I’ve got 45 minutes before our Thai dinner gets delivered. OMNOMNOM.
What to write about today?
I thought maybe I’d share what it was like to take 6 months off creating in the public arena.
For me, it felt like an eternity and deeply unusual: I’ve been blogging since 2004 and have published a blog weekly for years. On top of that, I’ve been slopping about on social media daily.
It’s been such a joy in so many ways. After all, creating is one of my favourite things in the world. It’s where I feel most at home.
So what led me to decide to take a break?
It was the culmination of a few things:
I was bloody tired after the ginormous clusterfuck that was 2016.
I felt exhausted by being “out there” publicly. I was tired by trolls, tired by the toxic culture of social media, tired by another offensive comment. I wrote more about this here.
I went to a Michael Leunig talk for my birthday, and he said words that reminded me so much of why I decided to take a break:
“People are so close to anger these days. But, when I look at their lives, I understand why. They live lives at a pace that is stressful. Even just starting your day driving to work through traffic is stressful! And so the last vestige of energy in them is anger, and they open their laptop lid and let it all out there. It’s the only thing left for them to feel.”
At the same time, I also wanted to step deeper into the nest of motherhood and be more present with my children instead of putting out the latest internet fire or wracking my brain of something witty/funny/insightful/beautiful to feed the endless content monster that is social media. Our journey into homeschooling started at the same time, and it was beautiful to swap one thing that no longer felt good to a task that felt worthy of my time and attention.
Mostly though, I just needed a good break. I hadn’t taken one for an age. I hope that one day I’ll get better at taking breaks pre-emptively, before I hit the wall + it all feels hard and painful.
I thought I’d just take a month off. But by the end of the month, it felt too good and sweet to end.
So I extended it without a deadline, and decided not to return until I was ready.
What was it like to not create publicly?
It was great and it sucked, all at once!
Firstly: the immense relief. The pressure cooker lid removed.
I no longer had to catalogue my life online. I no longer had to think of things to say. I no longer had to think of how to carefully craft words in a way that offended nobody (an impossible task).
I didn’t have to be important to anyone except my kids and my husband.
My life wasn’t fodder anymore for the Great Online Content Monster with its insatiable appetite and its fiery temper of judgment.
I could sit around a table with friends and laugh until my lungs hurt and know that I wasn’t going to be misunderstood, that I was safe and I was loved and I was known, really known, in a very base way, for all my foibles and oddnesses and human-magic. That their opinions of me, formed over years of skin-to-skin lived experience, was worth more than a hundred randoms furnishing an unthoughtful judgment online.
And I can sit around a table with them and laugh any old time, but in the quiet of no internet opinions, it felt all the more in contrast.
I’d like more of that, please.
More life. More quiet. More love that is real and true.
So it was glorious and healing and scrumptious.
And then after a time, it also started feeling constrictive and un-fun.
I felt like I was hiding away from the world. I felt handcuffed and cut off from my own source of power.
As I talked about in my Haemorrhaging Sack of Uterus letter, I started to pine for the one thing that has helped me heal + make sense of the world more than anything:
Would I prefer a quiet life away from the public’s eye, not creating and sharing? Safe, but not truly alive?
Or would I prefer to create and share, birthing the things I feel should be in the world, knowing that it can bring with it occasional fuckwittery in the comments section?
And the first one felt far too small for me. And dull. And not a very Leonie way to live at all.
There’s a quote a friend once read to me when the trolls were biting. And I thought it was by Thich Nhat Hanh, but I can’t find reference to it. So it might be just one of those pieces of wisdom that took seed and flourished into something else more meaningful to me.
“If I believe you when you say I’m an angel,
I would also have to believe you when you say I’m a demon.
And so I don’t believe you whatever you think of me.”
I think that’s the odd thing about the whole fame thing: you have to give no weight to anybody’s opinions, whether good or bad, except for the ones that truly matter.
And of course, I love that a monk can have his critics too. There really is no way of being in this world without pissing off somebody!
I should say here: I’m remarkably “lucky” with how few critics/trolls/haters I have had. I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly special to attract their attention anymore than crossing that magical threshold from unknown to some level of popularity. And of course, the 1 fucked up comment always has 1000 utterly lovely ones surrounding it.
The thing that is my gift: the paper-thin skin of sensitivity to the world, feeling it all so I can understand and create from there, is also my greatest challenge. Someone I worked with once wrote: “Leonie’s got a great big open heart. But throw a grenade in there, and the effects are devastating.”
So I need to work out a way to balance the sensitivity + the pain.
I think I need to recommit to stronger boundaries around potential contact with fuckwittery. And I also think I need to develop a stronger, more resilient kind of spirituality and self-worth.
As Hiro said to me: “Leonie, when you can experience these things and not immediately leap to doubting yourself, wondering what you’ve done wrong and how you need to fix yourself, then that will be progress.”
But mostly, returning to this is about my great love affair with creating. I love it more than I love hiding from the potential repercussions of it. Life started to not make sense anymore when it was all unwritten and tangled. The writing untangles it, weaves it into a tapestry of understanding. I can see the flecks of magic in life when I write it out.
Thai food has arrived. Pad Thai awaits.
In love and art,