you have such good insight and draw such helpful analogies… this gift you have? it must be very painful at times. and then- to put it into words? so many people, including myself, are (in a word) frustrated…and thankful for your words. in an ironic sort of way, you calm the overload. not without cost. how do you guard your heart? or don’t you? is that the point of the diary? to get “it” out? …
A reader left this amazingly generous comment over the weekend. I was incredibly touched. To know that my words can help – that they can ‘calm the overload’ for someone else is HUGE.
But it also had me reeling.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the question, ‘how do you guard your heart? or don’t you?”
The answer is uncomplicated. It’s quite simple, actually.
I often wish I could, but I’m just not built that way. I never have been.
I come by it honestly. I come from a family who FEELS everything. Raw, unbridled, unsanitized emotion lives just under the surface of each of us - ever percolating, constantly brimming over the edges. We cry – a lot. My grandma teasingly says that we have a genetic propensity to ’leaky eyes’.
I get completely overwhelmed by the beauty of a sunset, a full table at Thanksgiving, Grace with my girls on any given night before dinner. Any rite of passage brings me to the brink of the ugly cry. Forget weddings, funerals, first dances. School concerts, shows and graduations nearly do me in. Every time I try to thank a teacher or tell a friend how much a kindness meant, I fight back tears. I almost never wear mascara. It’s pointless.
So no, I have no idea how to guard my heart.
“Is that the point of the diary?” she asked. “To get ‘it’ out?”
That one is more complicated, and the answer is probably as dynamic and changeable as the blog itself.
One day, just over a year ago, I began to write. I had no plan for where it would go nor thought as to why I was actually writing. I didn’t think for a moment about who – if anyone - would actually read it. It didn’t matter. I simply HAD to write.
The first post I ever wrote was a rant. It began with the follwing paragraph:
I read an article recently that blamed the skyrocketing number of diagnoses of Autism on the fact that ‘many parents actually seek the label because it opens the door to services, especially in the public schools, that they might not otherwise be able to access.’ It bothered me when I read it, but weeks later, I find it still festering somewhere in my being, eating away at me. For heavens sake, I want to shout, are these people serious?
I simply needed to vent, and writing allowed me to do that. So I continued to write. And as I did, I found myself in the middle of a living, breathing, interactive world. Just one month after that inaugural post, I wrote,
I have been amazed to discover the many fringe benefits of writing this blog. In addition to the revelation that I find the process of writing to be cathartic in and of itself, there is so much more that I have gained from it.
I receive a constant stream of e-mails and calls from friends and family. I am profoundly grateful for the love, support, and true friendship of so many people in my life, some of them brand new to me, united by the commonality of our experience. I am blessed by all the people who have shared their own stories (turns out we’re not the first people in the history of the world to have struggled through a birthday party; who knew?) and I feel truly empowered by this newly forged sense of community.
In addition to the connections that I have made with so many other people, I also find that after I have written and organized my thoughts, I am able to learn from examining my own experiences …
Taking this all one step further, I find that through forcing myself to really pay attention, I am becoming what I would call a better parent. Since I am more aware of the import of the small stuff, I feel more attuned to my children in general. I find that I am more ‘present’ when I am with them because I’m looking for the lessons in every experience. Sitting with the girls at the dinner table last night, I asked Brooke who her favorite teacher is (her beloved Joanie, of course). Katie then asked me who my favorite teacher is. Without hesitation, I told her that I had two – her and her sister.
Over a year later, all of that still holds true. Above all, the community that I have found and fostered in the ether remains one of the greatest gifts I could have imagined.
I am blown away by the incredible dialogue that happens here. There are conversations in the comments or from blog to blog. There are thought provoking e-mails that go on for days. There are friendships that have literally changed my life. There are people who force me to stretch myself far beyond my comfort zone and think about things from a different perspective. There are wondrous moments where we push beyond our differences and revel in our commonalities.
In his recent groundbreaking speech in Egypt, President Obama said,
I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must openly say the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.
I’d love to think that we all do some of that here.
But there’s still more to the question, “Is that the point of the diary?”
Over the weekend, we took the girls to a local carnival. They had a ‘super slide’ – the kind where you climb an endless staircase, sit on a burlap sack and fly down an undulating slide as fast as you can. Brooke insisted that she wanted to go with her big sister. I stood on the bottom, terrified. It was one of those ‘no right answer’ moments. I asked her seven ways to Sunday if she was certain she wanted to go on the BIG slide. Over and over again she simply said, “I would go with Katie.”
Up they went as I watched from below. And up. And up. And up.
Katie helped her little sister lay out her sack and sit her bottom down without sliding prematurely. They counted down together and then set off at breakneck speed. At least one of them did. Katie veritably flew down the slide. Her long hair trailed wildly behind her as she screamed down the slide. With every bump she built up speed. She was grinning like the Cheshire Cat as she caught air on the last downhill stretch.
Broke had taken an entirely different tack. She dragged her little foot along the side of the slide as a make shift brake. One hand acted as a back-up, keeping her pace steady. She slowed herself to a stop at the crest of each bump, sat for a moment to gather herself, and then began anew. Essentially, she broke the big, scary slide down into four much smaller, more manageable sections.
As she made her way down each one she muttered, “Mommy, mommy, mommy.”
Yelling, I assured her I was right there.
She hit the flat bottom and turned her body a quick 180 degrees, leaving her sack behind. She was headed right back to the stairs. “I would do it again,” she declared.
Up and down she went. I had to buy more tickets. Four times. I spent the per capita income of a small nation at the ticket booth.The ride operator finally asked me, “How many times has she done this?”
No idea, Ma’am. Don’t care. She’s smiling.
Much like my sweet Brooke, the whole kit and kaboodle can do me in.
But writing allows me to break it down. It forces me to slow down, to analyze, to appreciate, to zoom my lens in and focus on small, manageable moments. Writing is my foot brake.
So I guess that’s the point. Or at least one of many.