Do or Do Not

When I said I’d be back when my kids were settled in school, you didn’t think I meant March?  Huh.  Guess I should’ve been more specific.  It’s nearly spring and we’re as settled as we’re ever going to be.  I’ve been engulfed by non-blogging concerns, in my chrysalis, quiet, molting, gestating. This required silence.  Silence and lots of sweating at SoulCycle.  (Who knew?  Turns out 45 minutes of spinning in place can get you very far).  That and saying no to almost everything.

thumbprints

My theory on the explosion of female-centric, often mom-centric blogging is there are many women out there who feel isolated or marginalized or maybe just inconsequential.  Blogging offers a way of trying out one’s voice, staking a claim on a little piece of the world, saying “I am here”.  It can be good writing, it can be bad, mostly it is unedited.  Everyone’s writing can benefit from someone else’s red pen, but personal blogging is not that.  It isn’t literature and it can be the worst form of self-publishing.  There are the pitfalls of over-sharing and feeling vulnerable afterwards. But for many of us, it’s a way of existing outside our noisy minds, putting our flag in the ground, saying: this here, this is mine.

I keep getting notices that my domain registration is going to expire Thursday. As has been my way, I’ve been agonizing about what to do.  This is a wonderful form of mental masturbation.  Wracking my brain trying to figure it out, to come up with the “right” answer can be a mind-consuming exercise of deciding nothing.

Yoda’s words came to mind: “Do or do not”.

All while I’m wrestling with whether to do or do not, the gall of a nobody like me writing a blog, an email dings in my inbox Sunday afternoon.  There is an opportunity for me to teach a writing class for a small group of at-risk teens.  Writing. Social Work. Teenagers. The belief that writing can save your life.

I’m following the signs.

(image found here)

June Again

Last year right around this time, I took a moment to reflect on the school year, and am so glad I did.  Usually, I limp across the finish line in June feeling very little other than spent.  June bleeds into July and by then, those last weeks of school are nothing but blur.  I’m not sure if there is an entire story arc stretching from September to June, but certainly countless beginnings and endings scattered along the road.  Most of the time, I’m just too busy to notice.

When I held my first son almost thirteen years ago, pressed my nose into his downy head, inhaling, I thought to myself, I will never forget this.  Ever.  I will remember every moment.  It didn’t take long (probably three or so sleepless months) for the sad understanding to sink in.  That I would forget most of this.  That one day ran into the next, ran into the next week, the next month, and year.  Most nights, I’d collapse in bed, bone weary, dreamless, and pick up where I left off, sometimes before sunrise.  The tide pulled out, washing away the day before.

I was looking back on old posts (like this one and this one), feeling ever so grateful to have a record someplace that this all happened.  Pictures capture life, but for me, not like writing it.  Writing them down is like catching fireflies in a mason jar, only these stay alive, and somehow become even brighter as time passes.  If writing means tasting life twice, I have found without fail, it tastes even better the second time.  There is a sweet spot between living and writing about living.  When I’m too busy doing, I can hardly breathe.  When I’m watching the rain out the window in my quiet house, pulling up my chair to the feast of losses life can bring, fingers tapping keys, I can drown, too.  I need both.  One makes the other better.  There’s a kind of faith I’ve garnered from writing some of it down.  I get to choose what to keep.

Mothering babies called for holding on: hold their head to support their neck, their hand while they learn to balance on their feet, cross the street.  Holding tight became like breathing.  I had an urgency back then, of wanting to hold onto it all, keep it close, keep them little for as long as possible. One can’t go on like that forever, though. Sustenance and dominion give way, over time, to surrender.  I will go, in the course of twenty years or so, from not knowing where one of us begins and the other ends, to a house with three empty bedrooms.  From eating food off their clothes (I can’t be the only one) and wiping their butts, to being a guest in their homes.

Now, having walked through nearly thirteen years of holding close and letting go, my grip has loosened.  Whatever those muscles are that a mother uses daily to hold them tight and push them out the door  all at once, mine have become more supple.  Not without aching, of course, but they do seem to know what to do.  I get to sit back some, and marvel at who they are becoming.


On blogging: My trip so far

I started this blog over a year ago.  There have been weeks that I’ve posted nearly everyday, and months (even two in a row) when I haven’t posted at all.  My topics have been all over the place and have included:

All along, trying to figure out what this blog is all about, what it means to me, what purpose it serves in my life, wondering if it could possibly mean something to anyone else.

I’ve been distracted (rightly or wrongly) by:

  • My family life
  • Efforts at “real” non-blog writing through taking various writing classes
  • Time spent feeling badly about myself for not being able to sit down and write a book now that I finally have everyone in school (aka as “shoulding all over myself”)
  • My own self-consciousness (who am I to have a blog?)
  • Technical difficulties
  • Looking around at popular blogs with huge readership and advertising and/or gorgeous design and feeling small and not good enough
  • Trying to figure out how (and if) to use social media to promote my blog (which can be time-consuming and frustrating when you’re learning.  I am a Twitter misfit)
  • Checking my stats compulsively after posting

A post today by Nina Badzin gave me pause.  She wrote about admitting to herself that she is not (at the moment), an aspiring novelist, but a blogger (and a darned good one at that).  Blogging in itself has been satisfying to her, helped her define her voice, resulted in connecting her with like-minded people, provided her with a platform to write and be read.  She’s thinking, maybe it’s even enough.

I must confess that I entered the blogosphere sheepishly, with the belief that somehow blogging was not the same as, and less than, “real writing”.  Over time, I’m discovering that blogging is kind if its own genre and that some people are really good at it.  Some people are really good at constructing novels or researching and composing historical fiction.  Blogging requires its own set of skills, talents, need for voice, a strong committment, a working knowledge of social media, not to mention some technical knowledge.  What it shares with “real” writing is that no one cares if you stop writing your memoir or posting on your blog.  It must be, along with a dose of discipline, driven by your need to write.   And as Anne Lamott reassures repeatedly, if you stick with it, you will see over time, that truly, the writing is the reward.

Sitting down and writing a post is always, without fail, its own reward.  I am always surprised to find out what I think once I start writing, and how good it feels to hunker down into my writing muscles to tell it.  Lamott is right.

I have been fortunate enough to get some really lovely feedback from readers (you small but devoted bunch I am so appreciative). Recently, at a community event, I introduced myself to a neighbor I’ve never met, who absolutely stunned me by saying, “I just love your blog.  I don’t really read blogs, but I read yours.”  After I thanked her for making my day, my year, my life, I walked around elated.  It may seem shallow or besides the point, what we’re not supposed to be focused on, but there it is.  A damned close second-place-runner to the reward of writing:  Someone actually reading what you wrote.

What do you think about the relationship between blogging and writing?  Have any of you had the same conflict?