There are many reasons why a person might decide to begin a blog. For some people, blogging is an avenue though which they can promote their business venture or their creative work. In addition, blogging can be therapeutic for individuals who wish to impart advice gleaned from their personal experiences or for individuals who may be seeking advice in an anonymous, non-threatening environment.
I started Sundry Folly (in its current incarnation) in June 2014, after hosting its far inferior predecessor through Tumblr for just under a year. Admittedly, I do blog for some of the reasons listed above, however the primary impetus for blogging really began with a promise that I made to my mother in March of last year.
A year ago today, my mother passed away from complications of breast cancer. She was only 63 years old. Mom was an intelligent, funny, and talented woman. Yet, like many of us, she carried regrets and ‘what ifs’ around inside of her. Mom’s regrets and disappointments are her own and it is not for me to discuss them here. However, who hasn’t looked back on his or her life and wondered, “What would my life have been like if I had only tried that? What have my fears cost me?” Mom wanted her children to live in a way that would bring them the least amount of regret. She didn’t want us to be passive about life. In fact, during a rather emotionally charged mother-daughter phone conversation that I had with her in 2013, she told me exactly that.
I am not disappointed in you, but I want you to be less passive.
At the time, I didn’t want to hear her maternal counsel. I was 31 years old–old enough to figure life out for myself, right? Now, when I reflect back on that conversation, I realize just how much I had needed to hear her advice. Throughout my life, I have had a strong tendency to not take a stand when being treated unfairly. I have let toxic friendships and relationships continue way past their expiration dates because I was afraid of being alone. From a very early age, I allowed others to devalue me. Naturally, it pained my mother to see me being treated like a doormat.
My family tells me that I had a tremendous amount of pluck and self-confidence in my early childhood, but that those traits vanished when I reached the first grade–this was the time when I started being bullied by my fellow classmates. The bullying was usually not physical in nature, although I can remember a few times when classmates pushed me and threw things at me. The bullies in question primarily used verbal insults to beat me down. I remember being called ugly and stupid more times than I can count and those were just the PG rated insults. This kind of verbal harassment continued for the next seven years. If I told teachers or staff about the bullying, the persecutor would make life even worse for me because I had gotten him or her in trouble. I didn’t have any coping strategies. I was an outmuscled, wispy kid. I was also a pacifist. I didn’t want to fight back. I merely wanted the other kids to start being nicer.
By the time high school rolled around, my classmates had matured (somewhat) and no longer garnered much joy from taunting me, but it didn’t matter, because my confidence had already been destroyed. I walked around in a shell that echoed with all of the jabs and jeers which had passed through my ears during those seven soul stealing years, but now the put-downs were being doled out in my own voice. I had managed to internalize everything that my tormentors had laid upon me.
In high school I joined choir and the theatre club, but never had what it took to land a leading role. My shy nature and lack of confidence in auditions relegated me to being in the background. I began my undergraduate career as a vocal performance major but switched majors after only a year and a half in the program because of severe performance anxiety. In the aforementioned cases, it was usually not a lack of skill or talent that barred me from achievement, it was the fear of being judged. In my head, more often than not, I was still telling myself you can’t instead of you can.
But, let’s get real and stop the pity party. The misery that was middle school happened over 15 years ago and I can’t use it as an excuse for non-action anymore. Even though it is not always easy, I am slowly learning how to not listen to the mocking pre-pubescent voices of yesteryear. There is power in learning how to let go and in creating boundaries that other people cannot cross. That is what my mother so desperately wanted and perhaps needed for me to understand. For far too many years, I let myself be silenced, at first by other people and then–more dangerously–by myself. During the time that mom was in hospice, I promised her that I would be happy and that I would stop being passive. When one of her children was going through a rough patch, mom would sometimes say, “A mother can only ever be as happy as her unhappiest child.” It was important for me to let mom know that she didn’t need to worry about me anymore.
And so, this blog is a way for me to partially fulfill my promise to her. Through blogging, I can share my voice with others. Is everything that I write a gem? Of course not! Are the photographs that I post Pulitzer Prize worthy? No, they are not. But their presence inside of me and on Sundry Folly are helping me slowly crack the shell which I have been hiding under for so long.
The accompanying picture is of some of the many candles that I have lit for my mother over the last year. I hope that I can shine in ways that would make her proud. She is greatly missed.