Many of you may know that I had the honor of being included in the anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, which was published at the end of March. The book was a compilation of stories from readers/writers/humans who were inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, and were selected by Liz herself along with editors at her publisher, Riverhead Books.
Some of the other contributors, who’ve gotten together via a Facebook group, were a little perturbed we had not gotten to meet Liz, nor had an event specifically for the book. I admit, I thought there was going to be some big launch party where I could wear a fancy dress and drink champagne and get a few minutes to chat with Liz and take a picture.
That didn’t happen.
We now realize that this year has been one of extreme change for Liz. She ended her marriage (you know, with the Brazilian guy she meets in Bali at the end of Eat Pray Love). Months later, she finally revealed the reason why — she is in love with her best friend (a woman), who is also dying of cancer. Needless to say, she’s had a lot going on.
So when I saw that Liz was having a speaking engagement in NYC — the only one in the area — for the paperback release of her creativity manifesto Big Magic, I knew I had to attend, if only to see her in person. I eagerly bought tickets and asked one of my fellow contributors to join me.
Then I decided to figure out how to meet her. It was actually very easy.
Her publicist’s email is listed right there on Liz’s website. I shot off a quick note and within an hour had a response – yes, Liz would love to meet me!
Then, panic set in. OMG, I was going to meet Elizabeth Gilbert. What do I wear, what do I say? Why did I get myself into this? I can’t handle the pressure! Why did I insist on doing this to myself? You know, the normal stuff that happens when I embark on a challenge.
The night of the event, I anxiously took my seat. I knew the talk would be great but the whole time I would be a ball of nerves. I just wanted to get this all over with! Her speech, though, did put me at ease. She spoke about a creative challenge she pursued while on a book tour for the initial release of Big Magic – with every person she met, no matter if it was her cab driver or her German publisher, she would seek to have real communication with them by asking, “What are you most excited about in your life right now?” So much more interesting than where do you live, what do you do, right? And definitely more so than staring down at your phone the whole time. The responses she received were both hilarious and heartfelt.
I thought she’d ask this question of me, so I prepared my response.
When the talk was over, we made our way to the stage to meet up with the publicist, who was also escorting several other people back. Somehow, I expected it to be only myself and my fellow contributor — but instead the room was teeming with people. I waited nervously for our chance. Finally, we were waved over. I had heard before that Liz gives the best hugs, and they were right! She immediately swooped me up into a bear hug (literally — she’s much taller than I am) and suggested we take a picture. Then since she was in picture mode, she moved right along to a picture with someone else. That other person then proceeded to chat her up.
Wait a minute, I thought. Did I just lose my chance to speak with Liz? We waited around anxiously until it was almost time to leave. My fellow contributor asked if she could take a solo shot with Liz (the first pic was the three of us). Then I asked for the same. Liz was about to turn to talk to someone else when I thought, if I don’t speak up now, I won’t get the chance again. So, nearly interrupting whatever conversation she was about to have, I blurted out, “I just wanted to thank you for letting us be a part of Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. It was such an honor to be included in something so special” (or something like that. It’s all very fuzzy).
She shook her and said, “No, you earned it. Do you know how many people sent in essays? Thousands. Yours got in because it was good. You need to own that!”
We said our goodbyes and I walked out, still in a bit of a daze. She hadn’t asked me what I was most excited about in my life right now, but that was OK. I was so glad I had spoken up, because her words were exactly what I needed to hear. I was in one of my impostor syndrome funks, somehow having to do with the major change in my life as my son went off to preschool. I just wasn’t in a very creative mood and could hardly write. I felt like a failure, like I wasn’t a “real” writer. I wasn’t making a living at this like some other writers I knew. I still haven’t written for lots of major publications (ok well except The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmo…but never mind my accomplishments). Why do I doubt myself? Why do I judge myself? Why do I compare myself and measure myself against others?
I know a lot of people don’t like Elizabeth Gilbert. But one thing I will say for her — she makes no excuses for who she is. She owns it.
I will try to do the same.
Do you feel like you “own” your accomplishments? Have you ever met an idol who’s inspired you to have more confidence in your abilities?
So as I wrote in my last post, LM has started full-time preschool. And I’m not doing well. I feel lost, like I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself all day. I can’t seem to bring myself to write. In fact, this is the first time I’ve written. It’s some kind of block, I suppose. I wander around the house, looking for stuff to do—although there is actually plenty to do.
I know I shouldn’t complain — I have the luxury of not working. But even if I wanted to enjoy it, I don’t feel like I can reasonably sit around watching Food Network all day while my husband is at the office. My plan was to ramp up my freelance writing, and although I have scored a couple new gigs, they have not provided me with as much steady work as I’d hoped. Ironically, the week before LM started preschool, I got six, yes six, assignments, which prevented me from truly enjoying our last few days together. Now, nothing.
So I’ve got more to do to gain new writing opportunities. But instead of doing it, I just, well, don’t. I’m going through some kind of weird period of adjustment—or rather, trying to adjust and not doing a very good job of it. I’ve been trying to figure out why.
For a long time, my job was my identity. Then I got laid off, and “mom” became my identity. Now, I’m in some kind of in-between place in which I can’t figure out exactly who I am or what I’m doing. I have all these plans in my head, but I can’t seem to translate them into action.
I don’t want to go back to full-time work outside the home. I still want to be here at 3 pm when LM gets home from school. But in those six hours he’s gone, I want to have the motivation to write, go grocery shopping, do projects around the house, maybe even (gasp) cook (even though I’m terrible at it, now’s my chance to get better, right?). I feel pressure to do everything, and guilt that I have not been able to get my ass in gear.
I’m projecting all this onto Foggy Daddy, who I assume is mad that I’m not doing as much as I should. (There’s that word again, “should.”) He seems to understand, though, that I’m going through something and has given me time to figure it out.
Change is tough for me, I’ve discovered. I’ve never been so sad to see summer end, to see the leaves start falling. I love autumn, so it bothers me that I’m greeting it with such disdain. It doesn’t help that it’s still 85 degrees out. It’s still warm enough to swim FFS. The weather is in this in-between state, just like I am. It’s like it can’t commit, and neither can I.
To make things worse, I’ve had very little communication with LM’s preschool teacher. I don’t know if he naps, if he poops, what’s he’s been doing all day. He comes home with cute art projects and always has a smile on his face, so I think he’s enjoying it. But he doesn’t have the words to tell me what he’s actually been up to. With early intervention, in which I knew all his therapists and either participated and/or received a session note, I always knew what was going on. This is quite different.
Maybe I need to cut myself a break and allow myself the time to get used to this. After so long of wanting more time to myself, I finally have it, and now I just want my baby back. I see other three-year-olds going to preschool for three mornings a week, and I’m jealous their moms have the rest of the week to do other things with them. I’m just not ready to send him off for so long. I feel like a kindergarten mom, two years early. I’m counting the days to the Jewish holidays LM will have off in October.
I think if I was pregnant or had a new baby this situation would not be as fraught with emotion. I would still have the role of “mom” to focus on. I could justify lying around if I was pregnant or up every two hours with a newborn. I would have another child to take to mommy-and-me classes.
I know I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I still haven’t been able to pass my fertility testing — my damn lining just won’t grow. After the surgery I had in May, I had to have another procedure to get rid of what turned out to be scar tissue. After waiting six weeks to have that done, I went back into my prep cycle and my body just didn’t respond. So now I have to try it again. I honestly don’t know if it’s going to happen for us. All of these things are coming together to make life difficult at this point, when it really shouldn’t be.
Sorry for the downer post. But I can’t be the only one having a hard time transitioning to full-time school, can I? Please tell me I’m not alone!
People have said to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” referring to the balance of writing and parenting. To be honest, I don’t know how I do it either — that sounds like a humble brag, but actually, I don’t even really believe that I “do it” at all.
Yet no matter what is thrown at me, I seem to also possess that maddening inability to say no. Today I have a really bad cold, but did I turn down the Fit Pregnancy assignment I got, due tomorrow? Nope. Did I say no to the offer to cover the new season of Orange Is the New Black from a publication I’ve never worked with before, even though I’ve actually never seen an episode of the show? Nope! Guess the next two weeks will be spent binge-watching Netflix.
What about LM’s therapy appointments, and his audiological testing? What about my gyno appointment tomorrow and trying to figure out about scheduling surgery for my fibroid? What about having play dates and trying to keep up with my friends? What about not being able to update this blog as much as I feel I should? Oh yeah, what about that book signing event for Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It, which means I have to finish reading the whole book, probably re-read Eat Pray Love just to make sure I remember it, craft a 10-15 minute speech and be prepared for any questions that might arise by April 2? (BTW, if you are in the northern New Jersey area, visit the Barnes and Noble in the Livingston Mall April 2 at 3 pm to support me and the launch of the book!)
I get how this sounds. Apart from the medical stuff, it’s all good. I should not complain to be getting more work. And I’m not. I’m grateful for it. It just makes it hard to figure out how to balance things so I’m not up until 1 a.m. every night (which I usually am anyway).
Sometimes I think I shouldn’t be bothering with any work at all because it distracts me too much from LM. I should be focused on taking care of him, especially with the additional challenges his hearing loss presents. He’s only going to be young for a few short years. Don’t I already feel like his baby years went by in a blur? Do I want that for his toddler years as well?
But then I feel that drive in me, that part of me that wants something of my own, that wants to work. The part that just can’t say no, that can’t resist putting another helping onto my already full plate. I overload it until there’s no way it won’t spill over.
There are great things about being a freelancer. I work when I want and where I want. I don’t really have to answer to anyone else except myself. But therein lies the hard part, because I am a difficult boss of myself. Without set working hours, I always have this feeling that I should be doing more. And because I can work anywhere, work follows me wherever I go. No matter how many good things come my way, I want more. And the pull for that is hard to get away from.
And then other times I feel like this is just how life is. This is the pace of life of being a sort-of working mom, the parent of a child with hearing loss, a writer and a wife and a homemaker. But I feel like I do all of these jobs at a level that’s just enough to get by, when I should be either able to handle them all with ease or just reduce them to the ones I can devote myself fully to.
It’s hard, this balancing act.
Do you feel like it’s hard to balance work and parenting?
If I’m going to be completely honest, I am often jealous of more successful writers. Today I read an article entitled “After a Year of Blogging: 9 Things I Wish I’d Known From the Start.” Number one on the list: That she wasn’t prepared for the huge influx of traffic from her very first blog post, which was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed.
Maybe the writer didn’t mean it like that. And I should be happy for a fellow blogger’s success, right? But I couldn’t help it—I felt annoyance, jealousy, even anger. I’ve been blogging for a year. I’ve never had a Freshly Pressed post. The author of this article also worked in that she was accepted to Scary Mommy (which I have as well) and BLUNTmoms (which I have not). There it is again, that competitive feeling. Why haven’t I written for BLUNTmoms?
Reading this purportedly helpful article about blogging had the effect of sucking me into a downward spiral of, “Why haven’t I published more? Why aren’t I as successful as these other writers? Am I even good writer? Maybe I just suck.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing at writing. Before becoming a blogger, I was an honest-to-goodness magazine editor. I had interviewed celebrities, gone to movie sets (OK, they were TV movies, but still [EDIT: How could I have forgotten? I have done a set visit of a big-screen movie: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!]) and attended Fashion Week (at which, I can assure you, I was the least fashionable person). I had a pretty cool job, and I felt semi-legit.
But this blogging, freelancing thing is different. I worry that I’ve fallen into the black hole that is Writing For Free, like for this blog and for Huffington Post, for example—which is apparently something “real” writers don’t do. “No, I won’t work for dog treats,” one writer whose career I admire lamented on Facebook after she was offered a gig writing for a pet product company that would only pay her in said animal biscuits.
This writer had a similar trajectory as me. She was an editor, then became a blogger for a magazine’s website (OK, not exactly the same as me), then parlayed that into a book that was favorably reviewed by The New York Times (hm, definitely not the same as me), and now writes mainly about parenting for a number of magazines and websites. The green-eyed monster has wielded his piercing gaze at her for a while—but the icing on the cake came when I found out she is now writing for a magazine that I also freelance for (one of my two regular paying gigs). That’s my turf, I thought. Don’t you have enough of your own stuff? I’m struggling to hang on here, give me a break!
Of course that’s now how it works. And if I’m confident in my own work, why should I see her as a threat?
My husband says that I only see the glass half-full, that I don’t recognize my accomplishments and only see what I haven’t done, not what I have. I know that’s true. As soon as I am have one piece accepted I’m off to accomplish the next goal, without stopping to take pride in what I’ve just done. But there are so many more goals to achieve.
Some would say that crippling self-doubt is one of the hallmarks of being a writer. Maybe that’s true. But sometimes I wonder if I even deserve the label of “writer.” True, I am a published writer—so by the technical definition, yes, I am. But I still feel like somehow I don’t measure up, that I don’t have the formal training. I didn’t do internships at big magazines. I haven’t attended writers’ workshops. I am (probably) not known in the wider circle of who’s who in the writing world. I fly under the radar, working in my pajamas as my toddler naps. I’m a dime-a-dozen mommy blogger.
I’m not just fishing for compliments. I really don’t know how to feel about my so-called writing career at this point in my life. Maybe if I just had more time to write, I think. Maybe I need a little garret in an attic somewhere where I could hunker down and just “hone my craft” or something. But would that fly for my husband and toddler? I already feel guilty that so much of my “work” doesn’t make actual money. Does it even, therefore, count as “work”? What the hell am I doing with my time anyway? Should I just go back to working full-time in a “real job”? Is this just a first-world problem that people who have to work for actual money would scoff at?
But if I’m going to go for it, I need to know that my family supports me in this endeavor, because in order to be successful in this kind of creative field, you have to go whole hog. Half-assing it won’t work. Then I will fail for sure.
So dare I put down in writing my goals, my writers’ bucket list, if you will? OK, here goes:
- Write a book, probably a memoir based on my many years of infertility and pregnancy loss.
- Get published in The New York Times Motherlode column.
- Write for Brain, Child magazine (they keep rejecting me).
- Branch out into travel writing, something I love but have no experience in.
- Make a living out of paid, yes PAID, writing assignments.
- Achieve some kind of award or recognition that will reassure me once and for all that I am, in fact, an honest-to-goodness, “real” writer.
- Stop doubting that I am an honest-to-goodness, “real” writer.
That last one, I know, will be the hardest of all. Maybe the title of “writer” is not something you earn, but rather something you believe yourself to be. Something you own. Something you just are.
Fellow bloggers, can you identify with what I’m feeling? Let me know I’m not alone!
It’s my blogiversary! One year ago today I started Foggy Mommy with this post. As is the case with many aspects of parenting, it doesn’t seem like it’s been a year. I can’t believe LM has gone from being a one-year-old who couldn’t yet walk to a two-year-old who’s in school. One year ago I hadn’t yet ventured in the genre of parenting writing, and since then I’ve been published in The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, Fit Pregnancy and The Washington Post’s On Parenting. I hope that doesn’t sound boastful, but I’m proud of how far I’ve gone!
Some observations on blogging:
- It’s hard to keep up with social media. I admit I probably don’t have time to tweet and Facebook as much as some of my fellow mommy bloggers. It’s just somehow not built into me — maybe I’m too old. Or maybe I just already feel like I’m too distracted from my son (this is something I’m working on as a mom). I can’t be tweeting every detail of my life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you can. I just haven’t yet mastered this — maybe that’s why I still need more Twitter followers. If you haven’t already, please follow me! I’ll try to tweet more in the future.
- I love blogging, and I love freelance writing. I love the flexibility to do it whenever and wherever. But, that flexibility often makes me feel that every available minute I have I should be writing, blogging, tweeting about blogging, etc. It’s not like I just stop working when I come home from the office. I write at midnight. I email during playdates. So I wonder if I just need to turn off sometimes.
- That said, I love that I get to be home with LM. Despite the multitasking, I do feel that I’m able to give more personal attention that I would if I worked outside the home and had to commute. I think our lives would be more harried and hurried. I think LM has benefitted from me being available and around most of the time.
- A note on “oversharing”: After a piece in Slate about the profusion of personal essays, the blogosphere has been abuzz. Are we oversharing? Are we going to regret oversharing? I do try to balance what I say and what I reveal with the repercussions: Is anyone going to be pissed that I wrote this? How will LM feel about this when he’s a teenager? So I do take that into account. But in general, I don’t see what’s wrong with talking publicly about the things one has gone through. I wholeheartedly agree with this comment from XOJane editor Emily McCombs (XOJane is on my writer’s bucket list):
I can’t tell you how often I have encountered the attitude that because these stories are about women’s lives, they are somehow superficial, silly, or unimportant. Women’s lives – our stories – are not unimportant. They often reflect the feminist maxim that the personal is political.
…to suggest that adult women aren’t fully capable of deciding when and where to share information about themselves denies them an awful lot of agency.
I write about my own personal life because I want to lessen shame and encourage connection. If people read a piece I wrote and say: ‘This writer has had this experience, done this thing and felt this way so maybe I don’t have to feel ashamed of who I am,’ it’s worth it.
That pretty much sums up why I write. I want to tell the truth about infertility, miscarriage, breastfeeding, parenting after loss, and just parenting in general. All parents are a work in progress, and this blog helps me (and hopefully helps others) become aware of the things we need to work on. People have said I’m brave to share my story. I don’t think of it that way. I don’t know why I should feel like I can’t share. I’m not ashamed of my story. That’s the point — no one should be.
Give me your feedback on Foggy Mommy, or just drop a note to say happy blogiversary! I look forward to hearing from you.
Last Sunday night, I watched the HBO show The Newsroom after a busy Thanksgiving weekend. I like the show, which focuses on the behind-the-scenes of a fictional newsroom and uses creator Aaron Sorkin’s trademark fast and witty dialogue. The characters are top-notch journalists, serious news reporters. This season, one of them is dating a woman who – gasp! – starts writing about her own life for a website. He accuses her of vanity, of trying to start her own reality show, of, basically, selling out.
As a blogger, this made me feel bad about myself and question why I’m doing it. Am I selling out my child and my family in the hopes of drawing attention to myself? Am I revealing too much? Am I contributing to a culture where anyone can become a “writer,” whether they’re any good at it or not?
Here’s the thing: I never really considered myself a journalist. I did not go to J-school – in fact I didn’t even major in journalism. I was an English and History major. What I also was, though, was a very good writer. I knew about sentence structure, grammar, how to outline a paper, how to prove my point. I also loved literature. After college, I fell into the publishing world by becoming a proofreader and later an editor.
It was not hard news that we were doing. Certain places I worked took shortcuts and liberties with stories. I knew that what was going on was not always at the level of, say, The Newsroom. But I still believed that what we were producing was something of value.
After becoming a stay-at-home mom, I no longer had an outlet for creative expression. I was no longer reaching out to others and maybe even impacting them with something I wrote or edited. I missed it.
I didn’t start blogging until my son was a year old. I admit that I looked down on it a bit – it seemed like everyone had a blog, that there was no special talent or skill necessarily required. “Mommy bloggers” were everywhere, and the butt of jokes. Did I really want to take part in all that?
The answer, eventually, was yes. Freelancing is hard – trying to make contacts, get gigs, write on-spec pieces that no one might ever read. And even though I’ve been somewhat successful at it, I missed just writing without the hustle. And not just writing in a journal – writing so that others might see it and learn from it and share it. So that it would touch others. That’s what writers d0 (or at least try to do). So I started a blog.
I have something to say, and yes, that something is personal and based on my own experiences. But that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or worthy of being published and read. I’m not writing because I want to be famous or because I think my kid is super-cute or because I want to be the star of my own reality show. I write because, as I stated in my first post, I think we, as moms, need to tell the truth about motherhood. We are not just silly “mommy bloggers” to be mocked for recording their child’s every dirty diaper. The reality of being a mom, and becoming a mom, is too easily dismissed. We need to talk about it. I need to talk about it. That’s why I write.
Fellow mommy bloggers, why do you write?