When I first started this website four years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
Truthfully, I’m not sure that I’m any closer to knowing what I’m doing today than I was back then. But whatever.
I knew I wanted to write. But about what?
All I knew was that writing helped me make sense of things. It helped me feel connected to the world around me, though at the time my world often felt confined to the walls of my house. Writing helped me feel a little less alone. And by putting my words out there, pouring my heart out so to speak, I hoped someone else might feel a little less alone too.
Over the years, my writing has evolved. I’m writing less and less in this space – though I’m writing more than ever in other places and other ways. Yet that need to feel connected, to feel heard and understood, is no less than it was all those years ago.
Few things are as paradoxically connecting and isolating as parenthood. My first few years as a parent were a fuzzy haze of hormones, fear, anger, and joy – a manic cocktail of euphoria and sleep-deprived delirium. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was too scared and ashamed to admit I had no idea what I was doing so I soldiered on. Head down or chin up, as the situation demanded.
Though I had a loving husband and a supportive family and caring friends, there were many afternoons when I would put my son down for a nap and collapse on the couch near tears. There were many times when I felt like I was standing in the middle of the street, waving my arms and screaming for someone to notice that I was standing there inside a misty fog.
Parenting is hard, y’all.
So is adulting, quite frankly.
Slowly I emerged from that haze, and I wrote. Sometimes I wrote about my feelings. Sometimes I wrote stories about my life. And sometimes I wrote about parenting – though my feelings about motherhood and parenting were still so raw and utterly perplexing to me.
Write what you know, they say. So I suppose I wrote about feeling like I didn’t know anything.
These days writing about parenting is much more comfortable terrain. Perhaps because, after ten years as a parent, I finally feel like I’m settling into the role of mother. Not that I know what I’m doing. Heaven’s no, that’s not the case. But I suppose I feel more comfortable with I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing feeling now.
Parenting also seems to be a metaphor for life in general, an up-close-and-personal diorama of the human experience. This is not to say parenting is the only way to experience the full scope of humanity, nor is it to say that parenting is essential to a full and complete life. In fact, it is quite the opposite in my opinion.
What I do think, however, is that, for me, parenting has been the lens through which I have been able to take a closer look at my own life, my connections to others, and my place in the world as a whole.
We all have a need to feel seen, heard, and understand. And I suspect that most of us, at some point, have felt like we’re standing alone in the street, waving our arms and screaming, hoping that someone will notice us.
The other night I posted this on Facebook:
Tonight was one of those nights that sapped every ounce of patience out of me. One of those nights when everything is a battle. One of those nights that makes me question everything I am doing as a parent, and as a person. One of those nights when I am quite certain that I am doing it all wrong. One of those nights when it seems like everyone else has the answers, and I’m all alone on the Island of I Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing.
But if I have learned anything on this parenting journey — heck, on this life journey — it is that these worries come with the territory, that no one has all the answers, and we’re never alone.
So on the off-chance that you had one of those days or one of those nights and you feel like you’re on your own Island of I Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing, know that I’m over here flailing my arms, waving, and calling your name from my Island. You’re not alone. I’ll paddle over in my boat. We can dip our toes in sandy beach water together.
Like I said, parenting is hard. Adulting is hard.
And that Facebook post pretty much sums up what writing here, with all of you, has been to me: a sandy beach on our islands of I Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing.
We might not have a clue what we’re doing. We might get sand in our swim suit bottoms, and the sun might burn our shoulders. But the water is cool, the sand is warm, and the company is great. And it doesn’t get much better than that.
What helps you feel connected, and less alone?
This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. The premise is simple: Angie sends me a couple of photos and I write a blog post based on one of the photos. Not only have Angie’s photos served as inspiration for several blog posts over the past few years, but they have also inspired certain chapters in Open Boxes and we will soon be publishing a coffee table book of our collaborative work. Stay tuned!