You know how I’m a bit of an oversharer? You should hear me at the hairdresser! Doesn’t help that she is a former student of mine, that we have a whole bunch of mutual friends, and that she is just the sweetest woman ever. Do you tell your hairdresser too much too? I think it’s partly because she’s right up in my face, and she’s massaging my scalp, washing my hair, and there’s a sense of intimacy and trust. I just end up telling her my deepest stuff.
I have a game going on with one of my kids. She has some mobility issues and Rapunzel-length hair and sometimes I have to help her wash it. To be honest, this is a bit of a drag. I had thought the days of assisted bathing were behind me but life is funny like that- sometimes it throws me backward.
To make the task less tedious I like to pretend I am a hairdresser. I am a woman in her mid-30s, very sweet, with poor boundaries and a curious mind. I could win an Oscar for this performance. My kid is just her regular self, visiting the hairdresser and this is where the magic happens; she tells the hairdresser everything.
Recently she told her that her mum makes some super shitty earrings, but she doesn’t have the heart to tell her. She described a pair that her mum thought was awesome, which were actually really ugly. Sometimes she talks about things that make her feel sad, stuff she’s looking forward to, and all the ways she is frustrated by her illness. The hairdresser takes an extra long time combing out the slippery knots because she is particularly fond of this client.
I have writer’s block. I told my friends about it on Facebook today and I received some really great encouragement and advice. A bunch of friends gave me some suggestions of things to write about, and a couple reminded me that I don’t have to write for everyone. Just pick an audience- a face to picture in my mind as I write. That’s part of the problem, really. I don’t really know who I’m writing for. I just like words. I like the feeling of my fingers on the keyboard, and the sound it makes, and I often make sense of the world by writing about it. You might say, “just keep a diary then!” But a diary feels pointless. I’d write lazily in a diary. If it was just for me, I wouldn’t try to find a better way of saying things. Blogging forces me to try a little harder.
Writing to make sense of the world means that I don’t really have many answers. I think this blogging is a form of talk therapy. Write out the story so that you can understand it. That’s what happened when I wrote ‘Love Wins‘- the most popular essay on my blog. I was having a lot of trouble trying to figure out how to raise my spicy kid. She was doing my head in. After I dropped her off at school, I sat down, and with tears streaming down my face, wrote about how crap our morning had been. I posted it before I lost my nerve. That day I received many DMs, people saying thanks for writing it. That they felt less alone.
This is also why I write. I want you to know that you’re not alone.
One problem with writing to understand or make sense of the world is that I don’t have a confident voice. Most of the bloggers I read are very self-assured. They are experts at everything they discuss. Unafraid of their own opinions. Confident in their authority.
Once I wrote a Facebook post about a really funny thing that had happened. I was cleaning the bathroom mirror when I noticed that my cleavage looked better than it usually does. I snapped a cheeky photo and sent it to Leigh. Only I didn’t send it to Leigh- I accidentally sent it to my friend’s husband. His was the last message in my phone as he had let me know he’d pick my kids up from basketball training. A string of hilarious events followed, and I commentated on them all in the chat thread. My call to my friend to apologise for sending her husband a tiny bit of boob, my texts to him to please not open the message, Leigh’s commentary on the post, laughing that he’d seen racier pics in the Target catalogue. It was really fun, and lots of people said that it had made their day.
But then I had a text from a man who was concerned that it was inappropriate, and he asked me to please take it down. So I did. And I bawled my eyes out. I was embarrassed that I’d had to be guided to better judgment.
Later that night I had dinner with a bunch of older, wiser women, some of whom were experienced writers. One of them told me she tried to read the post to her husband, knowing that it would make him laugh, but it was gone. I cried again. I told them I’d deleted it, and that I felt shamed and embarrassed. They were all disappointed and agreed that I should not have censored myself in that way. That one person’s opinion about the appropriateness of the post wasn’t more important than my own opinion. Or Leigh’s opinion!
I guess this is another problem that contributes to writer’s block. I censor myself a lot. I worry about what others might think of my viewpoints, or how they could get me into trouble. I have opinions that don’t always align with the organisations I have represented and so I hold back out of respect but also out of fear. I have some things to say that will make a few conservative Christian people uncomfortable. And because I can’t say those things, I find it hard to say anything at all.
Writing is a very vulnerable thing. Why put yourself out there to be judged? Is it worth the anxiety it brings?
These last 18 months it hasn’t really been worth it. Truthfully, very few things emotionally taxing things outside my own family and very close friends have been. Life has been very emotionally draining so I haven’t put myself in spaces where I’d need to expend emotional energy, and I haven’t contributed my voice in ways that could draw criticism. I just haven’t had enough in the tank for it.
But I do feel that it is important to write and to put that writing out there. God gave me a brain and the ability to articulate my thoughts. Seminary has taught me how to think theologically, and I’ve had some pretty amazing and unique experiences that have shaped my views on Christianity, family, neurodivergence, advocacy, ethical issues, sexuality and gender, and the church.
It matters to hear the stories of people who speak with shaky voices.
It is important to hear the perspectives of people whose insights are born of suffering. I’m not necessarily saying that it’s important that you hear my voice, but maybe I can lead by example, and be an encouragement to that voice you do need to hear, the emerging blogger or speaker who needs someone to help lead the way.
So I am going to speak up more.