Last weekend, my adult son Jacob shared a link to my blog on Reddit.
I’d written the piece “Love yourself But Just Not Here” on Saturday night (Valentine’s Day) just after the events of that story occurred. I told Jacob and Sophie the story later that evening. We all thought the experience was hysterical and my retelling of the story wasn’t too bad. At least my kids got a kick out of it, and isn’t that all that really matters? Shortly after publishing the story to the blog, I was surprised to see it was getting a lot of attention. The blog itself had amassed 155 views by the end of Saturday night. This was amazing to me.
Late that Sunday morning, Jacob and I were having coffee. I told him about the wonderful attention the story had gotten the day before. Curious, he woke my computer up and opened my blog stats page to discover I’d already exceeded Saturday’s numbers. I was sure he was joking. He decided to share the piece with the larger online world. I’m thankful he’s such a fan but I wasn’t so sure others would share his enthusiasm. And I’d heard how abusive the interwebs could be.
He posted to Reddit, and the day became surreal.
Shortly after he posted the link to Reddit, the number doubled. Jacob excitedly said he thought I’d actually get 500 views, and I thought there was no way that would happen.
The WordPress app’s notification chime on my phone began to ding. He sat with me and hit the refresh button on my browser, and we watched the number of views to the blog climb.
As the day wore on, he would raise his predicted number exponentially, and at first I would scoff. I couldn’t imagine more people would read this. After a while, I stopped scoffing and simply entered into a perpetual state shock and surprise. I call this the “shit-or-go-blind” phase. I was astounded and teary, and my face began to hurt from smiling. I felt sure I was being punked. Like the whole experience was put on by hidden forces; maybe a flash mob orchestrating a cheering committee.
The love shared by readers felt overwhelming. Comments made to Jacob’s original Reddit post, the blog, and Facebook all moved me to tears. People offered warmth, joy, and encouragement. A few people were less than kind. One or two were downright awful. No matter. When just a few people support you, one mean person hurts your heart. Early on Sunday, I read a nasty comment and my hand reflexively went to my heart, as I heard myself say “ouch”. But later in the day, after a hundred people had me sent love, a few hurtful words felt like nothing at all. At one point, Jacob was reading some of the comments aloud as they came in. He got to a bit of hate and skidded to a halt, looking so sad and sorry those words had come out of his mouth. But it was all okay. I explained to him that day’s sweet discovery of love’s natural buffer.
And then I got to see another phenomenon: An online posse swooped in to address the haters. Whoa.
Midway through the day, I became aware of the absence of physical pain in my normally very whiny body. I was experiencing first-hand the way a flood of active support and positive feelings can dull emotional and physical pain, even if just for a while.
Love is a drug. Not only did it make me feel better in my body, I felt more lovable.
I went to bed on Sunday shaky and spent and astounded. So much elation can be quite tiring.
Reddit is a crazy beast of a thing, both beautiful and frightening. My blog stats are counted per day, starting and ending at midnight EST. By the end of that Sunday, the blog had gotten nearly 63,000 views from about 150 countries around the world in one day. It’s continued to have substantial traffic from all over the world.
I now have this mingled sense of intense gratitude and gnawing fear. Where do I go from here? Will I disappoint? What if I have nothing more to say? Is that even possible?
I have never written for the response. I write because I write. It’s an outlet that feels good and necessary for me. I write as if I’m screaming into the void. I love that some of you can hear me.
Writing, creating art, performing in public, sharing what you do or make — this is risky. Sometimes good things come when we’ve sought them; sometimes they come unbidden. Once here, how do we feel? Does the good thing (person, success, recognition) look or feel as we imagined? Is it better than we hoped?
Your positive feedback has been the most beautiful and stunning gift I could imagine.