Image description: a headshot of Maria, a white woman with dark hair and brown eyes. She holds one hand up to her head, and has a questioning look on her face.
Without fail, every time I try to post something online these days, I just… can’t. I’ve finally figured out why.
In real life, most of my existence is hidden away — that’s what happens when you’re a mostly housebound, mostly bedbound person. My life online becomes a more varied experience than my physical life. After all, my words are the same whether published from an exotic café or from my bed. My mind is free to roam, even when my body is not. And the Internet is how I communicate with my friends and family, follow along in their lives, and vice versa.
Sometimes my digital life feels more real to me than my physical one, especially when my body is more a source of pain and frustration than joy or blissful neutrality. What I post here therefore takes on much more meaning than it needs to do. Every word and photo becomes so important, because they are my voice, my self, finally able to be seen. Which also means the pressure is on.
If I write about clothing or body image, I’ll seem like 2011-Maria. If I write about anything political, I become Maria The Angry Feminist. If I don’t write about political things, like the Black Lives Matter movement, it looks like I don’t care (trust me, I care and I’m doing what I can). In writing about illness, I become Maria the Sick, and if I share anything about sewing, it’ll be like “Sewing Is Now Maria’s Thing”. A more philosophical text sets a standard where writing about more mundane things feel weird. Mundane topics seem pointless because there are already hundreds of other blog posts about them.
I know you know that online life is not 100% “real life”. I know you know. But when you’re as disabled from M.E. as I am, online life is most of your “real life”. And I don’t mean like when people get so caught up in their Instagram feed that they need a digital detox to appreciate real life again. My choice, most of the time, is either to participate in life through a screen, or not participate at all.
So posting a garment I’ve sewn, or a sneak peak of some sheet music I’m working on, is one of very few ways I can still show the world who I am. That matters a lot when you’re ill, when most of your identity is trapped in a body that cannot leave the house.
Also, I feel very different from the Maria I was just a few years ago. I crave a way to show that, so people can know the 2020 version of me. There haven’t been any visible drastic changes in my life circumstances; there are no promotions or houses or babies or wedding rings. Because of that, it feels like people believe I am basically the same Maria as I was ten years ago. This is especially true for people I rarely see or talk to offline, because their mental image of me rarely gets challenged enough to get updated. I don’t think many of us would like our early-twenties-self to be the one everyone remembers, or judges, or connects with, decades later.
So you see my conundrum. I want to be re-defined, at least a little, but I don’t want to be defined by just one text, one post on Instagram (where my handle is @mariahantro, by the way).
An obvious solution is to post more often. It would probably work, but after those inevitable periods when I’m literally not able to post anything because I can’t look at screens, I’m back here, hesitating. I suppose I could stop overthinking everything in general… but then I wouldn’t be the meandering, complex Maria you all know and love, right? Hah.
I guess I have once again demonstrated my love for meta-anything; in this case, writing about writing, or thinking about thinking. Come to think of it, that should be an abstract enough topic to defy any kind of definition — so anything goes from here.
How are you doing? What has your life become this year? These are strange times. I hope you are okay.