Ever since I began to write my blog more consistently and advertise it more frequently, I’ve been gaining more and more confidence in my writing. It seems that claiming you’re a writer and presenting yourself as much leads to actually believing you are one. As long as you put in the work.
This is not to say that it’s always been easy: it’s terrifying to put your Self out there for public commentary. Sharing ideas and fears, personal triumphs and fall-on-your-face failures can seem freeing in the moment, but usually it leads to me habitually checking my website for negative comments and/or death threats.
I’ve been lucky and haven’t experienced either, yet. Though my readership spans from the States to Canada to Finland (Hi, Maria!) to, inexplicably, Brazil – my feedback has all been positive and encouraging.
I’d be lying if I said this didn’t help whenever I hesitate over the “Publish” button, though I guess I should say, “The act of writing fulfills me enough. I don’t need any readers.” And it does and I don’t…to an extent, but just as there is no act of theatre unless an audience is present, to me there is no act of writing unless there are eyes to take it all in. Seeing my readership increase is looking-at-the-Grand-Canyon-awesome. The fact that some people truly connect to what I write and/or having what I write illicit an emotional response or intellectual discourse within them? Well, wait here while I do a freakin’ back flip.
My strongest supporter? My mother, of course. She was the person I read my first story to. It was called “The Doggone Family” and featured our Jack Russell Terrier Seamus going on a honeymoon in Hawaii where he gets trapped in an active volcano. I was seven and it was my masterpiece. When I told her I wanted to be an actress, she was the person who told me I should never give up my writing.
“You have a gift,” she had said then.
“You have a gift,” she still says today.
Though she has always encouraged me to never censor myself, to keep sharing, keep writing, I know that it hurts my mother to find out how often I’ve been hurt. We are connected, she and I, there are not many secrets between us, so the small discoveries she is making of past slights or moments of debilitating depression are fresh wounds for her. Reminders of how she failed at her job of protecting me, of keeping me safe, of always having me know that I am loved.
And the truth is, if she believes that this was her job then, yes, she failed. There were moments in my life where I got hurt, where I believed I deserved to be hurt, which seems to be the worst slight of all. There were times when I lay in my bed and wished I didn’t have to get out to face another day of the same pain, the same struggle. There were times I felt alone. So, yes, if that was her job to protect me from all of that, she failed.
But, I don’t believe that was ever her responsibility, though she wishes it was. The Good Mom Handbook never said anything about raising children to live a pain-free life. It did, however, explicitly say: Raise your child so they can survive a pain-filled life.
And with that job description, my mother exceeded all of her wildest expectations.
When my parents were ready to have a second child, I was there the next day. I once told my mother I had been waiting for her to say she was ready. Once she did, BAM!, I arrived.
My mother always cultivated that determination within me, always allowing me to be rough with the boys, play the Andrew Lloyd Webber CD for the fourth time on Saturday mornings, and memorize “A League of Their Own” when it suited me. She gave me the room to be whomever I wanted to be. She was honest, of course. There were no dance classes or gymnastics lessons, thank goodness. No cheerleading, no beauty pageants. She knew my strengths, my loves, and knew when I was just trying to conform to the other girls.
(And, though I can’t speak for my brother, I know she always supplied the model trains and planes for painting, the computer for designing, the video camera for film making, and the tank for fish to swim around in.)
When we were growing up, she always made sure my brother and I were provided for, putting her own needs and little luxuries (clothes, nails, hair) last on the list or not on the list at all. When my parents divorced, she went to a business school to freshen up her computer skills, graduating with, quite possibly, the highest GPA the school had ever seen.
She did all of this silently, never for show, because she had to, yes, but also because my brother’s and my education, our futures, meant more to her than the business she had built from scratch so many years ago. Our happiness meant more.
So, when I say that “The Real World” was a shock – well, duh! My mother was a fresh water pearl in an ocean full of discarded medical supplies. It was a huge adjustment to leave a home of love, a home I had lived 18 years of my life in to move into a dorm, an apartment with no heat, a house, a studio… all without a mother’s love and protection. Not to mention the jobs and relationships I chose to include in my life, none of which were healthy or conducive to a life of self-worth and personal growth.
A situational depression sank over me, starting freshman year of college, relieving itself a bit in grad school, and then drowning me again the years that followed. I cut myself off from a lot of the things and people I loved and accepted a strange and incorrect fact that I was worth far less than what I actually deserved. I believed my critics, I accepted poor treatment from men, and I allowed abusive friendships to last far longer than they should.
All throughout this time, this time of drowning, I would call my mother and Nonie, tell them about how far adrift my boat had gone, how I feared the sun would never rise again. These two women were my anchors in self-worth. The love of mother and grandmother always brought me back into momentary acknowledgement as they held a mirror up to my face and said, “See? Can’t you see? Here is the truth.”
Losing my grandmother, my second anchor, two years ago was very difficult. My boat felt lopsided, spinning in a Poseidon-made vortex in the ocean. But my mother never stopped, never ceased to be the angel on my shoulder saying, “Look at who you are. Remember your strength.”
They could hold the mirror up to my reality all they wanted, but it was my responsibility to open my eyes. Something I did not do until around this time last year. Opening my eyes was my job, my mother’s was to be prepared for me when I did. And she was, bringing my bruised and battered ship back to harbor, safe and secure.
You see, it was never my mother’s job to protect me. Storms will always rock the boat, regardless of any precautionary measures. Regardless of how much I was loved. No, my mother’s job was not to shield me, but to teach me how to weather the difficult stuff – hurricanes, large whales, icebergs, and poor navigation, alike. Her job was to teach me to have faith that I can and will always persevere.
My mother has been a champion at that task. Through her example and guidance, I know that my boat is indestructible and, thanks to her, it is now safely back on course.