I must have read What Was I Scared Of? a thousand times over the years as one after another of my children passed in and then out of that stage when they wanted to hear the same book again and again. When it was Dr. Seuss, I didn’t mind so much, in part because of his charming pentameter (or is it tetrameter?) and in part because they taught my children about things like pride (The Zax) and prejudice (The Sneetches) without preaching.
What Was I Scared Of? is about fear. Crippling, paralyzing, irrational terror. In this case, the dread of the protagonist (a creature of uncertain genus and species) for a pair of spooky, empty pale green pants with nobody inside.
My pale green pants are other people’s judgments. I tell myself they don’t matter, that I shouldn’t care. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that. How not to give a fuck has become its own genre on the internet (see here, here, here, here, and here).
I know it, and yet it’s why I don’t blog anymore. It’s been nearly six months since I’ve written on this blog. Before that post, it was over a year. When I began writing it seven years ago, I used to post several times a week. The archives list includes every month from May 2008 to March 2010, after which there are gaps, which grew steadily bigger.
When I started blogging I was a stay at home mom to three girls, all under the age of 7. I was pregnant with my fourth daughter, who is now 7, traditionally considered the age of reason for children. She’s getting to that lean, lanky stage, most of the baby fat gone. She talks about more interesting things, and I don’t have to watch her like a hawk the way I used to. Those exhausting, nerve-wracking years as the mother of little children are behind me.
So are my years as a SAHM. I went to work in 2011, after I got divorced. That’s why this blog has been dying a slow, lingering death. Partly it was that writing seemed safer when I was at home, since out in the professional world, people judge and gossip and you can’t hide from it as easily. But mostly it was because I got divorced. I know, half of America gets divorced. But not half of conservative, Catholic America. Irrational or not, I felt guilty and ashamed, and it was easier just to go dark on the blog and lie low for a while.
Earlier this year, when I was writing about New Mexico politics for Watchdog.org, I decided to go to the BlogHer conference in New York. It would be good networking for my political journalism, plus it would be an incentive to start writing on this blog again. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but somehow I couldn’t quite make myself post anything here. Now, with the conference looming, the pressure is on.
Back in the early years, my blog was a mix of personal and political posts. Now, I have no desire to blog about politics. I may again someday, but right now I’m just demoralized by the state of utter paralysis in the American body politic. The fundamentalists on both sides stay ensconced in their echo chambers, lobbing accusations of heresy at anyone who consorts with the enemy, a practice formerly known as compromise. The rest of the country is more interested in the Kardashians than the Clintons.
That leaves the personal, and that’s the scary part.
“Write like your parents are dead,” urged Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, one of my favorite books on writing. Why can’t I? After all, I don’t even have to write like both parents are dead, since I have no problem with my dad reading anything I write. But my mother? My ex-husband? My daughters? Various other people whose opinions matter for one reason or another? My fingers freeze, hovering over the keyboard.
Fear. It’s the root of everything that keeps us in pain. Resentment, anger, envy, insecurity, perfectionism, materialism, avarice, hunger for approval – they all derive ultimately from fear. And the only way you get past fear is by pushing past it, forcing yourself to get out of your comfort zone and face it.
That is, ultimately, the purpose of this post – forcing me to face my fear of writing without self-censorship, to turn the pale green pants of other people’s judgments from a frightening specter into just another part of everyday life.