Thursday, August 30, 2012

Navel Gazing for Social Good


Please read to the end of this post. Because it takes me a while to get to my point. That's a head-scratcher, I know...

I have done a fair amount of speculating, sometimes even out loud here on this blog, about what is the point of blogging?  When the sound of my own voice sounds tiresome, even to me, and I wonder if this is all just narcissistic navel gazing.

By now most of you are familiar with the story: I started the blog to promote my jewelry business, wrote exactly two posts about jewelry (actually, art) and then started writing about addiction and recovery.  Within weeks a community had found me -  a community of women (and some men) who identified with my story, were struggling or sober, or just compassionate people who wanted to offer words of encouragement.

Being open about my recovery on this blog brought me many completely unexpected opportunities (like Oprah, USA Today and Redbook) and changed my life in ways I could never have dreamed possible. It also helped me build up a readership (impersonally referred to as a 'platform') that boggles my mind to this day. And the friendships?  OH, the friendships. I have found friends that are like oxygen to me; who fuel my soul.

I was running out of things to write about (at least in my mind) when my Dad died last June.  Writing about losing him, grief and trying to move on after such a staggering loss was so healing for me. And once again, a community of people came out of the woodwork to offer empathy and support.  It blew my mind, how many of you reached out to me, sent flowers, supportive emails, cards, words of hope.

I was this close to shutting the blog down last October. I was struggling personally, I was tired of my own voice, I just didn't feel that spark anymore.  It did feel like narcissistic navel-gazing, and the day I write just to hear my own voice is the day I stop writing.

Last October, as I was literally crafting a post saying I was shutting it down - I found the lump in my neck and wrote a post about it.   A few weeks later I was officially diagnosed with what I already knew was true:  I had cancer.

Once again, so many people came forward, offered words of hope, support, encouragement.  You offered your own stories; once again the community of people I needed to know found me.

Then it hit me, what makes my blog special, meaningful:  YOU.

I'm slowly figuring out why I have kept up this blog.  First, because it helps me. YOU help me.  So much. Second, because there are causes close to my heart that I want to bring awareness to - like recovery and cancer.

I worry - because that's what I do - that the people who come here to read about recovery roll their eyes at the cancer posts, and vice-versa.  I'm just going to get out of your heads and back into mine and write about what it meaningful to me.

Now that my youngest is heading into first grade, I'm thinking about what it is I want to "do" with my time. Building up my jewelry business is one.  But finding ways to support the recovery and cancer communities actually tops the list.  So you'll be hearing more about this - especially the cancer community - in the near future.

I'm hoping you'll support me in this.  Even if you haven't been directly touched by cancer in some way - the odds are (sadly) that someday you will.  Spreading the word about resources for those of us impacted by cancer helps everyone.

I had the pleasure of meeting the Executive Director of Friends Of Mel - a vibrant, inspiring woman who has helped so many with this organization. Local people (and, increasingly, across the country) are familiar with the story of the bracelet.  If you're not, please go here to read about it. It's incredible.

What started as one courageous, funny, giving woman making bracelets for friends, family and nurses while she battled cancer turned into a multi-million dollar organization that helps SO many people.  What many people don't know is where that money goes - for example, Friends of Mel is a sponsor of the Cancer Support Community I go to locally for yoga, for group therapy (and it offers SO many more resources than just those) - and it has literally saved my sanity.

There are so many more places like this that have received funds and support from Friends of Mel, and I will be writing more about them in the future, because this story just blows my mind; speaks to the difference just one person can make.

YOU are that just one person.  You've helped me survive the death of my Dad, cancer and the daily struggles of life. You've been there to celebrate the successes, the small victories that keep us going.

I hope you'll come along with me as I endeavor to support some causes that mean a lot to me.  I won't be asking you for money over and over. I'll be asking you to help raise awareness by spreading the word on your own facebook/twitter pages, help use social media for good.

And, of course, I'll still write about whatever is in my brain - kids, motherhood, serious, silly or navel gazing. I've come to terms with that.  I just love to write.

I have noticed that posts like this one don't get a lot of comments. For a while it devastated me (OH, my precious ego) but then I'd see you posting the links on your FB pages, tweeting about it, spreading the word, and that's what matters.  THANK YOU.

One last piece of business for you local people: there is an incredible conference called The Art of Life After Cancer coming up on September 15th at the Marriott, Quincy, in Massachusetts. But it's not just for survivors; if you have cancer, have had cancer, are a caregiver, were a caregiver or have been touched by cancer in some way, I can't recommend this conference enough.  Click here for the link for more info, and to register (only $25).  If this doesn't appeal to you personally will you please share this link on your FB pages? Especially if you're local?  I am finding the challenges of life after cancer to be as difficult in many ways as life fighting cancer.

You are an incredible, supportive community, and I am so grateful for you.  I am not turning this into a cancer blog, or a recovery blog.  It's just evolving into something bigger than me, and I'm grateful for that, too. We all have the opportunity to give back, and as Mel (please go read her story) proved one person can make a HUGE difference.  So please pass the word along.  If you can't go to the conference but want to help in some way, you can always buy a gorgeous bracelet for $20 to help their cause.

Thank you for all your help. Thank you for propping me up when I need it.

Thank you for being an incredible, supportive community with such huge hearts.

-Ellie

7 comments:

  1. You are a treasure, my friend. I love your voice, your reasons for writing and everything you put in to each post. I'm happy to have found you and to have had the pleasure of meeting you in person. Happy to be on this journey with you and so proud of everything you have accomplished! xoxo

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  2. I found your blog a few weeks back via a blog list on another recovery blogger I follow. I enjoy what you write about. I actually stopped by today to comment on your Monday post. The way I see it, recovery is about living life without drinking or using, it is about death, cancer and other medical troubles, it is about kids, jobs and all the other challenges which come along. I blog because I like to write and find it healthy. I also blog because I still have challenges in life, challenges I am handling sober to the best of my ability, challenges as a chronic alcoholic I would have never been able to deal with in any constructive way nor learned from my mistakes. Yes blogging is "naval gazing" but also if what we write helps another then maybe we are taking something selfish and making it unselfish. I have noticed some who post comments aren't into 12 step programs, which is fine, yet find your words and others helpful, thus the message is carried. Getting off alcohol and drugs is so much more than putting down the bottle, pill, needle or pipe, you are doing a service by sharing and showing this.

    I was an isolator in my addiction so stepping outside of my comfort zone and finding my arms is an extension of my Higher Power. I have some very close friends in recovery, we camp together, we road trip together, we call each other or have a meal after a meeting, this is all done because we love each other unconditionally. I have also made some good friends via blogging and value their voices.

    Thanks for sharing the language of the heart and please keep on writing I may not relate to the situation but I bet I can relate to the emotions and the solution.

    Namaste

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  3. I love to read what your write about, no matter the topic. You write about life - the twists and turns and how you deal with them. Life isn't neat and it's certainly not limited to just one subject. Thank you for being so honest. You inspire me in many ways!

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  4. You rock! I am eager to see where you take this and I'm anxious to help in being a part of the cancer support community in ways you have and will discuss in the future. Thank you for your kind, compassionate heart!

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  5. I enjoy ALL your posts - your wonderful way with words that touch all of us, no matter what we struggle with. I don't have some of your struggles, but I do have my own, and your words touch me and help lift me. And we are all on this Big Blue Marble (remember that show?) together and we can only get thru it by the lifting and support of others! So PLEASE Ellie - write on!

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  6. Please keep on writing! I've been taking my own walk along some very painful paths over the past couple of years and your blog has helped me a lot just to know that someone else is getting stuck on the same sort of rough ground or is stopping to celebrate the glorious beauty of a "normal" moment on the seemingly-all-too-rare occasions that they happen in the midst of grief and illness and stress and stuff.

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  7. What a lovely post, as always. I love hearing how you meet life's challenges with grace and generosity.

    I'm cheering for you!

    XOXO

    A.

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