So, you may have noticed… the old gray blog, she ain’t what she used to be.
This is OK with me, really.
It started off small, like any blog does, with a few posts a week and the occasional visitor. Actually, the very earliest posts aren’t blog posts at all; they’re message board posts, and after enough “you should write a blog” comments, I just copied-and-pasted them over. Over time, it grew, and reached a point where I was posting daily, with something in the neighborhood of 350 hits a day. Not a wild, runaway success, perhaps, but a fun little project with a vocal and frequent group of commenters. It made me happy, both to have things to say and to feel like other people wanted to hear it. It was a good space to vent off the frustrations of my life, large and small, mother-in-law-related and otherwise, and occasionally it served as a deliberate mode of communication – if I wanted Willem to know something but didn’t feel able/motivated/whatever to just say it outright, I could post and knew he would read it. If I wanted to send out a snarky message to someone whose fake-friendship had worn thin, I had a good vessel to do so. If I wanted to get sappy and emotional about any of a number of friends or loved ones, I could do so without making anyone uncomfortable with a face-to-face encounter.
In short, it was a good thing. It worked for me. And the words just flowed. So many that I had to really set strict limits with myself, writing posts and saving them because I didn’t want to make a habit of posting more than once a day. I kept a notebook next to the bed, so that if I had a late-night idea, I could jot it down before it escaped. I found myself thinking in the tone and cadence of a blog post, even when I was nowhere near a computer. It was just a part of my life, and while I never actually considered becoming a professional blogger, the concept didn’t seem like such an insane one for those more motivated in that direction than I.
And then the world fell down.
Beginning in November 2008, it was one bad thing after another. Lost job, infertility, bad back with an actual scary-sounding long-term diagnosis, a triggering of old PTSD symptoms through dental procedures, conflict with my mother, self-doubt… just crap piled upon crap, and I Wasn’t Coping Well. The blog changed, almost immediately. Part of the change was the obvious, that which the outside world: the subject matter became dark, sometimes appalling. Having always been a reflection of my inner world, it suddenly had very little to reflect that wasn’t sad, scared, hurt, anxious, and otherwise broken.
But there was another aspect to the change, an aspect I don’t think I fully realized until recently; certainly I couldn’t have articulated it when things were at their worst, because I couldn’t step far enough outside of my own misery to gain any perspective on it. The blog became, if not quite a lifeline for me, then at least a source of structure and obligation – a small, lingering habit from the time before that winter descended, and something I continued to keep up, long after any spirit of jovial, convivial storytelling had been extinguished. I felt almost a sense of responsibility to myself, as though the blog was one of the ways that I could prove I hadn’t completely, irrevocably lost myself yet. I could get up each morning to get Emily on the bus. I could care for Jacob through the days. Between them, they got almost all of my positive energy and effort, of which there was not much to go ’round. What little was left, I gave to Willem, though I know it wasn’t enough to actually qualify as upholding my side of a relationship.
And that was it.
Nothing left for me, in any real sense, because not only did I not have the energy or give-a-shit sufficient to care for myself and engage in my own life in a positive way, but I also didn’t feel that I much deserved that kind of positive attention. I was jobless, mysteriously unable to conceive, stricken with a life-long disease with a poor prognosis and an increasing dependence on painkillers, pushing through three or four intense migraines a week, watching while some friends stuck by me and others drifted away, unable to handle me when I wasn’t strong and resilient. And who could blame them? I could barely stand myself, in all of my pathetic descent. I didn’t care enough about myself, and couldn’t see why I should even bother trying to change that.
But I kept up the blog, and I forced myself to log on and post every day. No matter how bad that day was, or how isolative and miserable I was feeling, no matter how dark or unpleasant – or brittlely, terrifyingly happy I might occasionally feel – I found some words to apply to every day that drifted by. Without it, I know that entire time would be even more lost to me than it is now; as it is, I have very few solid memories from that time, and I haven’t yet felt either the interest or the strength to go back and read through it all again now. It became my yardstick, my private little superstition: if I could continue to post, then I wasn’t totally lost. Or, at least, no matter how lost I was, I might someday find my way back, as long as I kept leaving this little trail of blog posts like Gretel’s trail of white pebbles in the forest.
Melodramatic? Illogical? Sure. But it mattered to me, and I do believe it helped me stay just a little bit farther away from some irreversible edge. I watched my readership eke away, a small loss that I didn’t bother mourning because I knew I had earned it. And the blog became more for me, and less for the audience, than it had ever been before.
When things started to get better, they started to get better fast. A new job for Willem! A new medication for me – one that actually worked! A new apartment! A new baby! It was dizzying, and scary, and unreal.
I kept up with the daily posts, for a while, because it had become such habit, but I realized that it was becoming harder and harder to come up with something new to say, every single day. Not because I was miserable; in fact, quite the opposite. I was happy, and in a precious, priceless, boring sort of way. I enjoyed my emerging routine, of getting the kids on the bus and spending my days running errands or cleaning or typing or simply wasting time playing, and then greeting Willem at the door. I found myself experiencing a simple, reasonless happiness, not because anything had happened but because I was in a new apartment, which I love, in an old town, which I love more, and experiencing a new life forming inside me, which I love the most. Life is so good, in the simplest and most beautiful of ways, and I’ve noticed it before: sometimes the biggest things require the fewest words.
So I started missing days here and there, and then I would miss an entire weekend. And it was OK. And the comments weren’t picking up, except for the occasional noteworthy post or gutlessly anonymous relative, and that was OK, too. I knew you were there, still, my old faithful readers and the occasional new visitor, and I simply didn’t need a constant validation and reassurance of what I already knew. That audience is around when I need it, perhaps not as breathlessly anxious for every new post as they might once have been, but still around.
And so, as far as posts are concerned, not to mention hit count (there are days, now, when it barely cracks 100), things have decidedly waned. I have no need to shut down the blog, or anything remotely so dramatic; after all, I still do find things to say, and how convenient to have a place to say them. (Facebook, in its overpopulation and ruthless character-limiting nature, is simply not an adequate substitute.) So it remains as-is, and like any old, favorite lovey, I can take it out whenever I need it. But now I can also leave the house without it, because, like any good security blanket, I know it will stay right where I left it. A little tattered at the edges, and not as bright and shiny as it once was, but still there.