Thursday, July 24, 2008

On BlogHer: Part One

The Community Keynote: Twenty-one women and one man, bloggers all (and therefore I imagine mostly introverts and probably mildly terrified) took the stage in front of hundreds of people to read some of the funniest, most revealing and most poignant pieces of writing I have ever encountered.

It reminded me that so many bloggers really are writers. Good writers. Many of the writers on that stage were absolutely as good as any I have seen on a printed page.

But even more than that, it reminded me how incredibly powerful what we do really is. Seeing women stand up on stage and talk about things like mental illness, body image struggles, pregnancy loss and suicide, and then seeing those women receive standing ovations from a supportive crowd, made me more aware than I have ever been that blogging matters. That even what I write here, in a little backwater corner of the vast and varied internet, matters.

Never before in the course of human history have so many ordinary people, particularly, so many ordinary women, been so empowered to share their life experiences through the written word. And it seems to me that, as more voices are amplified and preserved by this extraordinary medium, more people who are yet afraid to speak are discovering that someone else has already told, or is already telling, a story that echoes their own.

On the day when I wrote my very first post here, I was feeling so incredibly lonely. My first and only son, whom I loved more than anyone I had ever met in my life, was slowly starving himself. I didn't know why. I'd taken him to a dozen different doctors, and none of them seemed to know why, either. I felt like a terrible parent. I felt like a failure. Whenever I was around the few other parents of young children I knew in person, I was a terrible person to talk to, and I knew it. All I could think about was the fact that I was failing at the absolute most basic responsibility a mother has: to nourish her child. And so all I could talk about was failure. Failure to thrive. Not my son's failure, I thought. Mine.

No one I spoke with, none of the doctors, not even my own husband seemed to understand at the time how I felt about this failure. How it had not only taken over my thoughts, but possessed my soul.

I wrote about it because I had to. The words were already in my head unbidden and desperately needed a place to go.

I put the words where others might find them because leaving them in journal under my bed or in a file somewhere on my computer seemed almost like leaving them in my head. And I needed them out. I needed the possibility that someone else might read them.

But I didn't really expect anyone to.

And yet, here I am, years later, and several of those who read those first words are still here, reading these words, today.

(Thanks, by the way.)

On one of my darkest days, I shouted my sorrow into what seemed like an empty room.

But there were echoes.

I've been there, too.

I understand.

I can't understand what you're going through, but I'm a mom, too, and I do understand your love, so I still want to help.

It saved me.

There have been plenty of days, since then, when I've forgotten that, a little. When I've questioned the point of my spending all of this time writing here, in this particular forum, not gaining fame, not getting paid.

You see I sometimes think that maybe I don't need you all quite as much as I used to. My son's health is better. My life is better. I'm a more confident parent now.

But the keynote snapped me back to that first post. And suddenly I realized that not only did I still need you all as much as I always have needed you, even before I knew I needed you, but also, some people out there right now might still need me.

I'm not just telling my story. You're not just telling your story. We're telling our story. The more voices, the better.

I don't think I'll ever forget that again.


Anonymous said...

This was really interesting to read. I feel like I always have to write about something funny. I've only touched upon the harder subjects a couple of times - but maybe that's because they are so hard to talk about. I've only been doing this for a month, so I guess I'm just taking my time on that.

Awesome Mom said...

The sense of community is a huge reason why I keep blogging. It is not like there are a lot of parents of special needs kids out there in my neighborhood to commiserate with.

Your anguish about feeling responsible about your child not eating really hit home with me too. When Evan was having his eating issues it was the hardest time in my life. I could handle a heart defect no problem, it was hidden and not as in my face. I could pretend that it was not there.

With the feeding issues I got smacked in the gut every time it was meal time and with a baby that is very frequent. When Harry would not nurse I was not all that devastated since I was just so happy that I had a baby that would eat food, even if it did not come from me.

JessiTRON said...

Are many bloggers introverts? That's interesting.

Jaelithe said...

I would say 75% of the bloggers I have met are introverts, yes.

Anonymous said...

if we're taking a poll-- i'm a blogger; i'm an introvert.

Anonymous said...

I have chills from reading this. I've been a little disgruntled with the whole blogging thing lately, too. I've forgotten. I've let lapse the reasons it's become so important to me. It's almost clich├ęd to say anymore that I started writing for me but found a wonderful community. But that's what happens, and no matter how many times we hear/read those words, we can't let them lose their meaning, fade in their importance.

It's important. It matters. We all need each other.

Thanks for the reminder.

Debbie said...



Eden Kennedy Onassis said...

Thank you so much for writing all that. I've felt like packing it in lately, too, but I know I would miss so much being a part of all this.

Anonymous said...

Eloquently written.

Whenever I'm down I know that I can put my feelings on my blog and within hours have several virtual hugs.

So awesome.