Last week, I had the privilege of being a guest blogger on the New York Times’ blog Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting. (I wrote about “The Bumpy Blending of a Family”.) And it was a big deal for me. A really big deal. On Wednesday afternoon, when I first saw my post on the site, my heart rate soared and my stomach got a little queasy. I made a few phone calls to tell my inner circle, sent out some emails and posted the link on my Facebook page. And then sat back to enjoy my accomplishment. I mean it’s the New York fucking Times.
Later that night, I read the comments that had been posted. The first ones were great. “Man, I love this honesty.” “I think Jennifer may have the healthiest view of blended families that I have ever heard.” And they weren’t even from people I knew. But as the next 24 hours went on, and additional comments were posted, I started thinking “Shit, what have I done?” Because I wasn’t prepared for the comments that weren’t nice and I wasn’t prepared for the comments that inaccurately restated what I had written.
And now I was queasy for a different reason. I hate disapproval. And yes, there were some tears. I didn’t think I would take the comments so personally. And my knee jerk reaction was to be defensive. I wanted to rebut each posted comment that I disagreed with. As the hours went by and I dwelled on these negative comments, I realized how naïve I had been not to expect them. Not to say that I hadn’t been forewarned by my publishing friend. She said that there would be people who didn’t like what I wrote because I was writing some controversial things. But I hadn’t seen it that way. I was just writing a post about getting re-married and blending a family.
I was going to use my blog today to deal with some of the comments that I took issue with, feeling that airing my thoughts would make me feel better. I even typed up a draft that took on some individual comments. But then I was reminded that blogs are about allowing people to comment on the discourse, whether they agree or disagree and whether those comments are positive or negative or hurtful. And that I should be happy that I touched a nerve with some. Another friend emailed me, “Take any worthwhile criticism, but ignore the rest. Don’t let them rent space in your head!”
So, I’m keeping my rebuttals to myself. And I’m over being queasy. I’m still basking in the aftermath of having been published on Motherlode and in the fact that there were so many positive comments. Many more positive comments than negative ones.
I’ve learned a lot about putting myself out there. Especially if this is what I am going to do, be a writer and write about my personal experiences. I need to have a thicker skin. And I’m working on that. Not everybody in my real life likes me so why should I expect for everyone to like me in my writing life. And I don’t write to be liked. I write because I have something to say and because I enjoy the whole writing process. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I finish a blog post, or a chapter in my yet-to-be published book, and know it’s good. And all of this is what matters.
Tomorrow, I’m going on a vacation with my husband. We’re going to Las Vegas. Don’t worry, we’re not bringing the kids. Mine are happily in New York City with their father for their Spring Break vacation. And my stepdaughter, after spending the weekend with her father in a beachfront hotel, will be hanging out with her mom. Yeah, I think we’ve got the blended family thing figured out. And the marriage thing too.
The bio I wrote when I started Life’s Dewlaps still sums up my life: “… a 40-something pseudo housewife, divorced and re-married with 2 kids, one stepdaughter and no pets. This is not where I thought I would be. But I like it.” I am “Happier Than Most.”