Monday, March 18, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Envy

"Envy is an insult to oneself." Well, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, get ready to hear some insults.

Envy is an insidious villain, one of the worst. A lurking unseen monster that manifests only once he is already in, wrapping his wispy arms around my heart. Tightening his endless grip like so much choking fog. Such a deceptive villain; I think I have bested him, shooing him away to harmless remnants, only to breathe him in, moments later. He dissipates, then forms even bigger, like Megazord or one of the nastier Combiner Transformers. There is no denying it, Readers. I am losing a mega battle to Envy.

I write in an incredibly saturated market. What is more present in the blog-o-sphere then the Stay-at-Home-Mom Blog? We are perhaps only outnumbered by instagrammed photos of food and certain nerd subgroups. Oh, and porn. But Mom Blogs are definitely within the top 5 arenas on the internet, right behind cat videos. I have a plethora of peers. Peers I want them to stay. Competitors, they often seem.

I love to read about the adventures and antics of my fellow moms. I get into trouble when my eye drifts anywhere else; to the comments section, the followers list, the rare page-view counters that sometimes settle at the bottom of the screen, forgotten relics of a bygone era. Numbers all. Numbers that coldly calculate within my head: pushing my worth lower as they climb. I feel Envy ride in on  waves of these hundreds and thousands, so I tear my eyes back to the words and shake my head to clear his foggy breath, already hot on my brain. I return to the words, lovely words; my anchor, my thread to this writer. This sister who I want to love deeply, Perfect Mom or not. I want to stand with her at the threshold of her current battle; support her campaign against the countless arrows that can hurl themselves toward the modern mom. I want to hand her her shield, not lose myself admiring the coat of arms gracing it. Marvelling at the magnificent paint to distraction and sending her forth, defenseless into the fray.

It is an ugly truth, but I am envious of my sister bloggers. Not only the ones who seem to gracefully navigate the tricky marketing aspect of blogging, but also the ones who just write better. Whose words flow across the page like leaping dancers; thoughts resplendent in themselves and positively ravishing housed together. My mouth hangs open at the sight, but no words of my own follow. They have retreated into my mind with a few whispers of "Erin, you can't compete with that, we are going home. We'll catch ya later; why don't you catch up on your web surfing? After all, you are really good at that."

Envy is not a new villain, nor is he a villain limiting to my writing. Envy and I throw down often and everywhere. When I snap at my husband, when I lose it with the children. When the dust bunnies under my couch actually grow large enough to roam. When my meals resemble something they serve in prison. I gaze around and see much better wives, mothers, cooks, homemakers. No, Envy and I are old foes, but his invasion into my writing life is quite new. And I don't like it one bit.

When writing was secret scribbles in stickered composition notebooks that I hid under the bed, there was no envy. Books were books to be read and enjoyed, but hardly peers. Who competes with Dickens? Dumas? Who competes with Nancy Drew? No one really, and certainly not me. I was content to let their words wash over me, flashlight fondly caressing them under the blanket. Even as I grew, and grew in my desire to write, I was able to keep Envy at bay. He had no place in my expanding world of writing; frantic love poems, homesick letters, tumbling journal entries intersected with quotes from Rent. Ah, college. And then, came young adulthood; little time to capture so much change, but it is there; still shoeboxed, deep in a trunk, for my grandchildren to giggle over. Our big move to Ann Arbor brought my blog, a reaching into the void for some company, some help, a few laughs in the loneliness that seemed to permeate my days. And now we are here.

Where are we? I say we because I have included you in my journey now. These writings are no longer hidden under the bed. I share them with you. And what does that mean? And why do I suddenly feel like I am in a constant battle with Envy? It isn't only here on the blog. My writing class, while fun and challenging, has sent me into a tailspin of self-esteem drama that I thought I left behind at age 25. OK, maybe 29. 33. Whatever, I thought I was mature now; incapable of feeling that sickening feeling that creeps in while you are nine years old and playing house with a semi-friend, who is really more the daughter of your mom's friend, and she tells you that you are wrong about some aspect of house that you always thought you had down. Of course, you are not terribly confident in your house abilities to begin with because you wanted to play fairies in the glen, but she didn't and it is her house the playdate is at, so you are stuck playing house and being the Dad because she wants to be the more glamorous role of Mom. And you suddenly feel awkward when you always felt just fine.

That is how I feel in my writing class. They mean well. They want my writing to improve. They want me to hone and edit and clarify and perfect. Shouldn't I? But, Readers, they want to take away my adverbs. And my fragments. And my grotesquely bloated sentences that weave and dance everywhere before they land on something that I didn't even plan or intend. They want to take my jokes. Not all of them, but enough. They want it shorter, cleaner, better. They make solid points and they do it kindly. And after all, it is all the point. It is a writing class. So why do I feel like that nine year old me who just wanted to shout, "I know my Dad is kinda weak, but wait until you see my fairies in the glen! They are really good, you're gonna love them!"

This post is starting to resemble what they are talking about. What is my point? My point is this; why do I write? I write for many reasons, the largest one being that I can't stop. (Literally, my posts seem like books somedays) That is fine and good; I could do that in the notebooks under my bed. Why do I write here? Why do I share it? I started because I was alone and I wanted someone to talk to. I wanted to connect. I want to connect. I want to know other moms. I want other moms to know that if they sometimes feel alone that they aren't. If they sometime feel awkward, they are not the only ones. Even if you aren't a mom, you might sometimes feel awkward, and you are not alone. I am here. I am here, thinking that making my own granola bars takes too long. I am here, forgetting my child's birthday at the doctor's office. I am here, yelling when I get too tired. Letting children sleep in my bed because I can't fight at 2 in the morning. I am here, messing up. I am here, crying after some playdate because some Perfect Mom snubbed me. I am here, with some stain on my shirt that I can't explain. I am here, not having the slightest idea what is for dinner. Missing time with just my husband. Forgetting not to swear in the car. I am here, falling down. I am here, being awkward.

When you read this, I don't ever want you to feel like you are competing with me. Obviously, you would win in a landslide, but that isn't the point. We are a sisterhood. Moms or not, you are my sisters. (and the like 3 men who read this, you are cool too) I want to pull you to my heart and tell you that it is all gonna be OK. Whatever it is, it is all gonna be OK. We'll get through this together. I can't promise that I won't sometimes get envious of you, especially those of you who write such beautiful blogs or those of you who have cuter shoes, but I'll get over it. I have battled Envy for a long time, I know a few tricks. I may lose a few battles here and there, but I am gonna win the war, Readers. You can count on that! You can count on me.

"Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts." Thanks, Jean Vanier. I'm taking that one and running with it! And thanks for being a tad gentler than Yevtushenko.

I believe in you, Mommy.
I also believe that we need some more dress-ups, so you might wanna get on that.


  1. Envy unfortunately is always with us - in whatever path we choose to take. It's probably part of the "human condition". But it needn't conquer us as you so eloquently put it. And there is always someone out there cheering you on and supporting all your efforts - no matter how awkward they may seem to you.

    1. Thanks, Mom! I'll take your awkward support anyday! :)

  2. I've been writing my blog for all of two minutes, and yet I can wholeheartedly relate to everything you are saying. I have felt envy, and most recently, a whole lot of self-doubt (when I had writer's block for a month and a half after only having posted a handful of entries). But, like you, when the need to write hits, I feel very compelled to do it. I'm still trying to figure out why I feel compelled to share it, though. Is it my ego? Is it that I truly think I have something to offer? I don't know. But I'm going to keep doing it--even if I take really long breaks--and I hope to eventually care less and less about how many likes I get on Facebook. As for your writing, I think it's fine to consider the comments of the people in your writing class, but also remember that there are nuances in your writing they might not understand. Don't be too quick to add or subtract. Keep following your instincts, because they're good, and those of us who follow YOU do so for a reason.

    1. I really enjoy reading your blog posts and they are so well-thought out and dense that I am not surprised that you don't want to write them everyday. How would you ever do anything else?!

      Thank you for the wisdom. Sometimes, being a people pleaser, I want to rip things out the second one person mentions it, but that isn't the point of comments. The point is to take them in and use what works for me and the writing. Thanks for following me! :)

  3. They want to take away the jokes??!!?? Who are these people, anyway? Honing is one thing, but taking out the jokes (even just some of them) sounds more like butchering. I think editing is a tricky business - there's a thin line between clarifying/perfecting and sanitizing to the point where the author's voice is lost. (just my opinion!)

    It really is easy to get wrapped up in Envy. Blog-envy, especially! I tend to envy the ones that seem to be making a living by blogging and/or crafting. Or the ones that grow their own everything and cook outrageously delicious, healthy meals. Ugh. But sometimes envy spurs me to be better than I am, so that's an upside. Best of luck in your epic battle with this super-villain!

    1. Yeah, but it isn't everyone. I think that I am only remembering the ones who do for the same reason we horde insults and forget the compliments that we receive during the day. Low self-esteem, my old foe.....

      The ones that make money! I know! How does that work?! But when I think about putting ads on my blog, I just don't like it. All cluttered up and what-have-you. But I agree with you on the upside of envy; now, making time to write and write well, there is the rub.....