Happy New Year.
Forgive me for taking so long to say that.
I haven’t been in a blogging mood. Usually this is because too much is going on in life to make writing a priority – or I’m awash in stress. Sometimes I’m just feeling blue. I often go through periods when I want to kill the blog and I avoid the site altogether, because one strike of the key can make the entire 2000 pages cease to exist. I think about doing this all the time –you can bet every period of silence signifies my wrestling with feelings that I’m no longer wanting an audience for my life. Heck, some of you may remember my first blog, which I eradicated one moody day but reactivated under a new name a few weeks later. In the end, deep down, I returned because I felt it was important to keep a fragile thread connecting me with friends. But some days, I wonder . . .
I’ve been thinking about my blog and its role in my life a great deal lately.
The fact is, a blog is not a forum of honest communication. It offers a Swiss cheese version of life, at best. You can’t share your true feelings or an accurate picture of life in a blog anymore than you could have a heart to heart with a friend if you knew your words were blaring over the loud speaker at Disneyland. You can’t write anything real because everything real involves the people in your life, and they’re no doubt reading the blog. Be it a spouse, a neighbor, a daughter’s boyfriend, a work employee or your best friend, you run the risk of riling someone by airing anything that isn’t generic and impersonal. Which narrows conversation mightily.
Real life is filled with rife. Your spouse is a prick, your neighbor insane, your kids annoy you, your boss’ an ass, and you’re always wrestling with feelings of inadequacy, boredom and frustration. You’re horny, or feeling ugly, or mad as spit. How nice to be able to pour it all out on the pages of a blog, but how very unproductive at the same time. But does anyone really believe I write about spinning angora wool because that’s the focus of my new, unencumbered existence?
People think my life is charmed. This always makes me laugh. My blog is charmed, big difference. My life is as full of shit as ever, and I’m not talking about mucking horse stalls. But a blog is a form of entertainment, and entertainment venues don’t attract attention if they’re focused on the zits of life – unless you’re trying to create a sad sack persona to amuse people or your blog is designed to attack a specific issue. I could have targeted this blog to specific issues, true – but creating a blog as a soapbox or advertisement was never my intention.
Anyway, who has time to report and reflect upon all areas of life? No one living fully, I can promise you. A blog is a very frustrating method of communication because it feels superficial and trite as you scratch the surface of life and slant things to be merry. Does anyone really think the bulk of my days are spent playing with llamas and a donkey, or that spending two years teaching one person to read is a constant inspiration? Get real. Some days I want to take the animals to the meat factory because I’m dead sick of caring for them and I wonder what the hell I was thinking when I bought them. Some days I want to slam a third grade reader in front of my student and say, “What the hell is wrong with you that you can’t remember the “k” is silent in knife. Duh!” And I catalogue all the things I could do with my time that would serve my own interests instead acting like some bleeding heart. You see, I’m no saint and despite my positive outlook in the blogsphere, I get downright ornery about life sometimes. But sending positive messages out to friends is a way of telling them “Don’t worry, we’re OK”, and it’s a way to encourage them to be happy too.
I’ve never been a very open or “needy” person regarding friends – some consider me downright antisocial. I don’t talk on the phone, don’t write letters. I simply don’t keep up. I sort of take it for granted my friends will be there if I ever need them, and honestly, I try not to need them. Mark is responsible for all the family interaction with friends. Without him, I’d be old, forgotten history in everyone’s eyes. So, I certainly don’t need a blog as some kind of surrogate buddy. But does help me keep up with friendships in the most casual way. For someone who doesn’t connect easy, this works.
Nevertheless, one of these days my friends may tune in to this e-address and simply come up with a blip on the screen. I’m getting closer to ending it all the time. But not today. Because, in the end, I believe a fragile thread of connection is better than nothing. And I don’t succumb to moods or emotional knee jerk reactions to my doubts and frustrations like I used to. I’m here for a reason.
Mark says, “Who are you blogging for, the people we willingly left behind?” Yes. And no. I don’t believe severing all past connections to my past is necessary to be fully engaged in my current life . True, there are people from my work past who tune into this blog with the same curiosity as people who slow down to stare at a car crash hoping to catch sight of something disturbing. I really rather not be on display for these folks. At the same time, we’re all nothing but the sum of our experiences, both good and bad. I tend to look backward at what I was before with a certain amount of reverence. I don’t feel staying connected to the past makes me embrace the future with any less conviction.
I actually believe people should not be so quick to put their past behind them, because our history serves to widen our perspective on the world. Nothing is black and white, so while my husband complains that I’m always playing devils advocate when I champion someone who has done something seemingly wrong, the truth is, I’ve learned that there are two sides to every issue. And believe you me, there are always pieces of the puzzle missing, no matter how convinced you are that you understand what’s going on. Whenever we pass judgment, we are always doing so with limited information. Fact. In the end, wrong and right are not opposites, but a murky blend of shifting perspectives that depend on where you’re sitting and what information you’re privy to in any given moment. Life is complex, like it or not – and the more you experience the intensity of living, human flaws notwithstanding, the clearer and more precious life becomes.
So, as the new year begins and I clean house in my mind, I ask myself if I should continue blogging. Why, really, am I here?
That’s easy. For the same reason I first began.
I blog to make sense of the world. To make it possible for a friend to check in now and again and save me the trouble of explaining it all over the phone more than once. To remind people that I’m still alive and kicking, still moving forward, for better or for worse. To allow friends to laugh at my foibles, and to remind them not to fear change and to celebrate the little blessings in their world. You see, in the end, a blog serves as cliff notes to a person’s life. I occasionally look back at my entries marveling at the changes I see – I can actually pinpoint those events that triggered the next, and I see things that resonate within me long after the moment has passed. My blog isn’t a case of show and tell. It’s discovery, and often I’m learning about myself at the same time my readers are.
Many entries are mindless drivel, true- but some touch upon subjects that actually qualify as thought provoking. And since I’m not trying to impress anyone and no one really has to show up, what difference does it make what I write about? You may think a blog is indulgent – who the hell really cares what one individual has for lunch or what they think about life? In a world drowning in information overload, perhaps adding to the noise is not only unfair, but abusive. But that assumes the writer is laying words down for attention or that she or he has expectations from the audience.
What if it’s all simpler than that? What if it’s just about keeping that fragile thread, for no other reason than instinct tells you to keep you voice active, even if it’s only whisper in the background of everyone’s busy existence? The worst that can happen is you spend a lot of hours pounding the keyboard and no one at all is on the other end, reading. But in the end, that’s OK too, because it’s the act of doing that counts. We are each responsible for what we give, not how (or if) our offering is warmly received. All it takes is one person reading to make it all worthwhile. But if that one person doesn’t show up, I think the act of putting yourself out there still counts. Intention is everything.
I have good friends from my past that I lost track of long ago. I have no clue of where they are living, or with whom. I don’t know if they’re alive or dead. They might be battling cancer, or have adopted a child from Guam or maybe they took up the bagpipes. And I wonder about them all the time. (Still looking for you, Pam Spence) Sometimes, it’s comforting to know the basics about people you’ve cared about. And when old friends show up here, I know I’m not alone in that kind of curiosity. It always amazes me, when a friend I haven’t spoken to in years suddenly writes. They say they googled me and found my blog. Now, I’ve never googled anyone in my life – I simply don’t think to do that. But obviously, we all wonder occasional about people who have influenced our lives one way or another. And sometimes a spot check is nice. It can lead to a short hello before we fade away into our own worlds again. But to me, that hello is precious.
I’ve had periods when 400 people were reading this blog regularly – but mostly because they were waiting for the other shoe to drop in the FLEX trauma. As the issue resolved, most of them faded away, or at least I’m guessing they’re gone. I have friends who say, “Gee, I haven’t read your blog in weeks, what’s up?” and I know their interest in our world is fleeting at best. But they stop by once in a while, and that’s nice. I have parents, siblings, cousins and other close acquaintances who don’t bother to read it at all because frankly, it’s boring to them. I know my husband reads the blog, not because he is engaged by my mind or needs to read a reenactment of our daily life. He feels he has to police any information I unleash. More than once I’ve removed a post at his request, and you can bet he offers me ongoing critique and mild censorship about my posts. I’m respectful enough to avoid any subject he asks me to avoid. Blogging can be mighty intrusive when you’re the subject being meandered – and that brings up all kinds of respect and confidentiality issues too. This all builds up to make you feel self conscious and as if your wings have been clipped. But that is a part of the challenge, and challenge isn’t a bad thing. And if you ever become a student of writing, you learn that self-censure is our killer. It makes it impossible to reach that authentic, poignant level that makes your work sing. . . never mind, that is another subject. (By the way, I taught a seminar on blogging pro’s and con’s so this issue is one I’ve pondered long and wide.)
There are the people who come up to me (like the director of the literacy program at the college) and say, “Hey, I found your blog last night. Interesting.” This always unnerves me, because when I’m blogging, I imagine I’m talking to a casual friend from far away, not people I interact with daily or people in current professional areas of my life. I wonder what provoked them to look me up in the first place. Hummm…….. But things like that serve to remind me that words spoken aloud don’t really fade into oblivion, even if it feels like they do. They hang in the cyber air waiting to be picked up by anyone with an ear for it. Kind of like sending a message into space on the off chance a new life form will respond. Can’t act surprised when they do.
My life is always evolving. Three New Year’s years ago, Mark and I hadn’t even thought of selling FLEX. Two New Year’s ago, it was gone and we were suddenly living in a dilapidated cabin without a roof, shivering because there was snow on the toilet seat. Last New Years we had just moved into our dream house, but that very month we learned that our former business was crashing and everything we had carefully planned was suddenly at risk. This New Years, we sat together forming a plan for selling this house because, as things worked out, (considering with the huge losses we incurred by the mismanagement of our business by the new owners, legal fees and having to support empty buildings for months on end after they crashed – still doing that, in fact) we can’t afford this lifestyle any longer. So, next New Year we’ll be living someplace else. Here’s a kicker – our house will be featured in Country Log Homes and people will say, “what an amazing house” but it won’t be our amazing house. Ah well.
We’ll have a new career hopefully, a new business, and all the headaches and struggles that kind of thing involves, and who’s to say if I’ll have a garden or animals or even if we’ll be in Georgia. We don’t have as much invested in this life as we had in the last, and we’ve discussed packing up and starting over someplace altogether differently, because life is trial and error, and we’re not convinced this existence is a perfect fit. We’ve learned a great deal from our adventures and the experience has been marvelous, but we have reservations about planting roots and getting entangled in another complicated life for personal reasons. We’ve been deeply disappointed that things did not work out as planned, because frankly, we’ve suffered and made sacrifices to get here. But hey, life is like that. And you can bet the adversity and disappointment has helped us to grow and see the world with a wider perspective too, so perhaps it was meant to be.
Then, there’s the fact that our homesteading choices are only one small facet of life. Throw into the mix our personal interests, family shifts, writing aspirations, health issues etc.. etc… and you can see that deleting the blog would find friends totally lost on the whereabouts of the Hendry’s pretty fast. Not that our life is so very interesting or that people need to know details. But I do think it’s nice they can tune in for a general clue of what we’re doing and why. And people have been impressed with our luck so far, so to leave them now would give them a false impression of what our life ended up to be. Our luck may be turning south, so we are going to get creative and try to turn adversity into advantages – hey that’s good fodder for blogging. If anything seems too good to be true, it probably is. But life is a roller coaster and there’s good embedded in all the bad. It’s just a matter to pausing to reflect upon the lessons gained along the way. Blogging forces reflection, I think.
I guess to me, a blog feels like home base, a safe place to meet and converse without things getting threatening or uncomfortably personal. It’s a place to gather together to laugh or cry, to get an overview about interesting developments or just to touch base. It allows friends to visit with the option to come and go at their leisure, without pressure to show up regularly or worrying they are interfering with the steady unfolding of our days. A blog is really a one way mirror. From the author’s side, you only see a familiar reflection of yourself, but friends can show up and, even though they can’t speak to you or touch you, they can watch from behind this comfortable veil. They can turn away if and when they want or they can pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine and enjoy the view.
I wish everyone I knew had a blog just so I could tune in when and if I felt like it. It’s a very non-committal way to keep abreast of friends. Well, that’s not true. It requires a great deal of commitment – but only from the writer. Several former dance students and writing friends have begun blogs and I loved checking on them, but after a few months, they fizzled out. Always disappoints me a bit, but I understand. The issues connected to blogging are complex, and in the end it’s easy to think, “what’s the point?” We are a results oriented society and we look for a return on every investment of time or energy. A blog really doesn’t have a tangible payback, and often feels like a frustrating, self serving, waste of time. Meanwhile, people assume anyone putting that kind of time into a ongoing project must have an alternate motive, and you find your explaining yourself all the time too. Some things defy explanation. It’s as easy as that.
As far as I’m concerned, a blog isn’t about the readers at all, but about the writer. Consider it a strange method of talking to yourself. If others overhear the conversation and find it interesting, good. If they want to make their presence known, they can make a comment, and that’s nice too.
If you think a good day is a day without Ginny, then don’t tune in. But if a dose of Ginny makes you grin, swing by. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.
If I was to create a case against blogging, the only thing I can truly say as a downside is that it does eat up writing time that might be more productively spent. I could have pounded out four books with the word count in this blog. But the question is, would I? Or would that time have been spent watching TV or reading magazines? And would my real writing projects be less insightful if I alleviated the ongoing practice of putting my thoughts on paper in this casual friend-to- friend way? A person can always write privately, diaries are timeless, but self discipline can wane when you know the only person you’re letting down by not showing up is yourself. I think, for me, my blog is connected to my muse. I simply can’t ever willingly shut that off.
A blog even serves to keep you active. I often find myself thinking I’ll forego an experience because it’s too much trouble, then thinking, “What the hell, it will give me something fun to blog about.” You see, there’s something to be said about having an audience to your life, even if it is only an imagined audience. It’s like standing at the edge of a lake and prudishly thinking you rather not get wet, but when it occurs to you your friends are privy to your every growing fuddy duddy-ness, you decide to dive in just to prove you will. In other words, blogging keeps you from falling asleep at the wheel of living. For all that it’s limiting in some ways, it’s expansive in others.
I blog, just as I cook or make wine or work out or read racy novels, or do community service, or raise my own eggs or flirt with old men. It’s just something I do because it suits my personality. I want to nurture the fragile thread that links me with others, a thread with no strings, so to speak. Without it, I’d feel more alone, I should think.
I guess I blog to say I’m still here. And that doesn’t hinge on whether or not anyone else is. . . . Like everything in life, it’s a choice.