Warning, this is an extremely long-winded post and I’m sorry.
I’ve debated with myself for two days now on whether to write this post or not, but after a comment today that said “shame on you,” I figured I might as well because I’m human and people’s comments bother me sometimes. I try and have a tough skin but I’m pretty much just a big softie.
Anyway, as I’m sure many of you know, I wrote a post on Thursday explaining my decision to stop posting updates regarding Joey’s health until “either there’s a miracle or there’s not.”
The post has been shared quite a bit and I’ve had a lot of support, but I’ve also had a number of negative comments.
In truth, I never expected anyone to read it except for my regular readers. People who read NashvilleGab on a regular basis knew that I updated on Joey’s health quite regularly and I felt an urge to explain why I wasn’t going to do that any longer. Maybe I should have just stopped updating on it and left the reasons to myself. I don’t know. Either way, it’s too late now.
Besides wanting to let my regular readers know why I had decided not to share any more updates, I also wanted to confess my sins. That’s probably overly dramatic, but that’s kind of how I felt. Writing is therapeutic to me sometimes, and I thought it might make me feel better to admit something that was hard for me, that I had at some point crossed the line from being a caring fan into being someone who had started sharing health updates because they were popular. That’s it. I wasn’t hoping thousands of people would visit the post. I wasn’t looking for attention. I wasn’t expecting anything really, I just wrote what was on my mind.
But the internet is a weird place sometimes and the post ended up becoming popular. I’m actually sorry that it did because I can see where someone who isn’t familiar with me and NashvilleGab might get the impression that I was just seeking attention.
At first I thought people were sharing my story because they agreed with my decision and supported what I was saying, but as time went on and I got a few angry comments, I began to wonder if people were just sharing it because I had offended them. My insecurity set in and I couldn’t seem to think of anything else. When doubts started creeping in, I started obsessively going back, rereading, and rewriting, trying hard to match the words on the post to what was in my head. No matter how hard I tried, it just didn’t seem to work. It wasn’t that I was trying to fix things just to appease people, it’s that the thoughts floating through my head didn’t seem to be translating correctly.
Like I said, I’m human and making people mad, especially when they’re mad at me because I failed to accurately express what I was thinking, bothers me.
In all honestly, I don’t think I’m a very good writer. I don’t say that because I want people to argue with me and tell me I’m great, I just say it because it’s what I believe to be true. Oh sure, I can be funny and I can usually get my point across adequately enough, but when it comes to taking what I’m thinking in my head and putting my ideas down on paper (or on a blog post) and making them match up, I tend to fail. I think I used to be better at it when I first started NashvilleGab, but a few years ago I had a stroke and things have changed.
I won’t go into the details of that, but my writing has changed since then. Finding the right words and getting them to match what’s in my brain as close as possible is a much slower process. Most of the stuff I write I end up going back and changing because the thinking part of my brain and the expressing it on paper, or in this case a blog post, part of my brain doesn’t seem to match up most of the time. My blog posts often take on this work-in-progress feel. Chances are, if you read something when I first post it and then go back and read it a few hours later, it will have changed in some way. I’ve tried holding onto the stuff I write and working on them over a course of time before posting it, but it just doesn’t work. I can’t seem to figure out exactly what I want to say until something has been posted and I think about it for a while. So over the course of the day my writing brain catches up with my thinking brain and I eventually get posts close enough to what I was thinking in the first place to finally leave them alone.
When I wrote the Joey and Rory post, I quickly put my thoughts down and posted it. As usual, I kept thinking about it all day and changing things as they came to me and my writing brain slowly caught up with my thinking brain. Then I started getting comments from people who identified as new Joey and Rory fans and I realized I had offended some of them (maybe a lot, I don’t know). The new fans seemed to be upset because they thought I was laying claim to Joey and Rory and saying that people who had only just recently discovered them weren’t allowed to be fans and the only reason they were following their story was because they were waiting to see what happened next. That wasn’t what I meant at all, but I could totally understand why they felt that’s what I meant. For that, I’m sorry. It makes me feel bad because I know that it’s completely my fault that I can’t seem to ever get my thoughts expressed on my blog posts to match what I’m thinking and feeling.
Like I said, I’m just not that good of a writer sometimes.
Honestly, I was considering deleting my original post on Thursday because I was starting to doubt myself. After trying to fix the post to match what was in my head and not being able to get it quite right, I was starting to consider that my original reason for writing it wasn’t important and I was offending people for reasons that just didn’t matter.
Then I got an email from Rory.
When I saw who the email was from, I was afraid to open it because I was afraid he might have been one of those people I had unintentionally offended. But I swallowed my fear and opened the email, fully prepared to feel 2 inches tall.
But he wasn’t angry. This man who is going through what is surely the hardest thing he will ever have to deal in his life and dealing with a loss and pain that the rest of us can only imagine, had actually taken time out of his life to offer me encouragement.
I’ve been at a loss for words ever since.
I found your email, and wanted to take a moment to encourage you and say hello. Your honesty is refreshing. I don’t claim to understand what is right or wrong… I only know that it seems that some folks out there are encouraged or inspired by what we’re going through now – how my wife is living and what I am writing – and that seems like a good thing. A blessing to them and in turn, to us.
Thank you for the kind words you wrote about Joey and I.
The email was much longer and I will forever be grateful to Rory for reaching out to me. The universe works in strange ways sometimes and this will definitely be something I hold dear forever.
If Rory, who I never in a million years imagined would read it, was okay with what I wrote then I figured I should probably be okay with it too, so I stopped trying to make the post perfect. If I angered people, then so be it.
That doesn’t, however, mean that I’m not still sad that some people have misunderstood what I was originally trying to say. Now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I figured I would try to explain it a bit better. Maybe I’ll succeed, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’m just obsessing over something I shouldn’t. I don’t know. Anyway, here goes.
Ever since Joey became sick, I’ve posted nearly all of the updates that Rory has provided. I’ve always looked forward to his blog posts because he writes so beautifully. I can’t explain it really, his posts are just sweet and almost lyrical, if that makes sense. Honestly, I’ve envied their life. The peacefulness of it. The country-ness of it I guess. He really makes you fall in love with his life and with Joey. As it became clear that Joey was getting sicker, his blog posts were still beautiful. As Rory shared pain and sadness, he still managed to be uplifting and positive. I’m not sure how many of us could really have continued to hold it together like he has.
In eight years of blogging, I’ve never seen anything quite like how his and Joey’s story has touched people. It’s been absolutely amazing. As Joey became more ill, they gained more and more new fans with people sharing their story and coming together to pray. I had someone ask me the other day why I thought their story had touched so many people. I had no real answer. Famous people get sick all the time, why is this couple’s story any different?
The only thing I can think of is Rory’s blog. His words and storytelling and love just brings their story to life and people have become attached to them like I have. When I say that I cry every time I read a blog post from Rory, I’m not lying. I’m honestly a blubbering mess when it comes to them. It’s such an odd thing. And I think all of their fans, whether they’re old or new fans, feel the same way. The couple’s acceptance of what is happening, their strength and obvious love is incredible to witness. People are allowed to share in this family’s heartbreak and faith because Rory freely shares it. It’s a completely unique situation that has created what I think is a completely unique fan base.
As word has spread of Joey’s illness, more and more websites began featuring their story. Rory’s unique blog combined with so many new websites sharing their story has made it so even more people have been able to discover them and find inspiration in their story.
Things seemed to change, however, when Rory revealed that Joey had stopped her cancer treatments and had decided to go home to spend her remaining time with family and friends. Maybe I only noticed it because I have around 1500 websites that I follow regularly in order to find stories for my website, I don’t know. But suddenly I saw that websites that more than likely had never even heard of Joey and Rory were featuring their story. Gossip sites and tabloids and places that you know had only picked up on the story because it was suddenly a hot topic. “Country singer stops cancer treatment, goes home to die” became a common headline. This beautiful couple and their inspiring story had been cut down to a grab-your-attention headline.
It’s not that I think that only the people who had been fans for a long time had a right to tell their story, it just made me sad that suddenly their story seemed to be being exploited because it was a sad story and sad stories sell.
Now it seems like every time I turn around some new angle is being used to write stories from websites that never wrote a word about Joey and Rory before Joey stopped cancer treatment. As a blog owner, when I see a website that is typically geared towards Hollywood (as in movie stars and the Kardashians) celebrity gossip writing a post about the top five touching songs of Joey and Rory, I recognize it for what it is … a ploy to tug at the heartstrings and bring in readers to their website. And that upsets me. I know it shouldn’t, but in some weird way, it does. When I see a website asking Blake Shelton what he thinks about what Joey and Rory are going through, I see it for what it is, another way to tug at heartstrings and bring in readers.
Plain and simple, Joey and Rory’s pain and the fact that Joey is dying has become a big seller and that makes me sad.
Blogging is a business and I get it, but it still makes me sad.
What also makes me sad is that with all these websites that have no interest other than to bring in readers, now come the looky-loos.
This seems to be one of the words that people got the most upset about in my prior post and one of the things I probably should have tried better to explain. Or left out all together in the first place.
If you’ve found inspiration in Joey and Rory’s story, no matter when you “discovered” them, you’re not who I meant by looky-loo. If you’re a new fan who has found yourself praying for Joey, you’re not who I meant by a looky-loo. If you’re someone who reads updates because you genuinely care about what is going on, you’re not what I meant by a looky-loo.
What I meant is that I know that with any famous person who is ill or has just passed away, there’s always an element of people who are interested in their story simply out of morbid fascination. With more and more off-the-wall websites sharing their story, the amount of people with no interest in Joey’s life other than to see what happens next rises. If you care about Joey and Rory’s journey and not just the end result, then you’re obviously not what I meant when I mentioned looky-loos.
With all of the thoughts above swirling around in my mind for the last week or so, I had still continued to share Rory’s updates. I shared them because I honestly cared and wanted to keep my readers informed. That said, as a blog owner, I was acutely aware that their number of supporters was growing. As interest in their story grew, I started to notice the huge amounts of extra readers I would get anytime I shared a story about them. It’s the huge amounts of extra readers that has caused so many odd websites to start sharing their story. I didn’t really see a problem with noticing the increasing reader numbers because my heart was still in the right place in sharing health updates.
Something changed on Thursday, however. Early that morning, I noticed that Rory had updated his blog. In days past, I shared updates just for the shake of updating fans. On Thursday, however, I jumped on and hurriedly started writing because I knew that the early bird gets the worm and if I could share the update before all the other blogs, it would mean a huge boost to my numbers that day.
That’s when it hit me that I had somewhere along the way turned from concerned fan sharing news with other concerned fans into a blog owner who was ready to exploit their story for the main purpose of increasing my reader count for the day. I was ready to do the same thing I had been upset with all those other sites for doing.
And it really, really bothered me. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did.
So I deleted everything I had written and spilled my guts. I didn’t do it for attention, I didn’t do it because I hoped the story would go viral, I didn’t do it to get kudos. I did it because I felt bad that I been prepared to do something I didn’t think was right, something I had been looking down my nose at other websites for doing. That’s it. I also thought a few people might be interested in why I had suddenly stopped sharing Rory’s updates when I had been sharing them so regularly up until then. But mainly I just wanted to put my thoughts down on paper. I felt bad and writing helps me feel better when I’m feeling down. That’s it, plain and simple. I had made a decision not to use Joey and Rory’s life as story fodder any longer and I felt the urge to explain why.
I honestly didn’t think anyone besides my regular readers would give a shit. I certainly didn’t expect the response I have received.
I’ve been doing this silly blogging thing for eight years and I still have this mindset where I don’t expect anybody to read what I write and am always genuinely surprised when people share my stories. I know that probably sounds stupid, but it’s the absolute truth. I write strictly for me. It’s probably why I make so many corny jokes that nobody but me finds funny. I just don’t expect anyone but me to read what I write. I mean, I’m not dumb, I know that people read what I write and I’m eternally grateful that they do, but I’m still shocked every day of my life when I look at my daily website numbers and realize that I’m lucky enough that people visit to read what I (and my other writers) write. What world am I living in that people (who aren’t my mom) enjoy reading the stuff I put out there?
Someone had made a comment about whether I had gotten the attention I was seeking. If they only knew how totally amazed I actually am by the fact that anyone reads anything I write, they’d probably find that comment pretty funny.
So anyway, now here I sit 3000 words (OMG!) later and I have no idea if I’ve made things more clear or just wasted a whole lot of time because who is seriously going to sit and read 3000 words of me trying to get people to understand a blog post that they probably understood perfectly fine in the first place? The people who left me angry comments before will more than likely never read this, so I’m not really sure who this post was aimed at. Sometimes I obsess about weird things, and this was probably one of those times. But it did make me feel better to write all of this, so I guess some good did come out of it.