A few weeks ago, 2Summers was featured in a post called “Top 10 African Travel Blog Posts” in the Where Lions Roam blog. It was a nice feature and I was pleased to be included. But the description of my blog surprised me.
“On an altogether more cheerful note this blog from an American-turned-Jozi-fan is great light reading and will educate you about many fun and quirky things to do in Johannesburg that most residents will not have encountered!”
Seeing my blog described as “light reading” brought up an interesting mix of emotions. My homepage proves this description accurate: The most recent posts are about bakeries, walking tours, street food, and cats. I’m a lighthearted person and people seem to enjoy my lighthearted way of describing things. And there’s no reason for me not to be lighthearted, right?
But light reading wasn’t my original intention for this blog — not my main intention, at least.
When I started 2Summers in June 2010, I planned to make it an in-depth account of my emotional journey. You see, I was in the midst of divorcing my husband, who I was leaving for another man, and that man lived on another continent. This is a good story, I thought. I thought I might like to write a book someday — like Eat, Pray, Love, but better — and blogging seemed like a good place to start.
I was so arrogant.
It was ridiculous for me to think I could blog about my emotions because I didn’t have the slightest clue what my emotions were. I was barrelling through life in a manic, obsessive haze of unchecked feelings, acting without thinking.
If I’d sat down and truly thought about what I was doing — about the people I was hurting and the crazy risks I was taking — I never could have done what I did. If I had reminded myself that this was real life — that I was a real person and not a character in a book — I couldn’t have sat down with my husband on a Friday evening after dinner and told him I was leaving our seven-year relationship without prior notice. I couldn’t have dismantled my life so quickly and thoroughly, and launched myself into a new life in a new country with a man who, truth be told, I didn’t know very well.
I didn’t know Jon very well, but I did know that I loved him and I’d do anything to be with him. I knew that he, like me, was in a relationship that needed to be dismantled in order for this plan to go forward. I knew that Jon had problems with mental illness and alcohol.
I didn’t care though, because I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling and doing. My feelings and my actions carried me to South Africa, for better or worse, and that’s how 2Summers was born.
When I arrived in Johannesburg I wrote about what I did. I wrote about my house in Melville and the market in Maboneng, about the cheese shop in Linden and the road trips Jon and I took to Swaziland and Lesotho. I wrote about walking tours in Soweto and Hillbrow. I wrote about my failed attempt to get around Joburg on a bicycle, and my first time driving on the left side of the road. People seemed to like it so I kept doing more, writing more. I left out most of my actual life.
I didn’t write about Jon’s addiction. I didn’t write about the fights, the lying, the blackouts, the verbal abuse, the totalled Land Rover and the emergency hospital stays. I didn’t write about how I unwittingly enabled Jon, about all the times I begged him to stop and he promised he would but then he couldn’t. I didn’t write about his trip to rehab, his blissful five-month sobriety, and his final relapse and descent into madness. I didn’t write about how I ran away and hid out with friends while Jon raged at home, how Jon sent the police to look for me because I had “stolen” his car.
I didn’t write about the fact that I never gave up on Jon, how I never let go of the hope that he would get better and we would live happily ever after.
The day after Jon died, in December 2011, I realized I had two choices: 1) Quit blogging, because the happy-go-lucky version of me was gone, possibly forever; or 2) Blog about the truth. I chose the second option.
I told the truth, to a point. I blogged about death and grief, which really helped me, and I touched on Jon’s alcoholism. I alluded to a few of the traumas I’d experienced. But I left most of the story untold.
I didn’t blog about how just a few months after Jon died I started experimenting with dating and relationships, and how badly those experiments turned out — how empty they made me feel. I didn’t write about my realization that I had emotional problems that started long before I met Jon and ran deeper than my grief. I didn’t write about my persistent obsessive thinking about men.
I didn’t write about how I went to rehab, the same rehab that Jon had attended, and participated in therapy with a group of substance addicts. Through Jon’s addiction — and this is the really hard part to explain — I realized that I was an addict too. I had an invisible hole inside myself, which had always been there, which I was perpetually, compulsively, trying to fill with other people. That compulsion left me with a string of failed relationships: two divorces (yep, two) and another relationship ending in death. The relationships were all gone but the hole gaped wider all the time.
That hole is called love addiction. I had to learn to fill the hole with something inside myself.
I didn’t write about how I finally humbled myself, how I took responsibility for the things that were mine and let go of the things that weren’t. I didn’t write about how I forced myself to be alone, to feel the discomfort of that alone-ness, and eventually grow to like it. How I really looked at myself, saw who I was and what I wanted and needed. How, gradually yet suddenly, I became enough.
Things are better now. Those thoughtless decisions I made six years ago have, miraculously, led to me discovering the person that I’m meant to be. The hole is hardly ever open anymore. I’m in a great relationship with someone and we’re not expecting each other to fill any holes. That’s a first for me.
In many ways the story is over, at least this particular volume. But how can it be over if I haven’t told it yet?
So, here’s what I’m afraid of.
This rambling narrative brings me to the title of this post: Something I’m Afraid Of. I’ve been trying to write that book for a couple of years. When I say “trying”, I mean I work hard for a month or two, get discouraged, try again briefly a few months later, get discouraged again. I’ve written several chapters and discussed the project ad nauseam with a group of writer friends. I’ve abandoned the idea of writing a book, tried to write a shorter article instead, and still faltered.
Right now, “trying” to write the book simply means thinking about it and cursing myself for not doing it.
I know I’m good at writing lighthearted blog posts, but I also believe that I have a serious, worthwhile story to tell. I want to write the book but I’m afraid I can’t. I’m afraid I don’t have the discipline to write something 100 times longer than a 1500-word blog post. I’m afraid I can’t remember enough, that I’ve forgotten who Jon was and what it felt like to be with him. I’m afraid of angering people who were part of this story and might not be happy with the way I tell it.
I’m afraid I don’t have the guts to write the whole truth. And that’s the only way to do it.
I’m hoping that something will shift after I write this post. Maybe I’ll do it. Maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s not meant to be and I should let it go — focus on my lighthearted blogging and move on.
Time will tell.