Possible titles for this sprawling post include: How I Gave Up Blogging For (Almost) A Week and Lost Two Pounds; Where Did All These Kids Come From?; and Public Assistance For the Privileged & Highly Educated: A True Story.
It is an odd and useful thing, to step away.
When I quit smoking for the fourth and last time – June 16, 2005 – one of the things that was so dramatic about my experience was how my perception of time shifted. Suddenly, in the absence of smoking and its many associated behaviors and habits, its supporting structures, its complicated schema of secrecy and power and fragmentation and suffering and attachment and growth and resistance and readiness, I felt like I had a lot of time on my hands.
At first, this was quite difficult – I was bursting with energy, all of the energy that got funneled into addiction. I burned it off by running and writing. This is also when I first discovered blogging. It served me so well that summer, having a place to process and chronicle the discoveries that came with letting go of something that I had essentially shaped my life around. Greg was on a six-week NOLS Instructor Course, Aviva was two and a half, and I was working full-time. Despite the challenges of being a single mom, I knew it was temporary and relished my time alone, reveled in having the house to myself, poured what energy was left after a toddler and work into my blog (it was called “Dadago: Nicotine Replacement Therapy” – as in “Dada go to the mountains”).
But at some point, I got squirmy about it. I wasn’t entirely clear on its purpose or mine or what I was using it for; or rather, I knew what I was using it for for myself, but that still didn’t address its public nature. I wound up passwording it, and eventually shut it down altogether. “Are you sure you want to delete this blog?” Blogger asked me politely. “Yes,” I clicked. And that was that. I had internalized the experience. It became part of me, part of my story, despite not having a paper trail, if an electronic one. Greg returned from Wyoming ten pounds skinnier and with a red-gray beard. Two weeks later, I got pregnant with Pearl. And the rest is…
Why I’m recounting this now? Last week, I had wondered whether taking a blog-break would feel similar in some way to that moment three years ago. Would my perception of time expand? Would I realize that blogging interfered with things I talk about doing or long to do? Was I in some way enslaved by it?
The strongest similarity between not smoking and not blogging for me has been that in the absence of either, I suddenly can’t fathom how I ever had so much time for it. When did I smoke all those Bali Hai cloves, all those Marlboro Reds? When did I write all those blog posts and read all those comments and stay in touch with my fellow bloggers?
But this time, something else happened, too. There was a twist: I missed this place. I missed myself. I missed you.
In heightening my awareness of the time and space in my life taken up by blogging, I was able to look at which aspects of it feed me and which deplete me. We all know that while eating is – or can be, should be – an act of necessity and nourishment, it’s also true that it can be a form of escape, abuse, enslavement, avoidance, and checking out. So too with blogging. For me, consciously stepping away from the blog for a few days allowed me to assess how it nourishes me and how it distracts.
There is no one answer here. But I did realize that I love this space; I value the associations I have here not with checking out, but with checking in. I found that I did almost no writing and very little checking in with myself without it. I realized that over time, I have come to appreciate and look forward to the connections this experiment has fostered. It is humbling and moving to imagine that reading my words might ever give you a chance to check in with yourself.
I’ve also been running more, and eating less crap at night. Becoming more conscious of the blog has notched up my awareness of other things too. That’s what happens. You shine a light on one thing and the light spreads to other corners, other habits, other hidden or simply neglected places.
In the end, there are only beginnings and ongoings. The first title seems to have won out tonight. I actually have lost a couple of pounds of ice-cream weight, completely by accident. I’m actually looking forward to my run most days. I’m holding on for dear life as Greg builds Spring Hill and I hold down the home front and together we take one leap of faith after another. I’m wondering where all these kids came from, and considering how my own version of Nickel and Dimed would read. I’m bartering for a new coaching brochure and beginning to think about how to integrate the blog and the work more seamlessly and authentically. And I’m holding all of this in the context of a broken world that desperately needs as much action and compassion as we can individually and collectively muster.
For tonight, those posts will have to wait. What feels good is knowing that I have this place to come explore them, to keep practicing and processing this funny, messy, tender, difficult, blessed business of living and loving and making a living and raising kids and growing businesses and creating community and being good to ourselves – and that I’m choosing to return, to tune in here. I hope you will, too.