Oh, I have been in quite the peevish mood lately. My workload has eased since we just put out a double issue, which means we get to kick back a bit for the month of July (thus my recent productivity, quilt-wise). But my babysitter has been gone much of that time, and my youngest child has been sick twice (and I sick once) and my husband is maniacally trying to meet a major deadline for work on Friday, and has become kind of unbearable to be around. In the meantime, we have made the decision to start sending our youngest to daycare starting in August, which means that, starting late August/early September, I will have my days to myself again, free to devote to work, housework, writing, and, of course, quilting.
This decision has been so difficult for me, and at one point I just cried for over an hour, feeling that I was abandoning my child, pushing her away from me to achieve my own selfish ends. Intellectually, I know that the decision was based on many factors, my own needs being just some of them. She has been home with me since birth, and she is now at an age where she loves me beyond all measure and wants to be with me 24/7, but at the same time is trying to be independent and separate and so butts heads with me all day over issues such as which shoe to put on first or the exact spot on the floor where she wants me to sit. Her sister was in daycare from the age of 4 months on until she went to pre-school at age 4, and I am convinced that the interaction with other kids and other adults was very, very good for her. And I am convinced this will be good for Devon as well, but I still can't shake the fear that it will cause her some sort of irreparable psychological damage.
On top of this, I was reading a much-anticipated book, It Sucked, And Then I Cried, by Heather Armstrong of Dooce fame. As is the case with many blogger books, it is a re-written, re-edited compendium of blog posts which recounted her battle with depression during and after her first pregnancy. As someone who has been through post-partum depression herself, I have always taken some comfort in Heather's story and I have been a follower of her online work for several years. It would not be exaggerating to say that Heather Armstrong is one of the reasons I became a blogger and decided that it was perfectly okay to write in my own snippy, snarky voice.
So, I was really looking forward to reading the book, but as I plowed through each chapter, I realized that I was NOT enjoying the book AT ALL. I mean, I wanted, several times in fact, to take the book and throw it against the wall. I wanted to tell her to shut up already about your swollen feet, like you are the only person who ever had a baby? GOD.
It really just pissed me off in deep, visceral ways. She exaggerates everything about her pregnancy, about her size and ungainliness and swelling and difficulty urinating, in chapter after chapter of, well, endless bitching. By the time she gets to the point where she has both a newborn and a mental illness that needs treatment in a facility, I as a reader felt like her crippling anxiety was just more bitching. There is nothing in the book that makes her seem like a warm, vibrant, loving individual, which I am quite sure she really is, and so her breakdown seems (and I emphasize "seems" because I do know that this isn't actually the case - I'm just criticizing the mechanics of the telling of it) like just a consequence of a life of incessant negativity.
Reading this, and being so disappointed, kind of forced me to take a look at my own writing and to wonder if I am in danger of falling into the same trap. It has occurred to me, and upon further reflection I think this is true, that what is funny in a blog post, even if the blogger posts similar content fairly often, is not funny at length. when I take a minute out of my day to read about Heather's new baby, and she says that little Marlo doesn't cry, but instead yells, "pot-bellied, weathered by years of tragedy and illness and unemployment kind of yelling. Drunk on scotch and just got home from the coal mine yelling," it makes me guffaw out loud and once again wish I could be that funny and clever. But a whole book of the same kind of "my kid is so difficult" exaggerations just sounds mean.
So you'd think my conclusion would be that my bitching can be amusing on the blog, but I should just come up with a new plan when the inevitable (right?) book deal comes through. But, no. I may work myself around to that conclusion eventually, because I can't really think that I am going to stop complaining about my incompetence, if I am truly honest with myself. But at least I can go through a period of appropriate reflection and meditation in the subject, to make myself feel better.
Thus, right now I am thinking a lot about humor and the writing of it, both online and off, and wondering where the lines between satire and hyperbolic whining fall, and if if I have a place in that that I can make my own, that I can be comfortable with. Lord knows I have exaggerated my own incompetence here simply because it is funny to me to do so, and it helps me to get over the lazy perfectionism that has kept me from pursuing so many things in my life. David Sedaris has done the same thing, though not about his lousy quilting skills and in a much more talented and wonderful way than I ever will, and apparently everybody was taking him seriously all those years. They truly thought that he intended each and every crazy story to be taken as fact, as reporting, and when it turned out that he was exaggerating, people were shocked, shocked, that it wasn't all gospel truth.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing this blog has become a bigger enterprise for me than just yapping about my sewing misadventures. It may have opened a door, a small door right now - but still a door, into further writing, and with the time that is opening up before me this fall, I have an opportunity to, in the second half of my life, finally do some of the things I have long wanted to do. Like write a book.
I just don't want to fuck it up.