Regrets, I have a few...
But generally, I don't actually believe in regrets. How can we dare to reconsider how we become who we are?
I know that a handful of you who subscribe to this blog have been reading me for ten years or more — and wow, am I ever grateful to have earned your audience.
My relationship to my own writing — and to my authority even to be a writer — has changed a dozen times in those years. And there were a handful of years in which I didn’t write at all, because I was struggling to understand who I was without everything I had formerly known about myself (without my parents, without my publishing career, without the security of the money I made in that career, without the protective grandiosity that made me both insufferable and interesting, without my five-inch high heels, without certainty that I could always get a job, oh, I could go on….).
And in one of those blank periods of non-writing and non-knowing who I was, I deleted my blog, Filling in the Blanks, in its original form. I barely even hesitated over Wordpress’s ARE YOU SURE? prompt before I wiped away seven years of evidence of all the wrestling and struggling I was doing, seven years of some seriously thoughtful exploring of what it means to be lost in your own life. Boom — gone.
I did it because I wanted to scrub away the evidence of the hubris that daring to write a blog and share one’s inner life represents. I wanted to wipe away the evidence that I had ever thought I might be whole again. I wanted to say Fuck You to myself for ever thinking I had anything to share that might be worthwhile. I mean, who am I, exactly? To have anything to share that could make a difference in someone’s life?
And in that powerless moment in my life, deleting my blog felt like a strong action of self-protection. Leave me alone. Don’t see me. I have nothing, I am nothing, I hurt and I am afraid, go away.
I didn’t feel a twinge of regret for having done that for a long time.
Every once in awhile, I would post a thoughtful post on Facebook or Instagram that would sometimes prompt a friend and follower to say, “I miss your writing.” And I would think, Yeah, you and me both. With the blog gone, I officially came to terms with the reality that I would probably never write the book about my mother and our relationship, and how being raised and loved by someone who was both so fierce and so broken was such an extraordinary gift, and yes, burden.
There, I thought to myself. I’m not a writer anymore. I can move on.
But — and oh, but isn’t there always a “but” when we think we have laid something to rest in our hearts that is born of pain — that thought was a lie.
I am a writer even if I don’t write. I am a seeker even when I’m not seeking. I am solving the mysterious puzzle of how it is we — all of us, we — bear pain, make sense of pain, turn it into a gift, slog ahead, rise again, move forward, rediscover joy, whether I am writing or not.
It is who I am. Not what I do.
Recently, I started finding joy in writing again, when I was able to connect with the feeling that writing is just wondering.
I’m putting spaces in here for emphasis, emphasis for myself: My writing can just be wondering.
My writing doesn’t have to be solving — I’m not coming up with answers or giving advice or being an expert or writing a book or writing as a career or writing to gain followers or writing because I used to be a magazine editor or writing because I worked in social media and publishing and was there when blogging was born, or writing because I, like many of my friends, had managed to turn my thoughts into a business. I used to write partly for all of those reasons above — and there’s zero wrong with any of the above, let me be clear. But when I lost my sense of power when so many things in my life started changing and moving in directions I didn’t want or wasn’t prepared for, that powerless translated into this: Who cares about you and your thoughts? Just. Shut. Up.
Enter DELETE. Boom, blog gone, six or seven years of writing through the turmoil I was living through.
And I was glad it was gone.
My partner was stunned. “You didn’t even back it up? Ohhh, Stace.” Then, “Okay. If that’s what you needed to do.”
And then I got back to my life and its many challenges, and worked on finding work and worked on learning to forgive myself for struggling, and worked on the hard work of being patient for my partner to do the hard work he had to do to find his way to me, and worked on the hard work I had to do to accept that we would find our way but not on my timeline, and I worked on really, finally accepting that the end of my career in publishing didn’t have to do with my own failure, but was instead the confluence of many difficult things, and I worked on not writing.
I mean, I did write, occasionally. I wrote for my friend Margit , committing to write something small and seemingly incidental for her site and newsletter TueNight. Something about soft bras to wear at home, or why gardening is my savior, or what the hell we were supposed to wear when we started going outside again after COVID Phase 1, our bodies soft and gooey from sweatpants and, uh, soft bras. I wrote little life stories on Instagram or Facebook.
And one day, I wanted to reference something I had written on my blog, because I wanted to send it to somebody who was going through the hard part of learning how to help their young child who was struggling, and learning what neurodivergent looks like, and learning all the things you have learn when you are managing that long and confusing discovery process.
And I was sorry I had deleted my blog. Real regret, like, Oooooof.
But, the good news: I wasn’t angry at myself for having done it. (I excel at self-blame. Ryan found a meme that perfectly captures my general way of experiencing myself: a sad cat, with an octopus plushie on his head: Octopus represents “My brain upset for no reason.” Cat thinking: “Me mad because my brain is dumb.” The fact that he sent it to me indicates the highest order of someone loving me exactly as I am that I have ever experienced.)
My thought was, “Oh, you dumb dummy.” Which also meant, “Oh, you big sweet mushy-hearted human being, trying to hide from things that hurt till you figure it out.”
I used to learn compassion from the way I loved others: unconditionally, no judgment, understanding for bad choices, seeing clearly who they are and how they hurt (and not ‘cause I’m some weird love genius or anything; I’m lucky that that was the coping device I created to deal with my somewhat volatile childhood home, helmed by two amazing and deeply flawed/hurting parents). And I finally, finally have learned to do that for myself.
I’m 53 years old, by the way.
So my blog: I deleted it. But now I love it again, all those words I wrote and things I said that I put out into the world as an act of daring or hubris or need to be seen and validated and probably all three, but whatevs.
I’ve been going into Time Machine and painstakingly rescuing each post, one by one. Will probably take me another year or two to get it all, but that’s fine. I love reading them. Turns out, I like my writing, how I see things and how I say things.
So yeah, regrets, I have a few. But they are all just steps in becoming whom I was meant to be, a journey with no real beginning and no real end. And lots and lots of words in the making.
Namaste, y’all. Thanks for being on the ride with me sometimes. I appreciate it more than I’ll ever be able to say.