have responded in like kind. Now I have on-line friends who are strictly work related, I “talk” with every week–but could never pick out in crowd. I know them, but have no idea who they are.

    The world got weird.

  2. Do I feel close to people I communicate with via the internet/a blog? People I have never met?

    Yes, I do. I am not an internet whore. So my circle is quite small. Every so often you (or rather I) do find a diamond. Maybe, as friendships go, a rough one yet to be polished. Patience being the name of the game. Giving people, and oneself, a chance. For reasons not clear to me, neither of importance, some of my best friendships – flesh or blog – start with a certain amount of friction. Ah, but once the dust settles …

    As to the blogging friend you quote: My heart goes out to her. Life is not “shiny and perky all the time”. My parents have had it rough these last few months with three of their children’s marriages biting the dust (I am not one of them since I am not married – so there is nothing to break). It’s tough. Very tough. Yes, life does move on and all the rest of stereotypes people will pile on top of each other: Fact is that twenty five years constitute an awful lot of lifetime. The reverberations beyond the couple felt by family and friends.

    Let’s see if I catch YOU on your travails this winter. This is not as threatening as it sounds. I don’t bite. I don’t even bark. I do growl occasionally. Mostly I purr.

    Other than that, as you say, I “trust”


  3. Caitlin,
    (Sorry if you get this twice, I had trouble posting.) I love reading your blog and am increasingly following the links to read your earlier posts, which I generally don’t do on blogs as it can be a time sink. I’m about to read that “dark” piece about your mom, for example.
    You reveal the right amount, in my opinion. You seem very real and I do feel like I sort of know you – I hope that’s not presumptuous. THanks for your blog!

    1. Jan, thanks so much for making the time to dig a bit deeper into the archives — with 1600+ posts here, there’s a lot!

      Not presumptuous at all, and appreciated. One of the pleasures of blogging, for me, are the conversations and exchanges of ideas…journalism is tedious as hell in that respect, for readers (pre-comment era, anyway) and for writers.

  4. Yes Caitlin. I have three friends who over time I’ve become very close to. I have lots of internet friends and followers and am friend and follower to many too, but the closeness I feel for these three has become very strong. I have actually had the pleasure of meeting one of them and the bond was just strengthened.
    The internet is a scary place but as in the world when you meet many people some will become friends.

    Your friends tale is tragic. I hopes she can overcome the problems and get back to positivity.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. Thanks for weighing in. I’m not surprised to hear this, as I think it’s easier to forge intimacy (oddly) in this medium than in real life sometimes.

      I’ve only once been burned by the Internet (and so badly that I went to my police).

  5. this is a sad read, indeed. like you, i feel that i’ve come to know and understand some of those who i have met in the world of blogs. i also value, honesty, and writing that shows a bit of what makes a person who they really are, the bad right along with the good. in real life, i’ve only met two, who were related, and i thoroughly enjoyed the experience. in the online world, as in real life, i appreciate reflection, conversation, and a sense of open honesty. i think that the closeness comes because some people share and respond to innermost thoughts, without judgement, and with a real sense of caring and wanting to understand what makes us who we are. enjoy your meeting )

    1. I’ve met three, so far — one in Minneapolis, one in Scotland (visiting NYC) and one in Toronto. It’s a bit of a blind date, but all three were well worth doing.

      I agree with your reasons for reading a blog. The ones that rant about politics or other issues incessantly eventually turn me off.

  6. Thank you for writing this. It’s interesting how ambiguous that line is between sharing and over-sharing, and it gets even tougher when it comes to the Internet. I recently read Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, and I liked her “rule of thumb” — if it comes from a place of honesty and less from a place attempting to receive attention for something, then it doesn’t feel so much like you have an over-share hangover you regret the next morning. I feel validated sharing my vulnerable moments when it connects to other people, which is a huge reason why I write. It means a lot to me when I hear other people are able to connect to what I have to say. Thanks for being a blogger friend!

    1. I hope you are OK…I was so sad to hear about your breakup and hope it won’t dull your lovely spirit.

      You can often tell when someone is really attention-seeking and when they’re writing TO and FOR an audience of people with their own concerns as well. I’ll be teaching a blogging class this fall at Pratt in Brooklyn and one of my caveats is to remember these people are READERS in a very crowded media universe.

      1. Thank you for saying I have a lovely spirit. I’m hanging in there and holding on to that more positive part of myself as tightly as I can. My empty living room is now my dance-like-a-fool-and-wake-up-those-dormant-endorphins-again-room. ha! I’m okay, or least, I will be.

        Congrats on your awesome teaching gig! That is an important message to remember and to pass to your students.

  7. Someone whose blog I used to read years and years ago is now a significant other 🙂

    I’m with you on writer personality coming through on blogs. Those are the ones that keep me coming back.

  8. Caitlin, I sense the loss you feel for this “friend.” As I am not too far behind in age from you, I still feel these blogosphere relationships are uncharted waters. We are understanding it greater, but what remains the same is our human need for connection and our emotional responses to those in need, those who’ve experienced loss. You draw both of these together well in this anecdote. I found myself wanting to know more about this blogger, Georgia and Buddy. Likewise, even though I was in bed bc of a splitting headache, I read the article about your mom. You gained her back for a while and lost her again. I’m so sorry. I don’t think I’ve ever been close to my mom. We wade in and out of closeness – the last I had was after taking her to the U of Toronto to copy the 19th century diary of our ancestor – who was kicked out of Canadian parliament. We spent years transcribing this and sharing notes. And now that the project is over, I don’t hear from her for weeks at a time. But, I try. We aren’t a bad mother or daughter and I do find I need her and I need a mother. Both aspects don’t always line up in one person though. So I try to be the mother I would want– for my children. But they are teens and are differentiating from me–as is the way of girls– they must of they will stay home forever and never grow/become their own person. BTW – the photos of you with the phone and staring into the camera are unsettlingly beautiful. You were likely an intense child as I was too–one who asked too many questions of a mother busy taking care of her parents and picking up after a challenging husband and his adventures and misadventures linked to his depression. Was it work or adventure or something else that took your mother so far afield – from London to Afghanistan by bus? (I’d like to do that…) Thank you for your risk taking in your writing. – Renee

    1. She traveled the world for many years for fun, financially able to do so…

      Was I an intense child? I spent most of my childhood ages 8-15 (except for two years) in boarding school and summer camp.

      Thanks for the kind words about the photos. 🙂

  9. Several different people on the blogosphere have become really good friends of mine over the years. We’ve done each other favors, told each other things we wouldn’t usually tell others, and we’ve read each other’s works. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I’m glad I have these friends.

  10. I love this. Truly. I was just thinking, the other day, about several people I feel friendly toward and we’ve never met. We follow each other’s blogs and support each other in myriad ways. But it’s all electronic. I often thank the gods of technology for allowing me to meet such wonderful people I might not otherwise have in this huge world. And I, like you with your fellow blogger, feel the hole in their heart when something goes amiss.

  11. The other mothers of special needs children have been there for me on some of my bad days. My fellow writers comment on how life is for us, giving me a feeling of solidarity. I’m not big on the classic “support group” idea. Sympathy and encouragement here online fills that need.

  12. It’s a strange paradox how we have retreated into our devices to develop cyber frirndships. I converse more over the net waves than face to face. I ponder were we are heading as a society in how easily we share our lives so openly to strangers, yet we seem to becoming more lonely the more “friends” we connect with.

    1. Which is why I am making ever more of an effort, every week, to sit with friends and colleagues face to face. You learn a lot more that way.

      I’m not a fan of virtual intimacy on its own — when the shit really hits the fan, who will come to your home to feed you or care for your kids or help your partner if you suddenly die? That is the measure of committed friendship to me.

      1. True enough. Ray Bradbury nailed it with F451. I hope the teens I work with will understand the number of friends you actually have isn’t measured by a count but rather by feeling.

  13. “I like that it demands trust, as when intimacy is met with kindness, friendship blossoms.”

    One of your best phrases yet. I so agree with this sentiment.

    Trust does not come easy- there is a price to pay. Those hard things we go through early in life cause us either to be tough enough to be open or leave us fragile, needing protection.

    You know from my writing that I am one of those very open ones, and consider those with whom I comment back and forth to be more than internet names.

    It is very validating to have been met with some truly kind comments and to have become acquainted with some wonderful individuals.

    1. Thanks….I liked how that came out, too! 🙂

      One of the things I most enjoy about my blog is it allows me to just write — and express some of my deepest feelings about writing…not just cranking it out on deadline…

      I was telling my students today about your blog! I taught a class of eight interior designers about how to pitch editors and writers but also spoke about blogging and the interesting links we can create through it.

      1. Wow, that’s special! Thank you.

        What an interesting group. Sharing your design background plus journo experience must have been just the ticket.

  14. There are several bloggers I follow that i consider my friends. If they came to my part of the world, I would go out of my way to meet up with them. If they asked me to help them with a project, the response would be a resounding yes.

    Trust is a touchy thing these days. Hard to earn and very easy to lose!

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