by Lori Lewis
What a month it’s been!
In the spirit of authenticity, I’m going to pull back the curtain (such as it is) and reveal what I’ve been going through over the past month. It’s been QUITE a ride…
After six months of working tirelessly on See Magazine, I finally hit a wall.
And what a thick, sticky, and spiky wall it was.
I was thrown against it by a perfect storm of chronic exhaustion, lack of social contact with friends (and potential dates…), guilt (when I DID allow myself to indulge in those things vs. working on the magazine) a dearth of inspiration, and no shortage of frustration from various aspects of running a monthly magazine mostly on my own. Life had become an endless cycle of get up, go to work, come home, work, go to bed…repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Weekends were spent inside working instead of out and about, enjoying the people, environments and opportunities that vibrant Los Angeles has to offer. The things that have always lit up my life.
What had once been a joy for me became an instrument of resentment, burden, and angst.
AND, I felt that nobody but me and the people I worked with even cared about the magazine. Despite my efforts, readership wasn’t growing. I felt that I could skip a month of publishing and (almost) no one would notice (except for our writers, of course!).
Add to that the fact that circumstances in my personal life were leaving me feeling VERY unhappy, profoundly unfulfilled and deeply sad. I was struggling with being a feminist (a label that is fraught with problems for me for a HUGE list of reasons) being single, being overweight (and even worse, treating myself cruelly over it – at one point I even found myself longing for the “willpower” to become anorexic – WHAT?!?!?!?!), and feeling profoundly ashamed of myself and disempowered.
NOT the best way for someone who’s running a magazine around empowerment to be feeling.
I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. I felt like an imposter, a fraud. I was no longer fooling myself – so how much longer before everyone around me could see that I was not what I was pushing? That piled fear onto the mound of negative energies that I felt was beginning to engulf me. All because I wanted to do something good for the world (and for myself in the process – oh, the irony!)
And so, after much consideration and soul searching, I decided to quit. It was NOT a decision I reached lightly. And, after I reached that decision, I thought it over for another week, just to be sure.
Still feeling the same way, I told my best friend, my Mom and the first columnist we signed onto the magazine (who is a childhood friend) about my decision. After I hit “send” on the email, I immediately dreaded their responses – but of course received nothing but support. Not sure why that would surprise me, except to say that of COURSE they would be supportive of me – they could not help but be – I was the only one regarding myself so critically and unforgivingly – more so than ANY other person ever would.
Sensing my ambivalence, my Mom suggested I take the magazine quarterly, but I told her “no REAL magazines publish quarterly”. I had an all or nothing mentality about the magazine – there was no middle ground.
I expected to feel a weight lifting from my shoulders – but I didn’t. I felt like a quitter. I’d promised myself that no matter what, I’d give the magazine a year. I was breaking my promise to myself, and it HURT.
So, I stewed in my own juices for a few days. All this time, unable to bring myself to do any work on what I had declared to be my last issue – this one. I even watched “Miss Representation”, the film that had started it all for me, again in the hopes it would reignite my passion. Nada.
Suddenly, the universe started to whisper to me. I heard from some friends who I hadn’t even known had been reading the magazine about how a feature or column touched them. I had a good and affirming meeting with one of my collaborators. Someone I had found, admired greatly and featured in the magazine expressed a desire to become a longer term collaborator. These things reaffirmed the value of the magazine beyond the boundaries of my own life, and made me stop and consider what I was giving up, and whether I really wanted to let it all go.
Then, Oprah’s Next Chapter aired an interview with Gloria Steinem. In it, Gloria revealed that she lived out of boxes in her brownstone for years, feeling as if she couldn’t really settle in without a husband. There she was, the strong and vibrant mother of feminism — longing for a husband?! Feeling somehow incomplete without one?! “Yes, it took me a while to really get it myself,” she admitted to Oprah. Suddenly it made my own struggles, and sense of being an imposter, seem much less drastic and tragic and more human. Gloria went through that too, and LOOK at what she went on to do. I felt inspired as Gloria talked about how she and a group of dedicated feminists started Ms. Magazine and published it right there, from her apartment. A magazine that’s been published for forty years. Since just after I was born. A magazine that used to be published bimonthly, but now it’s quarterly. They had scaled back as well.
Another lightning bolt went off, similar to the one that brought the magazine into my life in the first place.
I would keep on doing See. Quarterly. I get to do something creative and affirmative and still have a life and the energy to enjoy it. Win / Win.
May will be the last monthly issue of See Magazine. The five months we’ve already published have brought us through Winter and Spring. The summer issue will release in July, followed by Fall in October.
Also, (as you may have noticed!) we’ve switched to blog format. In addition to saving a considerable amount of time and effort in production, this change will make our content easier to find via web searches and easier to share. Win / Win / Win.
I’m thrilled to have come to a solution that will allow me to continue working on this project I love without feeling as if I’m surrendering my entire life to it. That may sound selfish, but frankly one of the most profound lessons this experience has taught me is that self-preservation is not just a right, it’s a duty. If my cup does not runneth over, I have nothing for anyone else. It’s such a joy to watch it slowly begin to fill back up…