Today is my sixteenth blogiversary. I sat down that day and (with Ken’s help) wrote the very first entry on this thing, with no idea where it would go, or where it would take me, knowing only that there was nobody in my life who wanted to talk about sock heels as much as I did, and that I wanted to find those people. Fast forward sixteen years, and here we are.
(Here also are finished mittens. I’m just going to punctuate this post with pictures of them, for no reason other than that I am in love with them, and as always over the last sixteen years, I think you’re the only people who are really going to care.)
I learned a lesson really early on in blogging and being a writer. I try not to read reviews. I try not to go to Amazon and see what people think of me, I try not to visit forums where I’m discussed, and let me tell you, I learned this the hard way. I’m sure I’ve told you this story, but I once found a review of one of my books, and the person who wrote it said that the writing was okay, but that they wished that the publisher would stop putting my picture on the cover because I was so wildly unattractive that it spoiled the entire experience for them beyond all redemption. I am paraphrasing here – they specifically said that I look like a weasel. Now, I don’t need reassurance here that I am un-weasel-like. I’m (mostly) over it, and it taught me not to go looking for what people think of me, and I’ve been happier for it. Worrying too much about what the audience thinks is the kiss of death for writing. You get too careful to be yourself. (Plus if I look like a weasel that is hardly correctable by me, besides for crying out loud weasels don’t even have curly hair.)
Sometimes though- I find things by accident. I do frequent the places (online and in the real world) that other knitters do, and from time to time I read something about myself and have to reckon with it. Such was the case when a week or two ago – I read something and it hit me like a train. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I won’t quote them exactly, but what they said was that I have changed, that the blog has changed and that they don’t know if it was the death of my mother or what, but I have changed.
My first reaction was guilt. Heaps of it. Mountains of it. A veritable avalanche of guilt and bad feelings and I spent days wondering if it was true, wondering if I had changed, wondering if my mum (and Tupper and Susan) had freakin’ broken me and wondering how, if I wasn’t me anymore, how could I become me again. I almost felt an obligation to change back. To do the work and figure out what was different and wrong and change back. I felt ashamed that I had let this person down- and extrapolated that therefore I had let so many people down, and tried to deal with the bad feelings around all of that.
I added “I have changed” to the list of things that I worry about each night, the list of things that I am going to fix in the morning when I wake up and begin my life as a whole other person. I added it to other disappointments like swearing too much, procrastinating, not being tidy enough, never having an empty inbox and liking to play that farm game on my phone. Change back, I thought. I will try to change back.
This, rather predictably, has not gone well. Like most other attempts to become someone I am not, like someone who answers email instead of knitting or never goes to bed with a dirty kitchen or is impossibly kind at every turn, or never holds bitter thoughts, or eventually uses lipstick… it has been an abject failure. I haven’t been able to change back.
I was wondering, while contemplating this spectacular failure and adding it to the list of other ways I let humanity down, if it had been the death of my mother. I think about that a lot – did that rough patch, that loss, together with the other losses so quickly like that, rob me of some essential me-ness? Is that why I couldn’t change back? Was I broken? This was in the back of my mind when I came back from the gym last week. Joe asked me if I’d had a good workout, and I described something to him that I’d been able to do that I couldn’t do before. “You’ve really changed” Joe said, and I froze in my tracks. I was horrified that he saw it too, and he is on the list of the people in the world I least like to disappoint and so I panicked and immediately began to prepare a speech, one where I told him that I knew, that I knew I’d changed, and that I was sorry, and that I was trying to change back – that I hadn’t meant to change I was just trying to get a grip on everything changing around me and… before I could get a word of apology out, he said “I am so proud of you.”
That was it. The bubble burst. I have changed. Things have changed around me, and I have changed too. For the record, it was also the moment that I realized that the person who made that comment – they never said it was a bad thing. They just said I had changed, and it is true. I am not just the mother who wrote this blog sixteen years ago, I am a grandmother. I am not a daughter any longer, I am an orphan. I am not only a knitter, I am a weaver and a spinner and I can embroider beautiful mittens and I don’t just blog, I have books and instagram and I own a small business and I learned to ski and I can just about deadlift my own body weight because my doctor told me that if I didn’t change I was going to have the bone density of a bird, and I have allowed myself to embrace a family of choice. I have lost friends, I have made friends, my family has shrunk and then grown again. I have on my resume that I was the Chair of a big charity, and I learned how to manage spreadsheets. (Sort of.) I am a long distance cyclist. I no longer pretend things are okay with me when they are not. I have changed, and that’s okay. It’s really okay, it’s actually maybe the only way through something like this (by “this” I think I mean life) and I have changed and darlingest knitters… frankly, I really hope you have too.
It has been sixteen years, and the only thing that has not changed, is that I still wanted to come here to tell you what I was thinking.
On Friday night at VKL, I had dinner with an old friend. Someone who started blogging around when I did, and she stopped last year. She’s still present, and still on instagram and I asked her how she felt about the decision to stop blogging. “Things change” she said, and I could tell how happy she was with her decision. She’s changed – and she looked so well and so happy and so totally in charge of herself and her family and I thought about changing this too, and let me tell you, it’s not going to happen. A lot more would have to change for me to want to leave all of you. The Blog (that’s you) has been my constant, my rock, the amorphous blob of humanity that understands me best all these years, and has been the best support of my life. Though things have changed, I love you yet. You are my people, and I couldn’t do anything without you.
Sixteen years. Cheers, my friends. To change, may you embrace it, and then always come here to tell me about it.
(PS, along with my inability to rinse out a coffee cup the day that I use it, or the way that I can. not. answer. all. my. mail… the other thing that hasn’t changed is The Bike Rally. This year (for a change) I’ll just be riding the thing. Other than an advisory role, I have no responsibility at all – but for the wind in my hair and the cash that I raise. As has become traditional, I start my fundraising on my blogiversary – asking you, if I have given you enough over the last sixteen years, if you’d consider giving me (well, people with AIDS) sixteen dollars. (Or a multiple of sixteen, or a fraction of it, depending on your means.) Here’s the link to do that, if you’d like to keep the way knitters freak that charity out completely unchanged.)