What Happens When a LOT of People Read Your Blog

Spotlight

Photo By vic.bergmann @ Flickr

Okay, so…if you didn’t catch all the hubbub, last week I found myself and this little piece on Freshly Pressed. They say that it’s “the best of 382,958 bloggers [&] 1,052,405 new posts.” And a LOT of people subscribe to, and read Freshly Pressed.

It’s kinda like getting high fived in the face by two thousand strangers, with a hammer.

I mean, it’s good, right? Like, high fiving is a feel-good activity, but this—this is INTENSE. I mean—whoa.

There’s me…lookin’ all normal like it’s NBD.

So, when I came back to my trusty little computer after a morning at the zoo with the kid (who told me that the bonobo had a “crazy butt.” She’s two. She’s not wrong.) and discovered a billion WordPress notifications, I knew something was up. So I checked my Freshly Pressed feed, and there I was. Me. Lookin’ all normal like I belonged there. At which point, I was entering Crazytown. Population: me and, like, 2200 other people.

Of course I didn’t hyperventilate a little. Come now; I’m an adult. And of course I didn’t start criticizing myself, wishing I had updated this, and spruced up that, and thinking about how surely someone would get upset at my fledgling feminism and wag their finger at me, and how I’d have to apologize for…I dunno…something… *pant, pant, pant*

And this got me thinking about Brené Brown again, probably because I love her so much and want to hug her (which is inappropriate from strangers, ya’ll. Somebody help me.). It got me thinking about vulnerability, and how writing is inherently vulnerable and how I feel like I’m exposing myself in the desert, just waiting for the sun and wind and sand to shave my skin off. It’s mildly terrifying.

Being creative in any form is hard. I have seen more than one person a little off his rocker after years of the ups and downs of art. They say that you are your own worst critic and I, frankly, am a damn good critic. “Slice to the bone!” I say as I wield my red pen of judgement. “Let no sentence go unscathed!”

It reminds me of a scene in The Anniversary Party (has anyone seen it? I kinda liked it. Until it turned into a drug-fueled sex party, that is. Some good moments nonetheless). I love this:

Sophia Gold: Sally! His image of you is a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sally Nash: But I *am* a possessive, fragile neurotic!
Sophia Gold: No you are not! You are Sally Nash!

But this is what Brené keeps telling me: vulnerability is GOOD. It’s what allows us to connect to one another. And connecting to one another is what makes us feel human; it’s what makes us feel alive. And—boy—that’s basically what I want. I want to feel human. I want to feel alive. I want to feel connected and less alone. And the more I reveal of myself and live that out truly, the more connected I become with people. Hot dang.

Writing here is fostering relationships with real life people that I’ve known for a long time—just because they get to hear the intimate details of my mind and heart in a way that might not come up in casual conversation. It’s also connecting me with new people—a new tribe of writers that make me feel like I belong somewhere. Like my friend Jerrod, whom I’ve never met in person, but was the first person who made me feel like I might actually be okay at blogging.

It’s good. It’s terrifying and nerve-wracking and it has the power to make me feel elated one day and dejected the next, but overall—it’s good. Thank you internet.

So on days when I get to see SO MANY people like and respond to my work—to my vulnerability—I have to just take in the good and be thankful for the experience of connection. I have to look myself straight in the eye and say, “You are Sally Nash!” (It’s okay that my name is Melanie. It works just the same).  I need to bottle up this feeling and hold on to it for when the dark cloud of self-doubt comes again (which is due in like, what? 10 minutes? 2 hours? Something like that.)

Life—sometimes that shit’s magical.

So, I want to thank all of you that have been reading, subscribing, like-ing, commenting, and engaging in general badassery. You all are THE. BEST. Go get yourselves some beers, you little rascals.

Love,

-M

Don’t Let Shame Tell You Who You Are

Don't Let Shame Tell You Who You Are

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’m in love with Brené Brown. It’s true. She’s a vulnerability researcher stuffed to her eyeballs with grace and wisdom and I just want to hug her a whole lot (i.e., too much). I wrote about her first TED talk a while back, and she just did another one. After fighting back tears and hugging my computer screen I thought I should probably share it with you all, too. It’s only 20 minutes—and it’s amazing.

It’s raining today, and I love the rain. It makes me love the world we live in. But I’ve also been researching pimps and prostitution again, and it’s just so, so dark. It’s crushingly dark. I just needed some tiny amount of hope to keep me going. Just a teensy, weensy bit because, I tell you, it’s like every word I read steals a little light from my life. I needed something to say that there is still goodness in the hearts of humankind somewhere, somehow. This did it for me. This is enough for today. Thank you, Dr. Brown.

If you REALLY, really can’t spare 20 minutes, here are a couple of thoughts to take with you:

Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s courage. Vulnerability is what is going to save us from shame. Shame is the thing that lurks in the darkness and tells us not that we did something bad, or stupid or greedy or selfish; but that we are bad, stupid, selfish and greedy.

Shame tells men that they can’t ever be weak. Shame propagates the myth that being a man requires that you stay in control of your emotions, that you prioritize work over everything else, that higher status should be your life-long pursuit and that violence goes hand-in-hand with manliness. Shame tells women that we must be nice, thin, modest and look beautiful. It tells women that we have to be able to juggle every task that comes before us (home, work, cleaning, cooking, studies—all of it!) without breaking a sweat. And shame tells us all that falling short of these things is disgraceful.

But shame is a liar. So, I want to ask you a favor: don’t let your darkest day be your only day. Please don’t, darlings. You are beautiful. You are sacred. You are loved. Don’t let shame tell you who you are.

I’m Vulnerable. Like a Baby Sea Turtle.

I've got a long way to go

Photo by Luca5 @ Flickr

And just like the life of a baby sea turtle, it’s a little cold and scary (and somehow sandy?). But I’m pressing forward and trying to learn and grow and do things that adults are supposed to do. Truth be told, I do not like it one bit.

I recently got a little obsessed with a vulnerability researcher named Dr. Brené Brown. She’s super amazing and smart but, despite her amaz-a-brain, her talks make you feel like you’re just listening to a friend. (She’s also really pretty.)  It’s not too much of a stretch to say I’d like to snuggle with her on the couch. But not in a weird way (that’s possible, right?). Don’t judge.

Dr. Brown talks about how vulnerability is the where shame, fear and regret find their strength, but ALSO where love, happiness and connectedness begin. It’s a tricky place. One that takes more than a little bravery—and hope—to visit.

That's Dr. Brown. So adorable, right?

For whatever reason (let’s not over think this, okay?) I’ve never been great at vulnerability. Where some people spread out the welcome mat before the front door of their hearts, I build a moat, fill it with sarcasm and alligators and eat chocolate alone whilst watching endless episodes of 30 Rock. (Don’t worry, I’m not always that cool.)

In light of that reality, blogging is a uniquely odd activity for people like me to engage in. Despite the fact that I can edit and shape and frame my life in the most flattering way possible, committing words—little pieces of myself—to the screen for all to read and judge is, well…a little unnerving. And the stats—good Lord, help me—the stats! Unlike at a cocktail party where you can just tell yourself that people liked you and you had a successful social interaction, blogging gives you data. Cold, unflinching, morose data, to which you can add your own brand of crazy. And my brand of crazy is like a finely crafted beer—it takes years, sometimes generations, to make.

That’s why when I read blog posts that are truly and deeply vulnerable, I’m left with no small amount of respect—no small amount of reverence. Like when Jenny, the Bloggess, recently shared about her experience with depression and self-harm. Or when Allie Brosh at Hyperbole and a Half put such plainly human (and hilarious) words to the unannounced sadness that had shown up in her life. They’re both so brave. Daring to take the first step toward connection. Hoping for reciprocation. Believing it will come. And that’s the beginning of believing, as Dr. Brown says, that we are all worthy of love and belonging.

You should take a few minutes (about 20 of them) to watch this video. And, if no one else tells you today, know that I think you’re enough.

This post is dedicated to Norma. May you live and love with all your heart, regardless of which clouds darken your door.

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