Tania's Words

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Archive for A Woman In Berlin

Blogging and Social History

I’ve been steadily plugging away at the novel. I set a goal for myself of 5 pages per day. I might or might not get a Fail for that goal this week. Sunday I only got 3 pages done. I told myself to buck up, I’d just do seven on Monday. Or not. I think I got about 5 done yesterday.

Yes this blog will be a thrill a minute. Grab onto your seat reader.

Ok, so I didn’t really come here to blog about the snail pace at which I edit. My tweets, if they haven’t sent you into a coma of absolute boredom,  have been telling you this all week. I came for two reasons. First, to issue an apology, and second to share a really wonderful book I am reading with you.

Alright, let us start…with the apology. The other day, I read a great blog by Jodi Hedlund about maintaining a professional blog. After reading through this, and a few of her other blogs, I really got to thinking about my blog. What I am doing here, why I am doing it, what I hope to accomplish. In part, I blog because I always have. I journaled as a kid. When I went to college, I started LiveJournaling. After I left LiveJournal in 07, I maintained a daily blog on a website for people who were trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss.  Now the last was less a blog and more of a daily journal- not the most riveting, but at least it kept me writing.  I found, after a while, that I missed my Live Journal, but didn’t have the desire to resurrect it.  It felt more like a relic, an accounting of a different life, a different girl, in different times.  Since my Live Journal days, I’ve had a child. My father passed, and I started writing books. Big changes. I wanted a new direction.

Blogging  intended for just friends and family, a daily laundry list of activities and complaints,  joys and small triumphs,  is fine. I did it for years. That isn’t what I want here. I want something more polished. I want to have something to say,  a point to the story.  Now, I won’t claim that I always achieve this. Often, I don’t blog because I am afraid I have nothing of interest to say, nowhere to go, just useless words.  Long absences in blogging on my part have become nothing more than a symptom of self doubt and some honest lazyness. It is hard to start it back up when I’ve been gone for so long.

I do think though, that I have worried too much, and taken it too far. One thing I loved about my LiveJournal is that it was always me. Funny, quirky, angry; it was very true to who I am. Many times I find myself editing these tangents and moment of personality out of this blog because I am aiming for something more “professional”.  I’ve always envied Emily’s blogs, as they are always so well written, precise, and intelligent. But I am not Emily. I don’t write like her, and we have completely different styles. So why do I hold myself to this standard, and neuter my own voice?

Now, please don’t think that I said “professional” to disparage Ms. Hedlund’s blog. I didn’t. I really appreciated what she had to say. And with her words in mind, I went through all my old blogs here, and edited. Most horrifying were the spelling errors. Let’s not lie. I am the worst speller, ever. Honestly. Watch my tweets- about 25% of the time, I’ll spell writing, writting. I know that this is not right, but I do it anyway. I don’t spell check as thoroughly as I should. And even when I do, I miss things. Embarrassing? You bet. Fixable? Absolutely.

So, the apology. For subjecting you to poor spelling and grammar, I apologize.  And as for the rest? Well, let’s just say I will try to be myself a little more, and worry about everything else a little less.

Now, for the amazing book I am reading! Dan’s grandmother lent me a book, A Woman in Berlin. It is the anonymous memoir of a journalist living in Berlin as the city falls to the Russian Army.  Before you go out and buy it, a warning. This book is very hard to read. Her description of the war, conditions they were living with, the fear and confusion and lack of information – all of this is disturbing. Her portrayal of what it is like to be one of many women who is the victim of mass rape- haunting.  But throughout, her voice is constant. You read her, her personality and self, in every word and line of this book.  This book moved me in so many ways.  Her strength and will serve as a vivid and honest reminder that people can rise to the most difficult of challenges and overcome them.

As a piece of social history, this book is also an excellent reminder and lesson.  Most of us, thankfully, never have and never will have to live through war. Have to experience the uncertainty that comes from living in a city with no government to run it. No water, no electricity. Ration cards that are no longer good, no radio or newspaper to tell the news. We won’t have to sit in a basement each night as our home are bombed.  War is a concept that inspires fear, sympathy, patriotism. Yet, unless we are serving in the war, we don’t know. I personally think that it is important, to be reminded and taught, about what war is really like when you are living through it.

I have a vivid memory of reading Mrs. Dalloway and feeling the horror and fear that the war inspired in Woolf’s words.  Read the words of authors who lived during WWI and you’ll see how the war completely changed the way they viewed the world and themselves.  WWI is a history lesson to us, a distant memory, overshadowed by the atrocities committed during WWII.  But for those who lived through it, it was unspeakably life altering. The way that people understood the world and how they fit into it was destroyed, and there aren’t words enough to describe how frightening or disturbing that can be.  Do you remember how you felt the morning of 9/11? I do. I felt unreal, unsure of anything. I had never imagined anything so horrible happening so close to home. I remember walking to class (I was at Michigan State in ’01), feeling like a veil had been lifted abruptly from my eyes. As though suddenly I was seeing the world for the first time. A world that wasn’t nearly as secure or safe as I had thought.  A Woman in Berlin reminded me of this.  Then again, I am one of those people who think that if we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes.  This is why I think social history is important. Because war maps and ledgers have historical value, but as a people, we can only really relate to other people through their stories, their fears, their hopes.

I guess this is one reason I love blogging, and reading  blogs. I have always liked to know other people’s stories. What they were thinking and what they went through. While it may be presumptuous to call this little blog a piece of social  history, the truth is that we all are a part of that fabric. Which threads will fade? Only time will tell. All I know is that if mine doesn’t, I’d rather it be clean and not full of spelling errors. And that it might make someone laugh.