This music box perfectly sums up where I am these days. Like Winnie the Pooh, being pulled from a hole by Christopher Robin et al, I too, am feeling rather stuckish.
My last post, a plea for advice as to what a (mostly) vegetarian host should do about meat-loving omnivores coming to town, was SIX weeks ago!
(The older I get, the faster time seems to be passing, something I find distinctly alarming).
How did six weeks get away from me?
It’s been less than a month since our daughter came home from her first year of university. Conveniently (said tongue-in-cheek), she returned a mere two days before company arrived for my husband’s 50th birthday celebration.
My husband fetched our daughter and her “stuff”, a packed-to-the-brim van-load of everything she had brought to — and accumulated in — her dorm room over the course of eight months of study, all of which was unceremoniously dumped — suitcases, laundry baskets, duffel bags, books, food, tea (the tea! Oh. My. Gosh. the quantity of tea!) — filling our foyer, obstructing the hallway, tossed into the laundry room, strewn about the kitchen.
Did I mention the part about this happening TWO days before company arrived? Yes, well, we took care of what we could, stowed the rest in the basement, got the house cleaned and ready for company …
Company came and went in what now seems like the blink of an eye. Many thanks again for the comments and suggestions from Rita, Sarah, and Kate. The non-vegetarian meal — salmon, something I usually botch — was made with assistance from my sister-in-law, and was greatly appreciated by the omnivores. The vegetarian meal (enchiladas from the Oh She Glows cookbook) were a hit with everyone, omnivores included, who were pleasantly surprised that a vegan dish could be so satisfying. After the meal, my sister-in-law told me the next time they choose a recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook (which they own as well) they will make it as directed and not feel the need to add ground beef. (This made me smile 🙂 ).
The day the company left was the very day the book fair arrived at the elementary school. I got one bed stripped and one set of sheets in the wash before heading out to help set up what was to be our school’s third Crap-Free Book Fair, all the while hoping the washer wouldn’t leak or catch fire.
Four full days of book fair … set-up, sales, take-down … with not one child (nary a single child!) asking why we weren’t selling
crap novelty items … intermingled with the aftermath of company and getting everyone back to their proper beds …
I had been hoping, once life was back to steady-state, that I would be able to slide back into blogging. (Not that I’ve been a very prolific blogger; my initial one year term is coming up with my host and I have only 15 posts published).
But I’m feeling a bit stuckish.
I started this blog for two reasons:
First, because I was tired of writing greengreygezellig pieces only in my mind. Does that make sense to anyone else out there? Are there other writers (or “writers”; I can’t manage to think of myself as a writer sans quotation marks) whose minds narrate a running stream of essays or arguments, searching, sometimes stumbling, trying to find the perfect word, the perfect sentence … but the words never actually make it out through their fingers?
Yes, well, writing aside, the second, and perhaps bigger, reason I started this blog was because I wanted to try to make a difference in this world.
A year on, and I’m losing the naïveté that once led me to believe that my small life and my even smaller blog could make a difference. And as I look over my dozen or so half-written and unpublished posts, I recognize a problem: some verge dangerously close to haranguing — or at the very least, are only going to be read by those already in the choir — while many of the others seem (in my mind, at least) positively frivolous in comparison.
I’ll address the frivolous first:
As an accidental this-is-where-circumstances-have-led-me-but-I-can’t-quite-believe-I’m-still-a-SAHM, frivolity is unfortunately something of an anathema to me. I’m what one might term a workaholic SAHM.
My days are measured in what I’ve accomplished: the healthy meals I’ve cooked for my family, loaded with veggies painstakingly chopped; the cookies and muffins and bread I’ve baked with whole wheat flour and flax; the rugs I’ve braided and sewed using fabrics from my stash; the clothing or curtains I’ve constructed; the mittens I’ve knit to keep my children’s hands warm; the square footage of walls from which I’ve scrubbed wallpaper paste, then repaired and repainted; the vegetable garden I tend; the books I’ve voluntarily filed in the school library; the class-loads of children who’ve sat with me in hallways, learning or honing their reading.
It’s interesting (to me, at least) that although I spend my days wearing these various hats (chef, baker, seamstress, knitter, handywoman, gardener, volunteer … ) and although I can see perfectly well, thankyouverymuch, that these are not frivolous tasks … the moment I publish a post about them (such as when I talked about re-purposing our crib, or, more recently, when I talked about hobbies and posted pictures of needlepoint and knitting), I immediately feel as though they just might be. And, that I seem to be trying overly hard to justify my existence. It’s a bit like I’m saying, Yes, I’m a SAHM … but see? See? I don’t spend my days watching soap operas and sipping coffee!
But the second, and perhaps more troubling thing? These posts have felt distinctly — uncomfortably — braggy. I didn’t provide a tutorial. I didn’t contribute anything of value. I simply added yet more noise to an internet which is already bursting with picture-perfect look-at-me! posts, many of which only serve to cause those looking in to feel inadequate about their own lives. Worse yet, I fear (completely unreasonably!) that posts like these are going to lead me down a path I don’t want to go, that it’s akin to teetering on the edge of unspeakable fluffiness and I just. might. possibly. one day find myself demonstrating how I spray-paint plastic dryer vent piping orange in order to dress my table for Halloween!
/ runs screaming from the computer /
(I hope it’s clear that I don’t — that I have never and will never — spray-paint dryer vent piping orange to make mock pumpkins for Halloween. And I’m sorry, I know this is going to sound incredibly snobbish, and I should just shut up right now but I can’t seem to stop myself … but I would be lying through my teeth if I provided the cursory and somewhat obligatory, But hey, whatever floats your boat!; Way to go!; How creative! to the people out there who do such things).
So yes, now that I’ve potentially offended half the internet, I’ll turn to the other non-published, half-written posts I have lined up in the queue: all of the ones in which I verge on haranguing, all the ones which convey messages that drone on like the same old broken record, all the ones that I know are simply preaching to the choir …
Are you starting to see why I’m feeling rather stuckish?
Gosh, this is starting to sound like a So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish farewell post!
Except it’s not.
The truth of the matter is, the pleasant stuff is so much easier. It’s easier to think about pleasant stuff. It’s easier to create the pleasant stuff and then write posts about the pleasant stuff. And while I love the pleasant stuff just as much as the next person, right now all the pleasant stuff feels like a cop-out to my original intentions.
And what’s worse than feeling like a cop-out? The sneaking suspicion that I’m letting fear rule this blog. I’m reticent to post the hard stuff — the please-think-about-this-and-start-to-connect-the-dots stuff, the please-think-about-future-generations stuff — because I’m still the quintessentially-polite stereotype-of-a-Canadian who worries overmuch about causing offence.
Perhaps instead of worrying so much, I simply need to trust that the readers I do have — people I’ve come to consider friends — will be willing to engage in conversations about the difficult stuff. And perhaps, seeing as I’ve been
cursed gifted burdened — sigh …
… perhaps, as I somehow seem to have this analytical mind that extrapolates, that reaches for the corollaries to arguments, that sees the details as well as the big picture (in other words, the ability to see the forest as well as the trees); and perhaps, because I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it’s possible to be tactfully forthright, to call a spade a spade without metaphorically knocking someone down while doing it, I need to place more trust in the power of words, and simply continue to hope — however naïve and misplaced that hope may be — that my words might just make a difference after all.
11 thoughts on “I’m Feeling Rather Stuckish”
So much I want to say in response to this.
First, I know just what you mean. About all of it. Every single word. Struggled all the same struggles. Want you to know you’re not alone in these thoughts and questions.
Second, have you read anything by Seth Godin? He’s a marketer, but his ideas apply to anyone who is interested in being a change agent. You might start with this post: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/02/marketing-is-about-change.html
He is the one who helped me understand that appealing to the masses is kind of a dead idea. Those who become relevant are not afraid to offend or turn off others. That doesn’t mean we all have license to be rude or boorish. It means we do have license to speak our truth and to not worry about those who dislike our truth. I’ve come to realize that if others disagree with HOW I’m saying something, I need to look at myself and consider my actions. But if others are disagreeing with WHAT I say, and I know it to be true, I don’t need to spend a lot of time feeling bad about that.
Another way to look at it, one that’s helped me tremendously: Someone I respect once told me that the problem with another person we both worked with was that he wants everyone to like him. “You can’t make change and have everyone like you,” she said. “What happens is that others think you lack integrity, and then no one will follow you and you’re completely ineffective. The key is to have the right people like you and the right people dislike you.” So simple, and for me, so brilliant. When I start to feel bad because I know my stance on something has made someone angry or uncomfortable (because people-pleasing runs deep in my psyche), I ask myself if the person is one of my “right people.” I think about what that person stands for, and if I want to stand with them or against them. We tell ourselves that we don’t want to turn people off because then they won’t listen to us and we can’t have an impact on them, but the truth is that we likely weren’t going to get the response we wanted from them anyway. So there’s really nothing to lose.
And I think it’s perfectly fine to say, on issue X, I’m actually NOT OK with whatever floats your boat because it’s sinking everyone else’s. Will you turn some people off? Will it keep your readership small? Yeah, sure, maybe. But why does that matter?
As for being trivial or bragging or less-than-useful–I read your blog because I like to know what you’re up to. You give me interesting things to think about. Even though we’ve never met in real life, I like you. (I don’t have to meet IRL to know that.) That means I care about what you’re doing. The kind of blogging I’m doing–both writing and reading–feels more like having pen pals than whatever it is that blogging has become. I like seeing your projects and hearing your passionate thoughts because I’m interested in you. And you know, those “small” things can have an impact. I’m a pretty consistent cloth grocery bag user now because of you. 🙂 Are we going to save the planet? Nope. But I can feel better about how I’m living on it, and that’s worth something to me.
All of which is to say, I’m glad you’re not quitting.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Rita, for all of this. It’s such a relief to be understood!
I’ve not yet read Seth Godin, but I will definitely take a look at his site. I agree with everything you’ve shared about what he has to say: the people-pleasing, the idea of being relevant, the folly of appealing to the masses … I just have to make sure I actually keep all that uppermost in my mind as I go forward, so I can keep true to what I believe. This ties in somewhat to something another blogger said in a comment following a post about indignation and solace – that anger is like a hot coal, that you either have to pass it along (speak your mind, in other words; hopefully without being rude or boorish), or alternately, pour a jugful of good thoughts on it so you don’t get burned. I’ve thought of these words a lot over the past few weeks, as I’ve contemplated where to go with this blog.
And I like you, too 🙂 . The idea that back-and-forth blogging and commenting is very similar to being pen pals has occurred to me, too; I love catching up on what you’re doing, no matter what it is you’re doing; and when you’re quiet, I worry about you, and hope that you’re okay. It makes me so happy to know you’re using cloth grocery bags because of MY words (!), but I have to tell you that if it weren’t for YOUR blog, I would likely not be on the internet at all. Your blog was the first one I felt comfortable commenting on, and without that avenue it’s unlikely I’d ever have worked up the bravery to begin a blog of my own. So, thank you, Rita 🙂
I’ve been quiet, but no worries. Just busy. Got a new post brewing in my head. 🙂
Well I was also very happy to find that this was not a farewell post! And I agree with Rita, I relate so much to all the thoughts you shared here. (How funny, yet not surprising, that we have both been on the same I-feel-funny-about-domesticity-but-I-think-it’s-important wavelength.)
Blogging is such a funny new literary form, and it can be a difficult line to walk when you want to participate in the conversation and have your voice heard, and yet also want to shift the conversation a little bit. Sometimes it’s hard to know if I’m part of the solution, part of the problem, or just part of the noise.
Lately though I’ve been thinking about blogs as the extension of an older literary form, the essay — which, etymologically, basically means “to attempt.” The idea being (and this goes back to the inventor of the essay, Montaigne, whom I haven’t read but now feel I ought to) that an essay isn’t necessarily settled but merely an attempt to figure something out — often something along the lines of “how should we live?” I think both of the types of posts that you mention, the pleasant ones and the difficult ones, fit right into that. They are both slightly different ways of asking the question, “What does it mean to live well?”
Personally, I find that the blogs I enjoy most are not necessarily the ones from which I derive the most practical knowledge, but those written by people whose voice and sensibility I enjoy. And I really enjoy yours. I LOVED that repurposing-a-crib post. It didn’t matter a bit that there was no tutorial. I mean, the post wasn’t really about how to build a bench from an old crib after all! To me it was about how to derive meaning from the objects that fill our lives, and how those objects and their meanings might shift and metamorphose over time.
“to call a spade a spade without metaphorically knocking someone down while doing it” — I LOVE this, that is such a worthy and difficult goal, and I can’t wait to read how you pull it off.
PS: I am so glad the birthday dinners went well! 🙂 And also the crap-free book fair!
Thank you so much for this, Sarah! I had a feeling you’d understand about the whole domesticity thing – you mentioned it briefly in your last post as well, the thought (in your moments of self-doubt) that perhaps you needed to be doing something “worthier” than worrying about the house, which of course had me nodding along in complete understanding 🙂
It makes me smile to know you’re thinking that a blog can be an extension of the literary form of an essay; in fact, this is exactly the term I’ve often used when thinking about the shape my writing takes here. Unfortunately, in my low “what the heck am I doing here, anyway?” moments, I’ve often been very self-critical about the fact that my posts ARE such wordy “essays”. Truthfully though, I’m not sure I’m capable of anything else; I’m way too much of an over-thinker to have things completely figured out. I do really love the conversations that have come out of my essays, as well as the conversations I take part in on other blogs, including yours (which I would greatly miss if you said goodbye to blogging). Having these discussions always strikes me as such a gezellig thing to be doing 🙂 – and it’s just now occurring to me that if my musings were cut-and-dry and I had the confidence to think I had all the answers (in other words, if I were able to be succinct) that that would likely shut down conversation, rather than encouraging it…
I really like the idea that the heart of what I’m writing about is centred around the questions “how should we live?” and “what does it mean to live well?” Because of my contemplative and oftentimes overly practical nature, it’s far too easy for my musings to take me to self-abnegation and even asceticism – the whole bare necessities argument of needs vs wants, that anything beyond food, shelter, clothing is extraneous and therefore can be viewed as fluff, which yes, is *living* (and probably very good from an environmental standpoint), but can hardly be seen as living *well*. I definitely need (more times than I should admit) to be knocked out of that way of thinking, because ponderous thoughts like that can truly suck all the joy and beauty out of life. And then, what’s the point? (Hmmm…perhaps I should invite my husband to write a guest post about this – he would definitely have something to say on this subject 😉 ).
I think that self-doubt is the biggest hurdle any writer (blog, book, or otherwise) has to face. Does what I say matter? And does what I say actually reflect what I want to say? And can people please not hate me for saying it? (Even a pretty indifferent hermit like me wants people to like them.)
I’m glad you aren’t done with writing a blog. Because I’ve come to realize that all the bloggers I love these days are “writers” – story tellers and pen pals (as Rita put it so perfectly). We may share content and diys from time to time but what our blogs really give us is a forum to put our endless stream of thoughts out there where we can find other people who have brains that are always writing. I love my journal – and I’ve been writing in a lot lately – but there is something to be said for a little network of lovely women storytellers sharing snippets of their lives.
And I’m glad I found your blog and Rita’s. It’s nice to find people who inspire you. I’m completely saying something to our school about the crap free book fair. Now if I could do the same with the book orders – this book comes with a bracelet, that with a keychain. UGH. Can I just get the books, please?!?
A resounding Yes! to “there is something to be said for a little network of lovely women storytellers sharing snippets of their lives”. I love that I’m now part of this small community that includes fellow knitters and needlepointers and gardeners and moms and occasional-DIYers and people whose “brains are always writing” 🙂 , and I’m so happy that you’re a part of it too, Kate!
Oh, I would so appreciate it if you would spread the word on the crap-free book fair! We CAN effect change; we just have to stand up and not be afraid to make our opinions known!
Please continue. It’s so nice to read the words of someone who articulates so well what I’m thinking. Also because then I don’t feel like the only one that thinks those things.
Thank you Jess! Your comment made my morning 🙂
I love reading your posts! I do not recall where I recently read this, probably on some minimalism/frugal blog, but the advice was essentially “surround yourself with like-minded people who will support what you want to accomplish.” So I think that while yes, changing the world is nice, it is also nice to be a support system to other people who also want to change the world.
I will also note, like Rita and her shopping bags, that because of you I am on the hunt for an inexpensive lace doily-ish material in order to make a vegetable bag.
Aw, thanks, Lisa! Your comment has given me a big smile this morning, both because of your words on surrounding yourself with a support system, and also because I’m so happy to hear my produce bags have inspired you to make some of your own! (I’m reasonably sure you would know this already, but just in case you can’t find any suitable fabric … you can buy lightweight mesh or nylon produce bags, which are considerably less eccentric/fussy than mine are – I STILL, after years of using them, pull them out somewhat surreptitiously!).