Heater, Mother of Lance

“If the font on your bottle of wine has no serifs, you’re good”

Last Friday morning I flew out to Ontario, California, met up with my friend Maggie and drove up the mountain to MaxFunCon at Lake Arrowhead. It’s a two day conference featuring a variety of talented comics and podcasters situated in the middle of a beautiful nowhere:

Lake Arrowhead

Not sure I’ve ever been more intimidated by a group of people, and that really is saying a lot more about their credentials and less about the blurry, vulnerable state I’ve been in lately. Maggie has this phrase she uses, and I’m going to steal it to describe how the last several months of my life have snowballed and flattened me in their path: “Her eyeballs aren’t playing as a team.”

I had the pleasure of sitting next to John Hodgman at dinner on Saturday night. He is one of the organizers of this event, and you might know him from the time he spent on television playing the PC foil to Justin Long’s Mac:

(I want to mention that the night before I had a rather heated argument with David Rees about Led Zeppelin/Radiohead/Oasis/and how mainstream media is going to react when Bob Dylan dies, all while John Hodgman sat between us, shook his head and stroked a ukelele. I’m sorry, David, but the mainstream media is not going to freak out more about Bob Dylan’s death than it did when Michael Jackson failed to wake up from an overdose of propofol. I agree that Dylan’s influence and legacy in music history are far more layered than that of the King of Pop, and the tributes and retrospectives will be epic, filled to overflowing with iconic black and white images and proclamations of his godhood. But we’re talking about Michael Jackson. The guy who lived with a chimpanzee, dangled his baby out of a two-story window and sold over 750 million records worldwide. Whose death is going to sell more commercials about laundry detergent? I bring this up because Hodgman exhibited a kind of patience not unlike that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I owe him a huge thank you again.)

At dinner the conversation turned to blogs and tumblr and comments on blogs, how many of the readers of these sites have taken their comments to twitter or facebook. And Hodgman whose twitter account has almost 720,000 followers casually mentioned that he’s noticed a strange, somewhat uncomfortable shift in how people interact with each other through this medium in particular. And then he articulated exactly what I’ve experienced and tried unsuccessfully to explain to people about twitter: it’s a very weird reality to live in when you can read what thousands of strangers are currently thinking about you, both good and bad. Weird mostly in the fact that people who are saying the bad things either don’t realize that, you know, HEY! I’m standing right here and I CAN HEAR YOU. Or they just don’t have the generosity to realize that they are talking about/to a human being, one whose creative success was probably made possible because she has mined her own insecurities, shortcomings, thin skin and pain. That’s just the reality that I now live in. I accept it, but that doesn’t make it any less strange and at times unpleasant.

I felt a rush of relief knowing that he, too, found this phenomenon incredibly weird, that rush of feeling less alone. I also found it timely because I spent much of the weekend in the fetal position on the bed in the hotel room. Not because of any interaction on twitter, but because I’m just a total mess. That’s the truth of where I am, uncertain and anxious and terrified about my future. A brand consultant or PR firm would probably tell me that I shouldn’t share this with you, but there is it. I’m in emotional shambles, overwhelmed with worry, chained to the bottom of the deep end of a pool. That all sounds very dramatic like I’m fourteen years old, misunderstood, and underlining unnecessary adverbs in my diary. But I don’t know how else to communicate how hard it is to breathe when my family and everyday routine and entire life are all going through this type of upheaval.

I want to write this down so that when time and distance and wisdom have pulled me up and out of that water I can show it to myself and to someone else who is just as anxious and submerged in grief and tell them that I know how awful it is to feel like that. Tell them that, hey, it’s going to be okay. Your family? They’re fine. Your everyday routine? It worked itself out. Your entire life? Don’t be so dramatic. You got to meet the PC, after all.

  • Schmutzie

    2012/06/04 at 1:34 pm

    This very thing is part of the reason that I stopped writing for pop culture websites. No matter what someone’s job is, we live in a world now where people are privy to the conversations that are being had about them in online spaces. It became an issue of ethics and compassion.

    I’m glad Hodgman helped to sort you out. Your pieces will come together. They really will.

  • SueBHoney

    2012/06/04 at 1:37 pm

    I hope you get through the pain you are going through right now. I am not going through the same thing but when I have those moments of deep anxiety I have to remind myself that I have one life to live. I do this at least once a day! No day is perfect and you are allowed this time of grief. I enjoy reading your blog and have been a fan for a few years! I enjoy your sense of humor and get you! Please take care of yourself, you are blessed!

  • KrisHorning

    2012/06/04 at 1:49 pm

    I always think about how you’re coping when I visit here, wondering if today will be the day that you’ll express your innermost feelings.

    You are SO brave to express these emotions, to share the turmoil that you’re experiencing. You are a very strong woman – you are strong for your daughters. You remember to laugh, to keep some sense of normalcy, to have friends, and to accept change in life.

    Keep breathing. It will rise again.

  • Jeannie-p

    2012/06/04 at 1:51 pm

    I have been reading your blog forever, I think. I haven’t commented since you began the Dooce community. Your separation announcement (along with Maggie’s, Melissa Summers’, Kate Inglis’) has really tripped me up. I had all kinds of preconceived notions about how perfect your marriage was. I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s true. I am the same age as you, married with a 10 month old baby girl. When you announced your trial separation it threw me. I couldn’t help but feel scared for my own marriage. Over the years I’ve read about how you and Jon were in couples therapy and internally commended you for your “work” and openness about said “work”.

    I have always admired and appreciated your writing, humor, and candor. As you navigate this awful, scary transition, please know that I am rooting for you to come out feeling like a champ. We all deserve to be happy and we all have to go through some shitty stuff to get there. I wish you and your family the best. Mostly I hope you have moments of peace and clarity along your way to the other side. You don’t have to do ANYTHING perfectly – let alone everything. Hang in there.

  • mlkeone

    2012/06/04 at 1:53 pm

    I FEEL 14 TOO! And I just turned 50. Divorce, lost my job, death of my father, friend’s child committed suicide and hair loss- all in 2007. Things do get better but that’s just bullshit talk when you’re in the thick of it. Big Hamilton Chin Up young woman!! And bourbon.

    You are very loved.

  • JuliaA

    2012/06/04 at 2:05 pm

    do you read the advice column “dear sugar” on therumpus.net? because it’s awesome and soothing and kind, and sometimes i read columns over and over. a quote from her:

    ‎”all right is almost always where we eventually land, even if we fuck up entirely along the way.”

  • nelking

    2012/06/04 at 2:14 pm

    I’ve being taking a drawing class for the last few months. I do not consider myself artistic but the instructor has promised us that nothing we do is a mistake.

    Last Saturday he mentioned something I know to be true.

    Embracing uncertainty is finding freedom.

  • juliejackson

    2012/06/04 at 2:16 pm

    Mmm, I’ve always wanted to go to MaxFunCon and get to hang out with John Hodgman. I love love love his books. You are in extremely good company, you lucky duck.

  • Lauren3

    2012/06/04 at 2:27 pm

    I’m with KrisHorning… as a reader who’s become emotionally invested in your blog (how could a loyal read of this blog not be invested?), it’s nice to hear about how you’re doing. (Yet it’s not nice that you’re not doing so hot.)

    I get that you hesitate to say anything too personal anymore, because you know that whatever you say, afterward you’ll be able to read about people dissecting it in a negative light.

    But I hope you keep writing about your life, and turning to your blog (and thus your readers) to talk about what’s going on with you. Because you DO have a community of people that benefit from your writing, and who want to support you.

  • slappyintheface

    2012/06/04 at 2:40 pm

    A good friend of mine once told me (about my drug addiction/arrest/withdrawal/bat shit craziness) “you will never get over it … but you have to get on with it”.

    They were so right … you don’t ever have to get over everything that you are living with, it will always be a part of you … but you do have to get up off of that bed, put your feet on the floor, and learn to live your new “normal”.

    YOU CAN DO IT !!!

  • According to Trish

    2012/06/04 at 3:09 pm

    When I was kicking the tires on getting divorced, I started canvassing all my divorced friends. “How bad is it really?” I asked. I wanted to see if I could stomach it. I’ll never forget what my one friend said, “It’s hard as fuck.”
    That’s about the size of it.
    You’re in the pits of it right now. There’s lots to feel awful about, so go ahead and feel awful. Breathe through it, like a contraction. It hurts like hell right now, but it will get better. No, it won’t ever be the same. But it will be better than it is now — and very likely, good in a whole new way.
    Hang in there, sista.

  • pdkmdddd

    2012/06/04 at 3:30 pm

    Slight thread high-jack in order to tell @slappyinthefact that your comment just stopped me in my tracks.

    Big things have been changing in my life lately, and I just can’t shake the feeling that everything is a little off kilter. For the last month or so I’ve been wondering when I’ll go back to feeling like myself, or back to feeling ‘normal.’ I saw your comment and had a light bulb moment after reading “learn to live your new normal.”

    I’m going to keep that little phrase you typed reverberating in my head for a while. I think it’s just what I needed to hear. Thank you.

    Heather- I wish you peace and clarity and many beautiful summer nights blowing bubbles with your girls. I have loved your writing for quite some time, and always look forward to your next post.

  • theurbancowgirl

    2012/06/04 at 3:14 pm

    I am so impressed with your ability to stand back when things feel like they will never be better, and realize that, actually, they WILL be better. They really will.

    You don’t owe us anything, but I truly appreciate you taking the time to tell us (the collective interwebs) how you are doing.

    Much love.

  • hmv003

    2012/06/04 at 3:38 pm

    The day you posted of your separation, my heart broke. I find myself randomly wandering through Target or pausing in my work to wonder how you are coping. If the miles weren’t so far between us and we weren’t virtual strangers, I’d offer a cup of coffee, a hug, and some encouragement. I hope you are taking care of you and finding the courage to lean on others. Please know my thoughts are with you and your family.

    Hang in there.

  • subjectivitis

    2012/06/04 at 3:19 pm

    I loved the hope that you show for the future in the last paragraph. Your readers can tell you that we have faith in you and know you’re going to make it through this and that great. When you’re the one that says it, it’s very powerful.

    Also? I completely forgot about Judge John Hodgman. I’m moseying over to maximumfun.org right now!

  • dleppa

    2012/06/04 at 3:42 pm

    Then you figure it all out and the grief becomes manageable and life finds some normality and you begin to not only survive but thrive!

    And then your kids become teenagers.

  • jenwilson

    2012/06/04 at 3:44 pm

    This is exactly why I don’t say anything negative about anyone online. There’s no way I would want to read mean things about myself, so why write them about other people? It’s just cruel.

    I’m so sorry you/your life are/is such a mess right now. It will get straightened out. It really will. And 99% of us are behind you every step of the way, cheering you on. You can do it. And crying is totally okay. (Healthy, even.)

  • cgeorge1

    2012/06/04 at 3:54 pm

    You will make it. Sending good vibes.

  • hayofray

    2012/06/04 at 4:19 pm

    “I’m in emotional shambles, overwhelmed with worry, chained to the bottom of the deep end of a pool.” Glad I’m not the only one down here. Thank you for helping me feel not so alone.

  • lisdom

    2012/06/04 at 4:24 pm

    You wanna come to Bonnaroo with me? Radiohead will be there, as well as many other awesome bands (like The Alabama Shakes). I just think a nice music festival where you can get lost among thousands of other people may be just the thing you need. =)

    I am 100% serious.

  • keneumey

    2012/06/04 at 4:43 pm

    You know you have a “handle” on your depression, I think, when you can say to yourself, “I feel like I’m circling the drain right now, but I know it will not last. I will feel better.” I’m sorry you’re going through the upheaval, but grateful to you for writing about it. Thank you.

  • Zedda

    2012/06/04 at 5:55 pm

    Hang in there, Heather. I’m glad that you threw PR into the wind and talked about how you’re REALLY feeling. That’s why we love you so dearly. The brazen honesty about how you’re feeling makes people like me (down here at the bottom of the deep end, also) feel a little less alone in the world.

    So, thank you.

  • Gramma Lynn

    2012/06/04 at 6:13 pm

    First time commenting. I agree with slappyintheface’s statement that “you will never get over it … but you have to get on with it”. It is so true. As a gramma (who stills feels 16 inside), I have run the gammit of all you have been though and more. The other quote that my mother likes to say is “this too shall pass”. Neither helps you feel better in the moments of despair or great happiness but in moments of lucity, it is a reminder that life is so very short and we do need to “get on with it”. I hurt for your hurting and as I tell my kids, I wish I had a magic wand. But none of us does so we just have to do the best can in the moment. Then those moments pass and finally there is happiness and hope once again. Hold on and hang in there. Sending good thoughts into the universe for you and yours.

  • AlisonG

    2012/06/04 at 6:21 pm

    I admire the hell out of you. Your honesty in the weak times, your strength to put your fingers to the keys and express in words how you feel when how you feel is not good… you’ve helped so many by stepping up.

    Oh, and you are so wrong about Bob Dylan. Then again, you’re younger than me by a decade so you’re not to blame.

  • TxSuzyQ

    2012/06/04 at 6:36 pm

    “I agree that Dylan’s influence and legacy in music history is far more layered than that of the King of Pop”

    So I stopped reading right there because anything you said after that could be not possibly be more idiotic. I stopped reading at that point to come here and tell you to go fuck yourself and that you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.

    So, in closing, fuck off. Go fuck yourself with an unlubricated, splintered baseball bat and if you would be so kind, just go ahead and die in the process.

    Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to get that off my chest.

    Carry on with your idiocy.

  • TxSuzyQ

    2012/06/04 at 6:42 pm

    I am totally not serious about the going ahead and dying. I just had to get the rage out. Please continue to live. I was just having a moment. I may even read the rest of your post now.

  • SPM

    2012/06/04 at 7:14 pm

    Wow, really? I’m so glad I read the comments tonight! Heather, I hope you are taking notes….. “unlubricated splintered baseball bat,” “Carry on with your idiocy.” I would be in a fetal position all day if I had to read this after taking care of a family and working my butt off for said family.

    Hang in there, Heather. My heart breaks for you and so sad you have to put up with mean spirited comments on the website you created and host for us.

    A Franciscan Benediction I recently read may bring some comfort or light tonight….”may god bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships….so that you may live deep within your heart.”

  • kmpinkel

    2012/06/04 at 7:47 pm

    TxSuzyQ please demonstrate how to go on with your idiocy? oh wait you just did.

    heather , you will learn to live your new normal. May I suggest you pack a bottle of bubbles in your checked in bag(s) for the future. Put them on the table next to your hotel room and when you start to curl up, grab the bottle and blow bubbles. Remember the magic and love that life holds for you.

    For every cruel comment you hear, know that there are thousands of good thoughts and love being sent your way.

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2012/06/04 at 8:10 pm

    I just want to say that I like Jonathan Coulton in part because he puts me in one degree of separation closer to John Hodgman.

    Also, I miss hanging out in the San Bernardino Mountains.

  • Lauren3

    2012/06/04 at 8:14 pm

    TxSuzyQ, congratulations– usually moronic comments like yours are made with many more typos and much worse grammar! You were actually coherent with your seething lunacy.

    If a simple comment about music made you rage that hard, I think you need to find some more things to rage about. Maybe the downfalls of the U.S. health care system? Specifically, how hard it is for many people to access mental health care, and how we don’t integrate it very well into our primary care system.

    I think you might be able to give some insight into that topic.

  • painterdoll

    2012/06/04 at 8:31 pm

    Heather, I’m so sorry to hear that you feel like you’re in emotional shambles. But I promise you, dear, that you will read that post again in a year and realize how strong you are and how far you have come. You will feel better again. You will feel like yourself again. You are a daily inspiration to me and have given me this most precious gift of your transparent blog and the community. Anytime you’re wondering if you make a difference, YOU DO. I can’t even begin to thank you for all of it. I know you will pull through this. You are not alone and you are loved by thousands.

  • just beth

    2012/06/04 at 8:56 pm

    Dear Heather,

    Hey, it’s me… Beth.

    Just wanted to say… me, too.

    xo, b.

  • Tracye

    2012/06/04 at 11:39 pm

    Twitter is the devil.

    I say it to everyone. This whole generation that was born with a cell phone in one hand and a computer in the other just gets on my nerves.

    No one needs to text 24/7-what THE FRACK are you even talking about all…day…long?

    Just what?

    No one needs to talk to people ALL DAY LONG. What THE FRICK, are you even talking about in the store, in the movie theater, walking down the street. What are you talking about walking down the street? Bumping into people. On the cell phone at the cashier, not paying attention. Not caring that there’s this whole line of people behind you waiting on you to pay for your…whatever. At your job-why are you even talking on the phone at your job?

    You know who you are. Remember the days when getting or making personal phone calls were a no no?

    I miss those days…

    Tweeting while driving, while walking…so much stimuli. Society is reverse evolving and there’s like five of us that see it.

    No one needs to tweet to millions of strangers what they are doing every ten to twenty seconds of your life. You can’t get that time back people.

    Young girls…letting themselves be videoed doing all kinds of sexual things forgetting that one day, that they will grow up and the internet?

    Is a hoarder.

    Yes, it is good for business and YES, it’s good for keeping in touch but FFS…put down the tech and go outside for a walk WITHOUT your cell phone just to see how it use to be in the olden days.

    Of 1985.

    People need to get a grip and step away from the technology and not be a slave to it because it’s just a tool.

    Or are humans the tool?

    I can’t keep up.

  • Tracye

    2012/06/04 at 11:44 pm

    Oh and life is hills and valleys.

    But you know that.

    No one’s future is set in stone so try to not worry about things you have no control over. You’re a good writer so things will continue to flow in that direction for you.

    Very good things.

    Be kinder to yourself. Not everyone is going to be on your side and that’s…okay.

    You’ll be alright.

    That’s my hug 🙂

  • TxSuzyQ

    2012/06/05 at 2:12 am

    Ugh… I just read the rest of your post. I guess I picked a hell of a time to go off over a MJ comment.

    I’m sorry, Heather. I guess there isn’t much more I can say to redeem myself, here, but I am really sorry.

  • Carol Ann

    2012/06/05 at 3:05 am

    Heather are you getting divorced? Is that why you’re feeling so terrible? Has the trial separation turned into a decision to make it permanent? I feel so sorry if that’s the case, because your and Jon’s love for each other shone off these pages – all the years I’ve been reading your blog. I just don’t know… but we, your readers, don’t know, do we — the real-life life of the Armstrongs.

    Very sad.

  • Sassafras Mama

    2012/06/05 at 4:29 am

    Longtime reader, infrequent commenter……..just adding my voice to the good and decent crowd to say that the first year after a major life explosion is just raw and scary and just is. The good news is that the more time passes the greater the prospect that you will find moments of grace. Eventually, those moments will be hours and then days…….you aren’t alone, you have many more quiet supporters than loud detractors, and there’s always a little more strength to be found when you need it.

    Holding you in the light,


  • Funnygirl78

    2012/06/05 at 4:56 am

    I am very grateful you decided to not listen to your internal PR firm’s advice. Thank you for another breath-takingly human and honest post. I am so sorry for the upheaval and pain, but am so grateful to you for sharing.

  • subjectivitis

    2012/06/05 at 10:05 am

    @Tracye: Hell yeah!

  • Elwyn

    2012/06/05 at 11:20 am

    In a moment of nostalgia I searched for an old YouTube video to share with friends and just happened to notice it had a few comments. I wish I hadn’t read them, they were cruel and heartless and completely uncalled for, sadly as too many internet comments are. They almost knocked me back several years of hard work trying to over come some heavy baggage and build myself up.

    It’s baffling to me how people use the anonymity of the internet to so mindlessly judge anyone and any thing. Yes, opinions may be like a$$holes, but whatever happened to keeping them to yourself once in a while?

    Thank you, Heather, for sharing yourself with such a massive community for the sake of those who appreciate you and find inspiration in the stories you share. I shudder to imagine the kind of strength it takes to endure self-centered a$$hats who want to drown others in their judgmental bull, I sure don’t have it. Instead here are words of encouragement and thanks.

  • Adyrcz

    2012/06/05 at 2:05 pm

    I am so sorry, Heather. I have been in your shoes, just without children and I know how bad it sucks. Just know that you have so many people cheering for you! Your blog has made me laugh for so long, so thank you for that and thank you for your honesty here. Sending hugs your way!

  • Desmondiva

    2012/06/05 at 4:18 pm

    Heather, with tears I send you a big hug. I am so sorry for how you are feeling.

    I am also so unbelievably proud of you for being brave enough to follow your heart, and for realizing that time, distance and wisdom will see you through this. I am also extremely proud of you for having the strength to get up and face every day and making the most of it. Furthermore, for always giving us of the amazing gift of your talent, everyday!! And being real. And honest. You are so strong Heather! I admire you to the bone.

    99% of us are cheering you on! (Send compassion, light and love to the 1%, and may they one day find peace and wisdom.) I too often find myself thinking of you out of the blue, wondering how you are coping.

    “If you wonder why bad things happen to good people, it’s because they can handle it.”


  • Em

    2012/06/05 at 10:31 pm

    I’m glad that you’re able to look at your life and situation with such clarity and perspective. That’s a difficult thing to do, but I hope it gives you the peace that you need to keep moving forward. The sun’ll come out tomorrow, right? And if not tomorrow, then someday soon. I’m really looking forward to that day.

  • mrs_k

    2012/06/06 at 4:26 am

    I wish we could form a collective group hug and squeeze you until the sad has nowhere to go but up!

    Thank you for sharing how you’re really feeling. You didn’t get to where you are and you haven’t helped countless people by putting on a sunshiney face and pretending everything is okay. We love you because you’re real. You struggle with the same crap as many of us do. You fight a disease every day that makes millions of people feel completely lost. You are SO GIFTED at putting words to these feelings, and that whole thing you just wrote about feeling relieved because of the realization that you’re not alone in feeling something? You give that to people every single day. We love you because you are exactly Heather.

  • bellamaxjoy

    2012/06/06 at 9:12 am

    Heather, I wonder if this pain and agony you are living in, the upheaval you are dealing with. Have you revisited your decision. My meaning being, my husband and I went thru a HORRIBLE thing. Wont get into details, but we after much talk and physical separation, realized our emotions were telling us, hey we each screwed up, but we do still love one another. We have so much invested in this, 26 years, 2 kids, maybe a first grand-baby (squeeee). So we decided to face all of it head on, and to commit to getting better. And it has. It has been so much work, but apart was not better emotionally for either of us. It sounds to me that emotionally, apart is not working for you. It takes so much work and so much commitment to make it work, but it can be done, please believe me. Forgiveness and newness and discovery. I hope that you find where you are happy.

  • salvationamy

    2012/06/06 at 12:53 pm

    Heather, it’s all going to be okay.

  • katiemaedays

    2012/06/06 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you for exposing, mining sharing what’s raw and real. You are not alone, you remind me that I am not either. You will get through to the other side. You will. It is hard. So damn hard. From the mess, the hard, the upheaval, good grows. It just does. I think about it every time I’m in my garden, turning soil.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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