This issue marks our one-year anniversary. When I reflect on the past year, as cliché as it sounds, I can’t believe that we now have five issues behind us. There were times when we didn’t have content for more than one section until one week or less before our publishing date. There were times when we didn’t have more than a handful of submissions until a week before our deadline.
Beyond the logistical hurdles, there are always personal stresses that get in the way—aren’t there? My last twelve months have included a wedding, moving the location of the business that my husband and I run together, and an MS diagnosis. There’s always something to worry about, like when will the utilities at the new building get transferred into our name. There’s always something to distract me from my creative work, like finding just the right shelf on Craigslist that will work perfectly in the new space. There’s always a day—or two or three—where I lose it over the stupidest thing, like I’m out of hair spray and I wonder, do I have what it takes? Can I really handle this? Can I please just stay home, go back to bed and cry until the tears won’t come any more?
When I found out about the MS back in June, friends and family were calling, texting and emailing. One email in particular said just what I needed to hear and I re-read it on the bad days. It still makes me cry. My friend Robert sent that e-mail. Here’s part of what he wrote:
“I hate that you’re going through this. But I’m not too worried about you. You are ridiculous. You are incredibly intelligent and capable. Capable in the sense that you have charted your very own path through this life. Against what people want you to do, tell you to do, demand that you do. I can’t imagine a better way of identifying the kind of person who can really piss off a disease like MS. You’re the type of person who makes this shit look good. You’ve got the kind of husband who can be trusted to have your best interest in mind.
We love you, Janna. We are hurting for you right now, but mostly we’re aware that you’re going to continue to thrive despite this thing. You and Jeremy have a lot of beautiful living to do. We’re excited that you have someone to take this on with.”
I share that e-mail not because of how great it makes me sound—I share it because it reminds me that the only reason Robert sees those things in me is that I tell my story. He wouldn’t know those things about me otherwise. And it keeps me coming back to the question, what does he mean that I’m the kind of person who makes MS look good?
With everything that the last year has brought, I often wonder if I’m trying to do too much. Especially now with a major health issue in the equation, not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if there’s something I should give up. If there is something I need to let go of to make room for my health and healing. And if I were to let go of something, what would it be? Would I have to consider giving up this magazine? It’s had a good one-year run, after all.
Then I read the submissions and the answer is clear: No. Way. In. Hell.
When selecting the pieces to include this time around, the other editors and I had a conversation about the idea of shame. What is it, anyway? Are we looking only for stories that expose the worst parts of ourselves—the foolish, embarrassing and regretful?
My answer to this question is No. The story itself doesn’t need to be shameful. Sometimes we learn from the good parts of life and we can’t be ashamed to share those stories either. It’s more about how the story is told: without shame. The story is told bravely, honestly and confidently. The story is told in a way that shows readers that life—all of it, even twelve months of worry and distraction—is powerful and meaningful and precious and worth every moment. The story is told in a way that says, sure I may have been diagnosed with MS, but here is how I’m going to make the best of it, here is what I’m going to learn from it and here is how I’m going to kick its ass. Here is how I’m going to make this shit look good.
I am still not quite sure I know what it means to make this shit look good. But I think I’m getting a better idea. It means that I keep doing the stuff I know I’m meant to do. It means that I let myself have a breakdown when I need to. But then I pull myself together and go teach class. And then I take a two-hour nap when I get home. Because I need it. I let my body have what it needs and somehow manage to get up and do what I’m meant to be doing: telling my story and publishing this magazine.
Here’s to another year of telling stories without shame,
Janna Marlies Maron
Editor & Publisher