Beginnings and Ends (an Announcement)

I thought about calling this post “Ends and Beginnings,” but where’s the fun in that?

Because really, I’m here to announce a beginning to you. It’s an overdue announcement, too – of a beginning that has been unfolding for nearly six months (no, I’m not pregnant), and has been dominating my mind and my schedule (as much as five children will allow) for at least four months.

Friends, I have started a podcast.

podcasting equipment on desk

Now, those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will already know this. (My sincere apologies, blog readers, that you’re the last to know. You’ll understand why in a moment.)

But so far, very few people know the story behind the podcast’s genesis, or how much it has already changed my life. You see (as longtime readers have probably already gathered), it is SO HARD for me to keep up with regular writing.

I love writing. I love sitting down to a blank page and sorting out my thoughts through my fingers. I love finding just the right way to put something. I love sending my ideas out into the world, in my own, deliberately-put voice.

But writing is such a struggle for me. I usually feel like I have to wrestle the words into place, through many drafts and dozens of interruptions and much angst. I am a perfectionist. I require silence to write. (Noise shuts down my brain. Highly inconvenient for both writing and motherhood.) I am sloooow.

So as much as I love writing, and this blog, I have rarely been able to keep up a decent posting schedule. Try as I might, I seem not to be able to stick with it for much more than two-week spurts.

And yet I have felt so drawn to the thing! With every fiber of my being, I have felt called to speak out on politics, society, faith, morality, motherhood, and various combinations thereof. And for so many years, I have thought that writing was the only way I could answer that call.

But then this spring I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s latest book, Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive.

I have been following Jen for ten years now, so I will admit that I didn’t think I had much more to learn from her. She gives a lot of encouragement to people (particularly moms) to find their “blue flame” – the activity that enables them to use their creativity and passion to add something to the world.

But I already knew what mine was! And it wasn’t working! I was miserable, because here I knew I had this call, and I was unable to answer it. It felt like mental and spiritual torture.

To add insult to injury, Jen always says how your blue flame – though it requires time and work – should give you energy, better enabling you to engage in the rest of your life. But mine most definitely did not give me energy. Writing, though I loved it, left me drained and cranky. It made me a worse mother, and more dissatisfied with my life as a whole.

So I began the book expecting to feel as hopeless about the situation as ever. But as I made my way through it, the unfolding began.

In particular, Jen’s seven questions in chapter three helped me to shift my perspective, to consider that maybe I’d been going about things the wrong way. Questions like: “List all the times you’ve felt truly alive,” “What is something your friends hate to do that you love to do? “What are some occasions when you’ve helped another person?” “What did you do for fun when you were a kid?”

Every single one of my seven answers included the word, “talking.”

Talking, not writing. I never dreamed of being a writer when I was a kid. I never tore through notebook after notebook in my teenage years. I never loved the writing parts of my jobs. I loved talking.

All of those things I felt called to do, all of those ideas I longed to put out into the world, all of those questions I wanted to ask – maybe I was supposed to do them through talking, not writing.

What about a podcast? Because I’m a voracious podcast listener, I had occasionally thought of podcasting before, but I’d always brushed aside the thought: too much work, too much money, “Who do I think I am, anyhow?” (What a sad thought to have. I’ll admit it’s really the one that holds me back.)

But Jen’s book got me to think seriously about the idea. I started researching, I started jotting down ideas, I started reaching out to friends for feedback. And a couple of months later – microphone and software and a general plan in-hand – I launched it:

More Than Politics

I consider More Than Politics a podcast for those of us who want something more than what we’ve come to expect from politics – and from our political discourse.

In it, I aim to provide context on today’s political issues and environment, have civil discussions on the issues of the day, and encourage a political discourse that builds up rather than tears down. Listen to my introductory episode for the fullest explanation of what I hope to do with the podcast.

I have published thirteen episodes so far, in which I speak to a number of friends both old and new, and which touch on the pandemic, race, international politics, abortion, political parties, the election, executive power, the Supreme Court, running for office, and more.

A fourteenth episode, with Laura Kelly Fanucci, about how to speak to children about politics and current events, will post this week. I am so excited for you to hear it.

And really, I’m just excited in general. Because this podcasting thing seems to suit me so much better than writing ever did.

Blogging, I’d be lucky to produce fourteen posts in a year. Podcasting, I’ve been able to produce fourteen episodes in three months – posting one, sometimes two, episodes per week. It’s been a lot of work. (And yes, my house looks like I have been pouring work into something other than housekeeping.) But podcasting seems to be work that I am better suited to than writing, and I am finding it so fulfilling.

I love thinking up new topics, I love connecting with leads, I especially love the conversations themselves, and I even love editing (a task I find that I can do surrounded by a little household activity, which I could never tolerate while writing). It’s been pretty amazing.

And yes – just as Jen promised – this activity actually gives me energy. My house may be a mess, but I am happier (and more energetic) looking after it, and my family, than I have ever been. Don’t get me wrong – this podcasting thing has been super hard work – but it feels like it is bearing fruit in me, and I hope it will bear fruit in others too.

So that’s my big, new beginning! And with beginnings, come ends.

The beginning of More Than Politics is likely the end of These Walls as it has been. The site will stay, but I’ll probably only be posting podcast-related content. Maybe this will change in a few years when my kids are all in school. But for now, I’m just going to focus on the podcast. I am so grateful to have found a creative outlet that works for me in the stage of life I’m actually in.

There are other ends, too. I feel compelled to wrap up my little “Isolation” series on the blog, but of course there’s no neat way to do it. This pandemic drags on. Life has not returned to normal. I am long past believing there will be a clearly-defined “end” to the thing.

Our kids (other than the preschooler) are still home from school. (Virtual learning FTW.) We’re still not seeing much family. We’re still not doing sports or camps or in-person extracurriculars. We took no vacation. We’re not going out to eat. Our kids haven’t been in stores in seven months. I haven’t been in a store for anything but essentials.

We are home, home, home, home.

But we are doing a few things here, at home. We see my parents every now and then. Our kids are playing outside with a few neighbors. Between all of our yards the kids probably have five or six acres to wander, and it’s been pretty magical to see what they get up to. Give kids a bit of freedom and soon enough, they’ll create their own world.

That’s a train. Can’t you tell?

For now, at least, we’ve seen an end to the overly-busy, overly-scheduled, 21st Century model of family life. But even that, somehow, feels like it could be a beginning too.

~~~

I hope you’ll subscribe to the podcast! You can find More Than Politics on all major podcast apps, or you can listen directly from the website. If you like it, please leave a rating or review, and please share it! And if you have ideas for potential topics or guests, please comment here or email me at julie.walsh.thesewalls@gmail.com. Thank you for your support!

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