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Photo by Flickr user cuneogc (Creative Commons license).

I took a month off from blogging and being on social media, and the world went to hell on a fast track while I was gone.

Not that the two events are related. 😉

Now I’m taking a hiatus from my hiatus, and if that sounds like I’m only back temporarily, that’s because I’m only back temporarily.

The dropping off the face of the web thing felt really frickin good. I thought it would be hard, but it wasn’t. I thought I would miss it, but I so did not. I thought I might struggle to keep up my self-imposed “write every day in November” challenge but I didn’t. I had energy and time and a semi-positive outlook because I wasn’t gauging my eyes out in comment threads.

I also realized there really is no such thing as a safe space online. There are spaces that are safer than others, of course. But to have a blog means anyone can read it–even the one person you wish would get a life and a conscience and go the fuck away once and for all.

I’ve been struggling with the question of presence, in every sense of the word. I’m trying to be more present in my everyday life–a more focused employee and writer, a more fun mom, a more physically active and fit human. Not being online much in the past month helped me start some solid habits to those ends. Being a writer means being present online, though, and contending with distraction, intrusion, anxiety, and myriad other negative emotions associated with putting myself out there. Some days, putting myself out there feels empowering; others, terrifying. Part of my struggle has been trying to decide which emotion wins, which “me” is going to prevail.

The answer I’ve come to is that I am both and, as a close friend reminded me, neither is nor has to be permanent. I am both empowered and terrified about keeping a public blog, speaking out about what’s happened to me and what’s happening in the world (I’ll get to this in a minute). Instead of trying to shove myself definitively into one or the other category, I’m going to go with the flow. When I’m empowered, I will post often. When I’m terrified, or even if I just want a break, I will embrace the hiatus. The blogging gurus will crow that posting frequency and consistency are the key to audience-building, but dammit, I only want the audience that wants to read me, to know me, in spite of my possibly erratic posting schedule. I only want the audience that wants to be here, and if that’s you, then thank you, I love you. And even if that means no audience at all, it doesn’t negate the thoughts and feelings I release here.

As for the creepers, and there really is just one that I know of, the ever-present and aforementioned creeper who makes it known to me, back channel, that he’s creeping…well, if he couldn’t intimidate the life out of me before, he certainly can’t and won’t now.

There might not be air-tight safe spaces online, but this mind and body right here? Are safe because I left. My presence–here, and not there, never there again–is entirely within my control.

At a time when so much feels like it’s not in my control, this fact is a comfort to me.

I’m also deeply comforted because I feel like a writer again. The writing I do late at night in my room is wholly different from what I do on this blog. I don’t consider audience when I write poetry. I write things that make me shudder, make me think omg you can’t say that and then revel-squeal in the fact that I can I can I can, and I dance around my room with my for-now secrets. I didn’t miss a single day of writing in November, just like when I undertook this challenge a year and a half ago. But enough about that tiny bit of my badassery. 😉

Now, about this world we’re living in. We gotta do better. If you’re wondering whether I am about to say I have guilt because I checked out of the news while white supremacy and systemic misogyny achieved leadership over the free world, whether I have guilt because I was making poems while voters and college students were shot, the answer is: no. I have strong, deep sadness and anger over those events, but I’m not going to express guilt because no one needs my guilt, or yours, or anyone else’s. You think people of color give a shit whether you feel guilty for voting Trump, or voting third party, or not voting at all? You think women care that you feel guilty about all the fact-deficient anti-Hillary crap you let your most vacuous acquaintances get away with saying, even if you did vote for her? You think people who are gender-nonconforming are the least bit concerned that you feel bad about all those jokes you made about Caitlyn Jenner last year? You think any Muslims or immigrants care whether you compare Trump to Hitler? Enough. Just do better. Do better. Volunteer. Speak up. Donate to causes. Vote every chance you get. Sign petitions. Write letters. Call representatives. Show up to protests–be a warm and pissed off body on the front line. Listen when people express fear and sadness. Read and think. Educate and take care of yourself. And. Make art.

I do all of these things, though admittedly not as often as I’d like. And I promise you, I’m not congratulating myself; I’m sharing what I do to stave off complete despair in the hopes that maybe you will try these things, too, and despair less. Maybe together we can effect change that makes us ALL despair less.

Yes, I’m suggesting you to seek out negative emotions (from a place of safety!), channel them, and do something with that energy. Yes, I’m lecturing (lecture others if you have to!). Yes, I’m being a bit self-righteous (own your work, and encourage others to do the same!). Yes, I patted myself on the back a bit (be your own cheerleader, and cheer for others!) about being able to write through all the BS of the last month, but that’s a personal triumph.

Or is it? A wise woman recently said to me:

Every time I sit down to write, I’m energizing the best and fullest part of my human capacities: thought, self-expression, imagination, creativity. I’m also acting from a loving impulse: the desire to share the best aspects of my humanity with others in such a way that their own capacities are enlarged…I am putting something good, beautiful and true into the world every time I sit down to write.

And another wise woman, when I passed this quote on to her, replied, “It is the not-writing that makes me feel anxious, that makes me question the value of what I do. It is never the writing. Never.”

So, whether blogging or making poems, I am using my mind to do and make, trying to communicate with others something pure and honest. I am trying, with varying degrees of success, to affect consciousness. Some days this communication is easier than others; and while I might be in and out of this semi-safe space, might not be present in the literal sense, my mind is nearly always present, always on the words and how to turn them into bridges. This is how I reconcile my dilemma about presence.

I haven’t heard from you in a month. What do you or are you doing to get through? What comfort, if any, have you found?