The photo above is part of a journal entry I wrote on New Year’s Eve. I like to carve out time on the last day of the year, to reflect on the previous 12 months – things I feel good about, and things I want to improve upon – and lay out a plan of attack (aka resolutions) for the new year. This year those hopes and goals largely revolved around a theme of practicing quality over quantity – in things ranging from my relationships to time spent online and in social settings. We’ll see how that all fleshes out, but I promise my intentions are good.
I’ve been using this blog as a personal writing and reflection platform for a little over two years now. Though I may only post once or twice a month, I think about writing all the time. For those who don’t know me as well as others, I am painstakingly aware of my conscience, agonize over things like, “Did I say that right?” or “Did she understand where I was coming from?” am an obsessively thorough proof-reader and perfectionist editor. And I struggle with guilt over really wanting to write when the urge strikes, while also really wanting to be a devoted, undistracted mother who doesn’t get enveloped in a heated essay-writing spree while her son watches reruns of Sesame Street.
This last year, I wrote some stuff that really put my heart, insecurities, flaws and personal beliefs out on the line. I think that’s hard for anyone to do, but I always tell myself that some things are just important, even if they’re not fun, easy or comfortable. The reason I know that wearing my heart on my sleeve is important, is because I know how important it is when others do that for me. The truth is, I know I am my own worst critic, and it’s been a while since I’ve written something I was really totally pleased with. And then sometimes, when I feel like I actually really poured my heart, brain and time into something important and said what I wanted to say – **vulnerability alert** – I’m disappointed because it gets two likes on Facebook and I feel totally unvalidated, OR what I wrote is apparently important enough to be controversial and I get super stressed out if I sense conflict or disapproval.
Here’s what I actually set out to write: I’ve learned that in the month of December, I get busy, busy, busy! And festive, festive, festive! It’s Christmas and everything is so put together and pretty and peaceful (OK so not really 100% of the time, but I keep telling myself that it is to keep the Christmas spirit meter up) and I just want to soak it in and pack my calendar with red and green frosted social engagements and I think to myself, “What am I ever going to do when Christmas lights are down and we’re just stuck with drab, gray, uneventful January?” It always sounds so depressing!
And THEN – all I want to do is go into hibernation mode. Meaning – I basically just want to disconnect my phone and computer, pull out my best apron, be a June Cleaver mom and wife, and bake apple pies all day while no one bothers me or picks my brain.
This year as I seeped deeper and deeper into the holidays, I was all busy and social and Mrs. Party Planner and Ugly Christmas Sweater on the outside – and I’m not knocking that stuff; it was festive and great and important in its own right and I’ll probably be just as excited to do it all again next year- but on the INSIDE, I felt like I was burrowing deeper and deeper into an introverted, “don’t look at me,” “don’t analyze me” hole. I realized that this year I had made myself and my real, fragile emotions available possibly more than ever, through essays I published, through sharing personal struggles with people I barely knew, through hot button issues I weighed in on over Facebook, and even in smaller scale personal conversations.
By the end of the year I found myself feeling a little proud and brave, but A LOT over-exposed, drained from “putting myself out there” and kind of just wanting to hibernate. I felt sort of emotionally spent. And I still kind of do.
I had extreme visions of ending my blog after two years (my husband says he won’t let me), closing my Facebook account (but that’s such a dramatic thing to do, and I’ve already done that before – it didn’t fix life), and fleeing to Amish country where they don’t have the burden of electricity (OK I made up that last part, I probably couldn’t handle the early mornings, and actually really like electricity).
I’ve spent the last few weeks being less connected to social media than I have been in years, without quitting cold turkey. I’ve genuinely tried to be more unplugged, less reactive and more intentional with how I set out to spend my time each day. I’ve tried to step back and do a cost-benefit analysis of being emotionally naked.
I happened to briefly log on to Facebook tonight, which has been a refreshing rarity for me in recent weeks, and two of the first things that caught my eye were posts from fellow blogger friends (Abby and Emily, I’m calling you out – I loved reading both of your posts and they made me drag my butt out of bed and get my laptop out to write this).
So in reality I have felt like I have had writer’s block THE ENTIRE time I’ve been writing this, but here’s to being imperfect and posting it any way.
The truth is, I don’t want to stop writing. I know I would regret it. Maybe it can be hard, and maybe it can be draining, and definitely it is hard to balance with everything else as someone who struggles to be disciplined with her time. Maybe I’ll write more privately and less publicly this year. I don’t know yet what the right decision is for me. But I’m making this public so you know my intentions to figure it out.
But I have to believe that it’s worth it. That it’s worth slogging through the writer’s block and the half-finished stories and the endless rough drafts, for the unbeatable feeling of FINALLY writing something that makes you lean back, look at your monitor with sheer amazement and say, “That’s it.”
A really great baseball player still only gets on base a third of the time. And a world-renowned surgeon may only cure a fraction of the patients she treats. Why should it be any different for writing? The only way to get better is to write. And you can’t hit a homerun by hibernating.
“Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.