the truth is

 

The truth is, I’ve had a rough year.

I have made a lot of hard choices, and definitely some wrong ones, in hindsight. I have been a very bad friend, and a pretty awful sister and daughter. I am not the mother I want to be, and though I have dreamt about having the last name of my lover for nearly half my life since I met him, it is far from easy to admit that in our first year of marriage, I have failed at being the wife he needs.

There have been moments when I wanted to give up.

In my darkest hours, I tried to create beautiful things as a distraction from reality, and sometimes, as a tether to it. Through writing and photography, I experimented with expressing my raw emotion and sharing what I could. I never had the time or energy or support to complete most of the projects I started, so most of my haphazardly planted seeds never even had a chance to grow. Looking back, I know I tried to do too many things at once. I chased perfection and in my pursuit of it, drowned and choked all my chances of being mediocre. Which sounds punk and all, but it’s quite isolating, and I suspect some of you understand exactly what I mean when I say instagram hides loneliness well.

The truth is, I am dying to fucking blossom. I just had to find my way.

In just a few weeks, I will have traveled around the sun thirty times on this earth. I have seen so much that nothing surprises me anymore, and I thought by now I would be strong enough to create the kind of positive energy that radiates love towards everyone I know. But in comparison to my childhood daydreams about the woman I would become, I am nothing that I hoped. My mistake was in forgetting to take care of myself, and though my charm is part to blame, I lost my mind and body and life entirely in the opinions of others. Now, I look in the mirror and see all the fragments of my soul and I struggle with how to trust, and how to love, and how to just be the beautiful fucking mess I am.

The irony is never lost on me that I am known for preaching authenticity, and I never share anything about my real life.

I think it’s time to change.

[original post: instagram @josidenise]

trouble is nothing new for me

I’m not gonna lie, Los Angeles fucked me up last time.

Morgan Spurlock, who grew up along the same dirty river bank I did, invited me on his daytime talkshow debut. You’ll never see it, because he confessed to being a fucking mess a few months after we filmed it and right before he was going to start promoting the sequel to his most famous documentary. And quite honestly I almost respect him more for having the courage to be so raw and introspective than I did for selling out to tv only watched in waiting rooms.

 

But hours before we hugged on camera and sat on his couch for a staged conversation about honesty on social media, I had a panic attack in the hotel room that CBS shuttled me to with a private driver in a fucking Tesla because, somehow I get myself into these situations while everything I own is still locked up north in a box we built in the back of our fucking pickup truck. Still, I painted on my eyeliner in the morning all the same and all the makeup artist had to do was cover up the dark circles under my eyes from what she assumed was jetlag.

Like, the audience was paid for, and between takes there was a manager shouting into the microphone for everyone to stand up and cheer to win prizes, and it was like 100 degrees, and I wasn’t allowed to wear my black shirt and ripped jeans so I was wearing this awful floral jumpsuit, first of all. Then, the producer had a huge problem with the way I read lines they wrote about my life for the voice over, and asked me to read it again but ‘maybe when you’re talking about the sad parts of your life, sound ummm…. sad?’ like — okay. I just didn’t realize what I was signing up for and that there would be tissues and expectations of emotional bs.

I think maybe I was just so disillusioned by Hollywood after traveling the entire country, the stars in my eyes just exploded, and started this fire inside of me.

Between then and now, I kept myself busy totally fucking up things like an interview with tech-startup Automattic, chatting with the CEO of McCorporation via LinkedIn about my spontaneous and temporary idea of selling my soul to their regional marketing team, bathing in magnetic waves to measure my electric nerves, and busting out windows with my porcelain doll hands because I trusted a doctor who gave me a pill that stole months of my memories. Words were not enough anymore, and without my vocabulary, I couldn’t write.

I sold my camera the day we landed back in Seattle from LA, and only when I stepped away from the lens for awhile did I see how much of the picture wasn’t being captured. Experimenting with short form and poetry, I accidentally mastered and fell in love with the art of saying more with less. Learning to recreate the images in my mind, I found the freedom to translate body language and sensuality into self-expression. Entirely shutting down my blog, and my mind for that matter, allowed me to reconnect with myself and realize that I can preach authenticity til asphyxiation but I am lying through my teeth if I can’t be honest about the impact, and intensity, of my sexuality.

Only in a shattered mirror was I able to finally see how self-destructive I am. Struck by how beautiful all the broken pieces still were, I decided to put them back together.

So, I bought a new camera. And I’m over LA. And most importantly, all the fear.

// SO WHAT IS CONCEPTUAL ART AND WHY EROTICA?

Everything I have done in life has led me to this, and I want it to be perfectly clear that none of this is an accident. You can call it what you want, and take what you need, but please understand — that is how art works. As much as this was a choice, I made it on my own with very deep rooted reasons and a spark in my heart that will never die.

Sensuality, to me, is the core of our existence. In our most intimate moments, we are in our truest form, and all of the bullshit falls away. Navigating the dark waters of hell over the last year, I have become a very skilled escape artist. We can go anywhere with this tongue of mine and your hands on the wheel, and I’m always ready for an adventure.

For a decade down in Florida I lived a double fucking life, buttoning up my breasts and bending over backwards to meet impossible standards of beauty. Bouncing around each time I got bored, I was a barista at Starbucks, a yacht stewardess for celebrities, a party planner in south beach, a fucking HR director, and eventually, a suburban stay-at-home mom that sold stories about my life to hundreds of brands who would pay me to blog.

I left out the parts about my unfaithful, cocaine addict husband, and also the fact that I got everything I wanted with sex appeal. In between bubbly posts about my perfect, luxury family life, I also let strange men stick dollar bills in between my thighs at too many clubs, sold whips and vibrators in a feminist+lesbian-owned sex toy boutique, and carried on a secret relationship via text for more than ten years to cope with all my crushed dreams, until I ran away one day and showed up on his doorstep and then we got married in Vegas and now here we are, living a borderline fantasy in the Pacific Northwest. And trying not to fuck it all up.

There is no more time left on my clock for pretending. I have struggled for long enough with how to speak out and be my most genuine, natural self. The freedom I have found in opening up this channel of energy, in presenting myself as a whole, is worth every misunderstanding and every burnt bridge in my past. When I can’t find a release for all that builds up inside of me, I become a monster. Creativity comes from somewhere within, and I can’t control it, so by asking you to be my witness and participate in the art I create, I am coming full circle in more ways than you will ever know.

There will be NSFW content, yes, but no matter who you are or how we have met in this life, you are welcome to follow along as a reader with complete acceptance and without judgment. You will be respected here, and anyone who treats you otherwise will be ignored or banned. I have seen a lot of shit in life, and I appreciate the intricate chemistry of desire and what it can do. In fact, I kneel in awe of it, and anyone who is so comfortably fluid in their humanity that they radiate seduction for the sheer exhiliration of it all. We are no different than any other hedonistic society — we’ve just momentarily forgotten there is necessary value in pleasure. If my words and images stir emotion in you, or serve as a reminder to feel in some way, I will be satisfied.

And for those of you who have waited for me, thank you, it feels fucking fantastic to be back.

🖤

there will be time for details later

 

All I really want to do is lick my wounds.

Draw the curtains, curl up under the covers. I want to live in this, and wallow in it, and scream about it until my voice is gone. I want to bury these salty cheeks in the pillow and sob, eyes swollen, lungs shaking as they empty and beg for air and struggle to do it all over again.

Honestly, some days, I am not sure whether I will make it out of this waiting alive.

Do you ever fantasize about running away from everything?

How many times a day? Have you thought about who would miss you? I bet you know who you would take with you. A split second, flash across your mind, those eyes — see, you already know.

How many times a day do you want it?

There is so little stopping you, when it comes down to it. A packed bag, a plane ticket. There are people to help you change your name, and find your happiness. Spin the globe, pick a spot, put your past behind you. We only have so many days. We only have so many moments and all that pressure you keep up in that head, the guilt you carry in your heart, all that worry of never having lived a full life will make you fat, and fuck up your spine, and push away all your friends.

It used to be the strangest thing to me when some of you would ask me in feverish tones to please never stop writing. I wonder now how obvious it was that my mind was about to shatter into ten billion beautiful fucking fragments.

By the way, if you’re new here, god damn you fell into this at a weird time.

🖤

all we ever want is more

This is what happens, you know.

You teach your mind to forget, and what else can you expect?

A lifetime of frantically putting out fires before they reach your eyes, you got what you wished for, really.

But let’s label it with a few more uppercase alphabet letters, put another pill under your tongue. The first one tried to make you numb, anyway. Sadness isn’t your problem. See, you don’t need to fight any demons.

You’ve made friends with them. Creative and sensual, at least they are more exciting than most people in your life.

No, you don’t need help being happy. You know how to get there.
It’s just never, ever enough.

Still, you try. To feel that rush, to feel alive.
Despite the flaws of whoever wired your brain, you try.

How many hearts have you broken? How many times have you run away?

It’s attractive at first, the never-ending thirst for life.
You are electric and insatiable. And for a moment, deliciously lit up.

But there’s never enough voltage, and it’s never a fair game.

You are never satisfied. It’s true.

And it’s not even your fault, they say. Blame it on the chemistry, that elusive and seductive little word that’s always been on the tip of your tongue.

What a cruel trick.

The girl who never wanted to remember became the girl who can’t.
Constantly starving for stimulation, searching for something more, because she can’t remember
what that feels like past the moment it disappears.

And it’s not even real, you know. Everyone thinks you are a liar.
It’s all in your mind, they say in doubt.

If only they could see that they are right. It is all in your mind.

An entire underwater city of beautiful, sparkling lights
surviving on a short circuit,
getting by only on glimpses of starlight and
those moments that the tide
overflows onto paper…

..like this.

six impossible things before breakfast

 

How many walls are in this room? 

one….two….three…………

Ok, can you tell me what colors do you see in this room?

blackgreywhitebluefuckidon’tknowwhocares

Look to your left, chin up. Count the leaves on that plant for me.

one..two……threefour…five…six…seveneightnineokayalot okay there are a lot of leaves i’m fine i’ll be fine

I want you to know this is a safe space. You are safe here. You can leave.
Am I pronouncing your name correctly?

yes but it really doesn’t matter, I’ve had like eight nam——-

It does matter. Can you tell me what year it is?

two thousand..eighteen

And who is our president?

unfortunately, donald trump

In the past two weeks,
have you felt any of the following…?

yes

…yes, as in, all of them?

yes and no. i don’t feel anything

Have you experienced any major life changes lately?

well, yeah. 
i got married on a cross-country roadtrip after impulsively deciding to become a minimalist and move to the west coast because I wanted a better life for my four small children.
but, like, this is nothing new. 

So, it turns out, there is something wrong with my nerves.

I can’t even type that sentence without laughing out loud because, obviously, right?

But god, what a sound — my own laughter. 💕

Sometimes, when you live with pain long enough, you normalize it. And if, like me, you have been praised your entire life for your emotional resilience and creativity, you will probably, like me, try to be tougher. You might tell yourself that if you could just be a little stronger, have your shit together just a little more in life, push yourself a little harder through the pain, that you would be better.

You might feel like a failure, because you used to spend hours and hours pouring the contents of your mind into beautiful, organized art and you used to fill every day of your week with productivity and pleasure and purpose, and you were so damn good without any extra effort. Not to mention, you always looked like such a badass, but now…..?

Pour that extra cup of coffee, pull your hair back, take a breath of fresh air, you got this, you know? Maybe you should take some vitamins, or just get your ass out of bed an hour early for a walk. If you could just sleep a little earlier instead of staring at a screen, relax your mind a little more instead of worrying so much, maybe you would have enough rest to feel better. Really, why can’t you just use that brilliant mind of yours to find an outside of the box solution to all this?

I should be smarter and stronger than this, I thought, It must be all in my head. 

And it was, ironically.

So, it sounds like change is pretty normal for you.
What happened recently that brought you here?

…….I spent New Year’s Eve alone.
I was afraid of the fireworks,
and I used to live for them.  

I just want to feel better.

I was forced to face the repercussions of taking all the charms of a talent and never paying mind to the curses.

It was the first time anyone acknowledged that I am always in physical pain, that I am impulsive af and self-destructive, and that all of these things are related to the pins-and-needles-paralyzing panic attacks that have landed me (usually dropped off 🙄) at the emergency room too many times to count.

And there was no shame attached. No pressure to correct behaviors or attempt remedies I have already googled ten years ago and tried a million fucking times.

No, young lady you look perfectly healthy, you probably just wore yourself out cheerleading, and no well, you know if you changed your lifestyle habits, or maybe have you tried an ice pack? and not even an ounce of the speech about how women unfortunately undergo many changes throughout having babies, you are probably just depressed or maybe imagining it all in your pretty little mind bullshit.

It was the first time I think a doctor heard me. So, it was also the first time I took way I am wired seriously.

My soul has too much left to say to be unraveled by a broken circuit in my electric fucking brain. My body has too much pleasure left to feel to be numbed by nerves… tangled too tight…behind these killer eyes. My heart has too much love to give to be paralyzed by what-ifs and the fear of being hurt.

One little pill like Alice down the rabbit hole and

all
👏🏻
my
👏🏻
words
👏🏻
came
👏🏻
back.

The rest is going to take… a little more time.

 

“This is my dream. I’ll decide where it goes from here.”
-Alice

no further promises

 

Sometimes, though, I paint everything in buttery yellow. Golden vanilla curls, childhood mac and cheese, chocolate chip cookies with sprinkles on top, card games by the flickering fire. Punk chords echo past the empty cupboards designed for women who had more time and less freedom. The first light switch from the door is in the back of the kitchen, for starters, because why would the heart of the home be dark? Late night glow above the oven, wool socks on the time capsule tile. Outside the world is cold, and yes, we have all seen so much lately. But in this place, I can keep us warm.

When I was fifteen, I lived alone. My mother worked second shift at a fast food restaurant, and spent her days off with a boyfriend. My dad would pick me up from school downtown in his construction van, and maybe we would get McDonald’s before he dropped me off down the block. My little brother lived with him, because he was too much to handle, but it was better than the summer before when we slept on the floor. Sometimes I would order pizza, or if I had walked to the grocery store with the food stamp card, I would cook. In a rented kitchen with handwritten recipes and all the books that broke my back, and stories in my head about the old couple that lived upstairs, I lived mostly in my head. I made believe, with my chamomile tea and roughly chopped celery, that my home was full of laughter and little feet and most of all love.

I still hate being alone.

The idea probably came from a book I had read, but when the bedroom began to feel cold, I decided to paint it. Entirely unsupervised on a ladder, I sang along with Norah Jones for an entire weekend, until cheap Walmart dandelion latex was dried under every single one of my nails. In the bubble bath, I scrubbed them with a fancy manicure brush and thought, this must be what it will be like, when I am an adult and I have my own apartment.

(Sidenote: I was wrong, because millennials will never be able to buy a damn thing.)

But I learned the capabilities of color and music, and how we can be okay in dark places if we let in a little light.

This is the part where I am supposed to reassure you I have not lost my mind, although I suspect we both know twenty nine is a tough year. Add that to the tightlipped turmoil of two thousand seventeen, and the fact that over summer (in a series of narrowly missed disasters) we sold the tv and everything else in a trailer park yard sale and traveled sixty five hundred miles, and I tied the knot in a teenage dream come true, two months prior to the deadliest shooting in the country. The roads I traveled literally caught on fire in the rearview mirror, and the city I divorced two years ago nearly drowned in the ocean, and the ashy sun turned blood orange like the crescent moon off the coast of California.

Things have been strange, to say the least.

The truth though, is that I have never been able to think so clearly. It cost all this time to see that the clock is a liar, and chaos will never slow. The pacific cradled me in the wing of a phoenix and here we stay, so here I am.

WTF THOUGH

“What hole are you trying to fill by calling yourself a blogger? Quit now before you get burnt out and feel guilty. Quit before you feel like a failure instead of finding the intersection of happy and fulfilled.”

My words, last year and a lifetime ago.

The critics knew first, of course. She will be back, they cut me up and brushed me off. But they usually do. So much has changed though, and the world is a different place. And all day long, drums dance around my messy mind and now I don’t hear all the noise that I used to. Erasing myself was never the goal, only identifying the problem. When you unravel a life down to the essentials, and remove all the distractions that hold you back in a day, you too might discover more than you wanted to find.

There is no one to blame, don’t worry. When the static is too loud, it can be difficult to distinguish which relationships and habits we have that still serve us, and which are actually toxic. When you are tangled in a toxic relationship, especially if your entire life is built around that connection, you will understand the accuracy of the word, because that is what most of us feel these days. Poisoned, and it just isn’t fair. Nobody willingly drinks poison. It’s hidden inside of something sweet, or something that appears to be good for us. And once it’s inside, it eats away at everything, but you might not even notice anything is wrong. By the time you figure out what hurts and why, it’s too late, and it’s already soaked through all of your cells. And all you can do is watch the damage work dark magic and hope you will remember how to heal, and try to distance yourself from more exposure to the toxicity. Nothing else you can do in the meantime, just wait, and forgive yourself. This is not your fault, just poison burning it’s way out, and spoiling every good thing it touches.

But we have to let it burn to feel better. Otherwise, it lingers in your bones and drains every last resource of body and mind. It spreads to every positive thing left in this world and suffocates the senses and sends us crawling inside to keep to ourselves and tend to our own wounds. The symptoms fade, time ticks in a miserable state of detox, no sleep. It scares us because we never see it coming. I don’t think it is something inside of you, or me, or that we want to poison ourselves. Just some chemistry experiment gone wrong where we all want more all the time and no one will ever be satisfied, but we hold on to things to calm our fears and never quiet our minds enough again to wake up from our nightmares.

After we recognize that something in our life is toxic, and it no longer serves us, then our true thoughts (even the warm fuzzy kind you had as a child) become reality.

I am done burning. And when I let go of all the guilt, I found freedom in my newfound ability to glow like the embers. If we accept the world for what it is, we are not afraid of the cold, because we know how to keep each other warm. Creativity can be a curse, true, but oh honey, art can heal. Not that any of this is a choice. It just comes out, you know. The filters are the problem, and our fucked up idea of perfection, and the fear that someone might finally admit how poisoned we are. I will let you know when I figure out how to fix all that.

For now though, we can only offer what we have. If we accept ourselves for what we are, we are not afraid of the dark, because we trust the stars.

Something brought us here, and you to me, as the moon brings the tide.

You might find what you need, in my words, or in the way the wires in my nerves string thoughts together. I want you to analyze this messy mind and tell me about all the impossible things. You might find yourself, somewhere in the spill, or the way I lullaby the letters. I want you to take my stories to bed with you, when the monsters come. And I want you to laugh. My god how I want us to laugh.

Remember? The way we did, at 2am on the telephone when the music stopped playing, and still we never wanted to hang up.

Most of all, I want you to know you are not alone.

dollhouse love

 

One more time, we got this.

Even without glasses, because eyesight is overrated and headphones help me more. And because I left them on the floor, fumbling in the forty degree dark, crawling to the fireplace with my keyboard and blanket. And I left them in a gazebo at midnight when I was a little more awkward and making out in cars, and there was no ocean where we lived so I tried instead to drown myself in love. This kid in a band held my hand back down those small town blocks, and helped me find what I needed so I could see the streets again.

Twelve summers later, he inked up those fingers for me, and held mine across half the country. We crossed all our t’s and dotted our i’s and had it all mapped out to get entirely lost in the magic that happens when you strip down a life to nothing more than two glowing souls, tangled together and unattached to the tangible.

There should be a warning label though, where my mouth is. Trying to build me a life from broken things takes so much work, and being forced to first break down all my fucked up walls is so entirely unfair. All the roads caught on fire in the rear view, and eventually I told him I broke the microwave because the mediocre broke me and maybe he shouldn’t have married me. But just to prove all his patience he plugged it back in the wall, and laughed at me, I suppose for thinking I am so tough. He taught me you can’t jump off bridges that have already been burnt and then kept the keys safely in his pocket while I kicked and cried like a child until I fell asleep.

Just a kid and his radio, he helped me to find what I needed so I could hear the music again.

Now when we wake up, golden light and warm lips give us the pines on the wall in a shadow, like the projectors that made desks romantic in the dark. Temporary but beautiful nonetheless, until the tasks of the day takeover and our tender hearts are told time and time again that there is so much to do and be done, but no one taught us how and they all forgot the why. So we spin in circles up the stairs and down them again, sending grocery lists in texts where love letters should spill and signing school papers until the sun has set and smoke fills the sky and his fingers find my hair. The string lights come undone and all the children sleep and when they wake up, so do I.

Sometimes, it will be this way. Like a dollhouse in your palm, you can see the whole picture. Watch me paint my eyes and put myself together, watch me twirl around the deck and have tea in pretty dresses and mostly empty rooms. Sometimes the electricity is on in all the halls and closets, and life is so transparent and weightless, like the mountain air that pours in where the walls are cut in half. And I want you to see how happiness works, so I put on a sweater instead of closing the shutters.

And you can watch me take it off, too. Blushing suits my pretty porcelain face.

Sometimes, you may choose to be my witness, and take from what you see all that you need to remember how hearts keep beating.

And when your arms are tired from carrying all that you do, and you just need a lullaby, find me. Tucked away in my imaginary attic, just a small amber square in the middle of the dark blue morning. You can see tiny splinters and too many tacky gel pens and a notebook with blue lines on the paper and the name Parker, scribbled in between the messy math problems. Mostly, you can seek comfort in the lyrics, and the effortless way they tug at all the corners, in cursive or bold or helvetica black.

Sometimes, everything else is dark. The only thing you will find is a torn page, or a fuckton of them crumpled in the cobwebs, catching the tiny plastic curtains on fire and choking the life out of the thoughts in my lace bonnet head.

But some of us have learned to keep ourselves warm in the most unconventional ways.

 

grey to green

 

You would think I tried to erase myself.

But we’ll come back to that. I am supposed to tell you about the blog, and we have to chat about the weather first. Because really, there have only been two days of storms. Most of the time, the air just feels ready to rain, like it could burst and spill at any moment.

I understood immediately, though, the way the northwestern sky swallows you. The meteorologists here have come up with a million different ways to say cloudy, and still none of them can capture the way you feel. In the middle of the afternoon on a desaturated day, it seems quite possible that things have always been this way, and there were never mountains, and sunflowers have always been grey, and the clock and everyone who watches it may just stand still forever in a dizzy, misty haze until the end of time.

But the pines offer reassurance, with their optimistic branches taller and stronger than us, that time is something we fucking made up. And there was a yesterday as sure as there will be a tomorrow, only labeled in our minds and not counted by the savage black crows who wake me up every morning and watch me, from the trees beyond the deck, sipping my hipster spice coffee that was on sale today but won’t be next week because we sketched the seasons into a calendar and wrote a bunch of rules that crows don’t give a fuck about. They make me nervous. Their cries echo so eerily across the field, carrying down the firs and hills and bouncing off my spine. The children found one dead while they were playing in the field behind the house, and now the three year old keeps saying ‘die’ over and over. I don’t trust them to swoop down for my eyes like sparkly green marbles, leaving me blind and bleeding. Which is irrational, yes, but keeps me suspicious nonetheless.

So these are the things I think in the morning, and also how I am jealous of the gardeners. To be honest, it might not even be a garden. I can only see silhouettes, of a man and a woman, backlit by the sunrise, and sometimes in colorful clothes if they had Saturday off and decided to spend it outside. Tiny dots, way up high where the hills meet the clouds, weaving in and out of things green and growing wild around them. I am jealous of their commitment to the mediocre, and I imagine they do not have chaos in their cells like the air and the crows and me. But maybe they do, and they plant their thoughts in the earth and trust them to bloom and trust them to never catch fire.

It has to be different this time though. Nothing is as fucked up as you think it is. Sometimes playful hearts become mischievous in restless souls, and they play tricks, like the light that splashes through the branches and across your gorgeous face. I get a glimpse of that flame inside, only for a moment. Ready, desperate even. What if I burst and spill? What if I put my thoughts here? Can I trust you?

The pursuit of perfection is a disease, and I need a cure as much as I crave sleep, or saltwater in the pitch black places where my lungs should be. Curtains drawn until we heal, I bid my time and tell myself it is all temporary. The leaves will fall and October will come, and then it will go, and we will still be breathing, picturesque and timely autumn nonsense or not. We are not supposed to be capable of ceasing to exist, for when we feel burnt out, our star cells shine brighter in the hearts of those who can carry us. But you have to trust the sun to rise, and the moon when she sings you to sleep, and that shit will make sense again one day soon and you will be okay and you are exactly where you need to be. And where we all need you to be.

So it will be a mess, yes, but sometimes we can find the most spectacular things in the most unexpected syllables, like the sweet release of all the uncomfortably worked up rain clouds, if only they have permission to fall from your nibbled on lips. And you can rest easy under the tapping of the tin roof, and turn that music up until you can hear it again, for I have learned a thing or two about the importance of saying please.

And thank you.

Thank you for understanding that I can only offer what I am, so if we’re gonna do this, it will have to be enough. Ready, set, spill, and the rest is just a delicate dance around some unspoken rules.

chrysalis

I am not afraid of the dark.

I know you are.

I see it in your eyes, watching me. I hear the caution in your voice, asking me how my day went.

You are afraid of this darkness.

I wish I could be like you. Stable, patient, focused. I wish I could trust my own mind.

I wish I could control it instead of relying on vices and getting lost in things that seduce.

I know I’m not broken. I know I can write my way out.

It hurts, though. Fuck it hurts. And it’s frustrating.

Like trying to read fine print without glasses, trying to hear the lyrics when the radio is just barely on.

That half asleep dream-like state where everything is so real, but you can’t speak. You can’t move.

The world is the same, but not at all. Instead, it’s dark.

Like a wave of deep grey, I know it’s powerful. It will pull you under.

Make no mistake, I will pull you under.

But for me, it’s all temporary.

The lights will come back on. Like flipping a switch, the circuits behind my eyes will spark and then, glow.

Like a butterfly in a chrysalis, I will wake up in the morning, maybe tomorrow, and be ready for what’s next.

The darkness swallows, then it fades. And the aftermath is almost always beautiful.

When everything is overwhelming, eventually you stop feeling. When you can feel again, even drinking in the air feels like ecstasy. When everything is blurry, eventually you stop trying to think. When you can see clearly again, every thought is like magic. I trust that when I take that last breath, I will come back up for another.

Without these underwater days, without the uncomfortable, there is no creativity. Without pain, there is no beauty.

I am not broken. I am human.

I know this to be true. So I am not afraid of the dark.

I am only thankful, for your fingers laced between mine, and your bravery to follow me into it.

dear mommy blogger

This is it. I’m fucking done.

Video killed the radio star. I’m killing the mommy blog.

You won’t want to hear any of this, but someone needs to tell you.

Let me preface with a few important things. I am was a mommy blogger. I have three kids, and I’m popping out another one this fall. I have a background in marketing and had “real jobs” in the “real world” working with PR teams on the daily. I started this blog in 2013, thinking I could combine my writing talents with professional experience and rock this new industry of influencer marketing (before it was called that). And I did, I guess.

The American Mama reached tens of thousands of readers monthly, and under that name I worked with hundreds of big name brands on sponsored campaigns. I am a member of virtually every ‘blog network’ and agency that “connects brands with bloggers”. I’ve attended all their conferences and been invited on free trips to swim with dolphins and sip bougie cocktails in exchange for instagram snaps. I even founded and briefly promoted my own company, American Mama Media, working as the middle man between the hundreds of pitches I was receiving each week and the tribe of bloggers I’d collected information and stats from.

I hosted dozens of giveaways sponsored by brands wanting me to promote their products. I gained hundreds and then thousands of email subscribers, and social media followers, by requiring a follow in exchange for a giveaway entry. I used social media management services to connect with similar bloggers on twitter and instagram, and then unfollow those who didn’t return the follow. I paid a virtual assistant to post my links in round ups all over the internet, for back links and extra traffic. I joined blog directory sites, where asking readers for clicks sends you to the top of the list, and some PR intern googling “mom blogs” then finds you when they want someone to review their product. I sent out my media kit with embellished stats and highlights about my ‘targeted audience of mothers who make purchasing decisions for their household’ and negotiated my rates for free products and paid reviews.

I made thousands of dollars during months I was focusing and working hard to dig through box after box of shitty as-seen-on-tv like products and share “my 100% honest opinion” about them, that weren’t at all influenced by the page after page of “key messages” the brand requested that I include in my review. You won’t find most of those posts on this blog today. They aren’t gone forever, and I do plan to revive some of them. But for the most part, they are dead and I want them to stay buried forever. Because, like 90% of the fake nonsense I used to share on the internet as a mommy blogger writing about my fake life and oh-so-happy marriage, they are pure bullshit.

And yet here we are. So there’s my “I’ve been there” argument. Now for fuck’s sake, please listen to me and understand that I mean this in the most loving and well-intentioned manner:

Your mommy blog fucking sucks.

 

//nobody is reading your shit

I mean no one. Even the people you think are reading your shit? They aren’t really reading it. The other mommy bloggers sure as hell aren’t reading it. They are scanning it for keywords that they can use in the comments. “So cute! Yum! I have to try this!” They’ve been told, like you, that in order to grow your brand, you must read and comment on other similar-sized and similar-themed blogs. The people clicking on it from Pinterest aren’t reading it. They are looking for your recipe, or helpful tip promised in the clickbait, or before and after photo, then they might re-pin the image, then they are done. The people sharing it on Facebook? They aren’t reading it either. They just want to say whatever it is your headline says, but can’t find the words themselves. Your family? Nope. They are checking to make sure they don’t have double chins in the photos you post of them, and zoning in on paragraphs where their names are mentioned.

Why? Because your shit is boring. Nobody cares about your shampoo you bought at Walmart and how you’re so thankful the company decided to work with you. Nobody cares about anything you are saying because you aren’t telling an engaging story. You are not giving your readers anything they haven’t already heard. You are not being helpful, and you are not being interesting. If you are constantly writing about your pregnancy, your baby’s milestones, your religious devotion, your marriage bliss, or your love of wine and coffee…. are you saying anything new? Anything at all? Tell me something I haven’t heard before, that someone hasn’t said before. From a different perspective, or making a new point at the end at least if I have to suffer through a cliche story about your faceless, nameless kid.

You’re writing in an inauthentic voice about an unoriginal subject, worse if sprinkled with horrible grammar and spelling, and you are contributing nothing to the world but static noise.

//there’s no way in hell you are actually that happy

Why do you put exclamation points after every fucking sentence!? Why is this a thing?? I get it, you want to be seen as positive and really excited about a brand or product or experience or whatever the hell you’re writing about. But nobody talks like that in real life. If you do, nobody actually likes being around you. Love my hubby, love my life, love my kiddos, love jesus, love cupcakes, love it all! No. You are not that happy in your every day life. Nobody buys it. And if they do, you’re just making them feel bad about themselves. You’re watering down all the rest of your content because every single subject cannot possibly be that exciting. People are not idiots. As a reader, I cannot connect to someone who writes like they are hard-selling broccoli to kindergarteners.

Life has dark days. Real and raw is relatable. Even if your personal style is only focusing on the positive in life, you can do it without sounding cheap and robot-like. Relying on punctuation to make your point is weak writing. If you are telling a story and telling the truth, you can let the world know how much you love something without using an exclamation point at the end of every sentence.

Side note: The last brand I worked with sent me back my blog post draft edited with at least a half dozen exclamation points added. It may or may not have slightly inspired this post and my attitude about finally saying fuck it, I’m writing only what I want, when I want whether that means I’ll lose sponsored work or not. What’s the point of having your own space to write if you’re being paid to sound like you work for a corporation? 

//your goals are just as confused as you

What are your goals? At all the conferences I’ve attended and in all the Facebook groups, I hear women with the same answers. “To gain traffic. To grow my blog.” But why? What are you going to do with that traffic? What’s the point of any of it?

Do you handcraft brilliantly unique things and you want to promote your Etsy shop? Are you an excellent writer and you want to connect with people who read and relate to your stories? I’m guessing no. I’m guessing you’re a bored housewife or working mom who has heard that blogging can earn you some extra cash. You like getting free products and feeling like you are a special snowflake. No. Just no. If your entire goal is to make money, please quit. Go get a traditional job.

I’m not saying you can’t make money like that. There are endless numbers of brands and companies just now jumping on the blogging bandwagon, willing to send you free products and pay you a measly $150 a post for way more hours of work to use the product, photograph, edit, write about, and promote than you’ll even admit to yourself. If that’s your goal, fine. But how long term is that? Who are your loyal readers?

//you are wasting your money

So you paid $434 for a conference ticket, $389 for a flight, $252 for a hotel that you’re sharing with your bloggy-bff, $150 for a new outfit that makes you look more professional than the torn yoga pants you wear every day, and $30 for business cards to make sure you don’t miss a single networking opportunity. Oh, and last week you paid $45 for a new WordPress theme to make sure your blog looked conference ready. You were so excited to meet some top execs from the big brands they promised would be mingling in your cocktail hour. But now you’ve sat through a day of speakers and realized only one thing: that you’re doing everything wrong.

Because they are experts, right? God, if only you were so smart and able to get such amazing partnerships like these big bloggers and business women. So now, you better go pay $3500 for a web designer to make your site look professional, because they said no one gets work if they are using a cheap template with bad coding. And you really have to put your social icons at the top right of your page, because if not, no PR manager will take the time to click through your page. And if you don’t have the exact location and age of your children listed in your about profile, you also won’t be worth a dime. Oh, and personality? Save that for somewhere else, brand managers don’t have time to read your cute story about who you are.

But at least now you’ve got solid advice on how to grow your following right? You can’t wait to get home and use the six pages of notes you scribbled down during sessions, gaining so many new followers on social media and using their proven formulas for popular digestible posts. A list of ten things? Brilliant. But you’ll need a subscription to a stock photo service, at least until you can buy yourself a DSLR camera for $500 and take that $195 photography course they said was a must-take. And now all you have to do is post 11 times on Facebook, scheduled of course, daily, and then 23 times on Pinterest, but make sure you’re sharing other bloggers’ content too. And retweet, don’t forget — wait. Slow the fuck down.

How can you not see these conferences, and better-your-blog courses, are just making money off of you? If they had the secrets to success, don’t you think they would be running their own successful blogs? Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part, in any given room of those 500+ women attending, how many of those will actually be blogging in a year? Five years? It’s a waste of your money. Everything you need to know can be learned by trial and error, or taking a course in a specific subject you’d like to better yourself in.

There is an entire industry waiting to take advantage of your insecurities when you want to be a better blogger, and in reality all they are doing is shoving tips down your throat about how to make their jobs easier, how to put more money in their pockets by building an army of cookie-cutter bloggers who will keep paying for conference tickets and ‘exclusive’ insider info. The more mediocre bloggers they have with the exact same design layout and the exact same voice, the easier they can sell themselves to clients willing to pay them tens of thousands of dollars for a few reports showing ridiculous monthly page view stats. In the end, you get chosen for one $150 post every couple of months, a headache and a half trying to write a shitty post on your boring blog, and you spent 4x that amount becoming a part of their clique. Maybe you met one or two interesting people while all those other bloggers were trying to get their business card in your face.

You are wasting your money and they are laughing all the way to the bank.

//pr friendly = “I have no soul”

Have you seen this in your “favorite” blogger’s twitter bio? Maybe it’s listed in your media kit. Hell, you might even have it as a link on your blog menu with contact info for brands to reach you. Do you know what this says? PR Friendly says “For the right price, I will be anyone you want me to be.”

It screams desperation and says you really have no idea what the hell you are doing – just that you are willing to do backflips for basically any company that will throw a big enough bone in your direction. Oh, but let me guess, you’re a lifestyle blogger? I blog about our life, so really I can cover a variety of topics and brands. No. I used to say that shit too. What you’re really saying is that you have no direction and although you may be passionate about one hobby or particular area of life, you’re too scared to narrow that down because what if you decide to write only about one thing and you could have so many more opportunities with different products your family could use?

You see this a lot in blogging networks that work with big brands. “We’re looking for 100 bloggers to come up with out of the box ways to show your readers how they can use our bladder leakage products to make their lives more enjoyable! Write about your shitty kid not listening to you at the park and running off, and how you were able to chase him down without pissing your pants! Or, maybe brainstorm a creative craft or eco-friendly plant starter – the possibilities are endless!” Seriously? No. If your possibilities, and what you’re willing to write about, are endless, then you are doing it wrong.

Stop selling your soul for peanuts. You have no credibility left when you do this over and over.

//building your own prison with copycat guards

Do you really think that big companies see you as valuable? When I hear the argument that brands “need” bloggers, I die laughing. In a way, this is true, but not at all in the way you think. I could go on about this for hours and probably will write a dozen more posts about it.

Just ask yourself this: When a brand sends you a nice little note, pays you to write about their product, often asks you to buy it in store and take photographs of the place you picked it up in store, and includes a dozen bullet points of positive things you can say about their brand…. are you more likely, as a consumer, to purchase that brand in the future? And when a big brand runs a campaign that consists of 10 “rounds” over a series of several months, and by the end of it, they’ve paid pennies to thousands of women with mommy blogs to talk about their product, do you think they really care about your original outtake on life and trust you to market their brand? They just gained thousands of loyal customers, who are now terrified to ever speak poorly of that brand, and more likely to personally purchase their products on their weekly shopping trips.

Would you buy those products otherwise, and not just make them at home or buy cheaper alternatives? Do you really need twenty different beauty products for different body parts? Do you really need these materialistic things? Do you know how many products are introduced to the market every single day by big corporations and small companies, all hoping to snag the attention of women just like you? By running a mommy blog that readily accepts a hundred dollar bill and a box of sugared cereal in exchange for 300-400 words and some crappy iPhone pictures, you’re handing advertisers the keys to your home. They no longer have to deal with the middle man, marketing for billions on mass media and hopefully reaching you via television commercials and print ads. They are knocking directly on your door, convincing you why you need to buy their products, and patting you on the head for “helping” them to do so and telling all your friends. Congrats, mommy blogger, you’re such a great writer!

I’m not claiming some crazy conspiracy theory that all brands are out to get us and manipulate women into brand awareness and consumerism. But it’s not too far fetched. Midcentury advertising tactics, that did exactly that with no shame, are very well documented. Results of those campaigns, and how the marketing industry has improved upon those tactics to produce more sales, have been studied endlessly in the decades between then and now. Regardless, marketing is very much a copycat game. Whether or not this business model even works, or if a few corporations at the top have a team of psychologists studying the effect of influencer marketing on bottom line sales, the trends still trickle down.

The PR manager who just emailed you about receiving their crappy parenting book or colorful potty training tool? They have now adapted the exact same “rules” and guidelines of how to work with bloggers. They do not know any better when they offer you stuff in exchange for “exposure on their twitter!” or practically demand that you share only glowing sentiments in your reviews. And we won’t even get started on the legal issues that can arise when you sign contracts, without any legal experience or guidance, as an independent publisher for a company.

I know you want to take yourself seriously. But unfortunately most brands don’t. They are just testing the waters because it’s a cheap, trendy way of getting the word out about their products right now. They are using you to build your own prison of commercialism, and the sheer volume of copycat marketers and bloggers following along sets the standards and expectations of this relatively new media. The foundation is rocky and even the brands that “just want numbers” are relying on stats about retweets and impressions that come from PR companies taking half the cut when they connect influencers to campaigns. I’m not saying blogging is dying, but this specific little monster branch of it, sponsored content disguised as horribly written “day in the life” stories about your kids and pets? It can’t possibly last. Do you really want to be stuck on the inside when it crumbles?

//sunshine and fucking daisy reviews

On the note of being manipulated by brands, have you ever seen a negative review on a mommy blog? Ever? And if you did, have you ever seen one that still said “This post was sponsored by XYZ brand, and opinions are all my own” at the top?

Fuck no. Because every single blogger is terrified to tell the truth. I’ve seen women in blogging groups dish about how much they hated a product, or how it broke in the mail, or how awful the customer service team was to deal with. They ask their fellow bloggers what they should do about their moral dilemma of being paid to post about it (or receiving the product for free) and in real life being terribly disappointed. And every single fucking blogger in the group responds with something like “Well, you don’t want to upset the brand…” or “You don’t want to post anything negative about a product or company, even if you don’t want to work with them again, because other brands might see it and be scared off.”

Are you fucking kidding me? You have no spine. If you are so scared about telling it like it is, and you rely that much on putting up a sunshine and daisy front for potential sponsorships, then what is the point? Go work for a company instead of yourself. What happened to your argument that “brands need bloggers” anyway?

This shit would never fly in traditional journalism. Whether you’re getting paid or not, if the product you’ve been asked to review is complete shit, why would you lie to your readers? Refund the payment if you have to, return the product, whatever. If your blog is your career and you consider yourself a professional, why are you selling your readers’ time knowing you aren’t writing the truth?

//giveaway entries are not real fans

In November 2014, I followed some regurgitated advice about blogging and ran a big giveaway. I purchased a Kitchenaid mixer with my own cash, and asked readers to sign up for my newsletter and follow me on social media for a chance to win. I gained 600 email subscribers and thousands of fans on Facebook and Twitter, sure. I gained a loyal reader that won the mixer. I even devoted my winner announcement post, on Thanksgiving, to charity, asking readers to help end childhood hunger. Because of that, I was invited on an all-expense paid trip to tour a certain chicken corporation’s headquarters to hear about how much money they donate to said charity, and then roped into a writing a post about that even though I didn’t agree with the ethics of the company at all. All of this sounds great, and there are many positives, but in the end? I gained nothing.

If you are incentivizing people to join your mailing list, or follow you on Facebook, then they are not real fans. If you are purchasing Instagram followers to make your numbers look bigger, or tossing goodie bags in the mail for everyone who shares your big post a certain number of times, you’re fucking cheating. If you are interesting, if you have something worth saying, and you say it well – you need none of this. People will find a way to follow you, and they will click your social media and subscribe buttons with their own free will.

In February 2016, I wrote an angry, heartfelt letter vaguely directed at my ex in regards to not paying child support. It was the most real and vulnerable shit I’ve ever posted on the internet thus far, and I was terrified to hit publish for many reasons. Within a week, it went viral, and as of today it’s been shared more than 312 thousand times. How many times would I have killed for a sponsored post to do that well?

In the last week, I unfollowed over 2200 uninteresting people on social media, and I’m not finished. Someone asked me “But what if they all unfollow you?!” And my response? #byefelicia I’m not interested in having fake friends in real life, and I’m certainly not interested in having fake followers that I don’t even like, on the internet.

Genuine content, with a genuine voice, is the only way to gain real readers and connect with real people.

//you are wasting your time

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”
― Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

What could you be doing instead of writing your shitty mommy blog? Would you spend an extra hour in the morning cuddling with your toddler? Would you read some intellectual books or find a hobby? Go back to school and launch a career? Would you leave your marriage? Would you travel? Would you lose weight and be more active? Would you make some new friends you actually enjoy talking to? What hole are you trying to fill by calling yourself a blogger?

Just quit. Quit now before you get burnt out and feel guilty. Quit before you realize you wasted years of your life writing bullshit about your kids’ childhood and your relationships instead of being actually involved. Quit before you get caught up in some legal mess with a brand contract and your house is cluttered with shit to review that you do not need and nobody else needs either. Quit before you feel like a failure instead of finding the intersection of happy and fulfilled.

Quit because your mommy blog fucking sucks. And it’s not going to get better. There are probably a dozen things you are actually good at.

Find what you love, and what you do better than anyone else, and do that. 

Sincerely,

A former typical ‘mommy blogger’ whose blog sucked just as bad as yours