Letter From The Editor: The Good

Dear APW,

Life is complicated right now. I don’t mean that as a euphemism for bad. Not like Facebook’s “It’s Complicated” relationship status (though yes, David and I often discuss changing our relationship status to “It’s Complicated” on a random day, and sitting back to enjoy the made-for-Facebook drama that would ensue). I actually mean life is complicated, in that there a lot of things going on, and a lot of different levels at which I’m supposed to be operating. New parenthood is a bit of a trip, and I really do mean that in the best way. (Two people used to live in this house, and now three do. One of them was made by the first two people. WHAT IS THAT?) It’s straight up complicated.

I had this blissfully ignorant idea that when I got back from maternity leave, I’d just hit the ground running, same as I ever was. This seemed reasonable to me because, let’s be honest, while I technically took four months off for maternity leave (that’s one month for extended labor and three months for the baby, for those of you keeping track at home), in reality, I took one month off (December. The month after I gave birth.) and a couple of other months without full responsibility, but sometimes lots of work. So really, how different was it going to be to be back at work?

Quick answer: Lots different.

Long answer: Oh My God.

Here is the thing: I did, in fact, hit the ground running. There were something like four major projects vying for my attention when I got back. Some sucked (legal). Some were awesome (Pantene Beautiful Lengths, other secret projects that are yet to be revealed). Some were in the middle (accounting, piles of paperwork). So I worked, and did. And also, I didn’t sleep much. Perhaps you have not heard of four-month sleep regression? But yes, it’s a thing, and yes, it’s timed to hit right about when lots of (American) women go back to work and start getting settled in. High five, system! So, with all that, it turned out that one big project didn’t happen: loads and loads of writing. And of course that one thing that didn’t happen, became the thing that consumed my brain.

Which brings us to The Good. For me, these days, the good has been all about seeing presence, and not absence. It’s so easy, in my often sleep-deprived, newly complicated life, to focus on what’s not there instead of what is. By dwelling on what’s missing, I miss the moments. If there is one thing that early childrearing brings home, it’s that you never get moments back. In January I wrote about rocking my baby to sleep and holding him just a little bit longer, knowing he’d never be this small again. Now he’s sort of too big to rock like that, and he doesn’t need it anyway. Now he’s a little guy that likes to be held in the sitting position so he can look around. And next week, that may be gone too. So my job is to be In It. To catch the good as it flies by. Because there is always good if you look hard enough. Even if it’s just in a moment.

Yeah, sure, I don’t have much sleep. But I do have a hilarious baby who points his toes when he grins at us. Yup. I’m not writing much, and I feel its absence. But I am getting to run a kick-ass business with ladies who I love, and I get to encourage other people’s writing. Yeah, I’m not with my kid all day. But I do get to do other adult-y things during the day, and be with my kid at night. (And who are we kidding. The “having it all” construct was nonsense from the beginning.)

Things are good around here. Hard, sure, but good. We’re learning to garden. We don’t own our house, but who cares. We’re planting baby trees and hoping our kid will get to eat their fruit. I’m not writing. And am writing sometimes, like now. We’re sleeping, if only for two hours, before the baby wakes up, and hey sometimes there are good nights. We’re not going out very much right now, but we are having friends over to hang out (in our awesome garden). There is so much good, if I can let go of the absence of things, the ghost whispers of what could be, but isn’t.

The internet is one of my places, and damn if it isn’t full of my people. But the internet is really good at magnifying, and we do a lot of magnifying the bad. It can be scary to put good things out there, because there is nothing more predictable than sharing a bit of good news, and having The Internet bear down on you screaming BUT IT’S NOT THAT WAY FOR EVERYONE HOW DARE YOU. The good seems scary (and braggy), the good seems not complex enough, the good seems not newsworthy. So we hold back, and we share the vent-y stuff instead. And the internet magnifies, and that leads to an echo chamber of badBadBAD!

How many times do we read a post we love, but zero in on the fact that they made a word choice we hate? How many times do we stop realizing how amazing it is that the internet makes all these creative projects and relationships possible, and just bitch that the stuff being made doesn’t fit our precise standards (even if we’re not bothering to anything ourselves)? How many times do we look up some symptom, and become convinced WE ARE DYING, because the only people with that symptom that take to the internet are the ones dealing with something gone really wrong?

A lot, right?

So this month, APW is going to try to be an echo chamber of the good. We’re going to try to notice what’s present and wonderful, what’s worthy of notice. We’re hoping that when you shout goodness into the abyss, you’ll hear back goodGoodGOOD!

May it be like the chiming of bells.


(Who just wrote something)

PS If you’ve been wanting to submit a piece of writing for The Good, but have been scared to sound too… happy? Braggy? Put on your brave pants and jump!

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  • Steph

    Love this!!!: “So this month, APW is going to try to be an echo chamber of the good. We’re going to try to notice what’s present and wonderful, what’s worthy of notice. We’re hoping that when you shout goodness into the abyss, you’ll hear back goodGoodGOOD!”
    I’ve wound up inadvertently doing something similar on the Book of Faces over the past year+ and its had a great impact on my life.

  • So beautiful post :) I must confess that I usually write in my blog the not-good experiences regarding weddings because I consider that everything around them on the Internet is too much wonderful and shallow, and preparing a wedding is sometimes a complicated, intense, sad or confusing experience that nobody told us.
    But this month I think I am going to share with my readers the goodness about all that surrounds me: wedding, first year marriage, new projects… Not in a excessive or idealized way, just in a sincere and beautiful way.

  • Lisa

    “And next week, that may be gone too. So my job is to be In It. To catch the good as it flies by. Because there is always good if you look hard enough. Even if it’s just in a moment.”

    This part made me cry. Things are complicated around here right now. But I need to remember to look for the good. Because it is there, even when I’m overwhelmed with graduate work, or terrified about not finding a job, there are so many good things in my life and sometimes I need to step back (or step in) and make sure to appreciate them.

  • There’s a 12 month sleep regression, too, which is timed nicely to catch us Canadians on our return to work. Babies, man. It’s a good thing that they’re cute.

  • LOVE this post.

    Also this? “For me, these days, the good has been all about seeing presence, and not absence. ” Committing it to memory. I need to do the same.

  • H

    Oh! I heard something the other day that (kinda) relates to this. People are actually more willing to share the good news stories on the internet/social media. Yay for good news! See this NYTimes article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/science/good-news-spreads-faster-on-twitter-and-facebook.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • Shiri

    When I’ve written a post for APW, I’ve been so aware of trying to balance the good and the bad, feeling like I need both to not seem to be focusing on the negative or bragging. I don’t think I was entirely aware of how worried I was about that kind of judgement. I’m really excited for this month and to read pieces from women freed of that worry.

    And always happy to read your writing, Meg!

    • meg

      I do this when I’m thinking about writing pieces in my head, and it’s sort of a terrible habit. It really bothers me, actually. Like, “Oh I should tell them that I like motherhood, but uh-oh, since not everyone has the same experience, I should give these 15 disclaimers, AND think of all the worst stuff and list it.” Which is TERRIBLE. We all have very particular experiences, and it’s in the particular that we see the universal.

      • Shiri

        Yes, exactly! I don’t know why we feel it isn’t ok to be honest about the particularity of our own experiences. I feel this both with my own writing and with a certain kind of comment I see sometimes. It makes writing for an audience much harder, but it’s also internally damaging, because of how much hedging or even shame we then feel.

        ETA: I realize part of this is about privilege, and about being aware of our own privilege, but I think there is also something else there that I’m having trouble putting my finger on. That maybe it’s about feminism and community, and not always assuming that what you’re reading is meant to tear you down, so you have to tear it down first.

        • ItsyBitsy

          “… not always assuming that what you’re reading is meant to tear you down, so you have to tear it down first.”

          This! Exactly this. I think that we all do this to some extent (I know that I’m personally very guilty of it) and I imagine it has a lot to do with feelings of vulnerability. And having a safe community like APW hopefully can help with that.

        • meg

          Well, yes and no. As someone who grew up in a tremendously under-privileged (poor, minority, you name it) community. I’m extremely uneasy about the current internet meme that happiness is somehow the right of the privileged, and must be apologized for in that particular sense. It’s not intended that way, but it’s phenomenally condescending.

          I read an article from someone in a developing country about how insulting and condescending the apologetic “First World Problems” meme is to those in the so called ‘third world,’ and I feel the same way about the use of privilege as an apology for happiness/ jobs people like/ what have you. Just like people in the ‘third world’ worry about their cell phone bills and what’s for dinner just like the rest of us, people in underprivileged environments are happy sometimes, and take pride in their jobs, just like the rest of us.

          • Shiri

            I think I don’t exactly mean privilege as wealth here, though that’s part of it. I mean feeling bad about writing about how hurt I was by my disruptive and cruel father when I read posts about women who have lost their fathers or have incarcerated fathers, etc, and what they would do to have them at their weddings. I think when writing I’m just very aware of the good that got me through the bad and how lucky I was to have it.

  • Ake

    Awesome, awesome theme choice. Great work team APW. We definitely, definitely need more of that. Also I think your think about absence or presence is very wise, Meg. Also, I really like your writing.

  • I am so excited for this month! Things have been really good for me lately. Like, if I had known four years ago it’d be this good now I would have cried a lot less GOOD. On paper I should be worse, but I don’t live on paper I live in the real world. And in the real world its okay to be doing awesome. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

  • Oh, how I need to see presence instead of absence in my own life. The absences are stinging me lately as I barrel towards the last birthday in my 20s; it’s easy to miss what is present, what is today and what is, simply, good.

  • Great theme choice! Can’t wait to read all the good that is going on n this community.

  • Class of 1980

    You know what? It doesn’t matter that you’re not writing much.

    Do I miss your writing? Sure. Does APW still have interesting content? Yeah. And isn’t that the goal?

    So, Congratulations on creating a site that still runs and allows you to step back a little when life changes. I’d call that a major success.

    • meg

      Thank you. <3

      I'll get back to writing soon enough. God knows I miss it. My hands are just so full right now (with mostly good things).

  • Not a single week goes by where I read APW and don’t think, “Ooooo, yes, that’s a lovely mantra, I’m going to embrace THAT this week.”

    This week, it’s, “the good has been all about seeing presence, and not absence.”

    Breathe in, presence; breathe out, absence.

    LOVE this sentiment, and everything, really, about shouting THE GOOD so loud it resonates just as clearly as (if not more than) the bad.

  • KB

    Word :-) I feel like this is why APW is one of the very few (read: only) website comments I read for every post. On other sites, even the most uplifting and life-affirming stories, there’s always negativity, criticism, or downright vitriol. It’s nice to be invited (rather than lectured) by a media site to engage in positive reinforcement and collective nurturing. Rock on, APW.

  • Speaking of Facebook and the good, can we have a post or some commentary on how everyone’s Facebook newsfeed (well, at least my newsfeed), on April 1st, turns into a flurry of fake engagements? Does this happen to anyone else? I’m not sure what the fake engagees are commenting on, maybe they just think engagements are silly and posting ring pictures on Facebook is silly (which I mean duh it is but I am totally going to do it anyways when I get engaged–self awareness is good, right?), or I should just stereotype them as angry, bitter, and man-hating? Either way it leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Way to commandeer the good and make it sort of sad.

    • meg

      WHAT? Please write about this. That’s pretty fascinating. That’s just not my social circle (I don’t know if I’ve EVER seen a ring shot on FB) but I’m fascinated by why that’s what people choose to mock.

      • I don’t know. I actually got engaged on April 1st. I prefaced my Facebook post with “Not a joke!” Um.. so yeah.

    • I don’t know, I’ve never interpreted it as mockery of engagements. Granted, I’ve only had one pair of friends ever pull that prank (but I totally fell for it). I just see it as an easy way to fool people, because you can follow no-effort steps, and since everyone is conditioned to believe everything on Facebook as gospel, it tricks a lot people very quickly.

      Though if the prank were accompanied by snarky commentary (on the day of, or on April 2 when the truth is “revealed”), then I would see it as leaving a bad taste. Otherwise, I don’t see it as a mean-spirited thing.

      • See I think it is sort of an odd prank because (and maybe I am reading too much into it)

        1) I feel that the people who pull it are going about it with the attitude of: right it is unbelievable in my life that I would be engaged, either because I am single, or I haven’t been with my person for that long, or because I’m ust not into marriage, so I think it would be amusing to psyche people out and then be all J/K NO MARRIAGE FOR ME and

        2) If people like me, who are suspicious of much of what they see on Facebook especially on April Fool’s Day, say something like: “Hurr hurr April Fool’s” then I sort of feel bad because I am implying that it is a joke that the person would be engaged (because hurr hurr, you’re single that’s funny SINGLE SHAMING I FELL FOR YOUR TRAP) and

        3) Maybe this is because a lot of the people who put these photos up also write lots of man-hating-y comments and post lots of articles on rape awareness (which is NECESSARY but that is all they post about) and look, I don’t want to throw anyone into the angry feminist pile, but if we were to label someone angry feminist and/or angry anti-establishment it would be the people on my feed who are posting these ring photos, so I can’t help but read it as sort of a mockery when it comes from them.

        Edit 4) I should also add that I used to be one of those people who saw engagements and wedding photos on Facebook and I went, in my head, “BAAAAAAARRRRRRRFFFF” (okay, I still do sometimes), but now I am mostly over it because I am about to be engaged and hey, love is GREAT, I have no problem sharing my bliss on the internet. So I feel like maybe these could just be a manifestation of the “BAAAAAARRRRFFFFF” which I think is the immediate reaction a lot of people have when viewing engagement/wedding/new baby photos/last night’s dinner photos on the social media. In which case it is just an April Fool’s Day Commentary on our need to SHARE ALL THE THINGS.

        Regardless, it is a phenomenon that I don’t quite understand, like that time my college roommate thought it would be HILARIOUS to tell her then-boyfriend that she was pregnant as an April Fool’s day joke (PSYCHE, she wasn’t! And she was shocked that he was mad at her. I don’t think that relationship lasted).

        My unrelated April Fool’s Day story is that I inadvertently pulled off the best April Fool’s Day stunt ever when I was 15, by getting appendicitis on April Fool’s Day the morning after a high school dance. And since I’d been out and about and in a great mood the night before no one believed I was in the hospital so I got all these phone calls from friends who thought I was punking them…not that I remember those phone calls, they gave me some goooooood drugs y’all.

        • Ah, perhaps the people you describe are making the prank in a social-systems context.

          My only experience with it was when two friends who had been dating for a few years posted “She said yes!” and they changed their status (no pics). It was very light-hearted, and both of them are natural jokesters. They’re still together and not yet engaged, but headed there.

          Hence, I haven’t seen it used as “Isn’t it ridiculous to think I’d ever get married” but rather “I made you think something was true that wasn’t, heehee”

          • I guess the other thing is that I’m not sure why/how it is funny? “Ha ha you aren’t engaged you’re just still single that’s funny single shaming” or “Ha ha y’all aren’t really engaged you’re just still dating but here feel more pressure to get engaged”? I mean things like REI’s fake cat campware (genius) are funny, not odd little fake-out life events like that that I think make people feel more uncomfortable than amused (or maybe that’s just me, projecting, and reading too much into things!)

    • Catherine B

      Or… the fake ultrasound…. Saw that one today. Ick.

    • Ring pictures seem like all the rage when people get engaged on facebook (at least in my circles). I get a lot of flack for the fact that I don’t always want to show off my ring and the fact that I didn’t do the ring picture.

      I think I’d have an easier time counting the friends who DON’T post ring pictures on facebook than the ones who have. There’s a lot of overlap there in not posting all the wedding pictures and baby pictures. It feels like there’s this huge social expectation to show off our achievements and the life milestones we reach.

      • I will probably not share a close-up of my ring on Facebook because it is NOT RESPONSIBLE. It is basically saying “HEY WORLD. HERE IS A THING ON MY HAND. MADE OF GOLD AND DIAMONDS. COME STEAL IT.” For similar reasons I keep it vague when I am going out of town–I never actually say I am leaving or coming back and if I do mention I am gone I am very clear that someone is coming by on the regular to watch my cats. Sometimes it isn’t an overshare thing, it is a security thing.

        Also the whole world doesn’t need to see my ring–close friends who live here will see my ring in person and if my close friends who don’t live where I live want to see it I can either send them a photo or they’ll see it next time I see them. Harumph harumph (and this is from the girl who flailed around all PRIVACY IS DEAD in the sharing the weddings on social media post. Heh).

  • Looking forward to all of this goodness. I need it.

  • kathleenicanrah

    As a positive person who is pretty comfortable with the good, I’m shocked at how uncomfortable I feel sharing the good online. It’s feels brag-y, like I’m inviting misfortune, and like others will point and laugh. That said, I just submitted, and can’t wait to cheer for others good all month long.

  • Wheeeeeeee! I love this.

  • Brava!

  • Kristin

    Can I just tell you how much I love you and your website? It’s a lot. I was originally just reading you for wedding planning purposes, but really I think I will just keep reading you forever and ever. There are so many good things that come out of your head and heart, and also out of the heads and hearts of your myriad readers. I so appreciate that. Thank you!!

  • Heather

    Thank you for words and sentiment in this letter from the Editor. Thank you for constantly re-emphasizing what is truly important about life and human interaction. We have to remind each other of the good and celebrate each other’s joys. Culturally I don’t think we do that enough… I never get to comment enough on the site (I’m going to work on doing that more) but I gain so much from this community….My fiancé and I have had a lot of stressful situations happen recently with our families, work, our health but I find myself smiling in spite of it all-because we have each other. Because every situation we figure out together makes me love him even more. Because at the end of a very long day, he calls me his silver lining and I tell him thank you because our relationship gives me hope. I find that when we focus on each other rather than all the bad it keeps us moving forward. :-). thanks again for reminding us to focus on the good.

  • mimi

    Hearing your voice is part of the good, Meg! Thanks again for creating this place and allowing us to celebrate the good.