Saturday, February 16, 2013

This Little Light of Mine

Before I get started, I've got a few updates for you:

1. My meteoric rise to fame  glamorous life as an internet sensation  experience of mild-to-moderate viral action on that post I wrote seems to have come to (another) end. At least for the time being. It's been hanging at 159,000 Facebook recommends over at the Patch for the past week, and has made many rounds on Tumblr, Facebook, and personal blogs around the world. It's been translated into Portuguese, Chinese, Greek, German, and French (that I've seen so far). It's been posted on education sites, therapy sites, parenting sites, and religious sites, and almost always in the good way, not for target practice.

It's been exciting. But I'm okay with the pause. It gives me time to write another post. This time, I'll be a bit more prepared for the head-exploding that seems to happen with alarming frequency when anyone suggests that there might be more alternatives to doing everything for your child than "light him on fire and throw him in front of a train."

When you're writing about parenting, there's no way to escape controversy. But now that I know the nature of the opposition I'm dealing with, next time around I can adapt my arguments to mitigate some of the outrage before it begins.

Or, you know, not.

I've had many reactions to some of the hateful comments I've received (and boy, were some of them hateful! I'd link to them directly but the Patch doesn't work that way. Wade in and take a look if you dare), but none of those reactions were shame or shaken resolve. I'm not afraid to state my position on this. I think I'm doing the right thing. And most people who object do so for reasons that don't affect my opinion: they've misunderstood my point, or they just really believe in the virtues of helicopter parenting (I can't say "benefits," simply because I have been unable to locate any verifiable evidence that there are any. I'd ask some of those objectors to produce some, but I suspect we aren't dealing with evidence-driven belief systems, here).

So trying to avoid a fight is a) not going to work in the internet-commenting world, and b) not going to make my position any clearer to people who seem bound and determined to insult me personally, professionally, and in every other possible way. 

Haters gonna hate, as they say. Might as well explode a few heads, then.

I'll cross-post when I finally get that thing written (ohhh, the pressure!).

2. I'm beginning to look forward and think about taking this blog project to the next level(s), and am consulting a few different resource for guidance. 

I'm telling you this because you may see some changes around here in the coming weeks. Aesthetic changes, content additions, possibly even a new hosting site (although that one may take a while).

As my much-beloved readers and the people who actually experience this blog as it is intended, if you have any suggestions for things you'd like to see happen, please leave them in the comments! Even if it's not something I can do right away, it would be enormously helpful to hear your take on things.

3. Yesterday, I went to the bookstore and bought Writer's Market 2013.  

Seems time. You've helped. Thank you.

The other day, Andrew Sullivan had a thread called "Achievement Anxiety" that I immediately bookmarked as a possible blog post topic, even though I didn't have time to read the actual posts.

With everything that's been going on lately, I've been feeling a bit thrust into the spotlight-- not because of the recognition but because of the pressure to continue to perform. I don't mind the effects (well, not much, anyway, and not so far); it's being responsible for creating the cause that gives me nightmares.

So I saw the string of posts titled "Achievement Anxiety," and thought, yes! That's me! Glad someone else is talking about that!

So imagine my surprise when I sat down today and pulled up that thread, only to find that it wasn't about what I thought it was.

Sullivan's posts are about our tendency as young, twenty-somethings to compare our accomplishments unfavorably to those of our peers, and feel as though we should have done more by now. (The thread came out of a discussion of the brilliant Lena Dunham HBO project, Girls.)

Having already accepted my late-bloomer status, I'm past the stage of worrying so much about such things. We are who we are, and we've done what we've done, and most of the important stuff isn't going to be on your resume or bank balance sheet anyway.

That's some forty-something wisdom right there, Girls. You'll get here eventually. Take your time. There's no rush. 

 No, when I saw "Achievement Anxiety", I thought more of the anxiety one gets from, you know, achieving.

Not everyone gets this, I'm told. Do you?

Well. I know it's not just me. Enough people have it for there to be inspirational posters about it. Where would Marianne Williamson be without her famous quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

This isn't just another instance of my lizard brain being unable to distinguish between positive stimuli and negative ones, a therefore treating them both as threats (although, if I may say, that certainly doesn't fucking help), but rather a much more common phenomenon: the compulsion to hide our lights under our respective baskets.

Talk about mechanisms that were already in place before my accident... this is a big one right here. Difficult to overcome under the best of circumstances, it has always felt insurmountable to me. And suddenly, I'm finding myself in a place of some achievement with a pretty clear path to some more, and I'm facing the fears that raises in me. I'm afraid to move. I'm afraid not to move. I've gotten the ball rolling, and there's no turning back from this.

Maybe I haven't ARRIVED yet-- of course I haven't; I have miles to go before I sleep-- but I've certainly left my front porch, which might be more than I've ever done before in some very important ways. And I've discovered that behind any pathologies that have kept me from stepping out of the shadows and letting my little light shine, there is also 40-ish years' worth of habit reinforcing every glow-discouraging instinct I have.

So, when I saw that thread on Sullivan, I grabbed it, thinking I'd find some smart people having interesting things to say about it and planning to take off from there.

So much for that.

But it's funny, as I sit here writing about it, it's occurring to me that while there probably are some smart people talking about it somewhere, and if I googled around a bit I would probably find them and I could use their conversation as my launch pad instead, I find myself thinking something else:

This still may seem scary, but I don't think I can say it feels insurmountable anymore.

I can't quite believe I just wrote that.

But it's true. As I wrote in this very blog a few weeks ago, I think I'm simply less afraid of fear these days. 

Possibly, I am finally beginning to learn what I've been taking so much flak for, for trying to teach my daughters:

Fear is not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to my advantage.

Fear is not the end of the world.

Fear can be overcome.

Fear can be used to my advantage.

Fear is not the end of the world!

I'll probably have some achievement anxiety over that little nugget of truth at some point, but truth it is, and truth it will remain.

I am less afraid of fear. I have evidence that I can achieve. Those things together will most certainly lead me to a new and interesting place. A place I would very much like to go.

I've already stepped off the front porch. Why not venture out beyond the garden gate and see what happens next?


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  2. Elizabeth Graham21 February, 2013 14:47

    Ok, now I have more to say.  

    Not to relentlessly quote Brene Brown, but it just keeps seeming appropriate so here goes.  As far as she's discovered in her shame research, there are totally different brands of shame based on gender.  Women get shamed (primarily) from showing strength, confidence and (as you've noted below) audacity.  Men get it from showing weakness.  She hasn't done much research on men, and there's this great moment in one of her books where a guy comes up to her at a book signing and says, "Do you research shame in men?"  She says no, and he says, "That's convenient."  She asks why, and he says, "my wife and three daughters, the ones who you just signed the books for, they had rather see me die on top of my white horse than have to watch me fall off."

    Every time I read that quote, I get the chills.  We're all in some sort of prison, it seems.

    Here's a source for that: 

    Anyway, I so appreciate your emphasis on the "feel the fear but do it anyway" theme-- it's been a real source of support for me with my own stuff.  And I'm glad that you talk about your own fears, even at the same time that you're putting yourself out there, because I think many of us have a tendency to read other people's writing and have *no idea how difficult it was for them to do it.*  In fact, I typically assume other bloggers/writers just confidently knock out the 1500 words I'm reading without any anxiety, hit "publish" and wait for the followers to come rolling in.  I keep waiting for that to happen to me, and it doesn't, so I do nothing.

    I also have a tendency to assume that everyone else is already set up to write based on their education.  I'm like, "Ah, well, I didn't get a Journalism degree, just English.  English is good for nothing.  Well, there goes that..."  It seems like the excuses just come rolling in, and no writing gets done...

    So, thank you, thank you, for being honest about the hard work (emotional work and intellectual work) that goes on behind the scenes.  It is really helpful for me, and I'm sure it is for others, too.