Here is my best explanation for my unintended blogging hiatus: I’m afraid.
Afraid that the A to Z Challenge was such a success (as assessed by me), that nothing I write hence forth will measure up. Afraid that I used up all my good ideas in the challenge and I have nothing more useful to say. Afraid that if I keep writing, I will only repeat the same tired ideas, and become noise.
I am also afraid of disapproval. I feel called to write about sensitive topics (I know, this is the third time I’ve brought it up—it’s coming, I promise, I’m setting the stage here), and I fear backlash from readers. I’m afraid of being attacked—for both my position on a given issue, as well as for my effort to consider all sides. “How can you hold this view, you must be ignorant and stupid!” Or, “How can you call yourself a (fill in the blank group) while you allow (the opposing group) space on your blog to promote their ignorant and stupid views?” I want to do the right thing, which is allow—even invite—opposing opinions. But I am afraid of losing control of the whole process, of getting sucked into verbal wars over opinions and beliefs.
On April 28, at 12:15am, I commented on Emily Heath’s post, “On Restrooms, Gender, and Fear.” It’s the 11th comment. Rereading it now, I cringe at how condescending it sounds, even as I meant to express empathy and connection. Two readers replied in opposition, one who asked me if I was insane and wrote, “How insulting.” For two days I debated whether to reply, and finally decided against it, as I unilaterally concluded that both of these people were likely not looking for an ongoing conversation. I realized that while I thought of my comment as speaking directly to Emily, I was, in fact, writing to her entire audience. It made me think twice about expressing my opinions publically, and I learned an important lesson about writing for public consumption: Comments are not the best space to express my opinion fully, and I never know how anyone will respond. And, I should probably not write about emotional topics in the middle of the night.
Still, I feel a need to contribute my voice to the important conversations. And while I am agitated that it’s taken me so long to get started again, I see now that I needed this time to work out a plan. I needed a pause to regroup and distill my purpose. I needed space to define my focus: not taking sides on the issues, but rather exploring nuances of idea exchange. I may write something that offends someone. It will not be intentional. I may need to field some personal attacks, or attacks on my ideas. That’s okay, I can decide how I will manage each on an individual basis, and on my terms. This blog is my space, after all. Most importantly, though, I have a wide and deep network of people who can help me monitor my words and provide perspective on the words of others. I’ve got this.
Impatience with myself has disrupted my sleep and distracted my days these last weeks. Why could I not just pull it together and write something already? Now I know, I was Holding the Space for my fears. I knew something different and significant was coming around the corner, and I had to take a breath before treading this new path. Part of me has worried about what readers think of my absence—perhaps sensing my fear and hesitation, losing confidence in my writing, as I may have, for a while? Maybe I’m just projecting. And just as I wondered if I would ever come back, I found this piece on bravery by Glennon Doyle Melton, who writes the blog Momastery. She writes, in reference to people yelling for two kids to dive from a cliff into the ocean:
Over time I have come to believe that brave does not mean what we think it does. It does not mean “being afraid and doing it anyway.” Nope. Brave means listening to the still small voice inside and DOING AS IT SAYS. Regardless of what the rest of the world is saying. Brave implies WISDOM. Brave people are not simply those who JUMP every time. They do not necessarily “do it anyway.” Brave people block out all the yelling voices and listen to the deepest voice inside the quietest, stillest place in their heart. If that voice says JUMP, they jump. And if that voice says TURN AROUND – they turn around, and they hold their head high. Often the one who turns around shows GREAT BRAVERY, because she has been true to herself even in the face of pressure to ignore her still, small voice and perform for the crowd.
Brave is: To Thine Own Self Be True. And Brave parents say: I trust you, little one – to Be Still and Know. I’ll back you up.
My still small voice was saying, “Wait, wait for it. You’ll know when you’ve got it, and then you’ll move.” Now I know, I’ve got it, and I’m moving. I’m excited to see where the next leg of this blogging journey takes me, and what I will learn along the way.