Last night, Sarah and I went to see “Julie & Julia.” We loved the movie, but one aspect of it moved me to... well, forward movement.
I haven’t blogged since June 11, 2009 (as I have been reminded by several people); I have been unable to write. Not physically, of course, but emotionally. I seem to go through (emotionally/spiritually) constipated moments which translate into no-writing periods... until I am able to work through it all and begin writing again. About mid-July, I realized I was in that place, depression descending on me like an old familiar, very heavy, cloak. I simply must write. I’ve written before about this inability to write leading to depression; how could I have not started writing again when I began slipping into the chasm?
As these words tumble out, you will see the mosaic of challenges in my life. I am absolutely not writing as a poor, poor, pitiful me; I am writing to show my underbelly and to do what I am compelled to do... navelgaze. Some people think Navelgazing Midwife means I stare at the belly buttons of pregnant women. No, it is an expression of introspection, sometimes to a level that sends me in circles, but usually lifts me to a more elevated place so I can see things I never would have seen from any other vantage point.
While I knew I wasn’t writing and had an inkling of why (because there seemed to be nothing but crappy news), it wasn’t until I was in the middle of “Julie & Julia” that it all flooded through me, making me dizzy with realization and knowing I could no longer ignore my stunted feelings.
In the movie, Julie, a woman in 2002, blogs about her goal of going through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” As expected, she learns a lot more than just how to cook. She finds her core, vowing to change her life as Julia Child did late in her life. Through writing, she shares fears, hopes, trials and difficulties, usually relating to food, but having a parallel in her 30-year old life. In one scene, she fights with her husband and he yells at her to not write about that fight in her blog – because she does write about everything else. When she sits down to write that evening, she types out a line about her husband leaving her... but after a sigh, deletes it. I know exactly how she feels.
Years ago, when I started writing my blog in earnest, I sat with Sarah at Disney’s Grand Californian, by the pool (we were dressed and alone that early evening) and I explained my compulsion to write... that I needed to write... that it didn’t seem like a choice anymore. She said something she has since repeated several times. “Write! I never want you not to write. Just don’t put it in your blog.” I can’t. I don’t know how anymore. I own dozens of hand-written journals and notebooks but once I discovered that people actually liked what I wrote, that I heard back from others about it and that it was much more tantalizing than writing on any piece of paper could be, blogging was like a drug. I also asked my children about any limitations they had about my writing about them. They all said there were none. I gave examples to everyone, including Sarah, that could embarrass them or make them angry and all said, “Write.” And so I did.
I’ve certainly had quite the experiences with this blog. Sometimes people get very, very angry with my thoughts or ideas. I’ve had to delete posts more than a couple of times because I said something so vile (according to others), it was nearly demanded. And I buckled under the peer pressure. One post in particular got so much anger hurled at it; I knew I really hit quite the nerve of the midwifery community. I dared to say I felt Certified Professional Midwives needed more education in order to practice effectively, that the education at that point in time lacked many important skills that keep women and babies safe. I demonstrated the training of a Certified Nurse Midwife alongside a CPM’s training, really just saying someone needed to correct the deficiencies so we would be more respected, even if those corrections included a formal education process. Boy, did I get the comments! From everywhere, including NARM and MEAC... the folks who do the education and testing process. Heresy! How dare a Licensed and Certified Professional Midwife not uphold everything a midwife needs to do to become licensed. After awhile, it got really nasty... personally mean... and enjoying my mental health, I deleted the post. Didn’t even save it anywhere.
Another experience was when I wrote about a client without her permission. She read it, didn’t like what I wrote and I had never been closer to a lawsuit for defamation than at that time. Besides removing every post about ANY client that hadn’t given me permission, I apologized deeply for hurting her –in public. The relationship remains severed. Ever since, though, I ask clients if I can write about them. If they have not given me permission (and I know, I know, I really should have it in writing... said that was what I was going to do, but just have not), I say nothing about them in writing. There are so many parts of my midwifery life that are interesting, wild and educational, parts that I cannot share, I really should write and not publish until I am gone. No one knows better than my former apprentice Donna. She and I would look at each other with disbelief that we were really in the midst of something so odd, so surreal, that I bet readers would think I am making it up. I wouldn’t have been. After that experience, I didn’t write for several months, fell into a deep depression that landed me in the hospital for half a second and I had to find the resolve to forgive myself and move on. It took quite awhile and Sarah’s gift of a long-haired dachshund puppy we named Cash that got me well, inch by inch. (She often thanks Cash for saving my life. I do, too.)
Backstory is important sometimes.
I’m shocked, standing beside myself, to see what my life has become. Over and over, “You reap what you sow” sing-songs through my mind and I wonder what in the world I have done so wrong as to have this plethora of sadness going on in my life. What is the lesson? (Writing this, I can hear those who despise me laughing and laughing at my difficulties, but I write in spite of their meanness. I’m trying hard to tune them out. Even writing about them gives them more power, but I can’t ignore the inner conflict pervading my self-esteem.)
Within a very short period of time, Donna left her apprenticeship, I found myself with a mere one client, I’d gained an ungodly amount of weight, Sarah and I are moving into an RV instead of a house, money vanished (it is now a year since my offices closed because of the economy), my family and I had serious communication issues (for the first time ever) and there seemed to be so many shitty things to say, I stopped writing – and found myself clinically depressed yet again. Somehow, Sarah and I remain closer than ever, each of us repeating, like a mantra, “We’ll just stick together with the dogs and we’ll be fine.” I would collapse if my relationship disintegrated; it is one of the only things holding me up at the moment.
Last night, on the way home from the movie, I tearfully told Sarah why I wasn’t writing (she gets nervous when I don’t blog), that there were so many limitations on what I could write... that I’d rather disappoint my readers than her. I didn’t want to embarrass her, either with our choices or our experiences. She, once again, said, “Write! Just don’t publish it.” And I shook my head, the words stuffed inside my mouth, unable to find their way out for the tears in their way. I was finally able to explain, once again, the bizarre compulsion to write in public, that writing in private just does not fulfill. Talking with Meghann this morning, she helped me articulate it by saying I get help, validation, friendship and companionship through sharing with my cyber and real friends. I reiterated that I don’t want to write about all these crappy things so people go, “Awww, poor Barb,” but I want to write so I can look, with an objective eye, at each situation and examine how exactly to get out of them. I know I can’t be the only one and I believe many people cannot talk about their own lives in the way I do... fear, shame, sadness in the way... so I write for them, not those that laugh at me, but for those that nod with understanding and compassion for all of us in these situations.
So, I’m going to toss this up on my blog and pick each topic independently and write about it. I just can’t keep it all in anymore. The depression has to go somewhere... it might as well find itself in my blog, the place where it transforms into light and hope... both of which I know exist just out of my reach. I’m determined to find them.