the wonder of opening up

Me and one of my sick, sweet babies. Still smiling!

The other day, I wrote a really honest post about the exhausting hardness that is being a parent to two small children and trying to do just about anything else. I was feeling incompetent at life, and because I’m a writer, because literally that is who I am, because even the code of my DNA probably spells words, the way I worked out those feelings was to write them. And cry.

And then something amazing happened: that post got (as of this writing) 21 amazing comments. And on Facebook, where I also shared it, I got 12 other amazing comments, plus a couple of supportive private messages. And the support continued on Twitter. And this morning, a lovely friend took the time to send me an email that warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. While one commenter called me a downer, every single other woman who commented did two things: they affirmed that my feelings were normal and OK, and they assured me, things do get better. Time passes. Nothing stays the same. It was an amazing experience of the best of the internet and its power to bring us together and let us know we are not alone. I am beyond grateful. Today, even though I’m home, still in my pjs at 3 pm with two sick babies who have croup and are just beyond pitiful, my heart is lighter. And I feel strong and confident.

Buoyed by this love and more than a little indignant at the downer comment, I posted this on Facebook:

And while I’m actually kind of proud of that line and think it really says it all, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a writer, and what it means to put my heart out into the world through my words, and I’ve found (shock me shock me) that I still have some more to say.

Despite a comment that would minimize and silence my giving voice to my experiences with the more painful side of motherhood, I will not be minimized and silenced. Tellingly, that comment, the only one that wasn’t encouraging in some way, came from a man. I’m taking a course on women writers this term, and over and over in the works I’ve studied, women writers depict women writers with men in their lives who don’t understand why they can’t just be content, grateful even, with their lives as wives and mothers. Why they feel a yearning for more, why they simply must write. Any woman who, like me, attempts to express anything but sweetness and light concerning motherhood feels the need to qualify it with caveats about how much they really do love their children, husbands, and homes, for fear of being criticized by a society that constantly tells us to be grateful and enjoy every moment.

All that does is leave you feeling guilty when you inevitably fail to live up to that standard.

Based on the love that was poured out to me when I poured out my heart, I have to say: it is worth that risk. Because when you pour out your heart, you invite others to do the same, and they will, and you will feel less alone. The great Flannery O’Connor wrote in one of her letters: “In the face of anyone’s experience, someone like myself who has had almost no experience, must be humble.” We don’t get to tell other people how to understand, frame, or feel about their experience. But we can let them know that they’re not alone in having it.

I’m so thankful to all the folks who let me know that I’m not alone this week or in this life. You have been a model for how I hope to respond the next time the shoe is on the other foot and someone opens themselves up.

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