Over the last few months I’ve been hearing this same observation from my husband:
You’ve changed so much this year.
Though he’s always been tolerant and understanding, on some level I always suspected I had room for improvement: to be less anxious and more in the moment and more optimistic. I’d dragged pieces of old baggage into my marriage and never quite relinquished them.
Was it therapy? Self-help books? I approached neither. Instead this year I went public with a blog (and wrote approximately 80 essays in the process), and I got to know myself better. I’d taken the blinders off to reveal areas that needed work. And I got feedback from all of you. Writing gave me a voice, and I think that was the balm I had needed all these years.
Below, some of my a-ha moments of 2010:
If you want to change someone, change yourself first
I saw this in action with my 6 year-old. I was reminded at a parenting workshop of alternative and calm ways to talk to children. It’s not rocket science, but infinitely hard to put into action when you want something done and now. It was workshop homework to make the effort, and so I did. What followed was nothing short of miraculous. Fred cooperated and I never raised my voice. Attitude begets attitude; shouting begets shouting. If Fred is the chicken and I am the egg, then I think many times the egg does come first.
If you want to get out of your head, get out of the house
A major turning point for me in my road to anxiety-freedom took place literally on the road. Max, a relatively new American, wanted nothing more than to explore his new country. This meant road trips galore this past summer, along with highway motels and Cracker Barrel dining. Out of respect for my husband’s new patriotic curiosity, I bit my tongue and agreed on every trip. While I mumbled inwardly about the tedium of life on the road, the truth is that I saw a new side of life: one that takes place in the here and now, outside of my head. Max taught me to get out, move, explore, and just plain have fun.
Dare to reveal, dare to share
My greatest show of support came, surprisingly, at posts I felt most self-conscious about posting. I am not advocating (to myself or anyone) to reveal for the sake of revealing. The most gratifying writing is that which is heartfelt – when a writer writes what cannot be stifled. But of course, I struggle with this. There is so much that wants to come out, yet much that begs for discretion. I worry about disrespecting the privacy of my subjects and I worry about what readers might think.
But I will try to remember what I felt as I read Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes about growing up impoverished in Ireland: gratitude. How lucky, I thought, that I got to read his words. Through him my perspective and value system expanded even more. I’m not saying I could ever have the impact that McCourt has had, but I want to believe that reading another human being’s honesty brings an author closer to rather than further from her reader.
It’s okay to call myself an aspiring writer, and to say that I have readers
Okay, I will say it: I dream to be a writer. But it’s one of those things that you don’t exactly get appointed with. When and if you call yourself a writer is really your decision. Am I a writer if I have a personal blog up? Or do I qualify only after I have had a dozen or so publications (preferably national) under my belt?
Related to one’s identity as a writer is one’s concept of her readership. When I became too busy to post regularly this fall, I hesitated in putting a post up to say so. Instead, I merely “disappeared.” The reason? I told myself, “Well, no one’s going to miss me anyway” and “I’m probably doing everyone a favor by not clogging up their Google reader with yet another verbose post.” It’s irrational, I know, and I swear I’m not fishing for compliments here. I just think it’s one of those baggage pieces left over from my childhood.
And so I appreciate the new reader who left the first comment after my short hiatus: “I was literally just thinking of you yesterday! Was wondering if maybe you had stopped blogging. So glad you hadn’t forgotten about it.”
So, there I end with my biggest lesson this past year. If my blog was my balm, then you, my readers, were – and have been and are – my healers. I’m sure my husband thanks you too for helping me change so much.
May you all enjoy a new year of joy, growth, fun, and huge rewards! I’m so looking forward to another year of growing with you all. 🙂