The ground is breaking, the earth is shattering, and there are sonic booms all over the place.
It ain’t because of some Russian meteor. On my side of the planet, it’s because I finally published blog post #1. The reason for the breaking, shattering and booming? It took me six years to write it.
I blame my procrastination on the first in a series of fun/ life achievement award-stomping phobias—and that would be my fear of technology. To say I’m technologically challenged is only frost on the iceberg’s tip. I do not own an iPod, an iPhone or an IAnythingElseForThatMatter, nor do I understand the difference between them. I hang onto my VCR and boom box and wistfully cling to the days of yore, when one could remove a tangled cassette, twist it back into place, surgically repair it with Scotch tape, and Jon Bon Jovi continued on with his serenade with barely a scratch. With CDs and DVDs, one little Frisbee tournament between a trio of rambunctious two, four and six-year-olds, and they’re history.
Six years ago, the people of my past began to climb from their graves like droves of zombies, beseeching me to join them on Facebook. “What is this Facebook of which you speak?” I’d ask, or at least, I’d ask myself, because I couldn’t figure out how to respond. For two solid years I scoffed at the very idea of social media. Then I quietly carried on with my life in Amish isolation.
Technophobia isn’t my only affliction. There’s my fear of heights (starting from high heels up), things that spin or travel at high rates of speed (Want to send me to hell on earth? Take me to Six Flags.), death, big, open spaces, and people who talk and walk their sleep. I beg of you: the next time you’re unconscious, please don’t walk my way or start some nonsensical conversation. If you did, I’d lock myself in dark little closet and refuse to come out. (As it turns out, tiny claustrophobic places don’t even make me flinch. Go figure.)
It took me two years just to figure out how to use email. Email started coming out when I was in college, but I was adamant that mail and electricity should have nothing to do with each other. I was a letter writer, and for me, there was nothing more satisfying than grabbing a pen and paper and writing my heart out. When my best friend pissed me off, I’d write her a long scathing letter, drive it to her house and leave it on the driver’s seat of her car. (I didn’t have any boyfriends all through high school or halfway through college, because boys petrified me more than email, floppy disks and camcorders combined.)
After I finished journalism school, I tried a brief stint as a newspaper reporter. But that required writing about things like town politics and accosting people for quotes and meeting deadlines and watching editors slash and hack my masterpieces at will. More phobias began to surface, so I became a teacher instead.
I taught language arts for four years. Teenagers didn’t scare me, but their writing did. So I switched to math instead. (I find complex numerical combobulations soothing. Toss a twenty-pound math textbook and a flashlight in that dark claustrophobic closet, and I’m still a happy camper.)
For one delirious moment I forgot how scary the opposite sex is, and I got married. My husband convinced me to do things I’d never do, like have parties at our house and get tattoos and zoom all over creation on the back of his motorcycle. I don’t know which scared me more—being a passenger on a vehicle where there is nothing between me and the burning asphalt, or the stream of traffic behind us checking out my ass as I clung onto him for dear life.
But what terrified me most of all at this point was that I hadn’t written anything since Dunkin’ Donuts wished to erect its glazed and powdered turbo-latte empire in quaint and historic Litchfield, Connecticut, which made for a heated and never-ending Planning and Zoning meeting. Journalism and teaching writing to resistant kids who were allergic to creativity and good grammar promptly squashed my writing bug on the bottom of their collective metaphorical shoe. I would sit at my computer (because by this point, computers didn’t scare me anymore—at least, not the word processor) and stare at a blank screen. For ten long years, I had writer’s block. I felt like the biggest part of my identity had been sapped for good.
I left teaching and had three kids in three years. Being in labor for a cumulative thirty-seven hours didn’t scare me, because it meant I could lie in a hospital bed for three days a pop and let nurses wait on me. Plus, because I’d been dreaming about becoming a mom since I was old enough to rock and cradle cats in blankets as they clawed their way out and struggled for an escape.
And suddenly, I was inspired again. For years I religiously kept a baby journal. I learned how to insert pictures into my anecdotes and sent a copy each week to all my friends and family. I doubt any of them opened my journals and read them, but it made me feel published again. My writing bug had been resurrected.
Somewhere during this fit of inspiration, I joined Facebook. For the first couple months, I stared at the screen in curious fascination and listened to the way my friends were talking. There was something different about them—it was almost as if they were speaking in code. Finally, I took the plunge and contributed my first post: “WDYPSTIA?” (“When Did You People Start Talking In Acronyms?”)
Eventually, my posts became more frequent and elaborate. By the end of the year, I was posting full-length blog posts. Back in the old days, Facebook wouldn’t let you post more than 420 characters, so I would continue on in the comments until I’d said my piece.
“Why don’t you start a blog?” my friends all chimed in.
I toyed with the idea. And I decided I would—just as soon as I figured out what a blog was.
As the years passed and I was now “blogging” almost daily on Facebook, the voices of my most adamant supporters got louder and more demanding. “Blog! Blog! Blog!” they clamored. Their comments echoed between my ears like the heartbeat in an Edgar Allen Poe story.
And so, there came a day when I met up with my artistically and technologically ingenious friend Katina Loomis at some local Starbucks, where she gave me a brief tutorial on WordPress, teaching me how to post, categorize, and tag. (She even set up a Twitter account for me. It’s still dormant, because I can’t figure out how to use it.) She suggested I buy a website for ten dollars so she could point it at my blog. “But I don’t have $10,” I argued. (Which is true. I’d been out of work for three years, which reminds me of my next phobia: having no clue how to pay my next electric bill.) She rolled her eyes and purchased the website for me. “Now, go fly!” were her parting instructions.
I spread my wings and logged onto WordPress, which creates the first post for you. “Hello, world!” it proclaims, along with instructions to introduce yourself. Already, this flight was experiencing turbulence. How does one introduce herself to an audience she can’t see? Where does one begin? And so, I faced my fear the way I do best. I skipped the introductions entirely.
I decided it would be a “practice” blog. Each night I covertly posted, and the next day I’d check to see if there were any hits. Some days there were one or two, and one day, low and behold, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw there were seven in a single day…and one of them from Germany! Deep down I knew it was some German guy sipping Zwickelbiers and clicking on my blog by accident during a random Google search, but in my mind, I’d gone global.
This went on for months, because to publicize would mean more than seven people might read it, and that scared me. Or it might mean that no one would read it, which scared me all the same. (Oddly enough, laying my soul out bare in front of the world isn’t an issue. My life is an open book, just like that math textbook in the claustrophobic closet with me and my flashlight and three shrieking children.) I checked out some other blogs, and there were personalized themes, “best of” categories, dazzling photography, lists of acclaims and all their sponsors, and graphics that made their blogs look just plain rockstar cool. My blog had a generic theme from WordPress, and in comparison, it looked like something I pulled out of my four-year-old’s backpack after an exhilaratingly productive day at preschool. (Sorry, Eva.)
“You’re over-thinking this.” I could practically see Katina shaking her head right through my flip-top cell phone. “The heart of a blog is the writing. Start the writing. Your words will speak louder than whatever wallpaper is there. We can add paint and wallpaper and pretty accessories to the blog later—the most important part of a blog is the writing. The rest is just decoration! Get to work!”
Another month passed. I got my old job back teaching full time in Hartford, because for some reason, teaching math to 150 unruly inner city kids isn’t the least bit intimidating, even if you tossed them all in that closet with me. And as an extra bonus, it gave me an excuse never to never to blog again.
Then came storm Charlotte. Suddenly, I found myself home for nearly a week while my kids were back at school. I cleaned my house. I planned a month’s worth of math lessons. My God, I baked cookies.
That’s when it finally dawned on me that even when life became chaotic again, I needed a blog to keep me sane. I needed a place to compile all my stories old and new, from the early moments of motherhood and beyond, so that someday my kids could look back and see for themselves how it all began, and to bring a smile to the face of anyone else who cares to read about it. I needed a place to muse, to reflect, to vent, to reminisce. A place for full-length posts and simple tweets without the Twitter. Somewhere to lift me from my teacher/wife/mother universe, even if for a moment, and open up a new one.
And finally, I created a new blog and started from scratch. I created my first post, held my breath, and shared it on Facebook.
Hello, world. The rest shall be history.