When I told a friend yesterday that I was working on a post for my Blog Birthday, her face lit up like a paper lantern, and she exclaimed, “Yay! Congratulations!”, laughing and clapping. I was completely surprised that she was genuinely excited, to learn from her that she loves my blog and looks forward to each post. I’m shocked every time I hear that people care about this blog as something other than just a time-filler, when they take a moment to let me know what thoughts the latest post inspired in them, and what they think I should write about next. That conversation gave me the gumption to write this possibly self-referential post, celebrating in full the 1 year birthday of my blog, looking back on some of what I’ve learned in my first year of blogging, and highlighting my favorite moments.
This is the year that I really became a writer, rather than simply talking about writing all the time. I did it quite simply, by putting one word down after the other. Reading all 100 posts (so fun to get to 100 today!) again took me days to do, and I kept thinking, WHEN did I have the time to write all these words? Art is outside of time. It happens when we are least expecting it, in time we assumed would be consumed with sleep or talking to our parents. The other thought I had was, “Wow, I am totally unembarrassed by this. Some of this is actually really good!” I found myself delighted by how much I adored the early posts that were exploring my faith journey or just telling the story of my life in small ways. The blog is a strange blog of memoir, manifesto, and aesthetic responses. Oh, and starting a (one-sided) beef with Zooey Deschanel: and a (again, one-sided) love affair with Mindy Kaling. It wasn’t all celebrity-baiting, as I often used this blog as a platform to join collective discussions — about the economy and the Occupy Movement, about breastfeeding (too many to even link to!), and, finally, expressing archetypal grief about the Trayvon Martin tragedy. I have received some flack for the latter, as people are quick to point out that not all of the facts are in. To them I say, “A child has died. So we make meaning, and we grieve.” In fact, the post I am most proud of, that best brings together my passions of telling real peoples’ stories and empowering parents, is the one inspired by the response to Trayvon, Talking To Your Kids About Race.
Over the year, I didn’t write the blog with any arc in mind, but it has quite a progression nonetheless: exploration of faith, the chronicle of becoming a mother, the pain and suffering of having to leave my job, and the slow healing and emerging as a writer. I started a writing group, including the woman I met at the protest, who has a blog of her own now! I am in the Listen To Your Mother show with all those other amazing writers, and have even written a few freelance writing pieces. Now I just need to figure out how to get paid to do all of this stuff. In the meantime, I’ve also been writing about writing, like in this excerpt: Every moment, when I am going about my day, I am trying to do many things. I am trying to make every action a prayer , from changing a diaper to doing a frustrating dance step. And I am also, now, writing — with the curve of my shoulder, in the space between my eyelids and my skull, sending my words out into the ether to be heard… or to fall, creating something new in the collective consciousness, even if they never make it to the page.
Without meaning to, I have often been writing a statement of what I believe and how I want to live, like how I believe that your actions in parenting can be a form of prayer, or this paragraph about the centrality of relationships in my life: If I accomplish nothing in my life, if I quit my career and while away my time here in some low-level service sector job, if I never write a book or produce anything “lasting” — but if I can keep my closest friendships, I will consider my life a success. I have often thought that what I am on this earth to do is love, and specifically, to love my husband — that that is the reason I was born, to learn to love through this one person, as well as I can. Since having Olive, that has expanded my sense of purpose, and if I totally fail at all externals and live a penniless existence in clothes from K-Mart but our bonds with each other survive… I will consider this a well-lived life.
But enough about me. The most surprising, exciting part of this whole endeavor has been the responses from you, dear readers. The comments have been simply incredible, and let me take this moment to make a quick plug for you to always take the extra step to comment HERE, on this blog, rather than on Facebook, because then I have a record of them, and can look back on your incredibly insightful responses for perpetuity. But I am eternally grateful for those of you who have shared my posts on Facebook if you resonated with them, as that is the main way I get new readers! And I love your comments, whereever they may be — on Twitter, in an email, or face-to-face. Having them on the blog just means I get to return to them later, like I did last night. I read through every last one of the comments you left, and there were truly some gems, ones I have internalized and come back to in my head again and again. The Most Creative Comment Thread goes to the ones on Tent of Memories, my aesthetic response to the book The Night Circus. The title for Most Helpful Comment Thread is a tie: the suggestions for dealing with a toddler on Here Be Dragons: The Toddlerhood Transition, and the ones for indoor rainy-day activities on Shake the World.
It has been a joy to hear from people I haven’t spoken to in years, having them write me things that are so heartfelt and real that you’d never read them in a “newsfeed”, but perhaps over a coffee and a scone. I’ve also made some new friends from blogging, which is quite a welcome surprise. But my favorite part of the whole thing is how it lays down a groundwork of vulnerability in my day-to-day interactions. People will say, “I feel like I know you, since I read your blog, so I’m just going to be really open with you about this…” and it just deepens the conversation, instantly. As a person who is always craving to hear what’s really going on rather than chat about the weather, I have totally loved this. In a way, I have inadvertently created the community I needed to get through this difficult year.
So, this Blogiversary is a big, fat THANK YOU to those of you who have been with me thus far, cheering me on and adding your perspectives. The commenters, the guest posters, and even those of you who just read these words — it all means so much more than you know. I wish I could give you all the smashiest hug, then a whole piece about how awesome each and every one of you are, but for now this will have to suffice:
Yep, that’s my way of saying thank you: Mr. T & Nancy Reagan, together at last. Thanks for an awesome first year of blogging, and here’s to another one of us being more vulnerable and real with each other… and having things like Grilled Cheese Spoon happen.