Tag: Blogging

9Jan

Pea Soup

(#nofilter #really)

In some moments, merging back into everyday life after a vacation feels like cliff-diving into the Baltic Sea after a six-course dinner. Other moments, it feels like getting lost in a pea soup fog. Sometimes it’s more like venturing into the Himalayas on foot while other times I might as well be sleepwalking in a corn maze.

Maybe it’s just me, but when the energizing whirl of holidayness putters out—at approximately 2:30 a.m. on New Year’s when one of the grownups suggests another party game and the rest look desperately at their five-year-olds who have turned into tireless vampire Energizer bunnies and refuse to provide an easy excuse for their parents to head home to bed—I suddenly find that the previous year has left me about 3,000 hours short on sleep and go into a week-long coma. Once I wake up, my annual Simplify! Simplify! craze kicks in, and if there are not at least five full recycling or give-away bags when I’m done with a room, it isn’t done. I organize and dust and IKEA the hell out my workspace so that I can take on 2013 with no holds barred…

…and then I sit down at that freshly de-cluttered workspace and realize I have no idea what I’m doing there. The new year is just too big, its goals too daunting, its tempo too unfamiliar. I don’t know how I can possibly catch up from those few weeks away from my daily routine, much less make inroads into the here and now, and the Type A fun of tying the old year into the new with summaries and resolutions seems like a luxury reserved for people who don’t lose perspective two minutes into vacation.

Unfortunately, my perspective is 97% tied to how often I write (the other 3% is caffeine), and I have never in my life managed to keep up a steady flow of words when in vacation mode. There are so many other things to see and do, loved ones to spend time with, and comas to enjoy. Without really meaning to, I’ve neglected to tap into my own thought life for over two weeks now, so things have gotten pretty discombobulated up in here. Words have been coming to me by the pageful in dreams, but they always white out the instant my alarm clock vibrates to life, and I don’t quite know how to be myself without them.

Is it okay to be admitting this? I have visions of this blog as something beautiful and significant (as does every blogger, presumably) with each paragraph carrying its own weight in purpose, but this sentiment tends to cripple more than inspire. It’s why I’ve been circling this page for days, swooping in occasionally to peck at a stray sentence but never alighting on anything meaningful enough to settle into. It’s also why I’ve treated my husband to a Disparately-Eyebrowed Stare Of Incredulity every time he’s suggested I slip out for half an hour to blog. You don’t just create something brilliant and insightful from pea soup fog in half an hour, see, and sitting down to write when I’m short on words and time and a sense of self all at once is a fairly certain recipe for despair.

This is my best idea on how to reclaim my non-comatose writerly self though—digging back in for authenticity and legible sentences even if though they’re not going to win me a spot on HuffPo, even if though they’re not the deep and heavy and beautiful things I wanted to articulate, even if though I’m too busy for this and January feels like an ice-shocked Scandinavian sea and I’m more tempted than you know to adopt hibernation as a viable lifestyle. I’m here despite all that, and I’m declaring that, as imperfect a first-post-of-the-year as this may be, it totally counts as taking on 2013.

~~~

Does your back-to-work routine also include flailing and spluttering and ruing the day of your birth? How are you getting along with the new year?

15Dec

Grateful to Care

Today’s my day off from writing—a day allocated for errands and ironing and all manner of riffraff that didn’t get seen to during the week. Yet I can’t not write today. I have a desperate desire to make sense of yesterday’s massacre, though I realize there is no sense to be made, nothing that could possibly make the murder of twenty young children into something as succinct and graspable as sense. Still, writing down the whirlwind in my head makes it easier to keep my footing. A little.

I have a kindergartener, and I don’t say this to claim dibs on grief or to cheapen a single facet of people’s heartache or even to play the I’m-so-glad-it-wasn’t-my-child card that has to twist dagger sharp in the ears of bereaved parents. I say it because my kindergartener trotted off to class yesterday morning hand-in-hand with a friend, their little heads bobbing in enthusiasm, and that that could have been a death march… that we live in a world where a room of bright and busy and trusting five-year-olds can be sprayed with .223-caliber slugs… it’s unendurable.

This heartbreak feels so literal, the actual sinews in my chest threatening to rip loose, and I know you’re feeling it too. We’re all breaking apart and trying to hold ourselves together in different ways, whether by anger or action or silence or advice or prayer or time with loved ones or time alone. My social media feeds are full of opposing viewpoints, but they all come from a similar ferocity of grief, and I’m comforted, like Mr. Rogers, by seeing “so many caring people in this world.”

Every one of us is shouldering a tiny portion of the pain that the Newtown parents are going through right now. Every one of us is united in grief, though we might process it very differently (and that’s ok). Evil was done yesterday, and we care. It doesn’t make sense of the violence and pain we experience to different degrees in this broken world, but it does lighten the load.

I’m grateful to care alongside you.

29Nov

Honestly

I set up a Facebook page yesterday. Honestly, I’m not sure why it took me a year of “Huh, I should get on that”s and noncommittal throat noises to actually click the button… though honestlyhonestly, it might have something to do with this fun personal fact: I’m afraid of attention.

We’re talking woodland creature skittishness here, jumping beans in my stomach, thoughts sprouting gray hairs. I don’t think even Dan knows this yet (hi, honey!), but I had to fight back stage fright at our wedding. I still agonize trying to guess which day of the year Italian women will switch from ballet flats to boots because yes, the world will in fact end if I leave the house in unseasonable footwear. From the time I was a girl attracting double-takes with my homeschool uniform (picture an eleven-year-old Michelle Duggar), I’ve always had a wild desire to go unnoticed in public, and that self-protective instinct gets twitchier than ever when it focuses on my writing.

The simple truth is that this is my heart, strung out in black typeface and compulsive backspaces. When you read my blog, you read my heart, and my posting here is something like the CIA declaring Open House Day. My insecurities are here, my doubts, my hopes, the issues I struggle with and mull over, the insights that bring me peace… and by drawing attention to them, I am well aware I’m opening them up to criticism. It feels like standing on a busy intersection in my puffy denim jumper and even puffier bangs, waving.

There are the other fears too—the vulnerability of starting something new, the fragile alliance of “like” buttons, the safety net of personal privacy settings sidestepped. Always, always, statistics and purpose compete for precedence in my mind, and perspective can be as difficult to nail down as a live squid. I’ve moaned to Dan on an occasion or two [slight understatement] about how unfair it is that I was wired to write. As long as I’m following these heart-nudges, my goals and my personality will be at odds, and I wish I could be fulfilled in life by something simpler, less emotionally risky. Deep sea welding, for instance.

However, I can’t turn off the light in my core that says this, here is what I’m meant to be doing. It’s as clear a sense of vocation as I’ve ever experienced, and as much as I might like to dismiss this blog as a mere hobby (a monthly ritual of despair, which I’m sure has no correlation whatsoever to other monthly occurrences) or hide it under a bushel or amputate every stubborn neuron compelling me to write, a force stronger than fear keeps me here… and not just here, but honestly delighted to be here.

I know that sharing this with you is not exactly the act of withdrawal my inner stage-fright was hoping for. It’s the opposite in fact—a declaration of purpose and vulnerability waved from a busy intersection, eyes staring deliberately into the headlights. However, I wanted you to understand how much it means to me to be here with you, in typeface and photos, insecurities and Tweets, and a heart that wants to connect with yours far more than it wants to hide.

~~~

Is there anything your sanity compels you to do that simultaneously terrifies you? I’d love to hear about it; after all, commiseration and encouragement are two of the very best things about this great internet of ours.

Oh, and don’t forget to head over and “like” my Facebook page (why yes, I am making ironic quote marks with my fingers right now) if you’d like to connect, get blog updates, or otherwise make my day.

18May

Meevaluation

The last couple of days were for holding my breath, playing the undercover researcher to my own life, and sometimes just hiding under the blankets for an hour or, um… four. Some days are just this way, and it’s probably due to a combination of late nights and early mornings and too much not enough coffee and hormones and the weather and any number of swiftly colliding circumstances, but in the murk of it, all I can reason is that I have finally, irrevocably failed at existence. (People who are not me would call it a bad day, shrug, and move on. To those people, I ask—Where is your commitment to suffering? I mean, really.)

The funk had been creeping up on me for a while—see here, here, here, aaaaand here—and my husband and I both agree that it’s time for some lifestyle reevaluation. The fact that we missed an episode of Sherlock to talk through this just goes to show how badly we need a change. More specifically, how badly I need a change. This year so far has looked nothing like I thought it would; my Ready, Set, Write! expectations were strangled by a months-long situation I couldn’t share about here, and I’ve been getting up each morning at the last possible minute without a glimmer of creative purpose.

Some mornings once the coffee is stirring my veins back to life, blog entries land decisively on my heart to be typed out in a heady glow. This compulsion to write is why I started blogging in the first place. It’s one of my favorite processes in all the world. But many other mornings, far too many, I stare at my computer screen trying to force sentences out of a thick silence and spiraling by the minute toward self-disgust. If I can’t conjure up the inspiration for a mere blog entry each day, how can I consider myself a blogger? And if I can’t hack it as a blogger, how can I even hope for the infinitely vaguer and cooler title of writer?

Here’s where the lifestyle reevaluation comes in. See, I have an idea of what is required of a successful blogger—a personal brand, dedicated networking, and frequent content that manages to be both familiar and engaging—and I chafe against all three points. I have no agenda for my blogging, and I honestly feel claustrophobic at the thought of limiting myself to one theme or niche. I’m just me, folks, and I write because I can’t not write, and I share that writing here because I can’t not share it. This blog is my community. However, I don’t think it was ever meant to be my career. All those mornings spent glaring at a blank “New Post” page should have clued me in long before now. This space here is a place for inspiration and outlet, an aviary for my thoughts, a personal lounge for kicking back and drinking in beauty. It’s not my nine to five.

Which means it’s high time I stop letting misdirected stress over branding and networking and commenting and posting schedules keep me from asking myself what projects I’m truly meant to pour my energy into for the second half of this year. Ergo, I’m going to be taking some much-needed time to figure myself out, starting in approximately eleven minutes when I hit the running trail and the horrible, agonizing pain of exercise stabs my stress level to death. I’m not abandoning this blog, never fear, but posting might be sparser than usual while I get reacquainted with me. Either that, or this space will soon be overrun with blurry snapshots of my navel and esoteric questions about the meaning of life. Either way, you’ve been warned.

~~~

How do you go about lifestyle reevaluations? Do you have any tips for ditching unnecessary stress and honing in on a direction that will bounce me out of bed with the sunrise? (Drink recommendations totally count.)

7May

A Blogosphere Full of Clothes and Nothing to Wear

 The sky has vacillated between blue and gray so often this morning that I’m reminded for all the world of myself during my Sunday morning insecurity ritual of trying on outfits and flinging them away. (I’ve learned to start setting out my clothes the evening before because it’s guaranteed that come Sunday morning, every item in my wardrobe will be utterly unwearable according to the code of former pastor’s kids, amen.) As always, the weather draws out the corresponding colors of my personality, and I’m fidgeting this morning along with the clouds.

This is the part of my day set aside for writing, so each moment of unfocused restlessness digs under my skin. This is my one wild and precious life; how can I just sit here watching it whorl away into the cloudscape? I open my blog reader for inspiration, but the beautiful photographs and stories only paralyze me today. I wonder once again what is missing from my intrinsic make-up that allows other mothers to photograph-and-blog or paint-and-blog or landscape-and-blog or write-books-and-blog, all the while dedicating far more creative attention to their children than I seem able to give. It produces a instafreeze combination of jealousy and guilt that is the very opposite of helpful, I know, but I can’t seem to help looking for my own personal trailhead among the pages of others’ lives.

If this space is designed for anything though, it’s for holding my thoughts up to the light and naming them, looking at them from all sides, and replacing them with some new measure of clarity. That’s why I’m here even though every idea seems to fit me all wrong today. I needed this self-imposed focus. I needed to look at the measuring stick I’ve constructed out of jealousy and guilt to cow myself into inaction, to see the full scope of its ridiculousness and then admit it before God and all these witnesses. Even though I’ve written variations of this post a dozen times before, I needed to write it once more—to hold my thoughts up to the light, flip them around, and see clearly once again.

~~~

 Do you ever feel the same crippling sensation when you look at others’ blogs or creative projects? Do you have any strategies for nurturing your own originality in a world with so many ideas and motivators and objects of comparison?

23Apr

Rebel Rebel

Some weeks, ideas pile up against each other like enthusiastic puppies in their haste to get out. Other weeks, their ebb seems devastatingly final. I may never really come to terms with this cyclic nature of creativity, this manic-depressive supply of words. The puppy weeks are amazing, of course. I am able! My life has meaning! I will never run out of things worth saying! But then the next week swoops in like a Dementor and I am incapable and my life is meaningless and I never had anything worth saying in the first place and I should probably just go eat some worms. Extra slimy ones.

I sometimes blame the dry spell on my muse’s jetting off to the tropics and shrug it off, but more often, I accept the sense of inadequacy my mind presses on me as being the truest truth. I learned this resignation a long time ago from a culture that believed in beating out children’s wills, and as far as I’ve removed myself from that context, its repercussions still catch me off guard. I have big ideas but very little confidence, plenty of frustration without any fight, and a perspective that rides on the weather. I’d classify this brain of mine up there with stink badgers in terms of affability.

So you should know that this, just showing up to the page with reluctant fingers and worms on my breath, is counted unto me as the rebellion I never had the courage to stage. Even though I feel certain right now that my artistic life is meaningless, over, etc., etc., I am ditching the appropriate misery in favor of a totally punk determination to blog (Anti-establishmentarianism FTW!) and finding out that insubordination is just the kind of thing that can change the weather.

(Lapis lazuli nails help too.)

15Feb

Branded Flibbertigibbet

I recently started reading a blog that is so good, so good, that every single post has me either laughing or crying. Often both. (It’s hard to choose a favorite, but this post has my heart firmly entwined around its little finger.) Glennon writes with such humor and candor and ridiculous grace that my day is always better for reading her, but one thing in particular has stuck with me. She mentions how storytelling and shamelessness are her strengths, the gifts that fuel her unique purposes in life. To this, I say Rock on, sister! with accompanying fist-pumps.

To myself, however, I say something less celebratory like Huh. and finger the edges of my own uncertainty over the future. The decision to leave my job this year was hard-won, but it only feels like the lifting of my foot before choosing in which direction to step. Questions, doubts, worries, and more questions rise in quick succession these days, and I kick myself under the desk for consistently accomplishing less now that I have more time at my disposal.

My sense of social guilt has nagged at me for years now about not having a “brand,” a platform, a niche, a signature—whatever word best conveys direction and potential. Now, it’s morphing from unfocused guilt to true, urgent need as I look out over this blank-page year and ask, God, what the hell am I supposed to do with this?

I need to write like I need to breathe; that much is clear. It’s also clear that I’m not so much a storyteller as I am a thought painter, watching concepts take color and shape beneath my fingers. My brain-waves on any given day might pull toward mothering or spirituality or travel or the creative life or brownies; in fact, if I find myself slipping into a topic rut, I instinctively stop writing. I have a wild suspicion that if I rehash old material, my blog and everyone reading it will lapse into comatose boredom.

But isn’t that what a brand essentially is? The same lines of thought tackled from a variety of angles? A stamp of consistency that draws people with similar interests to comment and contribute and build a like-minded community? That’s just it—I don’t think I’ve been exactly the same person for any two days of my entire life. In the constant struggle and exhilaration of change, it’s hard enough to keep tabs on who I am without also nailing down what I’m about. Besides brownies, I mean.

I’m embarrassed to be outing myself as a lifelong flibbertigibbet, which just goes to show that I do not share Glennon’s gift of shamelessness. It could be that this state of flux is my strength, but I have a hard time seeing how something so vague and unwieldy can result in the kind of direction that gets someone up before dawn.

I’m not fishing for insta-answers here, though your speculations and stories are absolutely welcome. I’m simply painting my thoughts out as wide strokes on a blurred background in hopes that in the process, I’ll catch a glimpse of my bigger picture.

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