I am kind of breaking my own informal rule here.
I am blogging about blogging.
But when Her Bad Mother posted that MBT was giving away a registration to the BlogHer conference in Chicago this July, well, let’s just say I can be bribed and some rules are just meant to be broken. Especially the unwritten ones.
I am supposed to be writing about how blogging empowers women. How it has empowered me. Aside from the part about getting free sweaters.
I originally started a web-journal on Blogger sometime in late 2004. As with many things, it was something that my best friend, Amy-Renee dragged me into. Even though she has forsaken all of us bloggers now (stab, stab, you know I love you, A-R), she had already jumped into the online blogging world with both feet. It suited her personality – upfront, out-front, and way personal.
Mine started as more suited my style – introspective, written for myself as a record of the preparations for my son’s birth. This was the son that my husband and I struggled so hard to conceive, and I was pretty deep in the throes of that all-encompassing world of impending mommyhood. By its very nature it was doomed to failure. I was too wrapped up in becoming a Mom to actually write about it. I had no inner demons, no hesitancy, no misgivings. My pregnancy was the most serene period of my life. And my blog would have died a quiet whimpering death right there, if outside forces hadn’t intervened.
And when I say outside forces, I mean OUTSIDE FORCES.
Two months to the day from the date of my son’s birth, Hurricane Katrina howled through my life and changed it forever. And in the aftermath, what I thought about my life, my ability to endure, and myself as a person changed with it.
The sense of loss that followed, came not from the loss of my possessions, or even the loss of my home. People are surprised when I tell them that there is not much of it that I really miss. There is little that I mourned at the time, and now, almost two years later, even the sentimental attachments of my coveted heirlooms has faded. Those memories have lost their power to pierce.
What remains of those horrible months in evacuation, the scar that I think I will carry with me forever, doesn’t have to do with anything tangible that could be written on an insurance form.
It was the loss of myself. Of any illusion I had that I, as an individual, mattered.
It was the sense, that for those few months, I had lost my humanity. I simply ceased to exist as a person with worth. I had become faceless and voiceless, not only in the crush of nature, but in the face of a giant, uncaring bureaucracy against which I was utterly and completely powerless. As a new mother, I felt was fighting for the future of my son, and I was completely impotent. When I revisit those days in my memories, the feeling of helplessness rushes back with an immediacy that can still freeze my breath in my lungs. I remember the hours holding an empty phone waiting my turn to plead my case with adjustors and caseworkers, who either through being overwhelmed or inexperienced, or a combination of the two, were forced to reduce me to a few lines on paper, a case number, a five minute voice on the receiver. I remember the white piles of paperwork that I filed and refiled and revised. If I was lost, or misdirected, or misinformed, or simply disconnected there was no recourse. No threat of action. Nobody that cared. Because there were thousands more, just like me, waiting on the next line.
FEMA sent my rental assistance to the wrong address, and it was stuck in the grips of the Postal Service. No, ma’am, nothing we can do. No, I can’t think of any other department you can call.
The settlement check will be in the mail in two weeks. Maybe four. Maybe next month. Sorry, ma’am, we have no way of tracking that.
I remember being reduced to pleading sobs when, after five months of waiting, I was still facing two mortgages and living in second-hand clothing. I just wanted to buy my son a crib to sleep in. Some much belated Christmas presents. I just wanted to pay my debts. I just wanted to move on. I wanted to be treated like a person again. An individual person. With a name, not a case number. With a baby son at home that was learning to sit up and crawl. With pictures on the wall. I wanted to be me. Me. But the endless ebb and flow of Katrina’s tide kept pulling us back and back with the rest of the fallen human flotsam, crushing us into obscurity.
When Amy-Renee wheedled and coerced me onto MySpace, in-between the silly quizzes and polls the words came tumbling out. The online me began taking back a form that the outside me had lost. And in the big, big space of the faceless internet, I found my voice again. I outgrew Myspace for WordPress and the anger, the pain, the all-consuming love for my son kept fighting it’s way out of my fingers, and I found a whole community of people that were willing to listen, even when it was sometimes just the daily humdrum detritus of life. There were people who were participating in my struggle to find my way again back to being a person. Who saw me as a person. With a voice, if not with a face.
I look back over the last year of this incarnation of my blog (Happy Blogiversary, Me!) and in between the sudden outpourings of introspection and reflection, there is much that seems so trivial, so mundane. But it is me. It’s my life. It’s my voice.
I don’t know how the internet empowers women, or even if it does. I know this -it was the medium through which I reached with two hands and made my story mine again. And in the life of this one person, that was a powerful thing.