Slightly more effective than whining to myself.

A long time ago, I started keeping a journal online. Back in 2001, LiveJournal was all the rage with the group of friends I had made during high school. I loved it. I wrote all the time, about any little thing that came into my head, and so did most of my friends. I was always excited to read what they had written because it made me feel close to them, even though we were miles apart from one another.

I kept that online journal through the end of college, through my entire first marriage, and even through law school.  That blog was responsible for me making some of the best friends I’ve ever had, as well as learning a lot about myself, mostly because I had absolutely no verbal filter on there whatsoever. I never considered how I was publicizing my emotional garbage or how it affected anyone else. I just wrote — raw and honestly. And there was a sort of freedom in that. A kind of validation that I was able to give myself. It was proof that what I thought and how I felt mattered. I miss writing with that kind of abandon, but I also value the restraint that I’ve learned to have with my words.

Words can hurt or they can strengthen. They can inspire and they can thwart dreams.  They can foster intimacy, and they can degrade reputations. Words have power. But so does silence. And when I’m silent, it usually means I’m either terribly busy or that something’s wrong.

Over the years, I’ve chronicled some serious stuff here. Some deeply painful emotional growth, struggles with disease, diet, mental health and, sure, even some random bullshit. But at least I was writing.

These days, with a 3 month old, it’s hard to do much of anything. It’s hard to get restful sleep. It’s hard to remember to eat full meals. It’s hard to go to the bathroom without feeling guilty, to remember to brush my teeth every morning, to shower regularly. But mostly, it’s hard to be creative.

It’s both hard to find time to write, and harder, when I get some “free” time, to find the words to discuss what’s on my mind without breaking down and crying.  The only way out is through, and someday, God-willing, I’ll feel like myself again. I just have a feeling it’s going to take a lot of effort.

And, yes, I’m very well aware that this is textbook postpartum depression. I’ve seen my therapist, and she’s basically said that I’m handling it as well as anyone can.  She said that PPD creates ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) on steroids. To be clear: I’m not actually the worst mother ever, ever.  But we all knew that. Postpartum depression has been written about exhaustively.

You know what hasn’t been written about?  How totally shitty it is to be a decent writer and to be reading absolute garbage to your kid repeatedly.

Every day, I read books to my beautiful son. He loves them. His eyes light up, and he smiles the moment a book comes out.  He doesn’t light up when I bring out my laptop and read stories out loud. He actually cares about the paper in my hand, and his happiness makes me smile, so I spend a lot of time flipping pages and accidentally giving myself paper cuts.

Sadly, these books are terrible, people. They’re 5-10 pages long at most, and each page has maybe 2 lines. More often than not, those lines rhyme in a sing-song fashion.  And beyond rhyming, they teach basic stuff that in today’s day and age don’t matter one iota.

Who cares that the cow goes “moo?” when you’re more than likely never going to spend any time whatsoever with a cow? We are not an agricultural society anymore. Why are we teaching kids about livestock?

Why, if you’re reading about “all the thinks you can think,” would you challenge a baby to imagine places and things that don’t exist (and never have), when they’re still trying to get a basic grasp on the world around them?  I mean, he doesn’t even know what “blue” means yet. I’d love to challenge him to imagine a lake rather than “a day in DaDake.” He doesn’t know what “day” is yet. But who’s allowed to rip on Dr. Seuss? It’s blasphemy. The guy was a genius, and most of his books are amazing. I guess I’m lacking proper respect.

So, yeah, I find myself getting irrationally angry and frustrated with children’s baby literature, but even more irrationally angry with myself.  I am constantly thinking, “I could write something better than that!” And yet, when I sit to write something, I think the most unhelpful thoughts – like “What if this has been done already?” or “Am I wasting my time? I could be making myself something to eat. Is this a good use of my time?”

It’s a sort of writer’s block that I can only compare to how I have dealt with music.  And I’ve dealt with music very, very poorly. I mean, I graduated from Berklee College of Music and studied voice, but I don’t perform with anyone, anywhere, ever. It’s not like you can go to karaoke when you have a newborn, and when I sing at home, I have a hard time silencing my inner critic. WTF is that about? Not helpful, ever. It’s not like Henry has anyone to judge me against or that a 3 month old would have the audacity or even the ability to be shitty to a mom singing him lullabyes.

And God help me if I consider spending any time with my piano or guitar. Even before I’ve tried, it’s like, “Have you ever taken a lesson in your life, Rae? (Only several years worth.) Not sure why it’s like I don’t know a damn thing.” I don’t have any idea what I’m actually afraid of, but it legit feels like panic and fear. I remember sounding bad for years to get to sound good. Why should I be so impatient with myself now?

So, yeah, I’m creatively constipated. That’s the only way I can describe it. I desperately want to make music and write new songs. I wholeheartedly want to create children’s books that Henry will find helpful and that will show the world that there’s some value to my existence… but I can’t seem to do shit. (Pun intended.)

At least, I can blog while my husband and child sleep.  Because blogging is basically whining to yourself. You just happen to let the whole world see it, and that accountability counts for something. It’s not high art, but it’s a damn sight better than being silent.

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6 thoughts on “Slightly more effective than whining to myself.

  1. Hey girl,
    Back in the day they called them the Baby Blues. If you weren’t feeling so blue the fact that you’re feeling that you’re not creative would be comical. You are amazing!
    Your life, your attitude, your intelligence and yes, your creativity, are superb. As for the dumbing down of baby books, three thoughts: they’re probably a bit underdeveloped for Sedaris (although I don’t underestimate children, it’s a bad idea), what they really like at that age is your voice (you could read IRS tax code aloud), and I think they’re mainly written for the parents sake. As I recall with a newborn, “the cow goes moo” was just about all I could handle to read.
    This will pass. The baby will live, you will sleep, he’ll grow up to be a witty, well read, balanced person. How could he not with a mom like you?

  2. Hi Rachael. You are an awesome writer. You always have been. I honestly had fun reading to you that that the cow goes “Moo”! You loved to try to watch my mouth when I said it and it was close to “Mommy” so I shamelessly liked it. You had a toys that were farm animals when you were little and you like to make all the animal sounds. You were so adorable. The delight on your face was great.

    I think it would be fun if you and Adam collaborated on a book together. You could write it and he could illustrate it. You could even create a song book. You are a wonderful mommy and only going to get better. I am so very proud of you.

    These cloudy feelings will pass and you will have happier days. Hang in there. You have always been my Rae of Sunshine! I love you!

    • Great minds think alike, Mom! Adam and I have been talking about collaborating on books. The depression has been making it harder than it needs to be for me to write them! That’s what I was actually writing about. Honestly, I was thinking “Write anything — anything at all.” and that’s how this blog entry ended up happening.

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading me stories about livestock. I honestly didn’t associate “Moo” with “Mommy.” I unapologetically say to him, several times a day, “Mama loves you! Yes, I do! Can you say, ‘Mama’? Let’s say it together. Ma Ma. *pause* Ma Ma. That’s me! And you’re Henry!” and I put his hand on me when I’m saying “Mama” and on him when I say “Henry” 🙂

      Thank you for always being so loving and supportive. I love you too, very much! I’m doing my best for Henry, and that’s all I can ask of myself.

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