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Monday, November 19, 2007

I've crossed some trip wire and received my first angry response from a reader... .

The letter came today from the director of the Richmond Museum of History. He'd been alerted by someone to an entry I made some months ago when I attended an exhibit and expressed (pretty negatively) my disappointment at the experience. I remembered it vaguely as I read his angry response. The letter was sent to my office and therefore I read it with my "ranger" eyes and felt real concern. My blog is simply not a part of my work life so it felt like an invasion of some sort. I'd written that entry (as I almost always do) while sitting in my pj's and bathrobe, usually barefoot and completely "Betty", with none of the trappings of my public identity. In that place I'm not defensive nor guarded and write pretty much stream-of-consciousness at all times. I rarely if ever edit my writings after the fact. In fact, I almost never re-read anything I've written, but tend to move ahead into whatever the next experience suggests. That's that way of journaling, I suppose. Had I received this letter as an email through the blog (while at home) it would have been far less jarring. At my desk at work it was out of context. It was disturbing.

After reading the furious letter (written in longhand which made it feel even more serious), I answered it by email. Not sure precisely what I wrote today, but it wasn't angry -- maybe a little sad -- I suppose, and remember now that I did suggest that I would go back into the archives and read what I'd written. I remember saying that whatever I'd written was probably an accurate description of what I was feeling at the time, and that I wasn't quite sure just how one can undo feelings. This particular bell would be hard to un-ring!

I've been home now for several hours, and have decided that to re-read that post with the idea of retracting what I wrote at another time didn't make a lot of sense. In all the years since I started writing there have never been more than a dozen readers in any 24 hour period, according to the counter. Usually no more than ten. I've always taken comfort in that figuring that my readers were probably members of my family, with an occasional stranger who may have stumbled in from time to time. Those numbers are pretty insignificant, especially since I've been blogging since September of 2003. So, I'm writing for myself and my nieces and nephews for the most part.

It is quite true (as I mentioned in my email to the museum director), that I carry around a lot of residual, disembodied, and justifiable rage, and that I'm at an age where I no longer feel compelled to hold it in. I'm not as apt to suffer in silence as I did for a lifetime. I'm hoping that I'm providing a balanced picture of life these days -- that I'm neither paranoid nor being unnecessarily combative, though I'm not sure that's always true. It depends a lot upon what I'm seeing around me on any given day.

It occurred to me as I sat at my MAC tonight, that the director and his informant might have fared better had they turned their energy toward exploring just why there were no African Americans in attendance at that event (except for me), and to wondering if anything I expressed carried a hint or two of just why race relations in this city are still so difficult to confront? His museum, after all, sits in the middle of a black community.

He mentioned that his board would be "...looking into the matter." I would hope that they would invite me to attend their meeting. If my writings -- however controversial -- have opened a long-stifled civic conversation -- how wonderful that would be. This might well be the greatest gift we can give to this troubled community. Perhaps he will read this (while looking for my response) and see the importance of using this opening as the best possible course to take -- and will be in keeping with my work life -- which has its controversial elements as well, at least if I'm doing it as it should be done. And ... I do believe that I'm doing my work well. Though I may be the cause of some discomfort for some.

There are few universals here. We each have lived and are living -- our own reality. Mine has produced what you read in these pages.

None of it can be un-lived!


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