I See You

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Invisible – (def.) Unable to be seen.

As a child, I played a superhero game. If you could have any superpower what would it be? The choices included: invisibility, flying, superhuman strength, x-ray vision and many others. We chose our special power and argued why our power was the best. We told each other what we would do if we could fly, disappear or see through walls.

Now as an adult, I am struck by invisibility. The more I consider being invisible, it becomes clear that it is not a super power at all. As I observe the world, my people, my friends and myself, so much loneliness, violence and unhappiness stem from the noxious feeling of being unseen.

 *****

The baby screams, giant tears roll down his plum colored cheeks. His shrieks pierce the air. He won’t nurse. He won’t sleep. He won’t stop. His mother bounces up and down, jogging in place and holding him in her arms. Her tears join his.

“I see you,” she whispers. “You exist. I see you. I hear you. I love you.” Her endless bouncing creates a rhythm behind her words.

 *****

An elderly man sits hunched over on a park bench. He closes his eyes, tilting his face to the sun. He lives alone. Every day he circles the park and sits on this bench. This year more friends are dead than alive. His wife is dead. The pendulum of life shifting, as he navigates his closing chapters. A young man sits down beside him and asks him about his day. He waits for an answer. He listens to the old man’s story.

I see you.

*****

A cool autumn morning, a mother heaves a 40lb double stroller into the back of her dirty minivan while the baby sobs in his car seat. She attempts to slam the trunk and the stroller topples down on her leg. She swears. The baby cries. Tears fill her eyes. An older woman slowly walks a straggly mutt down the opposite sidewalk. The creak of her knees is almost audible. “A mother’s strength,” she marvels as she watches the bewildered young mother.

Her words are a gift.

I see you.

 *****

A doctor knocks on the door of her patient’s room. A woman sits on the reclined patient chair. Her legs stick to the tissue, separating her from the plastic seat. Her tired eyes scan the doctor’s face, anxious to hear the test results. The doctor sits down beside her. She asks her how she feels? The doctor listens and talks to the patient the way she would want a physician to talk to her or her family member. The results aren’t good. The patient’s eyes fill with tears. Her doctor grabs her hand. “I am so sorry,” she says.

She hugs her patient.

I see you.

*****

A woman walks through a busy mall. Tears distort her vision. Grief guts her. She feels invisible. A part of her is gone and will never return. She wonders about his last thoughts, words and feelings. A stranger approaches her and looks at the woman’s swollen red face. The stranger doesn’t cringe at the sight of snot streaming from her nose. “Can I help you?” The stranger asks, wrapping her arms around the adult who feels more like a child.

“He died,” the woman gasps.

“I am so sorry.” The stranger whispers and holds her crumpled body.

I see you.

 *****

Every day he works. Every day he leaves the house while his wife and children sleep, buried in stuffed animals and down comforters. He drives to the office. This man could be anyone. He types notes, sees patients, writes briefs, calls clients, bags groceries, builds houses, fixes pipes, answers phones and sells stocks. For years he gives 100% of himself to his job with no recognition.

The daily grind, is this what life is about? Will these be my days for the next 30 years? He thinks. He is drained. He feels like an invisible cog in the corporate machine.

Then his supervisor visits his office. “Wow, I’m impressed. The corporate office recognizes how hard you work. It’s impressive. What can we do for you?”

I see you.

*****

She sits on her couch. The children play on the floor. The house is a mess, half finished puzzles, broken crayons, papers cut into millions of odd shaped slices cover the hard wood floor. The baby nurses, sucking every last bit of energy out through her chest. Disappointment settles on her shoulders. She wanted the house to be clean before her husband got home. Dinner is not ready. Bills cover the dark granite counters. This is my job, she thinks, and today I failed.

Her husband walks in the door. He puts his coat and bag down on the counter stool.  He walks to his wife on the couch and kisses her head. “Thank you,” he says. “Thank you for working so hard today.” His words, a balm, lift the weight from her shoulders. “Let’s order pizza,” he says, cradling the phone in his hands.

I see you.

*****

A little girl sits on the pavement during recess. She picks up a piece of sidewalk chalk and draws a picture, right next to the four square court. Some girls in her class giggle, bolting by her in a streak of color. She loves to play but she doesn’t know how to join the group. She sits on the pavement, feeling invisible.

Then, a girl with short blonde hair approaches her. She wears a Star Wars t-shirt and pink pants. “Race me,” she shouts. The quiet girl on the pavement hesitates, but then jumps up and runs.

The challenge to race – a life raft for a lonely girl in a sea of children.

I see you.

*****

Recognition, empathy and connection, small acts that have the power to heal marriages, friendships, employee dissatisfaction and improve foreign policy. Everyone feels better when they are SEEN.  A little act that goes so far.

Oh, if we practiced SEEING each other – what a wonderful world it would be.

My Love/Hate Relationship with my Blog

I love blogging. I hate blogging. I vacillate between extremes. I don’t have any writer/blogger friends, so I don’t know if my love/hate relationship with blogging is normal, or a sign that maybe I’m not cut out for it.

Recently, Nina Badzin wrote a post “Wondering About Other Writers” in response to Kristen Ploetz’s post “Nine Things I Wonder About Other Writers”. Many other writers commented on these posts and others wrote responses on their own blogs. I found all the posts fascinating because I often wonder about other writers. What stuck out most prominently was that most of these writers have formed an online community of support. Her second question hit home. “How much of your “real life”  family and/or closest friends read your blog?” Many responded that most of their “real life” friends and family do not read their blogs regularly. I realized that I have not formed a wide audience online separate from my real life family and friends. Instead, I am the annoying person who publishes my posts on my personal Facebook page and begs real life friends to visit my website.

Oh, I have made so many cringe worthy missteps throughout the process of blogging. I may have committed every single blogging faux pas. I blindly entered this world and stumbled through the creation of my blog on wordpress. I didn’t think it through or map out what I wanted to write about. I named it denvermommy.wordpress.com (ughhh!!!) because I thought I might want to discuss parenting in Denver and it was the only moniker available. I sent embarrassing emails to bloggers I followed about whether or not I should create a blog (sorry Aiden Donnelly Rowley). I wrote embarrassing comments on other people’s blogs with links back to my pieces.  I read somewhere that that was how to build an audience (it’s not).  There were embarrassing typos. I shutter rereading my earlier posts.  I wish I could edit every one of them.

Oh, how I cringe. I was clueless and I still am for that matter.  For instance, I am publicly admitting all my prior blogging mistakes rather than playing it cool.

For anyone thinking of starting a blog, here are my thoughts, my likes, dislikes, things I wish I had known, and a tiny bit of advice.

What I love:

  • I love telling stories.
  • I love the writing practice. Truly, the more you write, the more you improve.
  • I love that I rediscovered my love of writing and storytelling.  As a stay-at-home mother, writing this blog keeps me sane.  I need a creative outlet, something outside of parenting small children.
  • I love having an audience.
  • I love the connections I make with random people. I receive emails from old friends and strangers, telling me that they appreciate my stories and they relate to my experience, highlighting the notion that none of us are alone on this parenting journey.  Our experiences feel unique, but they are pretty damn similar to other mothers around the world.
  • I love that I am getting published. It provides validation that my writing does not completely suck.
  • I love that I have received paid work opportunities, stemming directly and indirectly from this blog and literally putting myself out there.

What I dislike (hate is a strong word)

  • I dislike the self-promotion aspect of blogging. I want people to read what I write, but I hate publishing it on Facebook.  It’s a double edged sword, because if I don’t publish it on Facebook no one will visit my website and I want people to visit my blog.   I created Justine Solot Writer page, so I wouldn’t have to harass my friends and family, but I often still do.
  • I dislike caring whether the post gets any “likes” or “shares”. When I started blogging, I felt as if I returned to junior high school as the awkward unpopular kid. The good news is that I am beginning to care less.
  • I am an introverted person who thrives on connections. I am a sharer, but it sometimes feels uncomfortable writing about my life and sharing it with the world.
  • I dislike the blogging rules, perhaps I dislike the idea of following certain criteria to deem one’s blog successful.
    • Rule (1): At a minimum, one must publish posts each week.
      • I strive to write weekly, but I can’t find the time to keep up. Sometimes I am able too, which feels great, but then we all get sick and I don’t write for ages.
      • It is true that in order to create an audience one must post regularly. Each time I publish an essay I recruit a couple of new followers.
      • There is a balance, write, but do not write too much.
        • Some bloggers write multiple posts a week. I don’t know if they do this to gain followers, but it annoys me to receive several emails a week from the same blog.
    • Rule (2): One must visit as many other blogs as possible to obtain more followers. Again, this ties into feeling obligated to write weekly.
      • In order to court followers, you must comment on other blogs in hopes that those bloggers will visit your blog, comment, and follow you back.
      • Sometimes this happens, and sometimes it does not.
      • Visiting as many blogs as possible and commenting on everything feels disingenuous.
      • I love reading other writers’ blogs. In fact, I spend an inordinate amount of my free time perusing what other people write.
      • If you take the time to find them there are amazing writers all over the Internet, but it is hard to find them.
      • It is important to let other writers know that you are reading and appreciate their words. Initially, I read other’s work, but I didn’t always comment. Now, I realize the importance of voicing my appreciation.
        • My issue lies with bloggers that comment to comment and play the game of “I comment on your blog, so you comment on mine.” This feels uncomfortable to me.
        • On the other hand, it feels uncomfortable to comment on someone’s work and never ever have them visit your website.
    • Rules, rules, rules – there are so many rules that tell you how to obtain blogging success – i.e. certain days to publish, twitter, etc.  If I ever decide to get serious about blogging, I may need to look into these rules.  One day I may actually sign up for twitter. 🙂
  • I am beginning to dislike (feel uncomfortable) writing about my children.
    •  I write stories inspired by my life. Currently, my life revolves around my young children, so it follows that my stories are about my children. I feel fine writing funny stories about my baby and preschooler, but I am beginning to feel it’s inappropriate to write about my Kindergartener. “Mom, that’s embarrassing,” is a phrase that regularly comes from her mouth, regarding the music we listen to at school drop-off, her Dad’s Steelers jersey, and my show and tell suggestions. I think the frequent use of “that’s embarrassing” is a sign that I need to stop writing about her on my blog.
    • In 2015, I hope to explore more topics (writing, books, social issues, short stories, etc.)

Advice & Tidbits:

  1. Visit Nina Badzin’s Blog. She offers honest advice about creating a blog and her own experience developing her writing career. What is magnificent about Nina is there is no ego involved in her advice. She is not competitive about her writing and helping other aspiring writers out.
  2. Visit Beyond your Blog, a site that lists places to be published “beyond your blog”.  There are many other websites that offer writing advice.  I am a blogging novice, so I love to discover new ones.
  3. Sign up for Bloglovin. I learned about this from Nina. I follow blogs via Bloglovin and I get one daily email that contains new posts from all the blogs I follow. This way my inbox is not inundated with emails from numerous blogs. Also, since Facebook may not be sharing everyone’s posts, this is a great way to stay up to date without worrying about social media.
  4. Write weekly if possible. It gets you in a good rhythm and helps you build an audience. The more you write, the more you improve. In 2015, I strive to write more often.
  5. FYI, you won’t make money blogging unless you create the next Scary Mommy, Momastery, Dooce, or Enjoying the Small Things. However, you might make money from opportunities that arise as a result of your blog or writing.
  6. Do what feels comfortable, but also do what feels uncomfortable.  I sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing my writing on my blog.  However, writing publicly has been enormously rewarding.  To a certain extent, I feel as if I am realizing a dream.  I finally feel as if I am on the path to becoming a “real writer” and have concrete aspirations as to where I want my work to appear in the future.
  7. If you want to create a blog, then create one.  The blog will grow and morph with you.  You can’t let fear and failure prevent you from following a dream.  The blog isn’t my dream, but writing is, and a blog is a great stepping stone for those of us who dreamed of writing.
  8. If you want to be a writer, then start writing.
  9. Fake it until you make it, (and then confess how little you know publicly on your blog, oh, maybe that’s just me).

For my fellow bloggers, do you have any advice for those of us starting out?  Does anyone else have mixed feelings about blogging? Is my love/hate relationship normal?  How do you feel about sharing stories about your children?  Is it important to continue posting on your blog while trying to get published other places as well?

I am off on vacation, so I may not respond to comments right away, but I would love to hear what any readers think…