Why I Stopped Blogging... More than Once
Dreamer has been watching Frozen, and I've been analyzing it because that's what I do. I have a hungry mind that is always, always analyzing.
I start this out referencing a lovely Disney movie that I do enjoy, but this post isn't going to be happy and light. And it's not about Frozen.
It's just that one of the many things that I thought about watching this movie came as I watched Elsa's breakout song, Let it Go. Because I love to sing and it's good to amuse yourself if you have to be around a child watching something over and over, I sang along. If you haven't seen the movie or you need a reminder, Elsa was born with magical powers. As a young child, she accidentally hurt her sister. Her parents were able to get help and her sister was saved, but the trolls that saved her sister tell Elsa and her parents that Elsa must learn to control her powers and that fear is her enemy. However, they don't really give more guidance and Elsa struggles to learn control. Meanwhile her parents cut down at the staff at the castle (Elsa is a princess) and Elsa distances herself from her sister, for her sister's safety. Then, when she was still just a young woman (either 15 or 19, depending on if "coming to age" in their kingdom happens at 18 or 21) her parents left her to go on a trip... and their ship gets wrecked and they die. So Elsa is left alone in the world with no one who knows her secret.
Then three years later she "comes of age" and is crowned queen. At her coronation ball her sister makes a foolish decision that upsets Elsa and she accidentally reveals her powers. This terrifies her and she loses control and runs away from the kingdom... not realizing that as she leaves she's cursing the kingdom into winter in mid-July.
So the moment I'm talking about in the movie comes as Elsa is climbing a mountain and building an ice castle she can live alone in. She's singing "Let it Go" and basically meaning she's letting go of trying to live up to others expectations, of suppressing herself, of hiding, and of responsibility. And standing in my living room, singing along as Elsa says "The cold never bothered me anyway" the thought comes into my mind:
But what if it bothers me?
One thing I've been praying over is the fear of man. There's an amazing free book you can get, that's how I got it, from a missionary society where a man tells his story and how he was standing up in a church trying to raise money for his mission and he was scared. And a man approaches him from the congregation and prays over him, saying the Lord was telling him that the missionary suffered from the fear of man and God wanted him to be free of it. And from then on, what people think hasn't mattered to him.
I read that before moving to India and thought, "Wow, I want that!" But at that time I also didn't really think I was very afraid. I knew I suffered from some extent from the fear of man, but thought overall I was fine. I have since learned more about myself and realized that I think fear of man, or to put it another way, the desire for people to be pleased with me, is probably my greatest spiritual flaw.
Moving to India was rough. I came here spiritually high, happy and joyous and sure that I was walking in the will of the Lord. And I totally believe I was. But early on, I met opposition. Not from strangers but from brothers and sisters in Christ and moreover, from within my new family. God would tell me to "go left" so to speak and I would get a lecture from them about how I was an idiot, I knew nothing about this culture, I couldn't possibly "go left", maybe later with help, but not on my own and not now. I was discouraged and afraid and I held back. I didn't listen fully to the Lord. It's the thing I most ashamed of in my past. I know I did real spiritual damage to myself.... But I realized that soon. And I tried to repent. By then I was married and things were more complicated. Because a wife is supposed to heed her husband, but of course, moreover the Lord. And Ryan was not open to the idea that they weren't synced up, but the truth was other forces in his life were louder and he didn't realize... It was hard. Because I knew and know that Ryan dearly and deeply loves God, but I could also see so clearly how he was being hindered in his faith and not only him, but because he was, I was. When we got married, we became one, right? We are bound together. Either we pursue God together, we both don't pursue God, or we drift apart. And I didn't want either of the second two! So I was pestering him and he was taking it as disrespect and discouragement and it was not a good season.
It was hard being away from my family and friends, but I thought I'd have family in India: my brothers and sisters in Christ. But in truth, I felt more betrayed and judged by them than most. There are notable exceptions and you know who you are, but there was also more to the cultural barrier than I realized and truthfully, they were Ryan's friends first and as Ryan and I struggled, I didn't feel comfortable really confiding in them, especially as most of those closest to me were his male friends. I had had one female friend in India at this time (I've made more since, and I can think of another one actually, but we hadn't really hung out solo) but she dropped me after my wedding. I still don't really get why and neither did anyone else.
We moved out into our own apartment and I thought that we'd automatically come together and things would be easier because we would be the ones making the calls now. We had no one to answer to but the Lord! But... yeah, no. We fought. We discovered Ryan cares a lot about how the house was, and basically he'd go to work and I'd want to do things to pursue God. I'd want to get out, meet people. I'd want to explore India... but I suck at house cleaning. And if I spent the whole day cleaning the house, he'd still be unhappy with the progress when he got home, because that could be all I"d do all week and it still wouldn't' be clean enough for him. We lived in walking distance of cafes and hanging out spots then and I'd think "should I go out and do and be and walk with God?... Or should I stay home and clean and try to prevent us from fighting again today?"
And I'd stay home. Everytime. I was miserable, but I knew if I left, Ryan would be more miserable. And we fought, and fought and fought.
I shared with some friends, but lost an online friend over it. That really wrecked me, I had trusted her, and I felt very betrayed. Then I got dengue, and my house got horrific because the issue was this: I am a messy person who sucks at maintaining cleanliness, but Ryan's one of those poor crippled kids who grew up with a parent who is so clean, they never learn to be. That is, when we got married Ryan's mom was still putting his socks away for him. He never had to do anything himself, and she wouldn't have let him if he wanted to, most likely. She's very particular. I had two college roommates who came from families like that and let me put this out there for any parents reading this: do not do that to your kids. Make them do chores, make them clean up, do not always do it for them. Because if you do, they will move out totally helpless and if they don't marry or room with a person as neat as you are, they will fight their spouse/roommate and it gets bad. Very bad. Don't handicap them, make them clean it themselves, even if that means it's messy most of the time. You're cleaning it up for you, because it drives you crazy, not them. Be a parent and put them first, even if their room annoys you.
Being on dengue meant three weeks of total bedrest. I didn't see it that way then. But later on, when I was put on bedrest for Dreamer and was reading about the difficulty in recovering from it, physically, it hit me that's why the dengue was so, so bad. And when I did recover, of course, long time readers will know that I discovered I was pregnant. And first trimester fatigue additionally made me feel like a zombie. But even when I had a good day, I was easily winded and felt helpless, from the effects of bedrest. Muscles had atrophied and all that. But no one considered that, and Ryan and others were very hard on me. I was basically being told why wasn't I able to keep up my house?
Something both Indian and American readers should understand is that Indians simultaneously have higher cleanliness standards but also it's harder to keep an Indian house clean. Between the air pollution and living on the edge of the desert, the house gets enough dust in a week that an American house gets in several months. This means even if you mopped it a few days ago, the floor will be gritty under your feet. This means that dusting is a necessity, not a once a few months or a even once a year like in some American households. Additionally, I don't have a dishwasher or a drier, so all the dishes have to be done by hand, the clothes have to be hung up. Indian clothes wrinkle easier and get worn and torn easier. I know this for a fact because recently when I was packing to go to the US, I laid out all the clothes I owned sorted them in two stacks: in good condition and need repairs. I realized with a shock that almost all the clothes that were still in good condition were the oldest of my clothes, that I had brought with me three years prior when I moved to India. And most of them weren't new then! All the clothes that needed repairs (little holes, missing buttons, etc) were Indian and yet, much newer.
I don't really know why Indians have higher standards, except maybe American households in the 1950s had similar standards but we relaxed them with the advent of the two income families and really, common sense. Houses don't have to be spotless to be liveable. But in India, you are very much judged by how your home is run. And I really, really suck at it. I say that, and I say that, and I say that but I can hear the eyeballs rolling from here. How hard can it be, people wonder. Truthfully, I am beginning to think I have ADHD after reading this. It basically is exactly me. But as I am still breastfeeding Dreamer and would like to have another baby in the not so distant future, I don't see taking drugs probably this decade. I googled for experts in this area after reading this, in case there was non medication things that could help me, but alas I didn't see anyone who wasn't only for kids, so letting it go for now. I don't really have the money anyway. But the point is, I do genuinely think it's harder for me than other people. People who know me in America know I was always the girl with the messiest backpack, desk, locker. I had the messiest dorm room and did have my community advisor have to talk to me a few times. I struggled very hard to reach, and never did, the "normal" zone of American cleanliness standards... and Indian cleanliness standards are far and away harder.
There was a thought and that was get a servant. In India, they're not that expensive and most people have a maid. But Ryan was barely making enough for us to get by and I wasn't (and couldn't, legally) working and so this was my contribution. Which was part of why I was so miserable, because it's probably the thing I feel the most ill equipped and like a failure when I'm doing, yet I was sacrificially doing it for Ryan... and he was never, ever even remotely satisfied with my efforts.
When I was recovering from dengue, before we found out I was pregnant, I was hopeful. Without my diligent efforts the house had exploded. Seriously, it was AWFUL. So Ryan hired a guy to come in a couple days and right it, since I was still too weak and Ryan couldn't stand it a a moment longer. The trouble was, Ryan had never bothered to learn my system and the guy didn't speak English. And I was feeling grateful to the guy for doing it, so I didn't bother to complain about how it was done. That was a mistake. Because he cleaned up by putting everything in the wrong place.
I had a system. Unlike many messy people, I'm not really disorganized. I seem disorganized, I've even used that word, but what I mean is "I struggle immensely with maintaining a system of organization". What I do not mean "I don't have a system." The truth is the same hungry brain that analyzes Frozen also knew exactly where every spoon, every shoe, every piece of paper in the house was supposed to go. I had a system. So when I did get my energy back instead of just exerting into keeping my house as normal, I also had to reorganize. This made for twice the work. And I was a zombie.
My parents intervened. I had told them about the guy coming in and they graciously asked how much would it cost to hire him to come weekly to help me? They could tell from talking to me I was worn out. So they paid for him to come weekly for like the next year. Which was great. He basically swept and washed the floors, did dishes that day, and wiped down our kitchen with occasionally us asking a bit more of him. I would try to maintain it over the week, but typically it was a mess when he'd come. I was embarrassed he had seen the house at its worse when I was sick with dengue and kept trying to make it clean thinking "when he comes this week, he'll see it's not as bad and he'll gain respect for me." However, it never happened. I'd have it clean on say Friday, but instead of coming Saturday for some reason something would come up and he'd end up coming on Monday or something, and by then it'd be dirty again.
Later on, Ryan admitted if it wasn't as dirty, he didn't call him to come. Which was the most infuriating thing. I didn't know that, I just felt humiliated week after week when he'd come in and it was always a pigsty and it made me feel like such a failure.
I started to feel more like myself around January of my pregnancy. But I also felt, to my core, like a failure. My house was always a mess. My husband was never satisfied. I didn't really have any friends except the ones I sort of inherited through marrying Ryan. We hadn't anticipated on becoming parents so quickly and I was scared. I didn't get along with my in-laws, I didn't feel accepted by the community, and I never went out on my own. I hadn't mastered Hindi at all and I couldn't afford lessons. And most of all, at the root of it all, I felt like a failure in Christ. I kept trying to get my spiritual feet back under me, but I just kept falling and I was so heart broken.
I tried to turn to my blog. Truth was, my blog hadn't been as much as I'd have liked it to be, because when I hit publish, I share this. So people from the community, my family, my friends can read this. And I didn't want to stir up a lot. I was embarassed. I was depressed. My body was growing a new human being but hadn't recovered from the atrophy of dengue. And so I decided I'd just talk about the house cleaning stuff a little. Without going deep into why I struggle (and I still haven't, actually. There is more) and without going into the fact that Ryan and I were probably having fights over the house 5-6 day a week, every week and I was losing my freaking mind.
And my blog turned on me.
It wasn't much, but it was my first negative feedback really. People were judging me. Just like they judged me in real life. And I felt totally and completely betrayed and abandoned. My blog had been my last vestige of a happy place, really, and I just lost it.
So for the next few months, I didn't really blog with my heart. And truthfully, with rare exception (and there have been some) I hardly have since.
Which brings me back to Elsa. "The cold never bothered me anyway."
The cold bothered me. It bothered me a lot when my blog was so cold hearted when in reality I was in true anguish over this issue and I tried to turn to them about it because in my heart of heart, with all my being actually, I didn't and still don't think judging people over house cleaning is okay. It's superficial, it's stupid and honestly, there are so many clean homes filled with cold hearted even abusive families and plenty of messy, chaotic homes filled with joy and love. And there are also clean homes filled with love and dirty homes with abuse. My point is just that one is greater than the other. And of course I'd like to live in a clean home, but I know that cleaning brings out a bad side of me. And of Ryan too. When I clean I get anxious, defensive, and filled with a fear of failure. When Ryan cleans he gets cold, terse, judgmental and truthfully, a little cruel. I hate "cleaning Ryan" and that's one reason I'd rather do it all myself than let him clean, actually, because he's NOT a nice person when he cleans. It's also why I'd rather have a dirty home. Because in my ideal environment, I clean when I am at peace or maybe when I have some excess energy to work out (like when I'm angry about something else) but I stop the moment I feel myself getting that anxiety, fear, and defensiveness rising up in me. And if I do that, I hardly clean. But I"m happy. However, when I hardly clean, Ryan gets unhappy so.... we try to strike a balance. And we are.
This incident I'm talking about happened back in the beginning of 2014. About one month later, just as I had genuinely felt like myself for about a single month, I started bleeding and was put on bedrest. This was before I had a laptop, and sitting up was not allowed for the first few weeks. That was, truthfully, the main reason not many blogposts got published at all then, but it wasn't the real reason I wasn't writing.
When I got further along in my pregnancy and could sit up, I did some Bible Study blog posts that did indeed have my heart in them. But they took careful time and study and once Dreamer was born, more like that was impossible. And off the cuff posts? I just kept it to little light things.
But I was being attacked. I got very hateful comments including insulting my baby. I got one that truly terrified me I had a stalker because they knew Dreamer's real name! But then I realized while I had been careful not to stay it on the blog, my twitter or the blog's facebook page and my personal facebook is set to friends only... I had slipped and typed it in Instagram. I went back and edited that and relaxed because that wasn't so frightening. This was the time period when I stopped allowing anonymous comments and made it so I have to approve all comments before posting. I haven't had a heckler since then, just spam. But I also lost a lot of the engagement I'd been seeing.
I'd read before that in blogging you know you've "made it" when you start getting mean comments and I told myself that was true. And it probably is, and maybe I'll get mean ones today, I don't know. But I did know it changed my tone.
When you're writing, you envision an audience. Before the unkind cleaning episode and then the heckler after that, I had pictured a friend. But getting that response made me rethink not myself and my voice, but my audience. It was making me distrust you, the reader. And I disliked that. Especially since I knew most of you are so freaking awesome. Yet, getting that response, especially when I was afraid it was a stalker which has a level of fear attached, it got under my skin. Blogging wasn't fun anymore...
Yet. I still love this blog. And I am a writer. I'm compelled to write.
But I stopped publishing as much.
There have been dozens of blog posts I have written like 75%, but never published. Most of them because I realized: I don't really want this to be seen by the public.
There are hundred more I never even drafted because I didn't want to go there.
When Dreamer got older, I did start really blogging again, but had difficulty really opening up. I did have every intention though. It was mainly finding the time.
The visit to America, well obviously that was a ridiculously long low period in my blogging. I told myself to use it to think "what is the future of this blog? What do I want to do with it? What is its purpose?" etc. But at the same time I was following politics and my grandfather died and big, huge deep emotional things. Ryan and I discussing which country we want to raise children in. Meeting my nieces for the first time. Facing the fact that I'm not the same person I was when I left America, and what did that mean? The heart piercing thing of watching Dreamer miss her dad and bond with my family, only knowing when she was going back she'd miss my family. And knowing that the bonding, while so cherished and important, also means her heart will always be split amongst continents.
My grandfather dying has really pierced me. It's hard to explain. Grandpa was 91 and in ill health and it wasn't a surprise. I got to say goodbye to him in the hospital. I got to attend the funeral. Spiritually though, I've not been the same since. And I don't understand why. There's no spiritual questions, I don't think, that this really stirred up. I still trust in the Lord. But I had actually been healing spiritually in America. I was hearing God clearer, I was finding my path and trusting Him. But with Grandpa's death, it stopped and I haven't really felt right since. And it's probably just grief. Human beings weren't designed to know death, after all. I know this. But I am struggling.
Coming back to India has been good. And Ryan and I are good. I know earlier I make it sound like we do nothing but fight, but that was a season in our marriage. I had moved to India, three months later we got married, three months later we got our own place, three months after that we got pregnant. It was a lot really, really, really fast. We had a not that easy pregnancy, then we were reeling with being parents. And you know, we're from two different cultures that are very different. That is the bulk of it, really, the cultural thing, though not all the players realize that. Culture is the thing that's invisible to you until it's not there anymore. So living in India, most of the people I clash with are invisible to what is really going on, they just think I'm rude.
There's so much more to say... and I'll probably say it. I am praying over this fear of man and truthfully, fear of man is why I haven't written this before. But I want to cast off fear, God is not in it. Only fear of the Lord has any right in our lives.
Yet, I am not Elsa. And my analytical brain wants to say, Elsa wasn't really being all that good or wise "letting it go". That is, it is good she realized she was oppressed. And man, it just hit me I probably haven't even remotely conveyed it, but I have been oppressed since coming to India. I have maybe covered like 10% of it in this blog post, so don't get carried away on analyzing that, but basically I have been told not to do things, go places, say things, try things, etc etc etc because I don't "understand the culture." But of course, cultural understanding is only gained through experiences in most cases, primarily through mistakes. And some things I will never understand. I am American, not Indian. And that's okay.
So I hear Elsa sing and I think, am I that strong? Am I able to "Let it Go"? Can the cold not bother me?
But I'm so not Elsa.
Anna is the sister of Elsa. She's bumbly and sometimes foolish. Very naive. But sweet and strong and brave. She is loving and just wants to be there for her sister.
Anna is a fool about one thing in the movie (which she finds out) but she's also right in that Elsa doesn't need to be alone. Elsa is a queen and a sister and she has responsibility to her country and family. And, without spoiling the bulk of it, Elsa does end up both getting to be herself and getting to rule her country and live with the love of her sister.
I'm bumbly and often foolish. I've definitely been naive before (readers, I actually did the same thing as Anna. Yes, really. I was nineteen. It lasted 3 months. I am not kidding.) I am so Anna.
When Ryan and I fight, he retreats and I'm coming after him being like "NO, get over here and work this out we love each other" (only shriller and crazier. I am not attractive when I get angry lol.) Just like Anna going after Elsa. I know that Ryan and I can work out anything, if we actually work it out. Ryan would rather build an ice castle, so that's basically the pattern. We are getting better about it.
I kid you not, a fight we had the other day included this exchange:
Ryan: You know, the world isn't a musical.
Me: But it can be. It can be.
Anyway, so this is me putting this blog post out there because I really feel like I haven't been blogging because of "the cold" but also because there are just so many blog posts I've been choking back because I haven't felt like you, the readers, would be receptive.
I'm not doing that anymore.
I believe in being wise and not putting everything out there (I put so much out there people assume it's everything, but it never is) so I'm not going to just put out there everything that crosses my mind.
But I think this blog is in transition. I need to not worry about niche and audience and just write for a while.
I think maybe in a few months I'll find a voice again for this blog, via the writing process.
But in the meantime, you will be getting extremely varying content for this blog.
I'm kind of excited about that.
Love to you all, and thanks for reading this.