In my previous post (The Fall of PolyWogg (part 1 / 4)), I covered the technical fall of my site. After the nuke went off, I spent a full week attempting to work through all the technical options to get my site back up and running. And repeatedly failing. I knew I had all the data, so there was that consolation, but the rest of the site? It was looking increasingly like I was going to have to erase everything, nuke the entire account, and start over. I had managed to partly fix two other sites that I host on my account, one for a friend and one for my brother, but beyond that, I was not positive either one were any more reliable than my main PolyWogg.ca site.
So as I reached the end of February, I had to accept the reality. My site was dead. 24y of content, 17y of running a website, and I was at square one. My blogger days were done.
Understanding the magnitude of the loss
I have a hard time explaining the loss to others, because there is no other word for it except loss. I was in shock. A major part of my identity is tied to that blog. I consider myself to BE PolyWogg. And the website is as part of that reality as my own body and soul. They go together. I pour my heart out on that blog, sometimes writing about stuff that I have never told anyone about before. Not even my wife. Or my son. Or best friends. I dig deep, I bleed out on the screen, and sometimes my psyche is so raw that when I’m done writing, I’m spent. I collapse into bed, exhausted. Like I have nothing left.
If I want to look at the numbers, I had 1600 posts and 200 pages of information up on the site. 1800 “docs” with some 1.6 MILLION WORDS. Almost every one of those words mine. There are only three things on the site that aren’t mine in that total count: a report on an HR conference that I still host that is almost 20y old, and two blog posts by my wife. The rest is ME.
If you want to comprehend the volume, 1.6M words is about the length of twenty mystery novels. Now think of it in those terms, as if an author lost all of their work-in-progress or a doctoral candidate lost their thesis. Perhaps they have drafts to rebuild from, but the thesis or the WIP? Gone. Now take into account I had lost 17y worth of work on the structure AND thousands of hours building and running the site over the years.
All of it gone.
It messed with my head
As I said, the loss put me in shock. I shut down emotionally and mentally, combining way too well with some challenges I was having with a leg wound. It messed with my head enough that it scared the crap out of me. How? Try this on for size.
I actually considered NOT rebuilding. I don’t mean I briefly thought about it, I mean I was seriously asking myself if I even COULD rebuild. If I had it in me to do. If I did a few nights a week, it would take me about six months to rebuild. It wouldn’t take much to even have it take me a full year. That is NOT a joke. That’s how much work was involved in rebuilding. I knew it would take an enormous amount of work.
And I didn’t have the energy to even think about committing to it.
Let me give you an equivalent for the leg wound. I was so frustrated with it that one day when I was getting examined, and I was waiting for them to come in with the diagnosis, I was running through dark scenarios in my head. And I realized that if they said they had to amputate, I wouldn’t have asked for a second opinion. In my head, I would have been like, “Okay, is this an out-patient thing we can do today?”. I just wanted to get through, I didn’t care about the “right” outcome.
For my website, I was looking at it and thinking, “Okay, maybe I should just let it go. Get a life somewhere or something.” Bearing in mind that I define myself as a WRITER, who exercises that muscle by BLOGGING, because I don’t feel like I have the time or energy to write full books right now. Yet when I retire, I have a long list of projects I want to undertake. Things I want to write about. And to post on my blog. It’s almost my ENTIRE retirement plan, outside of some fitness and travel. Andrea won’t be able to retire for several years after me, so this is my big scary goal.
But here I am saying to myself, “Okay, it’s gone, let’s move on.”
What was GOING ON with my head?
A spark of energy
I’ve reached out in recent weeks for some mental health care, and the first question they always ask is, “Are you having any thoughts about harming yourself or others?”. And the answer is simple. No. Sure, I might have thought of a couple of thousand ways to torture the tech support person who killed my site, but not serious ones. Just fantasizing as therapy.
But IS IT that easy a question? No, I’m not thinking of harming myself, but I wouldn’t have pushed back too hard about amputation or just killing the site completely. That doesn’t exactly scream self-preservation or self-care either.
My GP consult doesn’t see signs of clinical depression and my regular counsellor thinks most of what I was experiencing was a combination of factors including frustration with the leg and shock at the loss of the site, helplessness in being unable to immediately fix either one, and a giant overlay of “COVID isolation sucks” dampening everything down.
I tend to think both are right. But at times I also wonder if because I don’t act like a typical patient that I could be faking them out. If a mental healthcare worker asks me a question, I don’t dodge it. I embrace it full-on usually. Getting me to talk? Never a problem. Getting me to get to the point in your 50-minute hour? Sure, THAT’S a problem. But getting me to open up, talk about things, diagnose the issues, and contextualize it within a larger frame? I can do that in my sleep. Yet it can also make it look like I’m more functional than I am. Let’s face it, I’m an analytical squirrel on a GOOD day. And that can mess me up.
But as the second week of my status as a dead blogger continued, some of the shock wore off, and I could more ask myself, “Really? Are you really going that way? CAN you go that way?”
And finally I asked my wife for a blunt assessment as the person who knows me second best to myself.
Could she see me ever being happy without rebuilding?
There was no need for the Jeopardy theme, she knew the answer without having to think about it.
Which I also knew, or I wouldn’t have asked the question. I was trying to protect my mind from the shock during week 2 by framing it as a choice. But there was never any real choice.
I had to rebuild.
We have the technology; could I rebuild it better, stronger, faster?
Continue reading at Building back better for my website (part 3 / 4).