Not long ago, I realized that my love of blogging had faltered. Not because I no longer like to write and read and–inevitably–exchange ideas, but because my original love stemmed from parenting. With my decision to discontinue my parenting blog, I found myself floundering around in a sometimes-I-post-when-feel-like-it state where there was no continuity and, even worse, very little truth.
No, I haven’t been fibbing in these posts.
But they lack the heartfelt honesty of which I was once proud.
Let me take you back to when I first started blogging then you’ll see what I mean.
In early 2007, I quit my job at New Repertory Theatre and started to work from home as a Creative Consultant. It’s a catch-all phrase for various contract jobs, including blog management. My dad needed someone to figure out all this “new media” stuff and pointed to me. I was a new mom, needed the rent paid, and wasn’t afraid of a little html, so I hopped on board as I scrunched up my face and said, “What’s a blog? And how is a tag cloud user-friendly when I can’t tell what the hell I’m looking at?” He said the term user-friendly was obsolete, tag clouds were good, and go read some blogs. So I did.
I read a lot. All types. I learned to discern the good from the bad. I quickly understood the nuances of skilled commenting to tempt people to click back to your own blog. I spent hours clicking through others blogrolls to find the best ones out there. And when it came time to set up our own company blogs, lost in the backend of php, widget-ready, columns and akismet–Yes, folks, way back in 2007, you had to insert your widgets manually into the code. No drag and drop options yet. My technique involved querying help forums until I found someone else €™s code, stealing just enough to make my tweaks work, pasting them in, and crossing my fingers. It works well when the only thing you can code is your gym locker–I decided the best way to really figure all this out would be to start my own blog. And so was born, Single Mom with Tiny Tot.
It started out simple enough. And then I discovered that I possessed an apparently unusual sense of bravery; I posted the truth about parenting.
I posted my fuck-ups, my loves, my heartache, my photos, and more fuck-ups. I laughed about them. What else can you do but laugh when you mess up?
I started a list in response to my growing concern about Perfect Parents. The women I knew kept making self-degrading comments about themselves. As if putting their children to bed 15 minutes late one night was an unforgivable act. Or yelling. Or being frustrated as a parent. Or just wanting some down time. Or making simple mistakes. Like making a mistake made you a bad parent. So I started a list of all things I did that any other parent would shamefully keep to themselves. Some of it was simple, like those non-organic snacks or completely giving up on naps. Some of it was disgraceful, like the time I fell asleep nursing in the rocking chair and my daughter rolled off my lap (she was fine and barely woke up).
The comments started rolling in. People were talking. Many women thanked me for my honesty. It gave them hope to read about someone else who also made mistakes as a parent; we’re not perfect, we try our best. Then the negative comments arrived which is when I knew for certain I was doing something right: I was creating dialogue, challenging assumptions. There were fewer, to be sure, so I was able to ignore their personal nature most of the time.
And then one day it all changed. I got a negative comment. I happened to be online at the same time so I approved this new user after a moment of deciding whether to allow his incite (incite being a very kind word in this instance). It was in slight poor taste but not horrific so I thought it would be an okay part of the discussion. But he kept going. He started reading back post after back post and his comments poured in faster than I could read. I was working so I took note but didn’t read them. After 5 or 6 comments came in over the span of, I don’t know, half an hour, I got curious and opened one. I don’t know when I started crying, but I know I turned red and immediately had a lump in my throat. These were not discussion starters, these were crass, rude, and just plain mean. He called me unforgivable names and made unsavory allusions to my likely character traits. I sucked in a long breath and attempted to respond to one of them. I was polite. I indicated that he should know that I frequently write tongue-in-cheek (although I was smart enough not to give him ammunition by using that phrase) and I appreciate valid dialogue but would be deleting rude comments.
This was my first mistake.
I should have just deleted them all and moved on. But I engaged.
He shot me back a few more comments which are not worthy of repeating. At which point I blocked him and deleted all his comments but the damage had been done.
I took down my precious list and, before long, the fire to write had left me. I used the excuse that my child was no longer an infant and I shouldn’t be posting her life stories online any more, not when they were hers and not mine. She also had decided she didn’t like being in pictures and pointedly ran away from my camera so I had fewer cool photos to post. I gave in and gave up.
I gave into fear.
Where previously I had bravely posted the life that I love with compassion, humor, and sometimes even wit, now I realize that it wasn’t bravery that allowed me to post, it was a complete lack of fear. What had I to fear? I was just a young single mama figuring it all out. Now I had fear; fear that someone might actually take what I wrote seriously and think my child had been harmed by my mistakes. Fear that I would have to withstand undeserved name-calling night after night. Fear for my safety. Because by now I was not anonymous. I was never truly anonymous, in fact, but unless you knew what to look for and knew me in person already, you wouldn’t know who I was.
Here’s where we move to the now. (Let me just take a sentence to point out that what I’m doing right now is poor poor blogging, in my opinion, because this is no longer an interesting post but a boring autobiographical diatribe. I blame the need for catharsis.)
I’m still not ready to truly go back to the parenting blog I loved to write so much and I’m okay with that. Truly. My daughter is now four and far from infancy. I’m an experienced enough parent that I forget the silly things she says and have too many photos to sift through and don’t think twice when I knock her on her tush by accident while I’m carting the laundry bin around the bend. I’ve changed and so has she; we’ve out-grown our infancy blog. But I haven’t out-grown blogging.
I’ve been wanting, for several months now, to switch this blog over from vaguely eventful info to posts about something that is currently near and dear to my heart: the intersection of theatre arts and leadership, non-profit leadership, innovative non-profit solutions, theatre in society and my place in it. I haven’t yet taken that step out of, you guessed it: FEAR.
Fear that by putting it out in the blogosphere, you will see right through me. You will see that I am not the inspirational leader I would like to be. I am a fraud. I am scared about how to handle the next season (I founded this little gem in 2009). I am consistently putting my foot in my mouth (one day soon, I’ll tell you about the last message I left for a new contact at the MCC). I am lost in a sea of I-don’t-knows and let’s-just-try-it.
But I also know, in my heart, that these failures my strengths. I am buoyed by the what-could-be-if-we-risk-it creations. I may put my foot in my mouth but I rarely do it in the same way more than twice. My sea of I-don’t-knows is filled with supportive folks who look at me and congratulate me and I wonder what they see. And then I feel egotistical for writing something like that. So I suppose fear of ego should be on the list too.
Here goes nothing.
As of tonight, although you will continue to gain insight into my life as a single co-parenting liberal mama to a precocious daughter who likes to use three syllable words, you will also be privy to my musings, explorations and observations of this new role that I placed myself in, got scared of, and am now embracing fully as one that I want more than anything, a LEADER.