No one gets wise enough to truly understand the heart of another

I was at BlogHer this past weekend. Honestly, the weekend was kind of underwhelming, but I don’t want to go into that here. What is on my mind is the reaction that several of the people I was most excited to meet had to me. I’ve heard more than once since the weekend that people were disappointed in me and that I didn’t seem to be the “same person” as on my blog. This from people who never actually talked to me.

How did I feel this weekend? Lonely. Awkward. Intimidated. As though nobody really wanted to talk to me. Not invited to lots of various events. And then, surprised by the reaction I heard about after the fact (and sensed in the moment). Startled that anyone who reads my blog expected that I would be outgoing, confident, and self-assured in person. I feel upset at my own inability to convey how I actually feel. I can try harder, and I will, but I worry that the enormous difference between how I feel and how I seem represents some deep and fundamental lack on my part.

The thing is, my words and writing here do represent the authentic me. This is the place where I really AM open and true. So to know me here is actually to know the contents of my mind and heart. I’ve heard from more than a few acquaintances, from all phases of my life, who stumbled on this blog, and every single one noted that knowing me in passing they never knew I thought about this stuff. This is the real me, and I’m struggling to inhabit her in my day to day life. Not the other way around.

I am lost, again, in the whitewater that fills the perilous lacuna between perception and reality. I feel disheartened to have alienated people who have come to mean a lot to me in this space. And I feel frustrated by the speed with which people seem to jump to conclusions about me. Disappointed in myself for a few assumptions I made, too.

We should not presume to walk the terrain of the hearts of others without guidance. We stumble on our own paths, so how can we imagine that we would be able to navigate those of others without finding surprising contours, confusing switchbacks, darkness and light that flicker and disorient us? This is true even for those we know best, and it is certainly true for those with whom we have limited interaction and small amounts of information.

We do know that no one gets wise enough to truly understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our lives to try.
– Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace

I think this is easy to forget. It is easy to assume, to conclude, to extrapolate from tiny experiences and infinitessimal indicators. Let’s not. I recommit myself to remaining open, and I urge you all to do the same thing. In the meantime I promise and swear that any lack of warmth perceived this weekend was about my own insecurity and awkwardness and nothing else, but I am still sorry if I caused any hurt.

32 thoughts on “No one gets wise enough to truly understand the heart of another”

  1. After reading your blog for some time, I have been pleasantly surprised each time I’ve met you with the authentic you that shines through. That being said, I had quiet moments with you. BlogHer was intense, and I’m confident that a crowded room and an intensely loud ballroom weren’t the places for soul searching and moving conversations.
    You were you. Even if it wasn’t the you that you sit and work with on your blog {because, really, most of us don’t talk the way we write…} it was still you. Maybe a little quiet or protective of yourself {and who wouldn’t be} but you were you.

  2. oh. dear.

    The quote says it all. And I believe our live’s work is actually to know ourselves. What other people think, or see, or perceive is often more based on something in themselves, as if we all have fragmented mirrors within us, capturing pieces of the world as we move through it. Those reflections, in turn, guide us to do the explorations of our selves needed at that time, in that place.

    In other words, move forward, find what floats your boat at that point in time and carry on.

    For the very human part of you that hurts, and is concerned that you have hurt others, a big XOXO.


  3. I’ve never read this quote before, but I love it. I was at BlogHer, too, and thought I recognized you once from your blog photos, but wasn’t sure so didn’t say anything. The experience was both overwhelming and underwhelming for me–I’m still not entirely sure what I think about it. Really like this post.

  4. Your honesty in this post is beautiful. I hadn’t met you before, so I had no expectations, and I found you to be warm, gracious and real.

    I think Corinne hits the nail on the head when she says none of us talk like we write. The disconnect between writing and everyday persona is a big one, and we all experience it. I’m learning, verrrrry slowly, that other people are entitled to their opinions but I don’t have to agree with them. The challenge is not letting their opinions alter my own sense of self. It’s hard.

    I’m very grateful to have found your blog and to have met you this past weekend. Thank you for this beautiful post.


  5. Lindsey,

    I wasn’t at blogher. I probably never will be. I admire your bravery at attempting to translate the you that shines through the words here into a social scene like that.

    And I know from deeply felt experience what it’s like to be perceived so differently from the truth of our inner selves. My blog too is the most real I am anywhere. But most of the people who know me in real life won’t tolerate knowing me at that level – and so they don’t. Sometimes it is about finding authenticity. Sometimes it is about the fact that people’s perceptions become their reality and nothing we can do affects those perceptions because they see what they want to see.

    I love the connections of the blog world – where we connect at a soul level without the trappings of normal societal markers of status or state of being. But it’s interesting to me how those connections do and do not translate into the objective, waking world.

    I think for those of us who are truly introverted personality types – the translation takes much longer and more one on one type of interaction. It’s very hard to do at a cocktail party – and I know that often, I don’t even try.

    Who you are has great beauty and depth – and I am honored that you share you with us in this space.

  6. I was not at BlogHer, but I know I would’ve felt the exact same way. So many egos floating around one big space. wowsers.
    I absolutely love what Christa wrote and whole heartedly agree. We are all walking around with our wounds and sometimes it takes something not even related to our own wounds that can rip them open. We are all guilty of judging, assuming, and projecting our own stuff onto others, but we are not all blessed enough to step back and take a second look at that. Being a contemplative person (which you clearly are) is hard, but oh so worth it.

  7. Lindsey – You are now the third person I’ve heard say that BlogHer was underwhelming (to use your tactful wording). And I’m sorry that it left you feeling lonely and disappointed.

    Having never met you in person I’m not sure quite what I would expect. But I would not expect someone bold or demonstrably confident. I would expect someone calm, quiet, and thoughtful. And anyone who expects different probably hasn’t been paying attention.

    That said, it doesn’t matter what anyone expects. You owe us nothing. Whether you channel Anne Lamott or Lucille Ball is entirely your perogative. You are not some character that you must inhabit in certain company based on certain expectations. You are you. No more, no less. And that is all anyone can ask.

  8. Lindsey,

    I wasn’t at Blog Her and initially I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it. However, after reading how some of my favorite bloggers didn’t have a favorable experience, I question whether I should attend next year.

    Your words and your sentiment always elevate me to think about life and its nuances. I am sorry your experience was disappointing. I am with Gale – you also strike me as someone who would be thoughtful, calm and quiet in person. No need to apologize for your authentic true self.

  9. You are wonderful. My only regrets about not attending Blogher was not having the chance to meet you and others I have come to adore through your blogs.

    Big hug. (((squeeze)))

    I’m glad you opened up about it here. You are right — you do make and have made it clear many times the difference between who you are and how you are aware you come off to some people upon first meeting. Maybe that was somehow missed by others, or maybe others’ own insecurities clouded the way in which they perceived you.

    sorry you have to deal with the hurt, Linds.

    xo e.

  10. Lindsey, you know how I feel. You were exactly you in our weekend together at BlogHer — sometimes quiet, sometimes not, sometimes lost missing your kids and Legoland, sometimes in the moment.

    I find it patently unfair that anyone ask you to look the part of you or act the part of you. What I saw was you trying VERY hard to interact with the people you were genuinely excited to see and then you disappointed and feeling helpless when those people seemed indifferent (or worse).

    If we learn nothing else from our peers in Blogland, it should be that you can never judge a woman at any given moment. We all have so much going on beneath our surfaces. I went excited and feeling as if I would be continuing conversations I had been having for months with women who would know me from my blog. In some cases, that was true. In others, not.

    No one expects Kristen Chase to walk around in sexy underwear carrying a whip. The Pioneer Woman is a tall, glam, not at all over-the-top, decidedly un-bumpkin lady. We don’t wear our hearts on our sleeves, we wear them on our blogs.

    Hang in there. Those who did speak to you, I can only believe, saw what I saw.

  11. This post kind of makes me sad. I wasn’t at the weekend either, but the visions elicited by this post are of a high school cafeteria, of the cliques and expectations and feelings of being left out. Blogland is a funny place. Online, it feels so inclusive. But I guess there are cliques too… Actually, I know there are. And I imagine if I had attended I would have had that same sense of “how should I act?” Wanting to be witty always, to endear everyone to me. I don’t think people should expect you to BE any one way, or be disappointed, as if you had put up a dating online profile that said you were one thing and turned up completely different than the picture. That said, if I would meet you, I’d expect a very introspective, quiet person. On your blog I’ve come to know someone grappling with all the different aspects of life. If I met you and you were instead boisterous and crass, that’s be fine too. You are you.

    All that said, the most horrifying part of this post to me is that you found out after the fact that people were disappointed in you. That just seems horrid. Does that mean somone told you that others didn’t like you? That’s just mean. It gives me that uncomfortable sad feeling I had in middle school.

  12. I struggle all the time with the contrast between public perception and private reality.

    On the one hand, we see others who seem so together, so comfortable in their skins, and who always seem to know the right thing to say.

    On the other hand, we know how we ourselves feel–sweaty, nervous, with the faint sense of anxiety increasing the longer we stand at the outside of the conversation, waiting for that perfect moment to break in.

    The funny thing is, all of us feel that way–even the ones who never seem to sweat.

    The tension you feel arises from the illusion that you can somehow transcend the latter feelings and become the former paragons you admire.

    Release the tension.

    Decide that you can’t be superhuman (none of us can–by definition).

    Let who you are hang out, and learn to not care what others think.

    And then, paradoxically, is when people will respect you the most. Because you won’t be some shining idealized version of you that they outwardly admire, yet are inwardly resentful of. You’ll be another flawed human being that they can truly relate to.

  13. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet you before I moved–to interact face-to-face outside of the BlogHer intensity. I love your authenticity here, and in real life. So much of what you write resonates with me. You are a gem. Xoxo

  14. Hi – Long time listener, first time caller. I love your blog, I didn’t go to blogher (and don’t have a blog) but work next door, so saw some of the “famous” bloggers but I wish I had spotted you. It seems to me that people have all different types of agendas at these things – some are trying to increase blog traffic, sell a book, prove that they are more than a middle aged mom like everyone else, prove that they really have friends even though they feel isolated the other 360 days of the year, etc., etc., and I am very sad for you that this was your experience and that people ended up being disappointing in the end.
    I hope that you will keep writing for us to see and not be too down because of someone else’s misperceptions.
    Be kind to yourself, C

  15. Your honesty is rare and beautiful.

    Our capacity, as humans, to misunderstand each other sometimes seems boundless. The title of this post, and the quote that inspired it, says it all really.

    Love to you.

  16. I’ve never blogged and am not sure I completely understand the blogsphere or an event like the one you attended this weekend.

    But I know I enjoy reading your blog every day, and was troubled at the thought of anyone meeting you for the first time and telling you they were disappointed in you. Honestly, I think that is just terrible. Do those people have no social skills, insight or compassion?

    I wonder a bit if part of the disconnect you felt this weekend is this: it’s hard to speak so openly about true thoughts, feelings and struggles to the people we love most in our lives, yet you are able to do so on a blog. So in some ways, the people like me who read your blog but do not truly know you feel like they have glimpsed at least a bit of your soul and inner-workings.

    But we don’t really know the whole person, even if we know their deepest secrets, do we? There is something to be said for being in a person’s presence, building memories, seeing a person under duress, in a moment of great joy, slogging through the daily stuff, the way they move, the way they laugh, the way they talk to their mother on the telephone.

    So really, it takes both to know someone – the inner and the outer.

    That said, I have utter confidence after reading your words for these months that if I were to ever meet you in person, the last thing I would be is disappointed.

    As always, thanks for sharing and giving us all a lot to think about.

  17. This post speaks volumes. You are you. Here and there. We should all be allowed to be the person we are at the moment. Sometimes, we are behind a screen and able to surrender to the rush of realization. Sometimes, we are in a crowded banquet hall, surrounded by legions of somewhat-strangers and are a bit paralyzed. Sometimes, we are very much in between these places. I have never once doubted your authenticity in any context. Spending time with you made this weekend more than worth it for me. May we continue to dance the insecurity dance, and play the identity game, side by side for many days to come…


  18. I sadly didn’t get enough time with you to make these assumptions. We’ve “talked” about this a little already, over email, but I want you to know I was being honest. I think we were both overwhelmed. It’s such a surreal thing in the first place, to stand with someone who you’ve come to “know” and just not know what to do…BlogHer makes it impossible to get through the initial moments, or minutes, of warming up and getting more comfortable and at ease. And then when you have the chance (like our few minutes in the serenity suite) there’s so much pulling away from it. I truly believe we’d all feel so differently about everything if we simply met for a weekend at a quiet place and sat and talked.

    I’m sorry you’re feeling this way, Lindsey. You’re right, people can’t make assumptions, that you’re different because you were quiet, etc in that particular context.

    And I pinky swear my post WAS NOT about you. I was referring to some truly ugly instances only. My short time with you was not bad, just missing the right context.

    Also. Just something for you to think on–you are a person who is really striving to be in the moment, to take every fine line and detail in and soak it up to try to truly live…that makes a person go quiet and a bit distant in some ways…I know because I do it too, especially when tired or overwhelmed. When other people are at their most insecure (like every person at blogher) they can take that to mean you’re “checking them out,” shoes and all. Maybe? Like I said, just a guess…

    You are a lovely person. You really are.

  19. Lindsey, I think your writing has a place in this world that is much larger than the (often what I find to be self-indulgent) blogosphere. After dabbling around in the mornings with reading various blogs while drinking coffee, I’ve found my perfect balance. I visit only two daily: Dooce and yours.

  20. Hey Lindsey, I appreciate your honest voice here today, and every day that you write.

    While I did not attend blogher, years in and around Hollywood (and especially as psychologist to Hollywood) has helped me realize how universal insecurity is. When we truly believe it we become more free. We can do little to have people understand us, we can take lifetimes to understand ourselves and others; but we can love the world and each other, even if we don’t understand any of it.

    Years of yoga, however, have been much more useful than trying to self-express—and the gist of your post and all the comments about being our authentic selves (which I strive for as well) dances around a larger point, which is that whether or not we understand each other we truly are each other.

    The world we live in, the world of branding, followers, deals and hype is not ready for this and will tend to attack or marginalize voices that do not reflect and further the fiction that being some sort of “star” will bring happiness.

    The world is what it is—if we manage to love it as it is, we are in some sort of heaven; if we hate it as it is we are trapped in some sort of hell… but if we realize that the world and all of us within it are all of the above, then fear and suffering can subside (and this is what I wish for you… and know that you are writing, loving, parenting and suffering your way toward).

    Social things, like creativity, have no real goal or endpoint, both are ultimately about process, about relationship to the consciousness from which all this seeming nonsense emerges.

    It all sounds perfect: perfectly dreadful, perfectly wonderful.


  21. Wow. I had no idea. I didn’t go to BlogHer–never even thought about going. It does sound like high school whoever said that above.

    Hooray for you for writing about it here, though. One of the reasons I love writing is because I can get to the real me this way. The person I am in so many social situations is a surface version although I wish I worked harder to bring this me to those occasions. Like you write so well here:

    “This is the real me, and I’m struggling to inhabit her in my day to day life. Not the other way around.”

  22. I new to your blog and I think you’d be lovely to meet. I went to BlogHer last year and it was really odd. I was happy to meet a bunch of people (like Heather!) but it IS overwhelming, and I kept wondering if people thought I was silly or slouchy or frumpy or boring or talked too much in real life. I think that anyone who judges other bloggers in that way– expecting them to be “how they are online” — doesn’t get blogging. We are ALL putting ourselves out there online, all the time. It is a privilege to get to read this written-out side of you or anyone with a blog, but I would never expect someone to act quite how they are, all written-out-like. Okay I am rambling, but I know you know what I mean.

  23. Oh gosh. This hits so close to home. I adore your honesty, your willingness to bare your soul and can only imagine how awkward the weekend would have/could have been.

  24. “This is the real me, and I’m struggling to inhabit her in my day to day life. Not the other way around.” This resonates deeply with me. I cannot count the number of times people with whom I eventually become friends tell me that they didn’t think I liked them at first, that they thought I was cold and snobby. I am working at pushing against my own insecurities and being more open. However, you aren’t responsible in totality, for others’ perceptions of you.

  25. I had no idea you were feeling all this – perhaps because I was feeling it too! As always, your honesty takes my breath away. It’s perhaps a good thing that we bloggers, all, reveal less when meeting for the first time in person than we do on our pages. Otherwise, I’d need to walk around with an inhaler.

    I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to finally meet you in person. For me, it simply added one more thread to the tapestry you’ve created here, and I’m looking forward to future threads – both virtual and IRL.

  26. Oh my gosh, really? It was this way for you? And to hear things afterwards… that stings. I feel badly that we tripped over each other at the moment we did – I was feeling pulled in three different directions, all three of them places and people I desperately wanted to escape to and escape with. And so there was this pause and AAAGGH! I wanted so much to disappear and talk properly with you and then it just got nuts and we didn’t get the chance.

    I’m so, so glad I got to meet you, though – at least a step one. It was so unforgivably big this year. I felt very much adrift in it all, and spent maybe too much time running from it, to the haven of smaller groups.

    I just wish one of those smaller groups could have contained you.

  27. “”We should not presume to walk the terrain of the hearts of others without guidance.”

    Oh, this truth found a home right in the center of my soul.

    It’s an odd thing, this blogging world. At some point in this past year I came across an online message board discussing my blog – my private, anonymous coming out blog. The place I’ve been the most raw, the most authentic, the most real. and they were debating my life, my truth, my words as if they somehow could take those little fragments of my existence and define me solely through them. It was an odd and painful experience – much like eavesdropping on a conversation about me that I was never meant to hear.

    I’m sorry for your experience, and I can only say that I have a feeling that if we were to meet – I would find you exactly as you are. Wonderfully, perfectly you.

  28. I am late to reading this, I hope not too late.

    I was asked by several blog friends to attend a blog conference last May and declined. Sometimes, online life supersedes real life (and is betterbut yet not real life, either, but it is that, too, and oh, this is confusing, isn’t it?).

    At this point, my personal motto is this: attend writing conferences, yes. Attend blogging conferences, no. But it could change any time.

    I had one person approach me at my last writing conference (because, ironically, many of us are writers who also blog). She said, “You are much skinnier in real life than I thought you were.” Ok…umm, awkward. Then I worried (for about 1 minute before burying my face in a Cadbury bar) if my picts on my blog make me look big? Overly heavy? (I weigh about 125 lbs in real life but refuse to weigh myself; my scale is in our attic.)

    Anyhow, I digress. This isn’t to illuminate anything about myself, as much as it is to say I love you, I fell into your blog sometime ago last year, I think. I adore you. You are literate, friendly, and so many things you post, resonate.

    And, shy or otherwise, you are radiant here. Radiant.

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