A couple weeks ago, I was out on the driveway at the farm and saw a car driving by slowly. Then a few minutes later they drove back down the road slowly, past the farm. I’ve seen this sort of activity before and had a feeling about it, but I was busy and didn’t want to think about it. I got in my car, backed down the driveway, and drove out the road. I got to the part of the road in front of the Boat Man’s house.
Oh, yeah. So who is the Boat Man? Well, since over the years I’ve come to actually like the Boat Man, particularly after an incident in which Pepper went missing for a week…. Wait, you don’t know that story. SO MUCH YOU HAVE MISSED. So, while Rodney was in the hospital last summer and I was there nearly 24/7, I’d come home once a day, usually in the morning because I’d spend the night in the hospital all cramped up on chairs (or sometimes, eventually, in his hospital bed) then come home, shower, try to do a few things and check on the animals, then run back to the hospital for the rest of the day and to spend the night. During this time, I started leaving Pepper (my little house dog) outside because I just wasn’t there enough to let her in and out. And then she went missing. I was so distraught. I thought I’d never see her again. For a week I didn’t ever see her when I was home. Then one day I was home to shower and the Boat Man drove up the driveway, got out of his truck, and he had Pepper in his arms. I was like, “OMG, PEPPER!” He said, “Is this your dog?” YES!!! He said she showed up at his house and he’d been going up and down the road looking for her owner and had almost given up. I was never home so it was the first time he’d caught me there to ask if it was my dog. I said, “YES, SHE IS MY DOG!” He asked me if I wanted her, because he’d really come to love her. I said, “YOU CAN’T HAVE HER!” But, you know, thank you!
So then I liked the Boat Man after that. I didn’t like him before, but I won’t even start explaining since it doesn’t matter now and this is getting long and I haven’t even gotten started.
Back to the day a few weeks ago when I came down the road from the farm and the Boat Man was in the road. He was standing there talking to somebody in a car stopped in the road in front of his house. It was the car that had driven up and down past the farm just a few minutes earlier when I’d been on the driveway. The Boat Man left the car, though the car didn’t go anywhere, and came to talk to me at my car. He said, “That’s some of your fans.”
I said, “You didn’t tell them it was me, did you?” And then, because a person has to have a reality check, I said, “You’re kidding, right?” Because you don’t want to sound so full of yourself that you think you actually have fans. Because that’s just ridiculous.
He said, “No, I’m not kidding. They were looking for you. Was I not supposed to tell them it was you?”
That activity I mentioned I’d seen before? It’s the driving up and down the road in front of the farm. Sometimes it extends to driving up the driveway and even knocking on the door.
I looked at the car stopped in the road in front of me, then back at the Boat Man. (We call him the Boat Man because he used to captain a boat in Florida, before he moved to West Virginia several years ago, by the way. He doesn’t have a boat and he’s not really a “boat man” but we still call him that because we can never remember his real name.)
I said, “NO! Don’t ever tell anyone it’s me! Say you’ve never heard of me!”
The Boat Man looked perplexed. Meanwhile, the car, it kept sitting there. Waiting. I’ve really never had a very long conversation with the Boat Man, but we had one that day. I just didn’t want to move because they were waiting for me. My so-called fans.
I was not cut out to be a so-called public figure.
I chatted with the Boat Man for about 15 minutes, until the car finally moved, gave up, drove on down the road. And I felt so rude and guilty–because they were waiting for me–and so relieved.
After going on a teeny bit further down the road, I cut off on a back road route to my destination and successfully disappeared.
Do I have any right to privacy at all? Do I? That’s a legitimately questionable topic since some people could fairly call me a public figure and even an attention whore since I’ve embraced numerous various magazine, newspaper, TV, and other media attention for years, not to mention spent years writing publicly about my daily life. What right do I have to privacy now? Do I get to change my mind and be more private now? It’s debatable whether I have any business whining about the results of my chosen public endeavors, so I’ll try to not complain, but I do think I get to choose to pursue the future in more private terms and with different boundaries than I’ve chosen in the past. I think.
In today’s over-sharing social media world (especially Facebook), what I’ve shared over the years on my website possibly pales in comparison. If you want to see the real me, check out my personal Facebook page. (Not my Chickens in the Road page, where I share links to my posts, but my personal individual page.) Based on my personal Facebook page, people may think I’m dead, I share so little. The real me is quite shy and private, which has always been a conflict with my public persona.
Can you be public and private at the same time? I’m still writing on my website. In fact, have just come back to writing on my website. So maybe privacy is a relative concept. Don’t we all make decisions about our own evolving versions of privacy every day, especially in this age of social media and exposure?
I remember this one night in 2009, I was sitting in my bed with my laptop, feeling particularly emotional and overwhelmed and stressed by the sudden success of my website, and writing something that was probably stupid and whiny, and 52 leaned over, looked at what I’d written, and told me to (basically) get a grip and erase it. He was probably right, at the time, and well-intentioned, and looking out for my best interests, but wouldn’t this whole thing be more interesting if I didn’t erase my deeper internal conflicts and the real me? The real me is very conflicted about privacy and being a public person at the same time.
In other semi-related news, back when I was taking my long break from this website due to major changes related to my growing Etsy business, tidying up the end of my workshop business, and taking care of a very important person in my life who’d had a major accident, I also moved, by the way. Over the holidays. Because why NOT move during the busiest, most stressful time of the year? This decision was made for multiple reasons, some I’ll talk about it, some I won’t. (Sassafras Farm is still alive and kicking–Ross is in charge of it at the moment and remodeling it when he’s not busy with school.) Meanwhile, the time had come in Rodney’s recovery for us to be ready to recreate our lives with a new perspective, and we chose to move to a smaller farm together. Something more manageable. Not far away, still in Roane County. The cows and chickens moved with us–we built a new milk barn and new chicken house. And I’m never going to post details in public about the location other than its in Roane County, somewhere between Sassafras Farm and Stringtown. We love it and we’ve been very happy here! Downsizing is not a bad thing! Neither is a little more privacy! When I was over at Sassafras Farm a few weeks ago, I was there picking up some things and checking on the house. I was glad to get out of there and back to my new private life. I was barely an hour at Sassafras Farm and someone was driving by the house! Take me back to Kansas, Toto!
It’s a strangely public world for all of us these days. Sometimes I wonder if younger generations coming up will even understand the concept of privacy at all. Those of us who grew up in the days before the age of the internet remember privacy. We can’t go back to those days, and really, who would want to? I love my cell phone and Netflix and all the wonderful things that make up modern life today. Finding the balance between public and private isn’t easy, though. Deciding what to keep to yourself is one of today’s most challenging–and interesting–journeys, when the momentary satisfaction of spilling every detail of your life–to attentive, listening ears always somewhere on the internet for all of us–has never been more available.
Sometimes we all need to look at our lives and adjust the privacy settings–for our own happiness, don’t you think? Where do you keep your privacy settings? High, low, or medium? And who wants to see my new chicken house? IT’S THE BEST CHICKEN HOUSE EVER! I designed it myself and I’m very proud of it!