How do you start a blog?

23 04 2009

With a big shout?  Or a quiet story?

I was all ready to launch this blog with some big pronouncement. After all, that’s how everyone tells me you’re supposed to start such things. Hell, it’s how I’d tell my clients how to launch a blog.

Instead, I’m starting it by sharing a quiet moment. The kind of moment that you enter with low (no?) expectations and that grabs you and holds you…for days.

Last week, I met a woman named Alex. It was part of a client assignment to put a face to their work. Instead, the 20 minutes I spent with Alex put a face to what I can only describe as “bliss”.

Here’s her story:

13 years ago, Alex’s husband died suddenly. He left her with three girls, all under the age of 5. Their fourth child, and only son, was born two weeks after Alex’s husband died.

She was young, poor…and all alone.

“I cried that whole first year,” she told me. “Then one day, I realized that I couldn’t let my husband down by letting his kids—our kids—down. So, I decided to be broke for my kids, to not work, not get an education and live only on the small Social Security check I got every month.”

Decided to be broke for my kids.  Huh?

I can just hear my conservative friends say “Of course she did. And I’ve been paying the bill ever since.” Or my liberal friends say, “Oh, what a sad, sad, sad story. What an injustice. If only we knew, we could have helped her.”

But both those (predictable) reactions are blind to the moment in this story. They miss the magic between the words.

The magic of a mother’s simple, but unbreachable, love for her children. The magic of certain bliss.

As Alex explained to me, “I wasn’t going to give my kids up and I wasn’t going to bring somebody else in to raise them. I knew I was supposed to be here—right here—for them every day.”

And so, that’s what she’s done for 13 years. In the beginning, my client helped Alex, literally, make ends meet. “I had to let go of my pride, because my kids were so small and we needed so much.” So, my client helped with rent, electric bills, even camp scholarships.

But as her kids have gotten older, Alex has turned to my client less and less. “I don’t want to be selfish and keep them to myself. Other people need them more.”

And, as her kids have gotten older, they’ve turned out to be pretty fantastic kids. One daughter’s going to college in Florida. Another is graduating high school this spring—with honors. Her third daughter wants to go into film. And her son, now 13? The one who never met his father? He wants to go to his dad’s alma mater.

Not bad for a single mom raising four kids in a two bedroom apartment, complete with bunk bed (and when’s the last time you met teens who shared bunk beds?)

“I can’t believe I made it,” Alex told me. “But,” she says with a big smile, “I did.”

Alex’s story has stayed with me for almost a week now. There are lots of reasons it grabbed my attention those first moments, but I’ve come to realize there’s a deeper reason it’s stayed with me. And that reason is because Alex epitomizes a person living a blissful life.

Where so many people are frantically scratching scratch tickets to their soul (hoping to hit the jackpot and unlock the mystery to their purpose), Alex “gets” it. She saw her purpose. She didn’t question it; she didn’t seek a second or third opinion (or tenth opinion). She has simply lived it.

And, in a world when folks are obsessed by the cynical manipulation (to put it mildly) of the Susan Boyles of the world—people who “want to be famous” to seek approval of their gifts, Alex finds validation in something as simple and private (and fleeting) as watching her son’s first soccer game.

Finally, did I mention that Alex’s social security check is a disability check. Yup. She has a “cognitive” disability. Some would call her “crazy”. She wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t call anyone who’s raised four kids like she has “crazy”. Kinda makes you wonder about the labels we put on people—to make them safely fit into the boxes we create to fit with the past…or the future. The kind of boxes that miss the moments.

It’s one of many boxes Alex has torn apart to raise her kids…in bliss…in the moment.

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7 responses

23 04 2009
Kalin

Great story. I am so happy to finally have this blog on.:))

23 04 2009
jill

Hey Will!

Nice job, excellent story. Took me a minute to figure out who Susan Boyle is – I’m so in touch! Anyway, seems like a word or two about bliss might just be your bliss!

Love you.

23 04 2009
Barb

Thanks for telling Alex’s story. Food for thought for all our lives. Glad the blog is up.

23 04 2009
Meghan

I’m tuned it now and looking forward to many more blogs that will share a small gift like this one. Thank you!

23 04 2009
Wehe

Great job! Thanks.

23 04 2009
Longhorn EvilTwin Sister

Great job with this story. You’ll find there are so many stories every day, waiting to be told. Folks like to complain about all the new social networking attention. I remember, BACK IN THE NINETEEN HUNDREDS doing a paper on how “Call Waiting” would be a horrible killer of face-to-face conversations. And it was. And we have adapted, but not in such a great way.

It’s hard to write about stuff without thinking someone will criticize you for being self-centered (and we both know that we both are) but I’ve found the net-net is greater value from story telling of real people challenges and triumphs.

Onward, sweetie dahling.
kt

24 04 2009
Lucy

Wonderful story Will! Glad the blog is up and running now.

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