Monday, 8 November 2010

Point of view


This is a tricky post to write. I wanted to write reams and reams, of how blogs offer selected snippets and snapshots, from which we make assumptions and draw conclusions, build mind-pictures of who the authors are, how they live, what they look like, think, do, believe, behave.


And of how we can be very wrong in those assumptions and conclusions. It just takes a few meetings with fellow-bloggers to realise that while what they write is indeed truthful and self-revealing, it is also partial, and selective, and isn't all there is to know about them. Similarly, how we the readers interpret what we read isn't necessarily accurate, and it certainly isn't the full picture. "I imagine" isn't the same thing as "I know".

I could go on about this, and about how wonderful it has been to meet the people whose blogs I read, and to discover - without surprise - that their thoughts, lives and interests were even fuller and deeper, more complex and fascinating, than they revealed online. But I shan't, although it's true.

Instead I'll share something that happened to me the other day, and that has got me thinking about assumptions and conclusions and how mistaken they can be. Someone I don't know sent me an email. It began pleasantly enough, but went on to say:

....one thing that does concern me though is your sometimes contemptuous attitude to Tosca, I know that this is probably tongue in cheek, but it does make me feel a little sad that when a new pet comes into the home the old one seems to get left to one side. Similar to (another blogger is included in the criticism at this point).  
To me Tosca is the star, she has lost her previous owner through no fault of her own, been taken on by someone who obviously didn't really want her, had to sensibly take a careful attitude with a number of cats and now is left behind sometimes with days out and is also getting on in years.  What a little soldier!  I have a number of pets also and they all get treated fairly.  Find her another home if you are tired of her, like the one Flossie has.
Sorry Rachel, it has to be said.  This is why people have enquired about her on comments previously. 

I have no intention here of defending my treatment of any of my beloved pets or to justify any other of my actions to an unknown person who presumes to 'know' what happens in my real, non-blogged life. I'm conscious that she must feel strongly about her fantasy, as she gave her name and email address, and I suppose that by blogging I invite a point of view from others, albeit usually expressed through the use of Comments.

But oh, how staggering the lack of self-doubt, the belief that her view is the right one, and - most astonishing of all -  that "it has to be said"! (Really? Why?)

She doesn't know the half.... truly she doesn't.

But if anyone wants an indulged, ageing, becoming-slightly-deaf, arthritic, car-phobic, all-weather-hating little dog with cataracts forming, haircuts that cost more than yours, and none-too-reliable house training... don't bother to apply within. You can't have her. She was my mother's, and now she's ours - by mutual choice.


End of story.

39 comments:

John said...

The distinct impression your blog has made on me is clear: in my next life, I want to come back as your pet. A cat, if I can choose. I want to hunt with Millie and hide with Hamish the Brave.

As someone who used to live with an 18-and-a-half year old cat, also deaf in his old age and joint-troubled until I bought a heated bed for him, I know senior cats (pets) develop even more personality as they age and lose some of their abilities. They don't become burdens, they become even more dear to us. There's something to be said for history together.

Poshyarns said...

Rachel, I very much hope that you will not let this affect your future posting. I think the majority of us who read here do so because of your tongue in cheek hummour - I am sure we never for one moment consider that you might care less for one of your pets and read your posts with smiles and much enjoyment. I suppose that by choosing to publish our blogs for all and sundry to read there is always a certain associated risk - perhaps not everyone will get us. The important thing is to keep a level head and I suppose the sort of thick skin that even the most famous of authors must have to develope.

Keep doing what you do Rachel - you are a very popular blogger.

Susan said...

As someone who has lived a good portion of my life camped out in "taking things personally" + "making assumptions". Don Miguel Ruiz's book the 4 Agreements was and continues to be life changing. I don't have a problem with No.3 or No.4 but battle with No.s 1 + 2 on a daily basis.

1. don't take anything personally
2. don't make assumptions
3. be impeccable with your word
4. always do your best

www.miguelruiz.com

I also agree that blogs are but a snippet of a life, a creation much like a novel or a play. Many would say my own blog seems very open, honest, perhaps even a little too heart-on-sleeve yet there is an abundance of detail that about me, my life, or my loves that I'm leaving out.

If I'm going to "assume" I try to always assume the best and I'll assume that this reader of your blog had only the very best tiny dog admiring intentions in writing this email. Perhaps she just needed this post's reassurance.

I myself am going ahead with my plan to kidnap the tiny dog, under cover of darkness, the very next time I'm in NuT. Not because I believe she needs a new home but because I'm crazy, mad about her and her little squashed tres expressive face and her very eccentric character.

lots of love, les Gang




www.miguelruiz.com

Dan said...

Oh my goodness! I would be so hurt and offended if this happened to me - how rude and misinformed!
As you say, blogs are a partial (and often very edited) snippet of life, but I struggle to understand how anyone could think Tosca is not wanted.
Very bizarre, move swiftly on!
Dan
-x-

frayedattheedge said...

Oh dear - this is a tricky one. Does this woman have her own blog - I would guess not, or she would realise that blogs (generally) don't tell the whole story of the blogger's life. I chatter on about things that we do, but I don't write about everything that goes on in our life. Even before I met you in the 'real' world, I would never for one moment have thought that you didn't love and treasure Tosca. When our little poodle got old and incontinent, we didn't love her less than our much younger lively spaniel. She ended her days in a little fenced off corner of the room, with platic sheeting on the carpet, and a waterproof inner lining for her bed, so that we could keep her clean and comfortable (the vet assured us she was in no pain, she just could no longer control her bladder). I guess we just have to take the rough with the smooth - I used to have a regular commenter who even corrected my spelling, criticised my grammar and expected me to answer myriad questions on every post!!

Patricia G said...

Nowt as queer as folk!
I agree with Susan (& Don Miguel Ruiz) don't take it personally. People have all sorts of chips and baggage.
Thank you for sharing.

Deleilan said...

If this is how this person perceives you from your blog, I shudder to think what she would "deduce" from mine!

Her accusations would be sad if they weren't so offensive. It's quite obvious to me (but then again, that's just my perception) that you love all your inmates — I mean pets — equally, with their different personalities and little quirks. Perhaps the humour in your posts isn't so easily perceptible to some people...

Lucille said...

I do not like the peremptory tone. A complete stranger, with no God-like overview of the many hours, days, years of non-blogged life that you have, has absolutely no obligation ('it has to be said') to instruct you about the running of that life.
I've had one, but only one, very personal and bonkers attack from someone who accused me of plagiarism early on, and it nearly stopped me blogging but I was greatly heartened by all the messages of support and I hope you will be too. This is a very warm and funny blog and, I'm hazarding an assumption here, comes from the keyboard of a ditto person.

Hazel said...

A well put together post, Rachel - and one which must have been tricky to write!

Bloggers reveal as much or as little of themselves as they are comfortable with - some bloggers lay themselves so bare that reading their output is rather like eavesdropping albeit from a great distance. They are often very entertaining, funny, thoughtprovoking, sometimes a little uncomfortable; I'm in the other camp, tending to stick to my blog's original aims, and - although tempting - try not to wander off the track, as it were, to keep a lot of 'me' away from all those eyes! This is self-protection, of course - critise my gardening if you will, but I'd be mortified by a more personal 'dig' (ha! - see what I did there?)

Blogging is too new to have an accepted etiquette, perhaps, and although I'm sure that your correspondant only had your pets' best interests at heart - and (to be fair) chose to raise a concern privately in an email and not on a public comment - I don't think that I would like to presume about someone's life (and certainly not critise) from what small - or not so small - fragment that they choose to show the rest of the world on-line.

judy in ky said...

I for one have never doubted your love for all of your fortunate animals.

Karen said...

Boy, what they all said (and thanks, Susan, I need to read Don Miguel Ruiz).

Like all the bloggers here, I only post a tiny portion of my life on line. The vast majority of it would not be interesting to you all. But I wonder how it would come across as I had a cat whom I adopted from a vet's office after she had been found in a cardboard box in a ditch with a litter of kittens nearly beaten to death. When she came to live with me and my other cats, she spent her entire life (she was about two when I adopted her and 15 when I finally had to euthanize her) either behind the refrigerator or on top of said appliance. She never interacted with me or the cats; she just sort of existed. And yet I loved her and treated her just like the others, but to hear me talk about her (in a jesting way) it was to refer to her as the dustmop living behind the refrigerator. I wonder what your correspondent would have thought of that without knowing the whole story. . .

There's an old Native American saying about walking a mile in someone's moccasins before you critize them. Something your unknown person needs to take to heart.

the veg artist said...

I, too, have a very soft spot for little Tosca, and love to see reports of her on the blog (because she is so CUTE!!!), but for someone to compare your care of a tiny, elderly, home loving, car-sick little dog who only likes bad weather if she is sitting on the back of a chair, watching it through the window, with the needs of a young, very energetic lab is just daft.

As for "I have a number of pets also and they all get treated fairly". FAIRLY? What? Measure out affection daily? Time the cuddles? Ration/weigh the treats? Allow them on the furniture in strict rotation? Having a pet in your home isn't about fairness. It's about loving them, and accepting that they are all different, in their wants and in their needs.

"Sunshine" said...

As I've told you before and I will tell you again "your blog is my very favorite"...I keep telling hubby about your amazing ability to look, with depth, into your little friend's lives and he chuckles along with me.
There is nothing in your blogs that I would ever take offense at, and I say this as a very deep lover of most animals. I just wrote to another blogger friend that people who love animals are very special people. And, Rachel, you ARE one of them...
PS I hope YOU know that my responses to you are always bathed in humor and not to be taken seriously...

Isabelle said...

Oh yes, all they say.

We all know you love them all. Now, where does the Lovely Son come in the pecking order....?

Anonymous said...

Rachel, I just want you to know that I love your blog. I love the stories of your animals. As for this unfortunate communication--it's just humorless. And God knows we could all use humor these days, which is one of the reasons I've gotten to love the blog since I stumbled upon it a month or so ago. As we head into the dark time here in Central Maine, I look forward to it daily.

Fran said...

People just don't have enough to do if they're wasting time sending judgemental emails to others. Crazy.

Lesley said...

Find another home for Tosca? The street's darling? The favourite of at least 10 sets of neighbours? What on earth would you want to do that for? Who would come rushing in my front door when you call? Who would sleep in the blanket on my chair in the dining room while you're out, and hide biscuits in the corners of every room? No comprendo . . .

flwrjane said...

Wow, she needs to do something with her extra time. Volunteer at an animal shelter for instance.

Let it go as soon as you can. Clearly you are a well read, well loved blogger, enjoyed by people across the globe. Don't go changing.

xo and an extra big hug, Jane

Sue said...

Everyone has already said everything I would have said. So, take no notice we know you love them all.

mountainear said...

It's all been said above I think. Chin up.

Me, I'm waiting for a note from your correspondent about my treatment of the Glam.Ass.

Shelagh said...

I hope that the comments from all your supporters have served to help you realize that one email from one misguided person isn't worth thinking about any more. It's really quite simple - she's wrong. And we all know it. Hugs all round.

liZZie said...

I'm trying to find words. This is strange, I don't usually have such difficulty. One thing though, some people operate on tram lines, others think they can look round corners and they'll be the ones that get run over. I take the micky out of all my animals, they are so quirky and eccentric, characterful and fun loving, and I suspect that's why they love me too. They play me up terribly. Oh the trouble that Tosca causes ♥

Rattling On said...

Mmmm, there is just so much one could comment on here. Best to just say I think most pet owners recognise the set-up you have. Happens with children as well. Some just command the limelight more often than others!
We are all burning to know who this mystery woman is and whether she has a blog. I feel we could all offer insightful advice in her comments box not to mention in a private email.
Knockers to the knockers, I say...

elizabethm said...

Well she just doesn't get it. It is one of the hard things about email and blogging and virtual communication that you don't see the face and the smile and the body language so I suppose I can sort of just begin to see how she might be so wrong if I try my hardest. Still think it is astonishing effrontery to email you though.
At a guess Lovely Son is way up there too! xxx

Kate on Clinton said...

Everyone has said all that needs to be said about this unfortunate humorless poster, and your obvious love and care for your tribe. I would like to add that just from the snippets you've posted, it looks like Tosca's life has even improved with the arrival of Flossie! As you said, she's HAPPY to skip the muddy adventures, but I bet Flossie is adding quality years and health to her life.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Since living with four dogs the last few years our family has come to know that their personalities are all very different.
we have one that would probably stay inside all the time if we let him... he is a sensitive little guy.

I also have had a few unusual and unexpected personal emails/experiences with fellow bloggers... I guess when we put ourselves out there, it is bound to happen now and then.. on the whole I have found the blogging world very supportive and kind.. but there are always a few bad apples...

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

I don't understand how anyone could question your love for any of your animals. Don't let the comments of one person bother you. To me it is obvious that the rest of your blog readers can easily see the love you have for each and every one of your pets.

June said...

Screw that woman and the white horse she rode in on.

And let me add: If anyone wants an indulged, aging, pretty-much-totally-deaf, needy, noisy, arthritic, underfoot-all-the-time little pink dog with cataracts forming, haircuts that cost twice the cost of mine, and absolutely unreliable house training...let me introduce you to Max.
Just kidding.
Mostly.

SusanFrances said...

Having just read your blog and all the comments, I am moved to tears by all the love going your way. You were obviously hurt by the email, but I hope that the outpourings above have washed that away. I agree wholeheartedly with them all. The email writer must surely have read them too, and I wonder what she is feeling now?
Hopefully she will think twice before writing to anyone else in that way!
Keep writing about your lovely animals Rachel, and love from me too to you all. X

annie hoff said...

I love reading your blog and your attitude and kindness you show to your cats and dogs. I'm not really a dog lover - but I love yours and it's quite obvious you do to and they love you. Silly woman, you're right, she doesn't know the half of it and should never have made the assumption that she does!

jabblog said...

It is astounding and extremely hurtful that some people believe that they know what is 'best' and offer their unwanted adverse criticism - to what end? Sadly, one nasty email lingers longer in the memory than a hundred friendly and encouraging ones. I hope you can put this person's ill-thought and ill-advised missive behind you. I, along with many others, would miss your amusing anecdotes about your much-loved pets.
Keep smiling :-)

Julienne said...

Some people just don't have enough to do...they just have to run your life as well!!!!! Beaut post but what I really want is your recipe for brussel sprouts! The one that is going to make me love them as much as I love young (baby!) broad beans!!!! Please.

Mac n' Janet said...

People are amazing, just when you think you've seen, or heard, it all, another one comes along.
I love reading your blog! This person needs to go away, far, far away!

love those cupcakes said...

Well, that post has brought us all in from the sidelines! Seriously, like you, I wouldn't draw any conclusions about people based on their blogs. We're just glimpsing through little windows, after all. (Doesn't stop me making up little stories in my head when I'm people watching, though!).

Preseli Mags said...

I'm speechless. I can only echo what everyone has said above and offer my continued support of your lovely blog. You clearly adore all of your animals and I cannot see how anyone could have thought otherwise.

BumbleVee said...

elizabethm has just about covered what I usually say bout comments and commenters....

.... it is difficult to know what type of humour some people have .. (Americans and lots of Canadians with no British background often don't even "get" British humour) ... it's impossible to read inflection into a few words ...neither can you see facial expressions or hear voice and tone.... it's not always easy to get a "read" on what somebody is trying to convey some days.... BUT.... a personal email that gets to the point and stresses certain things definitely can't be misread.....

Probably she didn't read you properly ... or got herself jacked up on some little point one day and then..just ran off at the mouth. Or...fingers, as it were..... maybe she was drinking wine or taking too much Prozac..... or, she's just a bitch. Either way.... let it be water off a duck Rachel. You are one of the "softies" of the world and any animal who lives at your address is one lucky little (or big) bugger.

Me and Dan.... we want to come back as Rachel's pets.... absolutely!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

It has to be said .... Tosca , Flosca et al. live the life of Reilly !!
When you branch out into adopting slightly weird old ladies , I'll be first in the queue .

Catherine said...

When you know what is the truth in your heart and your mind, that is all that matters. Clearly all your four-legged family members are well loved and well looked after. They always seem to be smiling in their photos!!! Unless they are sleeping of course, but then they are no doubt having sweet little pup and kitty dreams about their sweet mom! :)

So ignore the few goof balls that have nothing better to do then criticize other people and instead listen to all the lovely people that have written the nice stuff. :)

You have a beautiful week Rachel, for clearly you are loved!
xo Catherine

Marcheline said...

Holy crow, turn my back for a few days and I've missed the drama!

You are very gracious and took the time to write a very proper post.

I'd have told her to "bump a stump backwards".

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