Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Full Year of Bologna

One year ago today, on February 6th, 2010:

My father was still alive, but very busy dying.  And I was very busy caring for him and for my very sad, overwhelmed mother.

My son Jacob was still in a school that was not wonderful enough for him, where they did not truly see him, did not love or challenge him.  And so I was very busy trying to find a new Special Ed school for him for the coming academic year.

I sat down at my computer and wrote my first blog post, began this blog: The Squashed Bologna

And so on this, the occasion of my one year anniversary of starting this blog (or "Blogaversary" if you will), I thought I would reflect a bit and take you back to the beginning.

Someone asked me recently why I blog.  They didn't quite get it.  I suppose it seems odd to those who don't.  Like wearing your underwear on the outside for all the world to see.

For me the answer started out simply, and grew more complex as my blog writing and my relationship with the blogging world grew, expanded, and became more complicated, too.

The basic answer: I began blogging as my father was actively, painfully dying a long, drawn out, difficult death.  I just could. not. tell. one. more. person. what. was. happening. and. how. I was. doing.

A friend of mine was keeping a blog about children's books and what her kids were reading, and I loved reading her blog.  She told me how easy it was to just go on Blogger and start writing and encouraged me to do it.  And so I did.  (Thanks, Jill!)

I needed to be able to say to people: "You want to know what's going on with me and my Dad?  Read the (damn) blog."  I could pour it all out there and not have to tear myself up repeating everything over and over again to everyone.

I had thought up the title "The Squashed Bologna" some time ago, as I was feeling so caught up in sandwich generation stuff.  The few years leading up to my father's death were full of emergency room visits and hospitalizations; health crises and rehabilitations.  Many were the times I would disappear from my family for days on end to be by my father's or mother's side in hospitals.

I had also been writing about and thinking about autism for a long time (because of my son, Jacob), but privately, in my journal, just for me.  I had done a lot of research, learned a lot about neurobiology and brain biochemistry. Was turning into an autism auto-didact.

People had been encouraging me to write a book, but that seemed like such a big deal, and I couldn't picture taking on such a huge enterprise at that time.  Plus my ADDish brain balks at large projects, gets overwhelmed by the amount of details that need to be taken care of.  I freeze up, unable to begin, daunted.

A blog post however?  A trifling thing, short, sweet (at least in theory, I know my posts often go into overtime), un-daunting, attempt-able, do-able.  So I did.

As I began to write and post I realized that I wanted to use my blog to speak about autism and ADD and to tell sweet stories about my children, too.  I wanted to show what family life looked like to us; so, so different from what I had imagined while I was peacefully gestating.  (Well, maybe not so peacefully considering how nauseated and generally uncomfortable I was throughout my pregnancy.)

The good and bad about blogging, being self-published, is that there is immediate gratification there, a big plus for ADD-brained folks like me.  You write it, you hit the button, poof out it goes into the world, for better or worse.

Also?  I have spent pretty much all of my adult life as a blocked writer.  Everyone who has known me well has encouraged to write.  I have many pages of half written stories, plays and essays in files dating back to 1978.  Yeah.

Any time I came close to taking myself seriously about it, any time a writing teacher encouraged me, told me I was truly "a writer" and to stick with it?  It completely terrified me, freaked me out, caused me to drop my "pen" and not write another word for months, sometimes longer.

When James Baldwin (with whom I took an intimate writing seminar in college) praised my work?  Ack!  My writing mojo went cold for years afterward.

But there is something to be said for getting older, becoming a parent, learning to get over yourself, get on with it, learning to be someone who gets it done because it has to be done.  Old inhibitions, fears, neuroses, fall by the wayside.  (Well, some of them, anyway.)

I no longer care about meeting the definition of "a writer."  Simply, I write.  I call myself a writer.  Like me or not, read me or not.  Whatever.

And so I am writing, freeing up something inside me long dormant, long coiled up; my voice coming loose, unfurled.  Finding the storyteller within.  Letting my love of words, of language out into the world, through my blog.

And the other part of this?  Is the amazing community that I have found here in this cyber-world, the "blogosphere".  A world of writers, of (mostly) women, amazing and strong, unbelievably supportive (at least the ones I have chosen to connect with are).

And then there is the online special needs parenting community, which I could go on and on about.  I have, elsewhere, but I will just say this: they help to keep me sane. 
Obviously, I also have a personality that tends towards revealing rather than concealing, an over-sharing bent, or else I would be wearing my underwear on the inside, hidden away from view, like the rest of the non-blogging population.

And so here, among my blogging brethren, my over-sharing peers?  I feel mighty normal.  So now, instead of overwhelming my "real life" friends (whom I know love me very much) when I'm feeling intense or all soapbox-ranty, I can splay that all out here, and then tell people:

"You want to know about that?  OK, I can tell you, and possibly have your eyeballs roll around in their sockets by the time I'm through.  Or?  Read the damn blog."  (And this way you can skip the boring parts and I'll never know.)

Also?  I would like to take this moment to thank you, my readers: the ones I know from my real life, the ones I know from the blogosphere, and the ones I will never know, you who silently read and glide on.

That my words may have meaning for you; make you laugh, cry, think, see something in your own life in a new light?  Pleases me beyond knowing.

And finally?  May I say:  What a year this has been!  (I'm not going to re-cap it again, I've done that recently in my New Year's year-end wrap-up post.)

I'm just going to say:  Whew!  Glad that's over.  Let's move on.  (And please, nobody else die, OK?)

Where this next year, this next turn of the big wheel will take me?  I have not a clue.

I am working hard right now to be present each day; to fully be awake and aware of the individual moments, here with my family, paying attention.

And not JUST so that I can blog about it tomorrow.