Monday, July 13, 2020

Labelling my journey

We humans name absolutely everything—things, places, events, matter, everything. It’s proven very useful. It turns out that labelling periods in our lives is useful on its own. If we label periods of time—the neolithic, the Age of Enlightenment, etc.—why not label periods within our own lives?

All of this is especially useful for bloggers, because labelling stuff allows us to group related posts together under the same label. It was for that reason that several months ago I asked my Facebook Friends for suggestions on how I could label my various posts about my journey after Nigel died. Today I’m introducing those labels.

It took me several months to get to this point, not the least because of all I had to do settling into the new house, selling the old one, and being on the very journey I wanted to label. And, of course, there was the Covid-19 lockdown in there, too.

So, it wasn’t until early April that I finally got onto to it. Everything about that was complicated.

I wanted the labels to express different aspects of the journey, but I didn’t want a lot of words. My solution was to make what I call “subject badges”, those graphics along the left side of the blog that are really just a way to quickly search for all the posts with that label. I wanted the graphics to expand on the labels themselves, to express the full purpose of those labels through the use of explanatory subtitles. I hadn’t done that before, but they’d make clear what the posts were about.

I made the labels and the subtitles for the badges combining the suggestions made to me in early February; there were so many great ones, and I wanted to find a way to use as much as I could. It turned out that there were a lot of themes that kept popping up, even if the words varied.

The first label is “A Survivor’s Notes”, and is subtitled, “My journey through grief”. If I got it right, that’s self-explanatory. The imagery is a broken heart, but one that’s all jagged and out of focus. In my trade, we call the fuzziness “artifacts”, usually caused by low-resolution graphics, JPEG graphics in particular. That’s probably less evident at a small size, but it had meaning for me, symbolising not just a broken heart, but one that’s now indistinct, “fuzzy”, out of focus. The fonts for the label are basic and orderly, to symbolise the need for order despite everything, and the text is short because surviving grief involves a lot of short, broken thoughts, and action done in fits and starts. The word “Notes” is a nod to the Facebook “Notes” where the posts began. The subtitle is a simple script to symbolise the essential humanness of the journey.

The second label is “Building My New Normal”, however, in this case I expanded on the label for the badge: It’s “Building my new normal, and new life.” The subtitle is, “My journey out of grief”. The symbolism in the way the title is presented in the second one is that a journey out of grief suggests a kind of reorganisation of one’s life, and restoring some semblance of order. This is why the first one is just a title, and the second one is presented as a sentence. The label is also presented like a blueprint, because the journey out of grief involves planning, design—and work. The heart is still there, since the lost love will always be there, but it’s also now whole—and empty, because so much is missing. The subtitle is in the same script as the first tag because the processes aren’t actually distinct, but part of the same journey—different aspects, but the same nevertheless.

Most blog posts don’t sit neatly under only one label because their topics may touch on several other topics. I’ve always used labels for the subjects I talk about in a “significant” way—maybe at some length, maybe as an important part of the larger topic, that sort of thing. It’s no different with these new labels.

Some of posts about this journey can best described by one label or the other, but in other cases, both labels are relevant. They’ve all been labelled “AmeriNZ”, which is the label for any post that has anything whatsoever to do with me personally, which makes it my most-used label (well, this IS a personal blog…). Clearly the label’s far too broad to use to make it easy to find only posts about my journey, though I'll still label all these posts with that, too.

All of which is how the labels and the badges came to be. Using them turned out to be fraught.

I started adding the labels to new posts a week or so ago, but I wanted to have all the previously published posts labelled before I put the badges on the blog—or, as the cognoscenti like to put it, before “going live”. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to skim/read all the posts to see if they needed one label or both. There were a lot of tears caused by that process, which made me very, very glad that I didn’t do it during lockdown. I don’t know that I’m any stronger now than I was then, but I do have ways of dealing with emotional distress that weren’t available during lockdown. Still, I made it through and didn’t need those support mechanisms, so maybe I am stronger now?

And that’s the story of these labels and why they were difficult to do. In this journey, very little’s been easy, so I didn’t really expect this process to be, either. But labelling things does make them easier to organise and understand. We humans are good at that.

No comments: