After Long Silence…

It’s been a long time since I opened the Add New Post tab on my browser. And even longer since I actually finished and posted a blog entry. There are a few drafts that never made it very far, withering on the branch.

Some seasons of life are fertile and some are fallow. This has been a long, cold, slog of a season. Ever since September, really.

Last month, on January 20 to be precise, this blog celebrated its 15th anniversary. And I wasn’t here to note it. Fallow? Or like a mole hiding in a hole under the earth, quivering and afraid to poke its head out to see what big thing is stomping around up there?

What is this blog meant to be and what has it been and what will it be? It began as a place for minutiae, the bits and bobs of daily life and what I was reading and thinking; but all things change and like any good tool, I’ve repurposed this blog many times. In the past few years as social media has become more and more an outlet for my minutiae and also for daily conversation, I’ve still found that I need a safe hideyhole online where I can explore bigger ideas at length. And so this blog has continued, albeit in a much more threadbare way.

But… it’s sort of an illusion of safety, isn’t it? In reality Facebook is actually much more locked down because I can set me posts to friends only. Whereas this blog is in truth open to anyone and everyone who passes by. Even if they leave no comments and no trace of their passage. And this is probably why most mommy bloggers become pretty scarce as their kids grow older and more independent– they have their own lives of which they will become the chroniclers. My words become more circumscribed as I take note of what record I’m creating here in this place and I draw a veil over some of the doings of our little family. (Dom and I do have a podcast, Raising the Betts where we talk about our weekly doings and maybe that’s also scratching the reporting itch a bit?)

Anyway, I’m dancing around the point because this is the piece I’ve been Not Writing in my head for months because I’m butting up against that barrier in my head: family privacy vs my need to write to process, to share, to live at least a part of my life in this space, whatever it is. I don’t fully understand why it is but unless I tackle this topic head on I cannot skip over it to talk cheerily about books and adventures and whatnot.

So, as discretely as possible, because only part of this is my story to tell– but it is also partly my story and I need to tell it — at least glancingly–for whatever reasons I cannot articulate even to myself. I’ve been buried by mental illness for a season. Anxiety, not my own (and not Dom’s)– and yet also my own because family means bearing each others’ burdens. It’s been a long haul and accessing mental health services feels like it is more complex and drawn out process than it should be. But there is treatment and there is light and things are getting much much better.

Anxiety grinds everything to a halt when it becomes a tidal wave that traps someone you love into an inability to sleep normally, eat normally, leave the house and go about everyday activities normally. An overwhelming weight like a blanket that has been smothering me, smothering us. It is an essential part of what it means to be family, that the sickness of one pulls on the fabric of the lives of all.

So there have been many small battles, many small victories, and I simply cannot record and recount them; but I must acknowledge that they have been and that they’ve kept me silent with the weight of words unspoken, unwritten. I simply haven’t known what to say. And other things, books, poetry, art… they’ve been pushed to the margins and I’m having a hard time taking them up again and figuring out how to reclaim those fallow fields. How to plow and uncover and plant and nurture words in ground that has been slumbering.

A new year, a new season, days lengthening and lightening. We are past the darkest time of the year and I am hopeful, looking forward to new life, growth, fresh leaves poking up from the cold soil where everything was buried at the downturn of the year when everything seemed to go up in flames. A phoenix rising from the ashes, as they do, thanks to God.

Maybe now I can get past this dam that’s been keeping all the words blocked in. Maybe, perhaps, there will be more words here. Watch this space….?

6 Responses to After Long Silence…

  1. MrsDarwin February 4, 2020 at 2:55 pm #

    There are a lot of aspects of family life, or just being connected to other humans, that need to be processed but can’t necessarily be written about publicly at a particular time, even anonymously. It does make for rather fallow blogging. I wonder if a certain flavor of woman-blogging, the packaged, often treacly aspect of it, is due to how easy it is to follow a standard template of online content, versus the often touchy nature of real family life and personal dramas that aren’t always easily packaged in one bite-sized, shareable post.

    • Melanie Bettinelli February 4, 2020 at 6:45 pm #

      I definitely have seen that. And especially in paid blogging or in the heyday of blogging when more people felt a responsibility to provide regular content… I can understand the temptation to try to gloss over or package neatly some version of the mess for outsider consumption. I suppose this is the inherent risk of making one’s own life the fodder for content.

      One of the things I’ve found hardest is that I do process by writing. And to a certain extent blogging, writing for an audience, feels more real than mere journaling. It’s probably a weakness of mine that I haven’t been able to just journal away about this in some little private nook, a document on my computer, a little spiral notebook. Though of course I suppose chatting online with friends in private spaces is a sort of processing, it’s not the same as making something into a story– there’s something about that shaping for an audience that is cathartic. And then you run into the wall of that not being something you can do. Writing about miscarriage– well, while there are aspects of it that are shared of course, in the most part it was my own story and I could tell it without fear of hurting anyone else. But… not everything lends itself to that kind of processing.

  2. mandamum February 4, 2020 at 5:37 pm #

    Thank you for tracing this, however sketchily. Over the last several months, I have been wondering at what point I will need to reach out and find some trustworthy mental health services, and the very thought is overwhelming. And I don’t even know who I can talk to about who to talk to…. there is stigma, but more immediately there is just plain privacy. And mental health can be so dependent on the world view of the particular practitioner…. Your oblique story gives me another push toward taking it up.

    Agreed, MrsDarwin. I was struck this last month, when a story I had shared – years and years ago – with fellow homeschooling moms about a college mis-fire of my sister’s (moral: it’s ok to put college application firmly in your student’s court, EVEN IF they don’t actually make that deadline) came back around to (another) sister’s ears in my presence. I wasn’t trying to gossip, but I wonder if it made that sister concerned about what I share about HER…. I thought about it again when our pastor made reference to one of his siblings – do I show up in my brother’s homilies? Does it matter?

    • Melanie Bettinelli February 6, 2020 at 3:57 pm #

      Finding trustworthy mental health services– it is truly daunting. I’m totally with you on that one.. My one foray into getting therapy for myself, years ago, fizzled out when my therapist was less than supportive about homeschooling. I didn’t really feel like I could trust her when she undermined my own judgment calls about what was best for my kids, my family. (Yes, she really did lecture me about the dreaded “socialization”.) But I realized it was time to sever our relationship when I got pregnant and didn’t feel I could tell her or talk about it with her. So there’s that.

      And you’re right, it’s not only the stigma, it’s just plain privacy. Many of my friends have been very encouraging, saying it’s ok if you don’t click with the first person you try, you can try again. That itself is hard for me, but it’s true.

      So far in terms of accessing mental health care for a dependent, I’ve also found it stressful and at first I was really sure that the therapist was a terrible fit. But over time it’s looking actually much more hopeful. Maybe not such a bad fit after all.

  3. Suzanne February 25, 2020 at 9:35 am #

    I understand the need for privacy around your family. I gave up Facebook because I don’t need my kids pictures and stories shared with random strangers. I do have to say that your “weekly school” posts helped me. It was good to see how other families handled narration or encouraged reading. I also appreciated the book lists and how certain textbooks were helpful(or not.)

    • Melanie Bettinelli February 25, 2020 at 11:24 pm #

      I’m so glad the weekly school posts were helpful to you. I really did put them up with the hope they’d be as helpful to others as some of the blogs I found when I was first starting were to me.

      Maybe at some point I’ll get back to that kind of posting. But to be honest it was beginning to be a bit of a strain to keep up with. I think if I go back to some kind of school blogging, it will probably be in a slightly different format.

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