When I first hit "publish," I didn't know that 30 Days Sober with Harper would be my last post for a long time. Three months is by far the longest I've gone without sharing something since this blog's inception.
In truth, my enthusiasm for blogging had been waning long before that. I'd become obsessed with sharing things that were not only 100% authentic and 100% true, but things I could not feasibly regret sharing. When it came to sharing others' stories (like Harper's, Kristen's, or Jasmine's), this was a relatively easy benchmark. (Indeed, before publishing, I could just ask them: "Is this right?") But when it came to sharing my own experience, I had for a long time felt like no post was good enough.
My goal was self-defeating. So long as my goal was to be perfectly real, always right, and never embarrassed, I would fail every time. There's just something about being a real human that is, well, sort of embarrassing.
I've noticed this especially in my twelve step work. I've noticed that I can't quite stomach my own humanity. I can't stomach the fact that I'm prideful. Insecure. Intermittently insensitive, and then way too sensitive. I'm inconsistent; my thoughts and feelings change day to day. I've spent much of my life seeking attention, and the rest of the time feeling either embarrassed for wanting attention, or disappointed that I didn't get it. For me, this is just how it looks to be human.
When it comes to twelve step work - step 4, for example - it's easy enough to admit that I've been all those things. Indeed, even at step 10 - where we take a daily inventory - I'm prepared to admit that, as recently as yesterday, I was a human. But there's something about knowing that my humanity is ongoing, that there are infinitely more screw-ups to come, that leaves me feeling absolutely paralyzed.
Blogging makes that fear considerably worse. It puts me in a real bind. When I blog, not only is my humanity visible, but it lingers. Every post betrays that I am neither 100% authentic nor 100% right. As long as my self-concept as a writer rests on both, I will forever be embarrassed. Maybe even ashamed. And if I am embarrassed of my writing - if I am ashamed - well, I'm virtually guaranteed not to write at all.
No rejection is more painful than the daily rejection we offer ourselves. We will do anything to avoid it. And "doing anything" often involves "doing nothing." Staying small, and staying quiet.
About a year and a half ago, my twelve step sponsor suggested to me, somewhat playfully, that perhaps I should stop blogging. She saw how I resented my self-imposed requirements - to be successful, to be widely read, to be at once exactly right and exactly real - and she saw that these requirements were not serving me. When she suggested it, I balked (much as I did when she suggested I find a therapist; I later did that, too). Privately, I thought: Part of being successful is being consistent. If I'm not consistent in my writing, I'll fail. Aloud, I simply said: "Oof. I'll have to think about that."
And I did. For about a year, actually. Never when I shared others' stories, but always when I shared my own, I'd think: Is this serving me? Is this worth it? What am I looking for? Until January of this year, my fear of doing something different outweighed my fear of trudging that same, arduous path. Just do it, don't think about it, I'd tell myself. Writing is the right thing to do. That entire time, I couldn't so much as return to a post a week after publishing without feeling disturbed by its humanity and compelled to delete it.
In January, about two weeks after publishing Harper's story - so around the time that another post was "due," in my mind - I instead gave myself permission to take a break. It was in part a relief, a reprieve from a certain source of self-judgement. But it was also a source of guilt, and thus a new form of judgement: I still believed that, by not writing, I was breaking the rules. After all, Rule #1 was to write. Rule #2 was to edit the writing into oblivion. Rule #3 was to publish when it's nearly perfect, and Rule #4 was to reach perfection next time. With #4 in mind, it's no wonder I wanted to break Rule #1.
After three months without writing, I've had the chance to take a good long look at the rules. Based on the fact that I'm sharing this today, the same day I'm writing it - and it's nowhere near perfect - I'd say I've made a little progress.
I've taken a long enough break from writing that I've actually begun to miss it. Don't get me wrong: I never missed the process of hitting publish, of finding an acceptable and freely usable image, of waiting for feedback, of objectifying my own work. I don't miss any of that. What I have missed is the process of externalizing my thoughts, of being at least 50% clearer than I am when I journal. I've missed the satisfaction of thinking of a topic, and seeing it to the end.
More than that: I've missed the sense of congruence I feel when I've been helpful to someone. I miss the feeling that I am doing something I'm good at, something that feels at once natural and meaningful, something that feels like flow. As I read these last few sentences, I realize that those are The Gifts I'd forgotten. In my commitment to being Good, the Gifts had been replaced by The Rules.
Returning to writing, I think, is about asking The Rules to create a little space. Spruce up the spare room. Make a place for The Gifts.