By Lisa Rich
Since I’ve recently moved from the US to Canada, I stay in touch with friends and family through Facebook. I try to avoid routine posts like Waiting in line at the post office, or Having grilled cheese for lunch. I like taking the mundane things in my life and adding a twist. I share the wit and wisdom of my three children and antics of my husband. I make people laugh. It’s my very public diary.
My friends kept saying I should start a blog. Facebook’s 144 character limit per post can sometimes stifle a person’s creativity. So I started a blog. I write in it sometimes. It’s hard. Life gets in the way.
I decided that to be a better blog writer and to explore the possibilities of writing “for real,” I should sign up for a class. I found The Momoir Project and decided it was perfect for me. I wanted to take the “in-person” class, but decided that was a risky move, for several reasons. My husband had just started a new job that requires long hours and some travel. Since I don’t have a family support system in the area or babysitters on speed dial, I was afraid I would end up missing a class or two. And then there’s the whole perfection dilemma that I deal with every day. Even though my Facebook posts are read by people I know, I don’t actually watch them read. They don’t hear me read and I don’t see them roll their eyes at something ridiculous. If I went to a class and read my thoughts aloud, what would people I don’t even know think of me? Would they think I was shallow? Or, worst of the worst, a bad mommy? [In person or online, the members of the class are supportive and helpful and not at all judgmental – this is all in my own little mind.]
The online version of the class was a great fit for me. I’ve “met” a fabulous group of women who I feel like I know, even though I don’t even know what any of them look like. They are supportive and encouraging. They get the whole mommy thing. We are a diverse group, from the birthing processes we went through (midwives, doulas, premature births, c-sections, standard deliveries), the feeding methods chosen (breast or bottle), geographical locations, family drama, everything. Yet we all found a common denominator in our group: motherhood. We are all moms doing the best we can. And most of us, usually and incorrectly, feel our best is never good enough. I found it especially encouraging to realize we are all in the same boat, even if it feels like we are all alone in a life preserver in the ocean.
The biggest lesson for me from the class was learning that if I want to write, I have to actually start to write. Then I have to keep writing, and writing, and writing. Then write some more. Once you start, once you find a place to begin, the words just start writing themselves.
Sometimes you get writer’s block, but most of the time, at least for memoir/momoir writing, your brain and your emotions take you where you want to go. Where you need to go. And sometimes, where you least expect to go. Places you didn’t think you wanted to go. Places you didn’t know existed.
I have discovered through the class that writing is therapeutic – and much cheaper than a therapist.
I’ve written about my oldest approaching his teen years. The topic that day was “birth,” and I had a very nice little story written about his arrival via an emergency c-section. Then, the morning I was to post the story on our shared online workspace, my son and I had a tumultuous tussle that ended with him saying, as he shut the car door when I dropped him off at school, “This day sucks and so do you.”
I came home an emotional, angry wreck. I was shaking as I wrote a new writing spark about the birth of an adolescent. As I wrote, I could feel my blood pressure start to drop. I compared my son of today to my son of yesterday. And as I continued to write, I could understand why we were butting heads that morning. I could understand the things that were unsaid: my desire to keep him as a little boy and his desire to be a big kid. I didn’t even realize, until I started writing, that I was mourning the passing of the little boy and resisting the arrival of the big kid.
When I finished writing and submitted the assignment, I felt much better. When I picked him up at lunchtime, I looked him in the eye and apologized. And he sheepishly apologized to me. We moved on. But if I hadn’t written about the experience, I’m afraid I would have held on to the anger for a much longer time. And may still not have realized the basis for my feelings. Therapy, only cheaper.
Writing about gratitude dissipated my anxiety: I had talked to friends about my husband being out of work for eight months, but I hadn’t put my feelings in writing. I hadn’t found the positive in such a negative experience. But then, I wrote about how negative events in your life can have positive aspects, if you look hard enough. It made me feel better. It made me appreciate what I have in my life.
All my writing has led me to explore aspects of my life that I hadn’t really probed before. I wrote about the routine, the extraordinary, the special, the mundane, the silly, and the serious, and one day, my children will read what I have written and understand that their mother loved (and continues to love) them. And that is why I started writing in the first place.
Lisa is a stay-at-home mom of three boys, two dogs and one husband. After growing up in the Midwestern United States and spending fifteen years in the Boston, Massachusetts area, her family has recently relocated to Toronto, Ontario. She is a former accountant who has decided to say good-bye to general ledgers and balance sheets, and aspires to be a writer and party planner. When not volunteering, she can usually be found cleaning up after her three boys, two dogs and husband, or reading and writing on Facebook.