Honestly Me: Failing The Stress Test
Hey, remember me? I'm the gal who started this blog, built up a ton of momentum, and then went radio silent for over two weeks. I imagine that scene from Julie & Julia when Amy Adams types "is anyone out there reading this?" Maybe a bunch of you wonder where I've been...or maybe worse...no one realized I was gone.
I stepped away because I burned out. I bonked. My body and my mind gave out after trying to do way too much for way too long at home and at work. I can trace it back as early as Thanksgiving. Getting sick in Chicago, Harlow's first birthday, Christmas, moving into the new house, back-to-back work projects, family illness. I could feel it coming - I should've seen it coming after I threw a hissy fit and threw my Bic across the room. Then one day I sat down to type a blog post and just sat there, staring at the blinking cursor, realizing I had nothing to say.
For months and months, my to-do list has been running my life. Sure it helps keep me organized and goodness knows if I don't write it down I'll never remember it. (Mom brain + mom blog = too little storage on the mental hard drive.) Suddenly I started stuffing it in a kitchen drawer because seeing all the things I hadn't crossed off that day...and the day before that...and the day before that...wore my nerves down to nubs. No matter how hard I tried, how late I stayed up, how little I did for myself to put my family first and business second, nothing ever made that damn list any shorter. The stress and anxiety crept higher and higher as my life balance got farther and father out of whack.
So I sat there, looking like a mouth breather in front of my Mac, dumbfounded as it started to sink in that Brooke had no thoughts because Brooke wasn't there. The mom, the wife, the blogger, the stylist, the cook, the cleaner, the errand-runner, the bedmaker, the grocery shopper, the planner, the pleaser, the "sure I can do that!" over-promiser had taken over, leaving little to no room for a woman trying to think thoughts and feel feels all her own. When was the last time I read a book, or anything not in my inbox? Discovered new music, went for a walk, erased something - anything - from my DVR.
It's a bit of a problem when a life style blogger has no life LOL. Coupled with the insane amounts of pressure I put on myself to blog about the right things and talk about them the right way, I gave out. For crying out loud, I wrote a whole post on this exact same subject earlier this week, then deleted it because I thought it was "too much." Or was it not enough? Whatever it was, I clammed up, freaked out, and threw it in the trash.
I've really been trying to balance everything to the best of my ability and it's not enough. That, in and of itself, is hard to swallow. What's left other than to learn to let go? It is SO hard for me to let myself off the hook, but what's my alternative? Feeling so under water with everything piled on my plate that I paralyze myself into total inaction? Obviously that's not a stellar solution, and even though I hate that I've had to take a timeout from blogging, I'm fortunate that I can step away from it when the waters start rising to dangerous levels.
Before I had Harlow, if I needed a break to rejuvenate it was fairly quick and easy to get back to business. Sleep in, exercise, shop, nap, and binge on Netflix. Make an afternoon date with a matinee and a tub of buttered popcorn. Now, it's not so easy. Sleeping in: don't make me laugh! I haven't exercised since I don't know when. I shop online or locally when I get the chance and a spare dollar in my pocket. When I watched the Emmys this year I pulled for This is Us and Game of Thrones by default because I'd never seen anything else! (They're also really, really good shows.) I recently tried discussing an episode of Modern Family I had just watched with my dad and he had to think really hard to remember it because it came on so long ago. Thank goodness for the News app on my phone, otherwise I wouldn't know half of what's going on out there. Though sometimes I would prefer not to know...but that's a subject I don't intend to tackle.
The only way I knew how to come out of the fog was to park and let it pass. I've worried myself to death about this because "they" all say the golden rule of blogging is consistency. I even had someone at Reward Style tell me I have extremely high potential and to focus on a consistent schedule. So I tried! I landed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as my days to push out new content on my blog and post on social media in between. I lasted a few weeks before that pen went flying across the den in a fit of Jessie Spano spastic rage. Oooh, maybe it was more like Diane Keaton after she learns her husband is sleeping with their therapist and wants a divorce in The First Wives Club.
I thought about it that night and realized that it would all be okay in the end for several reasons. For starters, I'm new at this. I adore every single one of you who follows along, reads what I write, and then talks about it with me! But the world won't stop spinning if my blog isn't updated for a short time. I learned that during my days at the NHL. We believe in our work; it's fun and brings joy to others and ourselves. But the future of the human race does not depend on it. So let loose a little bit and remember to enjoy the ride!
Second, a huge part of my "brand" is honesty. I launched The Tony Townie to create a space to share my passion for fashion (I never could resist a good rhyme) and to speak open and honestly about my new life as a mom. Everything about it, from the good to the less good to the 'holy shit what did I do to deserve this?' bad days. Believe me, you know you can trust me because if I'm writing it and I feel confident enough to press 'Publish Post' then I mean it!
Lots of what I've written about flows on to the page because I'm contemplating my experience in hindsight. I've had time to mull over what it was like, how I felt about it, the lessons I learned but couldn't see at the time. It's SO much harder to write confidently when you're in the middle of "it." The sticky, uncomfortable, hard, stressful days when up is down, right is left, and you want to hide under your covers. Right now, I'm confronting the fact that I have a hard time trusting my own voice, believing what I tell myself to be true. I still need my parents or grandparents to tell me it's all going to be okay sometimes. I'm a parent myself now, so that messes with my mind and makes me feel less-than. Last year, I had four friends lose their fathers. My heart has ached for them, for their pain, and from the fear I feel over being in their shoes one day. How will I 'adult' when I'm at the top of the family tree?
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of mortality. You can see why I threw the pen. My life became so out of balance that I had to completely step off the scales to even things back out. I wouldn't say I'm totally back to center quite yet but I'm working on it! And as it turns out, I'm in great company of other bloggers who've been feeling stressed and burned out lately, too! I stopped reading my favorite blogs for a little while in my attempt to take a real break; then one day, I saw one of them post on Facebook that she was back from a self-imposed break after feeling creatively stagnant! And just this morning I read a post by my number-one-mommy-blogger crush that I could've written -- it was like we were living the same reality, never feeling quite adequate enough to live the life we envision for ourselves. Right down to the love/hate relationship with cooking.
The BEST thing about taking some time has been spending immersive, quality time with Harlow. I love this age. Her personality is really showing! She's into something new every other minute which can get exhausting...except then she crawls over to me and hands me a book, or "asks" me to put her purse around her shoulder for her and my heart swells. We're really into our barnyard animal sounds, counting to five, and watching Sesame Street. Just yesterday she took three wobbly steps into my outstretched arms! I think about how fleeting this time really is and I could cry. When it comes down to it, I'd rather witness my daughter's growth and development in the smallest of ways then worry myself sick over a post on what's trending for spring. Hopefully I'll get my swagger back and be able to do both without worrying over either.
My new recipe for rejuvenation is making sure I get good rest at night, and taking time just for me. No more blogging until 1 AM. No more spending every spare second on my business. I'm actually reading a book you guys! I chose The Nest -- anyone read it? So far I'm loving it! I love books that switch point of views from one chapter to the next.
If you made it to the end, I'm sending you warm hugs right now! Sharing this post with you is like pulling off the proverbial Band-Aid. It felt awkward and I worried over it and made it worse in my head than it ever could be. Thank you for hanging on and showing me grace! I've got some fun posts up my sleeve that will come out soon. I can't say when quite yet. But I promise they'll be worth your time -- and mine!