I had a birthday celebration email in my inbox from the WordPress folks – seems that it was one year ago that I signed up for the service. I’ve be waiting by my physical mailbox all week to see if a cake arrives. I hope it’s delicious. As with all not-really-a-milestone-but-I-lean-to-the-side-of-overthinking-milestones, I’ve also spent the week checking my internal blog temperature. Like, is it worth it? Is it beneficial? Is anybody out there? Do I care? Bueller?
A year ago – I decided to start ‘writing’ again as a way to get out some of the stuff that lives in my over-thinking brain. On a basic level, I had realized that if I write Rich’s to-do list on the whiteboard in the kitchen, I’d stop playing the reel in my head. Could this work for other things? Could this work for figuring out my role as a stepmom? Could this work for alleviating the stress of working full-time while being appreciated part-time? A note here, a tap there – could putting it to virtual paper take it out of the reel-on-repeat in my head? Really, it was just a dumb experiment. Except that, yes, it has helped a whole lot.
Rich had often encouraged (and still does) me to use my words. And I mean that in real life – like, instead of lashing out at me, tell me what’s really going on… To write as a form of therapy, sure, but I had no plans on sharing with him or anyone. But that became an experiment as well – letting him into the very unpublished blog spot. Turns out, he did reading my prose and he’s reminded me often that he can see it helping me work through some of the junk that life throws at me. Okay, cool – but public? Seemed like a pseudo-okay-idea. I made a promise to myself, in going public, to post a blog each Monday, no excuses, even if it, well, sucked. And some of them have – but I’m really proud of myself for following through anyway. There have been many weeks where I’ve thought ‘oh, man, I’ve got nothing to say,’ or ‘will anybody really notice if I don’t post something this week,’ or ‘this is definitely rage writing and I should probably keep it to myself…’ But, I stood by that promise (and keyboard) and kept plugging away.
Some of the blogs, I like more than others. Some, I was leery to post as all – thinking they were too jumbly and without purpose and containing no big Oprah moment buried deep in the words. Some, I posted knowing that I should hit ‘publish’ and change my phone number immediately as the feedback would likely include some less than friendly responses. Some, just made me laugh out loud – reviewing my life often comes with a ‘no, really, that DID happen’ twist. Not quite an Oprah moment, but still memorable. In the beginning, I kept it to two readers – Rich and my fellow writing friend, Jenny (a maybe-coming-out-of-retirement English teacher).
What I’ve tried to do more than anything is be completely honest, but maybe not completely raw. Not everyone wants to see the actual blood and gore – and not everyone will check back later to see if things are looking up. No, stress-writing and immediately posting was not the way to go. I found that I had to give myself time to work on drafts – days apart – to get the story right and to take out any potential vibe of bitterness that may have sneaked in (it still seeps through sometimes). I found many times that a blog I was working on wouldn’t go up at all – instead, dozens of drafts sit at first base, in need of a sub-folder called ‘Therapy.’ I am always aware of who might be reading it – my family (both sides), their extended family, etc… – so I need to make sure the stories are accurate yet not slanderous. That’s hard sometimes. Sometimes, I just want to slander (see: therapy folder). Knowing that your teens have access to your writings keeps me accountable, for sure, but I’ve been dinged more than once for having a different memory than they (see: adult perspective).
I’ve realized that my truth may land in a completely different lane than someone else’s. The idea that people have different viewpoints wasn’t news to me, I did study journalism a thousand years ago when written in stone tablets, but there are moments when what I’ve written comes back to me in the form of ‘that’s not what happened or what I said or how the police report reads.’ While the respondent in these instances are most likely of the under-20 set, it still hit hard in the early days. I’d spend hours thinking did I just get it wrong? or does he/she really think I’m malicious? or were you NOT paying attention?! Now that I’m a year in, most complaints pretty much roll off my back and, only once, after a specific but well-written counter-argument did I agree to un-publish a post. I know the time that goes into each blog – and I know the thought and care and the question of how each word will be perceived. I don’t write lightly. I don’t just vomit out my thoughts (anymore) and click publish (usually). There are drafts and edits and sometimes a total last minute do-over. Or there’s the therapy folder. Which I actually call the ‘oh, that’s for the book’ section.
Some weeks, I think I’m a terrible writer. Some weeks, I think a Pulitzer will arrive. All weeks, I think this could be the installation that launches me! To where, I don’t know. But it’ll be exciting. Better parking for sure. I generally gauge the goodness of my blog based on Rich’s reaction – which I expect within minutes of publishing, regardless of what he’s doing. Lawd help him if he doesn’t click the link within seconds of the ‘ding!’ I side-eye, side-eye, side-eye him – waiting to see his screen color to change to that of my home page. Then I pretend I’m reading while I silently tally the laugh count or the scroll speed. There have been a few rare ones where I didn’t nudge him into reading – knowing the topic might open a Pandora’s Box, which I have little interest in at bedtime.
I don’t know why I post at bedtime. I guess so I can post and shut it down. Hilariously, a year later, I still pick up my phone with a hand full of promise on Tuesday mornings. What if I blew up in the wee hours? What if I’m a sensation? Was this the one? Is Savannah Guthrie about to ring me? Clearly, we’re not quite there yet. Though I did have a week of 3,000 plus clicks back in January. That was the one about Lobby Day – Rich pushed it along by posting it into his shoot-em-up groups. That is when I learned that popularity comes at a price. The blog was all about what I’d learned (the very good things I’d learned) by spending the day with what the rest of the world was calling ‘a bunch of crazies’ and how by having an open mind and participating rather than just clickity-clackiting my complaints from home, I’d come back to that home with a very different attitude. Which sounded great, right? Rich warned me not to get into the weeds on the comments and I learned something else – do not get into the weeds on the comments directly after your husband tells you the very same thing. Because all the supportive stuff? It went through me like water through a colander. All the questions as to how Rich and I could even be married, accusations that I was a liar, insinuations that he should ditch me for a better whore…well, those comments stuck like bits of broccoli to the side of the same colander, of course. Which is about when I learned not to get into the weeds on the comments. I wish somebody had told me.
Moving on to year two – I have every intention of continuing to gurgle. I feel a bit more freedom now that one child is out of the Ville and off on her own – not freedom to spill anything juicy, but freedom to be more honest without worrying that someone from her school might see it. Yes, I do have another kid at the same school – but he doesn’t often take things to heart or assume the worst of what I’ve written. I had thoughts in the beginning of oh, if I do this, I’m totally going to figure out how to turn it into a book.’ Maybe. I’m still not sure what the book would be about. I have such a variety of versions of me, which one would the book focus on? Or would it be all the versions and how they gel together to make One Jyl? Or will I just keep on popping out a blog a week for another year, wondering, each Tuesday morning, if there will be an offer to write ‘for real’ somewhere.
What I have found is that I love writing again. I love words again and playing with them. And that play means practicing – over and over. And that it’s not always genius but that’s okay – it’s me. I’ve stopped being a pusher, asking folks ‘did you read my blog?,’ ‘can you share that?,’ ‘did you like that?’ sounding like I’d invented Crossfit for people who have a diary. I’m a blogger, I blog, Check my blog – dear lawd, they get it. I’ve become completely fine with those who really just aren’t interested in reading about my life – as it touches me that they’d rather hear it first hand. I hope my therapy folder is never empty and I hope that I get settled enough to push some of those faux-blogs out into the world – really admitting that what the world thinks is important may not be definitive of who I am. And I’ve found that a blog doesn’t always end wrapped up in a nice bow with a life-altering epiphany.
Sometimes I just have to put it to bed and say, ‘okay, that’s all I got, 52 readers, have a lovely week.’
Okay, that’ll have to do, 52 readers, have a lovely week. See you all year.