Today marks three years that I’ve been inhabiting this little slice of cyberspace. Three years of sharing my life online. Three veganniversaries, two books, one pregnancy. Three seasons in the garden and three years of recipes. Countless comments and conversations, shared creativity, and blossoming community. In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s really been three years, but then I think back to where I began . . . and man! I was a whole different person back then.
When I started down this path, my life was wide open. I had just quite a job I hated, I was ambitious and excited and had all the time in the world to throw myself into my writing. I worked tirelessly, as has been my nature, and slowly but surely I pieced together this precious little space. My intention was to create a community of like-minded individuals, a network of action-oriented optimists to move and shake and make the world a better place. And . . . I think I did! We have done amazing things here, you and I. Whether you found Bonzai at it’s beginning, or whether you joined us somewhere along the way, or even if you just arrived last week, you’ve all played a part in making this place incredible. Thank you.
But there have been hard parts, too. For me, there are times when it’s difficult to live my life on display. At first I really appreciated being held accountable; it was motivating, and I loved connecting with people on a similar path. I found it empowering to feel like I was making a difference in the world. That may sound silly, but I’ve received enough emails by now that I do believe I’ve played some small but important part in changing a lot of lives. These emails light me up, and often bring me to tears. Every email, every single one, has filled me with gratitude. That has meant more to me than anything else, and has really become the force that keeps me moving forward here.
Over the years I’ve grown, and everything else has grown too. I’ve become a mother! Things have changed. My responsibilities and obligations, my day-to-day life and the way I use my time, and many of my priorities, have had to shift. And oh boy have I fought it! Often to my detriment, I have fought it. I can run myself ragged but the truth is, I no longer have the singular focus and endless energy to throw myself into this project. Bonzai is so much more than just a series of isolated blog posts, you know? Nurturing a community takes a lot of energy.
There’s a few things that you should know.
See, there’s this elephant in the blogosphere.
When I created Bonzai, I dreamed of a space that would provide for others what I’d wished I had for myself: a place to belong and to be inspired. A space for hope and positivity, for sharing ideas and spurring creativity, with simple mindful solutions for building a better, more beautiful life. I had nothing but the best intentions.
What I’ve since come to realize is that this is an unfair model. In the process of preserving Bonzai as a “happy place”, I’ve painted an incomplete image of my life. And although I always knew that it was only a partial picture, I realized (too late) that this [mis]representation – even coming from a place of caring – was having unintended consequences.
To be clear, this is a problem that goes well beyond Bonzai Aphrodite. The same thing is happening all over the blogosphere (especially with “mommy bloggers”), and it’s something I’d love to see addressed by the larger community.
The dilemma essentially is this: bloggers want to perpetuate positivity. To lift people up and empower them. We want to show you beautiful things. Or maybe I should just speak for myself. That’s what I want.
But in doing so, we paint an unrealistic, idealized version of a person – me – and of a life – my life. Again, just speaking for myself, I fear that I’ve created an impossible standard. A measuring stick whereby readers, trying to live up, will always believe they fall short. I know this because I’m also on the other side of it, with other bloggers, comparing myself to my perception of them, and feeling like I’m “less than”. And I know it because people write to me, feeling just exactly that way after reading Bonzai.
This is a real problem and it really breaks my heart. I don’t ever want to play a part in someone feeling bad about themselves.
It’s something I think about a lot these days, but as of yet I haven’t been able to see a perfect solution. (And it’s entirely possible that there isn’t one.)
So yes, there are parts of myself that I choose not to share on Bonzai. That’s pretty obvious I guess, since I’ve never gabbed about my sex life and I’ve never discussed the specifics of my finances. And along those lines, something that I’ve kept private is the difficulty I’ve experienced as a parent. Becoming a mother has been a really rough transition for me, actually, and I struggle with it . . . a lot.
It wasn’t even until a few months ago, more than 18 months postpartum, that I realized my suffering went beyond the normal aches and pains of adjustment. That it was more than just me being bad at this (which, sadly, is something I’d considered).
The problem is that they always talk about postpartum depression, and I didn’t feel depressed. I wasn’t sad or listless or losing sleep or extra sleepy or losing weight or extra hungry or any of those other signs of depression. I was just . . . anxious. All the time. And irritable and short-tempered and angry. As a pacifist and someone who deeply values compassion and communication and cooperation, this was pretty horrifying for me. It threw me for a loop and consequently, I’ve been cloaked in shame and self-doubt for a very, very long time. And all the while, I didn’t really realize it was happening.
I don’t want to get into the details of it here (this is an epically long post as it is), but if you’re interested in learning more about postpartum anxiety, you should read this blog post, because it describes what I’ve experienced to a tee. Like, exactly. I couldn’t have written it better myself.
I just want to say, now, that I’m so sorry for keeping this from you. At first I was just confused, and then it grew into embarrassment, and eventually self-loathing settled in. I know that mental health issues carry an unfair stigma and I wish I’d had more of a grasp on what was really happening to me, so that I could have shared my process with you. As it was, I hardly even realized it was happening, and mostly I was just trying to put my head down and hold strong, get through it, and put on a pretty face in the meantime.
But ultimately, my life is too full.
Since Waits was born I’ve written two books, maintained a thrice-weekly blog-posting schedule, and kept up with freelance writing work, all while parenting full time, trying to be a good wife and partner, keeping house, and making most of our food from scratch. Oh, and being a dog mom and chicken guardian and farmer/gardener. It’s a lot that I’ve been juggling.
Over the years, one of the most frequent questions I’ve received is: “How the hell do you do it all?” Ha! But I’ll tell you the truth. For the first time, I’ll actually answer the damn question.
It comes at great cost. In order to “do” so much and give so much of myself, I set aside the things which are the most important. I sacrifice my relationships.
I skip relaxing craft nights with girlfriends, and evenings spent on double dates, and unlimited afternoon reading time with my kid, and weekends away and weekends doing *nothing* at all and having the space in my day for a spontaneous picnic, and all the other moments that make life, you know . . . sort of actually worth living. Not that I never have fun, because I do, but so much of it – too much of it – is buried under a pile of stress and deadlines, pushed back with promises of “later” and “when/then”.
I. Am. So. Burned. Out.
I’m an atheist, did you know that? So no afterlife for me. I only get one shot. I used to believe that in my 100 or so years of existence, I had to make my indelible mark on the world. Do something great. Secure my spot in the annals of history so that I’d be . . . remembered.
But I don’t think that’s what it’s about, anymore. Because even the most important person ever – even Mozart or Einstein or Alexander the Great – even they are just a blip in the entirety of human history, and all of human history is just a blip in the entirety of the Universe. I know that it sounds like a 14-year-old’s acid trip “deep thought”, but for me, it’s been an epiphany.
If I only get 100 or so years of existence, I better make damn sure that I enjoy them.
So, why am I telling you all this?
Because I need to step away. I need to stop blogging. It breaks my heart and I’ve fought it for a long time, but I know, deep down, that it has to happen. At least for now.
I need to clear everything out so that I can really see. I need some quiet so that I can take stock. I need to slow down. I need to know what it feels like to not always live a week (or a month) behind at my life. I need to find my happy, because I seem to have misplaced it.
So this is my goodbye-for-now. This is my goodbye to Bonzai.
I’ll still be around the Internet though, sharing interesting finds and my freelance articles on my Facebook page. And tweeting my general musing, random thoughts, and silly silliness, through my Twitter. I’m sure I’ll continue to flood the net with photos of my kid, via @sayward on Instagram (or Followgram) (also Tumblr) And I’ll definitely continue to obsessively curate my little collections on my Pinterest boards. Bonzai will stay here, just exactly as it is now.
But yeah, who am I kidding. That’s not the same. And this hurts. I have a knot in my belly the size of Kansas and I feel like I’m letting everyone down, and I’m sorry, and I’ll miss you. I just really hope you can understand.
And I hope that I’ll see you ‘round the Internet.
And I hope you know how sincerely I cherish you. Thank you so much for being a part of this.
*** I’ve been absent lately when it comes to answering comments, questions, and emails. I’m sure it was just my way of keeping some [emotional] distance as I prepared for this post. But I want you to know, I *will* be going through and responding to everything. It may take me some time, but I will.
As well, I’m about halfway through my Great Grand Diet Trial. Im not one who likes to leave unfinished business, so I do plan to post the rest of that series. Eventually.