I have more than one preferred language, but the one that applies to all my interactions with people is Words of Affirmation. My brother-in-law once said he liked my roast chicken and now I make it all the time. Of course, my brother-in-law lives in another city so I’m just force-feeding my husband my self-proclaimed “famous roast chicken,” but I felt so uplifted when he said that and I’m still riding high.
A family friend who is a writer, professor, and phenomenal storyteller said I should turn my early blogs (on a different site and mostly about Crohn’s Disease) into a book, and I pretty much blacked out. I had never had anyone who wasn’t family or a high school English teacher say they liked my writing before. I sat down and started writing.
I wrote out my story for a while on my own during a time of ill health and it was therapeutic, but as I approached the recording of my current life it got harder to write with clarity. I didn’t have enough distance from losing my job to a flare or my fears about enrolling in a clinical trial when so many drugs had failed me. I felt like I was letting my friend down by not being able to write the book she said I should write, and I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone, so the book died.
Words can lift me up, but in the absence of affirmations, what do I have? Did I expect this person to stand behind me while I typed and chant my name while waving pompoms? Was it reasonable to expect everyone I knew to tell me daily that I should be a writer? That I would definitely be published? That I could one day support my family with my writing? Obviously not, but in the moments between words of encouragement I was discouraged. I needed effusive praise to be the wind beneath my wings or I’d fall out of the sky.
Not long after the book died, the blog died. I didn’t know what to say anymore, since the reason I started posting was to assure my family and friends that, despite my illness, I’d be okay. I had wanted to spread the word about Crohn’s Disease and hopefully educated others who had never heard of it before, but I didn’t have any good news to share. Joining a clinical trial was risky and getting pregnant wasn’t allowed, so if the drug worked I wouldn’t be able to have kids until I could take the drug on the open market years later.
What’s missing in this story are words of affirmation from me to me. At no point did I tell myself I could be a writer, or that I could finish a book. I only wrote what I did because someone else told me I should. When that person went back to work and I went home to a flare and unemployment, that bolstering wind blew away and I was left with half a book of angsty scribbles.
I started another blog years later (hi it’s this one) when I had kids because I honestly just liked to write and told myself I didn’t care if I had good news or bad. I have ups and downs here, too, mostly of my own doing. I don’t understand A-NY-THING about computers and SEO and stats and keywords and coding and whatever else goes into this site. I use a basic template and just hope for the best. Sometimes I have a lot of readers click on a blog and I don’t know why it did so well, and other times I’ll post something at a weird time when not many people are online, like a Friday afternoon, and not even my mom reads it. I was proud of some of the posts about being a mom, and got a lot of feedback from other moms thanking me for sharing something they identified with, so I told myself before I had a third child I would birth a book.
I picked my better posts and added some stories about moms in my life and decided to skip the process of getting rejected by publishers to self-publish — a rejection letter would be anti-affirmation, after all. I’m happy to say that more than just my mom read that book, but still I could probably fit all my readers in my living room. I had faith in myself, but only enough to publish it on my own and not even try to get a real book cover design or run ads. Even so, I’m really proud of that book today.
This is the year of the self-affirmation. If I want more people to see my writing and I can’t figure out how to bend the internet to my will, I’ll try and get my work posted on outlets that have a better grasp of website traffic. The truth is, I can’t be a writer if I don’t write anything, and all writing is good practice for the next thing I want to try. So I’ll try and fail and try again and improve and try five more times. I’m looking at bigger projects to go with the shorter articles I’m submitting to similar (but more successful) blogs, and those give me heartburn when I think about the work involved and whether or not it’s too ambitions for a stay-at-home mom who is also the assistant teacher at Camp Homeschool. If I don’t tell myself I can, I’ll waste time and practice waiting for someone else to tell me.
If you know the love language that feeds your soul, don’t forget to love yourself in the same way. Talk yourself up if you’re into affirmations, save up and get yourself something nice if you’re here for gifts. I have a partner who is very supportive, but I can’t put all that pressure on him to keep me feeling confident every minute of the day. If I don’t know how to lift myself up, how can anyone else? My readers on this blog have been so supportive and some of you send me messages after each post. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, and how your words have propelled me forward.
Thank you for hanging in there with me, from months of nothing to weeks with three erratic posts. My appreciation for my readers is beyond words.