I was spending an awful lot of my time breastfeeding back in those days, and I wanted to make the most of the hours I was required to sit on the couch while Moses worked at sucking the perkiness out of my youthful boobs (and nourishing himself, I guess). I decided I’d use this regular couch time for reading the Christian theology books I’d made no time for before Mo arrived, to grapple further with the strict gender roles I’d been taught in church up to that point. I figured a blog could be an easily-accessible home to the reviews of these books which would allow my similarly-passionate but more time-poor friends to follow along with my research without having to read everything for themselves. (It’s strange now to think that none of this reading and blogging would have happened if I had access back then to either Netflix or Twitter.) I hadn’t considered that in writing I’d find a much-needed creative outlet I hadn’t realised I’d been muchly-needing, and a safe space in which I could process my thoughts and fears and doubts and joys as I adjusted to marriage and motherhood and tried to better understand who I was in light of these as well as my Christian faith.
It's weird having publicly documented almost 8 years of my life, particularly as I’ve changed so dramatically in that time. In 2011, I was a new mum, trying very hard to be perfect in all the possible ways a mum could be perfect, so that my son would always think I was the bestest person ever and would definitely never end up in therapy. I was also extremely Christian, the eager type, who’d always try to invite you – her openly-not-Christian-but-extraordinarily-polite workmate – to her church, and who enthusiastically gifted you a small, leather-bound Bible because you’d once listened to me talking about reading it and made a passing comment, probably in the hopes that it would bring a nice end to our conversation, about how you thought you’d maybe read some of it yourself one day. (Guess what, friend? That day could be TODAY, because HERE’S A BIBLE FOR YOU!! You’re WELCOME!!!!) The type who had earnest conversations with her oldest and most loyal friend about how sad I was that she wouldn’t be joining me in heaven, given her blatantly unchristian behaviour and beliefs (she was – and remains – a superlative human being, it was just she was having sex without being married, and thought that was fine, so… pretty evil). THAT TYPE. That was 2011 me.
Nowadays, my son spends quite a bit of his life convinced I’m the worstest person ever (“Literally everyone in the world has an Xbox except me, and Huon has a TV bigger than ours IN HIS BEDROOM”) and will certainly need therapy when he’s older (everyone does). I feel zero pressure to act like the sweet, playful, always-happy mother who regularly shows up in movies (often running through meadows in slow-motion, dress billowing behind her); I’m done with acting any roles, whether it’s Good Mother or Good Christian Woman. 2020-me has now apologised to both my ex-workmate and my still-loyal-friend about the things past-me said when she was drunk on evangelical Christianity. Since 2011, I’ve been pregnant three more times, two of which ended in miscarriage, and one of which produced Hazel. I’ve finished one degree (Divinity) and am on the final leg of another (Psychology). I’m trying to find new purpose now that what lies ahead is my own to figure out the directions to, where before I could merely follow those handed to me by church leaders.
I cringe when I read my early posts on this blog; the Christian-ness, for one thing, but it’s also clear to now-me that I was trying too hard to sound like someone I wasn’t. (It struck me as I wrote that last line that it was Rachel Held Evans. I was trying to sound like Rachel Held Evans. She was my favourite blogger/person in 2011, and her writing was one of the reasons I started wanting to try my own hand at it. My heart is still broken over her sudden death last year.) As the years went by, I found my voice. I started writing more for me than for an imaginary audience. I used to write and edit in my head while my children played at the park, repeating lines to myself so that I wouldn’t forget them before I got home, put them to bed for a nap, then raced to my laptop to madly bash out fully-formed paragraphs. Blogging got me through the difficult days of caring for small humans.
I discovered how much I loved the process of constructing sentences and editing them and making myself laugh or think or rethink. I also practised vulnerability through writing; I wrote about my miscarriages, the unsettling feeling of not knowing what to do with my life, pregnancy (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3), sleep, evangelical Christianity, things that made me cranky, study, marriage, post-natal depression, mothering, anxiety, moving, mothering, mothering, and random things that happened/occurred to me while going about my days with two young children and a bazillion assignments due. I made a few friends through my writing, only one of whom I’ve met in person. I raged at Blogger a lot (its random formatting changes that I could find no way of overriding frequently made me feel stabby; for a stunning example, please see the unnecessary space added between points 5 and 6 in the list below). I figured out how to embed gifs and find and edit photos and play around with HTML and solve technological issues I’d have given up on pre-blog. Blogging also showed me that I was able to integrate information and explain it in a readable way, which, I realised, was a key part of research. I grew more confident in my ability to study as a result of blogging; I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to start my psychology degree when I did if I hadn’t learned this about myself through writing for Belle’s Elbows.
I know that blogging – particularly “mummy-blogging” – was/is seen as an embarrassingly low art form, but I still love it, mostly because I’m deeply grateful for everything it gave me: a chance to express and challenge myself, meaningful conversations with others I’d have otherwise missed, a way to meet new people and find community, a way to meet myself and figure out my values and desires, and a space to store 8 years’ worth of memories.
For a long time, I was trying to make sure I was in bed by 9:30pm, but I’d always be in bed at 10pm, and then, after feeling guilty about it for a while, I thought, “Why bother trying so hard to be in bed earlier when 10pm is obviously the time I naturally make it to bed?“ So I changed my bedtime to 10pm and now I go to bed at 11pm.
From Sick and Tired
I’ve decided to take Belle’s Elbows down partly because of the cringey posts and partly because all of the pictures disappeared from the posts once I changed my surname and moved the blog over to my new email address (I started adding some back in, but I gave up). Partly, as well, I plan to make writing more of a priority in my life again this year, but the thought of adding to Belle’s Elbows feels wrong somehow; if I’m still going to blog (is that a thing anymore? I don’t even know), I’d prefer a fresh, new space where I can start over.
Over the 8 years since beginning Belle’s Elbows, I’ve written 430 posts (including this one). I spent one of my holidays last year copying each one into a Word document, which now contains 717 pages and 241,339 words. 8 years, 430 posts and 241,339 words of comment, confession, confusion, family updates, book and movie reviews, book/movie reviews mixed with family updates, and cracking myself up.
I’ll be keeping the blog up until my birthday in early March, to give anyone who wants it time to read through the ‘Best Of’ list that I compiled while copying and pasting each post from blog to computer. Many of the links are in the text above, but I’ve listed others below (I updated the photos on some but not all of these posts. You’re welcome/sorry).
I borrowed You Should Have Known from the library thanks to Swistle’s review. When I picked it up I noticed that on the cover the book’s described as a 'psychological thriller' which made my heart pound and panic, until my head said, “Calm down, Heart. What’s your favourite book of all time?” and my heart said, “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” and my head said, “…?” and my heart said, “?!” and my head said, “And how do you think that book would be described?” and my heart was like, “Hey! Maybe I actually like reading psychological thrillers! Thanks, Head!” and my head said “No worries” and then there was an awkward silence until I stepped in and asked, “So, do I read You Should Have Known?” and my head and heart both said “Yes.” So I read it over the weekend.
Highlights from Belle's Elbows
- This is one of my favourite posts from the early days of the blog, most probably because it was the first time I wrote something that felt scarily honest and worked up the courage to throw it out into the world: What Uralla taught me about myself.
- This story still makes me smile; I was not expecting it to end the way it did: Phone. (This post is linked to in the previous one, but I’m putting it here separately, purely for the adorably smooshy photo of Hazel: Slobber.)
- There are many posts, mostly kid-related, detailing
situations I’d have completely forgotten about if it weren’t for the fact that
I documented them at the time for my blog. This is an example of such a post: Holiday
- These posts – covering my 2017 surname change – had the highest number of readers of all of my blog posts, almost certainly because they were among the few I posted to social media: Surnames #2 and Surnames#3.
- My 2019
series on why I’m no longer a Christian (the only thing I’ve posted since September
2017), which begins here: The
- These two perfectly demonstrate the levels of my dedication to procrastinating, and also make me very happy I no longer live in Sydney: The Massacre and There's a Cockroach In My Kitchen.
- Finally, these posts from 2014 were extremely fun to write and still make me laugh every time I reread them:
Thank you, thank you, thank you and goodbye, Belle's Elbows.
And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone came along for the ride, for all or part of the time I hung out here.