Sometimes you need to step away and sometimes, you need to step back.
My daughter saw me typing a couple months ago and burrowed her way into the crook of my arm as I tried to finish tapping out letters.
“Mama, are you writing a story?”
“No sweetie. I’m just doing some work.”
She seemed disenchanted, and pouted until I tickled her back to life.
“Mama, stop! It’s not really funny. I want you to write again. I miss your site. I miss when you would write and sometimes we’d take pictures or shoot one of those videos.”
I looked at her brown eyes as she stared off, and wondered at the strange assortment of memories I have added to her life.
“You miss The Bump & Hustle. You. My cute little monkey. You do.” She giggled as I squeezed and squished her anew.
“Yes Mama. I do. Because you made it for me, didn’t you? Because when I was born, you started telling your stories. And I…I miss that. I miss our stories. I don’t want it to end.”
I was shocked to see that her eyes were glassy with unshed tears, and found myself praying she wouldn’t blink. Then she did, and a perfect opalescent drop slid down her cheek. Then another. I found my vision blurring with the added lens of my own sadness and before I knew it, we were both sitting there, crying loudly.
“Why did you stop, Mama? Don’t you love being my mama?”
The weight of that simple question winded me.
“I ADORE being your mama, sweet thing. And I love telling our stories. I love writing, and shooting videos, and making movies…”
“Well I love it when you do. I love it. I want to do it to. I want to do the same things. I want to make more shows with you.”
“Honey that is wonderful, and you can do whatever you want. We can shoot something right now. Do you want to do that with me? Right now?”
“No. You have goobers on our face and your make up is all gross now.”
Ah. My kid. Inspirational dreamer and reality check artist.
B&H was my forum to sift through life. It was a vessel for my catharsis.
Days passed but the seed was replanted. I realized that I often had the urge to write, but it was either coming too quickly, or not coming fast enough. The words seemed to lag somewhere between my appreciation of an experience and the page, or the screen. But there was something else. Well, a few things, actually.
My stories, when I started writing, were for me. I didn’t give a crap about followers, or SEO, or shares, or sponsored content. B&H was my forum to sift through life. It was a vessel for my catharsis. It was personal, if not raw. And the readers that gravitated to me were also real, and raw. My post entries helped me map out my life. They reflected my feelings and helped me sit with them in a way that nothing else could. And during times of intense grief and loss, and grappling with my health, my little blog did something more important than getting visitors or garnering likes: I’m pretty sure it saved my life.
It’s only now that I look back that I see the shift in my content, and see how it might have lessened that cathartic effect.
One of the greatest experiences I had as a writer, was being invited to be a featured blogger at YMC. Not only did my 100+ stories about relationships, miscarriage, fertility, and parenting reach an intensely large readership and get me published over at HuffPo, but I learned the nuts and bolts of writing on a pro level. I pushed through SEO, sharing on multiple platforms, and reveled in multiple offers to work with brands to tell their stories through my own words. I was actually making a a little money as a writer. I was flying.
At this point, B&H was more of a placeholder, but I’d post from time to time. My stories were still from somewhere deep in my soul, no matter if I was posting here or there, but I was getting tired. I had started running out of steam as a ‘mom blogger’. It had been years and my urge to write about movies, and comics, and life in general kept churning away at me. I didn’t want to just talk about my health and how I was managing uphill battles. I wanted levity. I wanted a new chapter. And when I welcomed my new baby boy, it seemed like the perfect time to make that change.
At that time my company, Spin the Idea, was still keeping me on my toes with a stream of wonderful brand and digital communications clients, but I was ready for a shift there as well. It was just too much, especially with two kids and a chronic illness. I had naturally been moving over to video production, and my background in film looped back into my life- so I took the big step.
I came back to my little blog, refreshing it with my newfound editorial knowledge; I tried flipping business streams to keep things as simple as possible; I even started acting – the most surprising off-shoot to me still. And that’s what I posted about. All the wins. All the happy things. And that’s what started to matter. The likes, the shares, the sponsored posts, the followers – they were my guideposts. Not my feelings. Not my growing level of anxiety. Certainly not my health.
I hated my writing. I hated the editorialized, flippant perkiness of my words. I hated the loose ends of my transitioning business. I felt like a fraud, and a failure, and a f*ck-up.
Only a few people knew what I was really going through, and I am still lucky to have them in my life. They saw me drop balls, cry with frustration, fuel myself with anger, bite my lip, and push through. And I wanted to cheer. I wanted to find the words that would mirror my feelings and let me sit with them as accomplishments that I could be proud of. But I hated my story. A small voice in my heart whispered “Start writing it down again. You need to. Writing is the only tool you have for this pain.” But I didn’t. Because I was hellbent on having a new story. A happy, positive one, damn it. A successful one. One that inspires.
So the worsening symptoms of my MCTD, the hospital visits, the medications, the trial and error therapies- those became secrets. My incredible battle with anxiety and depression and plummeting body image and self esteem became inflated points of shame. When I did finally write again about my experiences and different aspects of my health, I buried gems of truth in pargraphs. I curated and edited them within a fictional supposition – that everything was fine, and I was living the happy ending.
It was the perfect happiness trap, and I was drunk on the most stubborn denial.
And then everything that mattered started falling apart.
My anxiety swallowed me whole. My OCD that had been in check for so long, started resurfacing. I stopped responding to my supplements and my medications. Rage consumed me. I hated my writing. I hated the editorialized, flippant perkiness of my words. I hated the loose ends of my transitioning business. I felt like a fraud, and a failure, and a f*ck-up.
One morning, I woke up to major technical issues with my web-host. It had seriously affected countless of my (and my clients’) sites, and B&H was one of them. I played in the coded guts for hours, and finally, took it off-line. With a simple announcement on Facebook, I turned my back on my writing, and the numbness set in.
I miss the quiet elegance of letting words fall just so, magically building a track for a story to travel on, refracting the light of my mind and my heart, insisting softly that it is time to let go.
It’s weird to look back at this. It’s weird to be honest. It’s exceptionally weird to be welcomed by my old dashboard after over a year of internalizing. And then again, it’s not really that strange after all.
Even without B&H I was blessed with the ability to process experiences and emotional outlook. My acting has given me that. Bawling your eyes out during a self-tape is highly therapeutic – who the hell cares if you actually book the gig? Playing roles like Jen in Swerve – a role written just for me by Jason Armstrong- created a safe fictional environment for me to explore the equally dark and hopeful parts of my psyche, and as a producer on the series I feel empowered to help give a voice to mental health, and invisible and chronic illnesses. Serious documentary roles like a nun who escapes war-torn Hungary, and ridiculously fun voice-acting roles like Zombie Chick in Jay Fosgitt’s Dead Duck and Zombie Chick; everything let me try my feelings on, and wriggle around outside my comfort-zone with the comfort of knowing I could come back any time. Even simple roles in commercials have let me reflect on how we see others, and how we see ourselves. I feel so glad that I dipped my toe in this vast industry, and feel happy that I don’t feel compelled by celebrity, but by storytelling and authenticity. I can’t wait for the next role. But I miss writing. I miss the quiet elegance of letting words fall just so, magically building a track for a story to travel on, refracting the light of my mind and my heart, insisting softly that it is time to let go.
This last year has molded and stretched me. It has helped me learn my boundaries, while showing me the unlimited potential that life offers. It has let me realize what is really important, and given me strength to stand up for my values, beliefs, family, passions, and my security.
I have made so many positive changes and decisions, but I’m still scared to put them here.
I desperately want this to be a post about recommitting to my writing as it was, or to my beautiful daughter’s plea to be creative together, but I don’t know that I can say either of those things. I can, however say that it is about recommitting to myself.
I can say that writing is now an option again as I learn to breathe easier and smile more, or even struggle to fight uphill again. I can absolutely commit to being curious about what happens if I press ‘publish’, over drowning in the cacophonous all-consuming buzz of anxiety and depression. If I can write it, I can fight it.
It might not always be happy, but it is beautiful.