lessons, mothering, reflections, writing

on building a history 

It occurred to me that I’ve been blogging since June 2005—nearly 11 years. Most of these time has been sober, remarkably. (I keep the non-sober posts up as a reminder: of how bad it was, of how much I was fooling myself, of how much I’ve changed, of lots of things indescribable.) But really I’ve been blogging since the early summer of 1995, when Barnes & Noble had a college website called loci.com and I was the resident (then-)libertarian blogger, uploading my columns via an FTP server on my then-roommates’s Mac IIe. Twenty-one years of expressing myself online, most of which I’ve been paid in some form of the other for doing something I love. I may not earn much (I do not) but this is more than many people can say. It also comes at the price of exposing myself in ways that make others cringe. I’m okay with that. It’s the only way I know how to live. You can take it or leave it but I won’t change the fact that I do it (only the level of grace with which I manage to pull it off, which is both questionable and wavering). 

Sometimes I tell too much. Sometimes I’m so cryptic only those closest to me can read between the minuscule lines. Sometimes I write to tell a story I think others might need to hear, to feel less alone. Sometimes I tell stories so I feel less abandoned. Over 21 years (the time it takes a baby to become legal to drink!) I can see how I’ve grown and changed as a writer, but I’ve never stopped wanting to say and tell things exactly as they are. There is power in the truth, though I admit that any one person’s truth—especially via narrative—is flawed by nature. Everything is how I remember it. Other than this caveat, which may be minor or enormous depending on your opinion of me (which is none of my business and I don’t care to hear), I tell my stories as they are mine to offer.

One thing I rarely speak of is my first pregnancy, which ended in my first and most traumatic abortion. I was coerced into it by my then-husband, and I won’t get into the details other than to say that we were separated when I found out I was pregnant, he convinced me he’d come back if I had an abortion, but as soon as it was over he left me again, saying, “now that that’s over, I can be done with you.”

This didn’t turn me pro-life, nor did it prevent me from getting back together with him for an explosive six-month finale to our marriage, the highlight of which was an incident of gaslighting that would take me years to recover from. But this is all background.

Had I seen that pregnancy to term, had I not let him convince me to do something I didn’t want to do but felt it was the only way to keep him, I’d have a 21-year-old child this June. It rarely escapes me that my writing career began just as my time as a mother could have. Perhaps this is why it would be years later—after I’d been a professional journalist for nearly a decade, even—before I’d feel comfortable calling myself a writer. Even now, when I remember how the two dates coincide, I push it away. I lied to a lot of people about how and why that pregnancy ended, least of all myself. Truth-telling is difficult, even more so when it’s tangled up in a mess such as this.

The husband that convinced me not to become a mother all those years ago has a young daughter of his own now. He married the woman he had an affair with, the woman he lied to me about. From their Facebook photos they seem happy. Also from their photos, it does not seem like a life I would ever want, not even in my wildest reaches.

Did I give something up all those years ago that made me bold and fearless and able to speak harsh truths in exchange for not being able to see the appeal in a life filled with suburban normalcy? Did I trade in a settling-down instinct for the whimsy and wanderlust and spontaneity that so clearly defines me today?

No one can answer those questions. But the truths I know are that I could have had an almost-21-year-old child, with the rest of myself a question mark in the ether; and: I am a writer who lives the sort of life she craves and adores, sometimes catastrophically, but always with the willingness to speak the truth about what happens. I ended up a mother anyhow, not too long after, and my one son grew up along my writing career while the other alongside my sobriety. Mistakes were made. We all have that problem. I just have the (mis)fortune of feeling compelled to write about them. If it makes you uncomfortable, I can’t help that. It makes me feel whole.