There’s this feeling you get when you’re scared, but you aren’t sure if you should be.
Have you ever had that feeling?
It’s like when you’re heading up the first hill on a roller coaster, that excited anticipation mixed with something that you really don’t want to call fear, because no one likes to admit they’re afraid of something that someone somewhere deemed “safe” even though the elements of danger are always present.
Like riding in cars, for instance, or strapping on a pair of skates for the first time in twenty years, or going on a first date with someone you’ve never met.
Simple questions asked in writing classes that open barrels of snakes.
What’s something you’ve done that you were scared of, but you did it anyway?
Well, I got out of bed this morning.
Yesterday I went to a party where there were some people I didn’t know, and I had to make a few seconds of polite small talk with them.
Saturday I went to the grocery store, that’s one of the scariest things I do on the regular, and every time I escape the check out aisle alive I feel like I’m one trip closer to going back to BJ’s alone.
Last Wednesday there was a thunderstorm in the evening, and I resisted the urge to stay home, got in my car and drove the five minutes to my psychiatrist appointment anyway, because he’s supposed to be able to help me with all this.
When you have mental health problems that feed on and manifest fear: PTSD, anxiety, panic disorder – every day is filled with little horrors.
That truck driving toward me in the opposite lane, that WILL hit me head on, and I’ll be thrilled and surprised to pass by it in one piece.
Every morning I’ll be relieved that my eleven year old kept breathing all through the night, because I heard once that there are freak cases of a kind of SIDS that lasts through adolescence.
How did you overcome it? What did you learn?
Well, I keep getting up in the morning.
I get dressed in spite of the voices in my head telling I’m fat, I’m ugly, it doesn’t matter what I put on this body or what it looks like because no one wants to look at me anyway.
I get my kid fed and ready for her day, steel her against the bullies with all the love I have to give her, and then send her out into the madness of school or summer camp, hoping every day she comes back safe.
I sit down at my computer for my hour of writing each morning and do my best to make sense of things, weave some clarity and hopefully some change into my words.
But the fear comes along with me.
The fear-black dragon that’s wrapped around my neck and shoulders, I carry him with me wherever I go.
You can’t see him, but I know he’s there. I can feel his hot breath on my neck when he whispers in my ear watch out, watch out, and I feel his whip tail slithering down my back, arching my spine, stealing my breath.
This dragon’s a fucking liar, but it’s hard to argue with that constant noose of crushing consternation.
What would you tell others about this fear?
It’s sad to realize that when you’re hard pressed to do it, you can’t remember the last time your heart beat faster because you wanted something so badly to go right that you felt scared it wouldn’t happen.
I mean, obviously, the worst thing that can happen can always happen.
No one suspects they will be struck by lightning or gnawed on by sharks, but it happens.
No one expects it will their car flying over the bridge, or their child getting shot, or their house burning down, but it happens.
No one expects a plane to crash on their house, but it fucking happens.
But you keep getting up in the morning anyway.
Life will go on.
What will happen will always happen.
But the dragon is coming along, too.
I’m taking Janelle Hanchett’s Write Anyway class, and because of who I am as a person, I am already slacking off and haven’t finished writing the piece that was due for feedback on Thursday.
It’s Sunday now, and although I have started and stopped four different essays, I still am not sure which one is the right story to tell.
Write about the last time I did something I was afraid of, but did anyway?
This shit is deep. Much deeper than I thought any writing class could be. It’s more like an online group therapy session at this point than a writing class, because we aren’t focusing on mechanics, or style, or even themes or plot doctoring.
We’re just trying to figure out how to write at all. How to get the words out of ourselves and put them onto the page in a way that makes sense, and then find the courage, or whatever, to share them.
Oh hell, why bother taking this lightly?
It is courage.
It’s courage and bravery to say the things that you feel and put them out there for other people to read, judge, and react upon, and I have never been good at it, which is a total waste, because I write an awful lot.
This class, Write Anyway, is just as much about courage and bravery as it is about learning to not give a shit if people don’t like what you have to say, or if they disagree with you.
We’re in week three and it hasn’t gotten any easier for me yet, but I think I am just going to come here every day and write anyway until it does.
I keep on saying that I have a lot to say and then not saying it, and that’s so boring.
Life gets pretty boring in general when you’re an adult, though, that’s normal. You just have to make it interesting for yourself. You’ve got to go out and do those exciting, scary things that make life interesting and weird and wonderful. Then, even if you think no one’s reading and that no one will care, you’ve got to write about them anyway.
I’m pretty slow, you know? But I’m starting to get it.
I may or may not have told this story here three or five times before, but I always find that it bears repeating that I started writing on the internet in 1999.
I took a class the senior year of high school that required us to build our own course of learning for a project that we were really interested in. I paired up with my best friend Beth and decided to collaborate on something that was already meaningful for us – writing poetry. We were going to get together with a bunch of our poems and teach ourselves to publish a collection of our poetry into an actual book.
We secured our advisor, the head librarian who happened to have a non-fiction book published, and she took Beth and me for a trip to her publishing house, and that was where we learned that unless we were willing to front thousands of dollars that we didn’t have, we would not actually be getting our book published.
Remember, this was 1999, this was before the age of Blurb books and Createspace; hell, this was five years before the age of Facebook.
But I wouldn’t be deterred. I decided and then convinced Beth, that if we couldn’t publish our poems in the old-fashioned, normal way, then we would publish them a new way: on the Internet.
The first things I ever published online were sappy, high school ‘love’ poems, and they lived on Angelfire. Is that still around? I hope not.
AOL had the search engine of choice at the time, and that is where, after signing up for Angelfire and having no idea what I was doing, I went to search something along the lines of “how to design a website” and the search engine spit back a bunch of jibberish I couldn’t understand, but out of that jibberish I found one piece of advice about learning to design and code that I still use this day: “Right click, view source.”
Yes, I learned how to code by viewing the source of other people’s websites. I stole code, modified, and changed code until it was mine.
Was I proud of it back then? Hell fucking yeah. Am I proud of it now? Well, they made Firebug and DevTools for a reason, didn’t they?
That first website on Angelfire was total crap. I remember it had a lavender background with bright green text links making up a table of contents that would jump down to any poem you clicked on and back up again, and that hideous conflagration ignited a fire in me that I still have.
I was totally addicted to making websites, so of course, I became totally addicted to writing on them.
Before the end of my senior year, I started blogging on Diary-X, but it wasn’t called blogging back then, the term blog, or even ‘weblog’ from which blogging was derived, wasn’t a term I knew; I just called it online journaling.
Diary-X gave me a blank slate and even better playground than Angelfire had because it’s content management system was built in. All I had to do if I wanted to write on there was put in the title, and write. Things like date headings, hyperlinks, next/last/archive links, were all made for me.
There were no sidebars to worry about back then. There were no widgets.
There was just writing and finding other writers who you liked, and community around sharing words.
It was a beautiful time, and the writing I did there was beautiful, too.
I wrote consistently on Diary-X from 1999 until 2005, and then two things happened that changed writing online for me forever.
The first thing was, I had a baby.
I didn’t want to have a baby, but that is another story, or series of stories, for another time. I think it’s just important to know that my happy accident actually left me quite depressed, and since this was 2005, back when Facebook was just a blathering infant itself and all of my friends were still getting drunk for a living and not hanging out with their mom-friend anymore, my depression went unnoticed and not talked about.
This was a time that all these great mom blogs were sprouting up, and I remember the day I found dooce.com and fell in love with the way she wrote so hilariously and openly, and even after she got fired from her job for writing the things she did, she kept writing anyway, and I loved her for it.
But I didn’t.
Sometime in 2005, I went to log into my Diary-X site where six years of my writing were lovingly crafted, but there was nothing to be found. The URL brought me to a blank page with a string of unrecognizable code that made me sick just to look at. After a whole lot of searching and then finally checking my email, I discovered a dispatch from Diary-X’s creator, and it was an apology.
The Diary-X servers had failed, and everything was lost.
There was no backup. This was long before Dropbox and Timemachine.
All of my words, all of my carefully crafted young memories, were gone.
I was devastated. So were thousands of other people. But maybe thousands of other people just had their little rage moments, calmed down, and then moved on; I don’t know, but I sure didn’t.
I went many years without writing online.
It wasn’t just because Diary-X blew up, but that was a big part of it. That site had stored so much of me, so many stories that I never printed out, so many memories that I was terrified I would lose. That fucking online journal was something I was more proud of than anything else I had done in my life because right there was my proof of existence, my proof that I had a cool life with stories that were worth telling and memories keeping, and having that erased felt like having a part of myself erased, a limb cut off without my permission.
It sounds so dramatic, but I suppose some of you might have an idea of what I am talking about.
Feeling like you have no past and that you are starting with a blank slate is actually a terrifying sensation.
Writers know. There’s nothing more terrifying than a blank page, and all that.
It’s always hard to start something, but it is so much harder when you are scared to death to say what you want to say.
So, here it is: I’ve always wanted to be a mom blogger, but I really hate parenting.
If anyone wants to know the truth about why the only history of my writing online can be found via The Wayback Machine followed by a six-year gap, it’s because I never felt like there was anywhere on the Internets for me to belong.
It’s really hard to write about the day to days of parenting when you think that the monotony of it is actually the worst. It’s terrifying to tell the truth if you look back on your choice to become a parent and think, I really would rather have not. It feels gross to want to write about parenting when the things going through my head are ‘I’m so glad this parenting gig calms the fuck down after they turn 18,’ and even more awkward when I have to admit that for me, it will not. This parenting gig will not calm the fuck down, cause I’m the parent of a disabled child who will probably live with me for the rest of her life, and that sucks, and I’m fucking sad about it.
So what do you think now, about my decision to eschew mom blogging for the last eleven years?
Guys, I am so sick of this charade.
Depression, as you know, is a liar, and liars make you wear masks, and the mask I always wear is happiness, contentment, normality, stability, WHATEVER.
Unless you’re Jill or Todd, literally nothing you’ve seen in me for years has been real, because I’ve been breaking and broken and too ashamed to be honest about how I really feel, what I really think, and who I really am.
It’s gross, and it’s exhausting, two things that should be incompatible with life, but I have been tolerating them because of fear.
FEAR. Of being myself.
How fucking absurd is that, right?
Believe it or not, it’s really, really common. So common, in fact, that there are tens of thousands, if not millions of websites, books, seminars, and courses, about embracing vulnerability, letting go of your fears, and showing the world what you have to offer it.
It’s called personal growth, bitches, and it’s this thing I am doing now.
So I slapped a new WordPress theme up in here and imported back in all of the archives I have left from the blogs since Diary-X, and then I did this crazy thing that I have been wanting to do for ages and finally did because I had to. I signed up for Janelle Hanchett’s Write Anyway course that starts in June, and I am absolutely committing myself to writing what I want, where I want, when I want, despite the nauseating fear that I still carry around with me.
Fuck it. I’m going to write anyway.
Prepare to be offended.
You will learn the glory that is the word FUCK and you will learn how it’s possible to be the parent of a child with multiple disabilities when you are certain that parenting is bullshit, and we should all get our money back.
I don’t really know what I’m doing most of the time, but I do know one thing: life is too short to keep from doing what you want to do because you’re afraid.
Of that, I am certain.
It’s been a long time since there have been full shelves at the supermarket.
Last week the town ran out of gasoline, and the houses that had been lit by generator lights at night have gone dark.
Now, when a car drives through the middle of town everyone stops what they are doing to stare, and I am betting that pretty soon, people will be running to chase them.
No one saw this coming, even though we all should have.
I have read enough horror and thriller novels to know how quickly and easily it can all fall apart, I just can’t believe I was around to see it.
Solar flares, of all things.
First I thought global warming, drought, and famine; a slow death of the world. Then I guessed nuclear winter because no one can keep their guns and armies to themselves. Of course, zombies were always in the back of my mind.
But the sun?
The one thing that was always a looming threat is the one we never expected.
There was nothing we could do.
One day, the power went out.
Two weeks ago we saw the last military vehicles pass through. Most people were worried that when they left, our little town would fall to chaos without their dark, armored order. There’s a lot to be said for the effectiveness of maintaining order with threatening lines of soldiers carrying massive automatic weapons, but I was glad they left; they freaked me out.
They had been sending convoys through the country, systematically, we were told, to begin a new census and take stock of what assets America actually had.
Computers were toast, all the records were lost, money was useless.
“What’s your trade?” they asked me.
They made a mark on their clipboard, and wouldn’t look at my face before they walked away.
From where I sit now on the hill I can see down into the square. The city council has the town lined up for rations, a measly pile left under armed guard, it’s not going to do much good for many people.
The line splits in two before people get anywhere near the rations, and from a half mile away I bring the binoculars to my eyes and I can see where both lines are headed, so I pack them away into my bag and get ready to run.
Half the town will be getting fed today, but from up here, the hungry (but free) coward’s perch, only I can see where the other half will go.