Monday, October 27, 2008


Last week a friend of mine remarked on all the perfect happy-happy blogs that continue to be happy, day in and day out with never a hair out of place or a glitch in the works. She wondered if those bloggers were really happy all the time or whether she was the only one who was screwed up.
This got me thinking. I know I am guilty of trying to keep my blog a positive place to visit. I've written many posts about how content I am, carving away at my totems in the courtyard with the sound of the stream rushing by, birds twittering, monkeys visiting. Yuk, cloying isn't it?.....but those peaceful times I write about are usually when everything is going well and I am brimming with creative energy. However, there is an ugly side to living in South Africa. The truth is I live in fear a lot of the time. Fear for my daughter who drives home alone at night, fear for my husband who has had death threats for speaking his mind, fear for my elderly inlaws who would have little chance against the intruders who have almost broken their door down several times and fear for myself especially when my husband is away and there is only one pair of ears to listen for thugs who might break in during the night. Armed thugs are a reality here. We have to barricade ourselves in to stay alive because these people have no respect for life and will rape, torture and murder at whim. Not even children or the elderly are exempt.

We are often shocked by the violence in this country. My best friend's husband was shot in cold blood leaving a wife and 5 children to battle on without him. Our beloved Dr. Bhamjee was brutally murdered during her lunch hour in her own surgery. My G.P.'s mother was beaten and left for dead by a group of men at 8.00 a.m after waving goodbye to her son from the garden gate. The son of a friend of ours was murdered whilst he was working his shift in the family hotel. A young matriculant who was studying for his last exam on the beach in front of our beach cottage was stabbed to death for no obvious reason. My step niece was shot 7 times by 5 thugs in front of her tiny children and left for dead. These are only a few of the incidents that have happened to people we know. There are millions of victims that we don't know . Victims of every race, colour or creed.

Perhaps we do need to share some of the negatives in our lives to balance all the positives we write about...or should our blogs be our sanctuaries where we unwind and escape to. I wrote about how my teenage daughter lost her battle with cancer and also my husband's recovery from this disease...and it worried me for days that I had shared too much information. Should we keep our private lives private or do we share our worries and benefit from all the feedback we get from the bloggersphere? I lose myself in my blog and the dozens of blogs I read. They uplift me and generally I come away feeling inspired. Last week Denise from grrl+dog shared her story about discovering a lump. Her journal pages during this period in her life are deeply moving. It is posts like these that make me feel so proud and grateful to be part of a blogging community such as ours. ......And yet I still worry that I am sharing too much.


  1. robin, your blog is whatever you want it to be. i don't believe there is a right or a wrong about it. i work on eliminating the word should from my vocabulary as if we should do this or we should do that. all paths lead to the same place. our lives are what they are and what we choose to share with people is up to us. but i really believe we are guided to do what we do, for better or worse if someone is so inclined to judge it. if people don't like what we write they don't have to read it.

  2. Your art inspires.
    Your words bridge geography.
    Good or bad. Scary or content. Happy or sad. I will continue to visit. xoxo

  3. Robyn, I wish you were in a safe place, but of course that really doesn't exist anywhere anymore.

    You're the only one who can decide if you're sharing too much, but of course you know that.

    Since people generally feel less anxious after a 'news fast', I think it's not 'positive vibes' that irritate so much as when we force them. When we're feeling blah and we try to write about the inspiring daisies and sunshine we'll sound trite and cloying. When sincerity is there, it's not an issue.

    Perhaps too the annoyance is with poor writing. Makes me think about my first assignment for writing class about a bunny named Dorrie or something equally lame stealing a pie that was cooling on the shelf. Ugh! Now how's that for trite? Still, if poor writing is such a crime, the reader isn't forced to finish the post. (don't worry, I won't send you my assignment :D)

    Rest assured, you've never had problems with those issues here (personally I like hearing about the happy monkeys, dagnamit! :D)

    Whatever you decide about sharing the positive and negative aspects of life, I'm on board.


  4. Robyn,
    I have often thought the same thoughts about my site, keeping it 'ART' focused...But I do believe our own experiences and emotions help to define who we are as artists too, they are intrinsic to the way we work...more than often our art being a direct product from these experiences and emotions.
    From a readers perspective I see it as a precious and important gift, to be able to read posts just like this one, it deepens the understanding on wider levels...for me, it also takes the art to another level!!! I hope that makes sense!!!

    We get to know each other through these pages, and these posts are also a natural progression, in the getting to know you process.

    I see "Art Propelled" as a richly descriptive and giving art site. Robyn, I see you as a strong, intelligent, honest and highly creative artist.
    Thankyou for doing this post.

  5. I was moved by your post today. Have come back and read it several times. We all know that such things happen in the world, but when someone we feel a connection with expresses such things, they ring true and hit home far deeper than the most eloquent editorial in the papers ever can. Powerful words, powerful messages are not always comfortable. We all have a choice - to continue reading or not. Don't worry. Still reading. Sx

  6. Sounds so frightening over there but I do know about the horrors of whats going on there. It must be so scarey.
    To blog the good and the bad?
    well I believe one ought blog whatever takes their fancy, after all it is a personal on-line journal -almost. Blog as you see fit, thats my motto.
    Great topic though.

  7. I "blurf" (blog + surf) for art inspiration... of course I prefer the happy go lucky sort of post..but am fine with the occasional "other" topic.

    Recently I posted about something heavy that is happining in my life and truth be told, I was overwhelmed with the well-wish comments that poured in. Some were fine, but the fact that there were so many of them...and that they continued to arrive even several days after the post deperssed me a little bit..I mean I appreciate them for sure! But since I am not prepared to discuss things like that every day (I am depressed), I will not post future posts of that nature.

    Your blog is whatever you want to be. Mine is an outlet. For sure. My escape. Since I have to remain composed and functioning for my toddler day to day...I need the escape.

  8. Robyn:

    Having been to South Africa, I understand the barricading and sense of fear that must pervade the country, and that's just after a brief one-week visit.

    Like everyone else here, I believe a blog is exactly what you want it to be. I know when I write about both my joys and my sorrows, it is wonderful to have people who comment and lift me up and who say hurray. If it gives you some sort of release or anything of that sort to release the bad in your life here, so be it.

    I will still be reading.

  9. It takes courage to write about unhappy things. It is much easier to write about the pleasant things in life. I am new to your blog but I find it an interesting place to visit. Best wishes from Brittany France.

  10. I know.
    But, it's whatever you want it to be, whatever you want it to say.

    keep safe

  11. Oh Robyn, I have been dealing with this issue as well. I agree with lost luggage on this subject. Several months ago on mother's day, I made a sad post about my mother who had died. I was miserable all day, and uncomfortable with sharing so much. I ended up deleting most of the post and some comments.
    I go to other blogs to be inspired. This community that we have is so powerful. If we don't write about "the bad stuff" so be it. And if we are able to share more, great. I think that the process of creating art and sharing it, these moments that we share of nature and our world, are so fulfilling that sometimes I am overflowing with creative energy. You enrich my world... thank you so much, Roxanne

  12. Robyn, I am so glad you shared another dimension of your life.. I think about your blog the most when I am out and about. Yes your life seems idyllic, and I did wonder how living in Africa is these days. I have african friends who tell me exactly what you have said.
    I bite off waaay more than I can chew in blogland, and in real life. How can we be anything with integrity if our art and blog does not reflect who we are?
    Dimensional, human...
    And..even if one chose to post only certain things, the tone of the writing can often indicate if someone is not feeling all that "up", so out bloggy mates see us anyway..

    share on, only when you want to!

  13. Robyn - that was a powerful post. I can't imagine how it must be to have seen violence so close so many times. I wish you peace. And I wish those people could stop and appreciate the wonder of nature and learn to enjoy it rather than resort to violence. But that doesn't seem practical anywhere these days. About "happy" blogging - the way I see it, this has been motivating me to observe the beauty around me even during stressful times, because I can look forward to writing about that. So it is pretty therapeutic. As an outlet for unhappy moments - that's fine too. Those who don't want to read it don't have to. This should be your medium of expression, and like good real-life friends, good blog-world friends will stick by either form of expression.

  14. I'm with jen ...

    ... when in doubt, be true to yourself and your family.

    much love, ~M~

  15. this is your space to share whatever you wish. people will come or they won't - I don't think anyone believes that positive blogs are a full measure of the person writing them - none of us gets to fly under the radar- life just isn't like that - this has always been a place I come to be inspired, to learn and just enjoy your company......

  16. Thank-you for sharing Robyn.I have also questioned this attitude one adopts of only posting the positive and beautiful and skirting the ugly matters but I think one needs to be grounded in reality and there is no good without the bad and glimpses of the ugly are necessary from time to time.

  17. Gustave Flaubert said that there is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it. Your blog truly proves that thought.
    Keep sharing your treasures!

  18. Good morning, Robyn... It had not occurred to me that you write only happy-happy posts. I have sensed a private person, but at no time have I felt that you were somehow secreting away the realities of everyday. I had missed the posts about the struggles your family faced when your eldest daughter was fighting cancer, but I did read the posts about the times you lived and loved when your husband was so ill. And, frankly, that sharing was very special, and I was glad you shared it. It DID add to the your online persona, but in a very positive way, IMO. I am not at all shocked by this message today, because I have had family living in South America with the American Consulate and real estate clients who are South African (with families still living there). In fact, I had wondered about your safety because of my knowledge of these things, and I am just very sad to know that you are not immune or somehow safer than others. I am sorry to know that this sort of constant fear is a part of your reality. Returning to the "personal sharing" message... You mentioned in a comment on my blog recently that people don't seem to talk much about menopause. Well, it seems to want to take over my life, so I will talk about it on my blog. But, you might be interested in meeting Mira, a woman who I came across yesterday while researching for my blog post. Mira is truly out there, sharing the guts of her life, which involves what she calls an Autoimmune Trifecta, and it made me realize that I need to stop complaining ( But I won't stop talking about it, because it's so much a part of my life that it is showing up in my art. Have you ever thought about how these very real and powerful elements of your life affect your art? Btw, you are also referenced in my latest blog entry. Have a safe and happy-happy day, Robyn...

  19. I thought that where you lived might be dangerous, and I'm glad you wrote about it. I remember a previous post of yours that said you had planned your blog to be only about art - and perhaps that is why you feel some discomfort at writing about personal issues. It's nice to get to know you online and share your art some personal news. I keep my posts at the level of what I would share with a co-worker on an elevator and it makes my blog somewhat boring, but that's all I'm personally comfortable with. I applaud you for pushing that comfort zone and I thank you for your blog.

  20. robyn, your excellent post reflects my sentiments about blogging too. you have articulated it so well with your words and some of the comments that you have recieved have already said what i want to say. but i want to digress a bit and say is this: when we truly value what we do, we will do it whatever the circumstances of our lives.
    i went through your flickr site and saw some totally amazing shots of south africa, but it was BEN the lemon eating (!!!) guard dog who stole my heart completely.

  21. Personally, I don't ever assume that because I am reading mostly about the good parts of people's lives, that there isn't another side. Perhaps this is because I blog, and I edit a lot of the bad out. Sometimes because I'm just not ready to share or because, in my case, there are legal and financial reasons I can't share it all in a public place right now. That said, your posts are incredibly powerful and this one is no exception...and we choose to read or not read them.

  22. Thanks everyone for the feedback and the support. I really feel I am amongst friends.

  23. Why Robyn, you are among friends!

  24. I've enjoyed reading the feedback on your latest post - I too suffer sometimes wondering if I revealed too much and have felt exposed for several days ... until I received the positive support and feedback from my fellow bloggers and journeyers. Yes art is inspiring, but the artist behind the work is always more fascinating for me. I see the heart of the person, their home, their days, their experiences and opinions, and often feel so very blessed to be allowed these glimpses from my own seemingly mundane life. Yet, not because other peoples 'ordinary' lives, the ups and downs have helped me appreciate the beauty in my own, even when things are difficult and not perfect. Permission to be normal and yet inspiring for all of us. In whatever degree suits us best. For those who are private, so be it. For those who require more from this community, so be it.

  25. Writing is one way of getting things out of your system. I read your blog with a growing sense of dismay and sadness. That such a beautiful country should have so much violence - my heart goes out to you. Your art work is very beautiful and must be a great confort to you too. Keep soldiering on and put what you feel like putting on your blog. Nothing is right or wrong - it is personal to you. Best wishes to you.

  26. Yes, your blog is whatever you want it to be! We are a vast array of personalities out here in the bloggyhood. I, personally, try to keep mine upbeat. That doesn't mean that I am less genuine because I don't air my dirty laundry, so to speak. We are all human and face the same ebbs and flows.

  27. As others have already said, I believe that one of the most freeing aspects of blogging is that you can make your blog whatever you would like it to be. To share happiness, reflect on difficult times, relay successes, rant and rave, or just post art! Every blog is a reflection of its maker and there will be as many varied themes as there are varied people.

  28. I've known from the start that the world outside your door was vicious (husband and family working in africa remember?)...which made the crazy birds and monkeys in your trees all the more endearing and each post a treasure... your strength , your love of country and your breathtaking art are testament to your survival in the midst of the violence. (OMG...The post and pictures of the Hyena men are burned in my brain forever.)

    I've been keeping a blog for a few years now...a way to document my days without the pain of holding pen to paper (keyboarding is easier)...the first 3 years were full of such painful posts (3 eulogies, personal illness, rocky marriage, isolation...what a mess!) So much that I finally shut it down, changed the name and tried desperately to keep it 'artsy' positive and free of turmoil. As you well know, life, at least my life, just isn't like that. I can't keep things inside...talking/writing is how I process information. I joke saying, "Never ask a therapist how she feels, she'll give you a dissertation."...jokes aside, this is true for me. I have to externalize all the crap, oftentimes without a 'filter." I've found, however, that putting it out into cyberspace leaves me open to criticism...which in some cases helps, and in others leaves me feeling'damaged.' Readers who know me, and 'ride out the funk' are a godsend, my 'life ring' when the world seems to be crashing down around me.

    I am learning how to filter things a bit yet stay true to what is real day to day, how to write and not publish ALL of the ugly...and to read those 'happy, happy, joyful, overly abundant' posts in moderation.

    One more thought...Living in Silicon Valley, a media mecca, I/we are bombarded with sensational journalism...and I mean nonstop. Shayla had a good point about feeling 'less anxious' after a 'news fast'...I keep forgetting how invasive and unsettling the media can be.

    thanks for this post Robyn...validation is comforting

  29. Rachelle, you are so right. It's a privelege to learn more about each blogger, their country, their dreams and the things that shape their lives.

    Thank you Weaver. Making art has always been a source of comfort.

    Willow, yes we are all human and recognise so many of the same traits in each other.

    Seth, as you say its all about the sharing...the positives and the negatives.

    Steph....and thank you.

  30. Robyn, you are sharing just the right amount... You are such a strong person... to deal with all this personal known loss.. yet your strength carries you on.. the inner drive for hope and happiness and survival carries on in the human race and in all species,.. we need to balance this with what fills up all those empty places and most often it is Art.. Your heart fills me with Joy every time I see it and I need that too!!

    Thank you my dear, for sharing all the aspects of your life... it softens my heart..

  31. Gwen, thank you for your support and sweet comment.

  32. I have also thought alot about this subject since our friend wrote about how best to deal with it...and I still have not figured out the best way. I appreciate this post...I feel that insight into one's "real" life is a good thing, although as with all things, moderation is key. And for each of us that level is different. I mainly worry about putting pictures of my kid out there...for various reasons...but I have to if I am going to be true to what I am doing in my life/in my blog/in my she is sooo much of my life. Without her there would be no art, and certainly no "happy, happy". I don't fret so much about discussing the fact that I get depressed, anxious, and angry...just like everyone else...but I haven't really devoted any entire posts to any of those emotions. I thought for days about what our friend was dealing with, and how best to address it on my date I still haven't. But I feel its time is coming. From the outside looking in, whether that is from across the street or across the world via blog-land, we can all look like the "picure perfect ideal", but once you cross the threshold and look a little deeper it is not hard to see that a manicured lawn or a happy blog does not a perfect life make.

  33. Amy, the one thing I have discovered no matter what I post about is that I value this blogging community. There is so much wisdom, caring, sharing and support.

  34. Thank you for your wonderful blog Robyn and this wonderful post...very thought provoking. It was very insightful to read of this darker side of your life in South Africa.
    I have heard from other people who have lived in South Africa or visited of the violence, but I had thought you must have lived in a relatively safe part of the country (if there is such a thing?)
    I can understand how you fear for your family and friends, I know even in our supposed safe haven of Australia, I still worry about my family, so I can only begin to imagine your worries.
    You have shown us all another side of South Africa to the violent, darker one we hear so much about... your art, your family, the markets and artifacts you share with us all are as much a part of your life as the problems of living in this beautiful country...we thank you for sharing all of this with us.
    Yours is a very balanced blog and I love to visit.

  35. Thank you Jacky, your words mean a lot to me. There are safer areas than others and if one is careful life can go on smoothly without incident.