The past several weeks and months have been just a bit too much. Too much good, too much bad, too much work, and too much to think about all at once. In all of that I’ve tried to be present where I am, doing what most seems to need my time and attention.
I’ve read books and listened to podcasts about how to balance “doing it all” and at the end of the day, I think these people want to tell you the answers, but don’t actually have it figured out. As soon as you seem to strike a balance, something in life changes so your schedule and coping mechanisms all need to readjust to fit everything in once more.
I subscribe more to the notion of seasons. There’s a season for hustle and a season for rest. A season for uncertainty and a season for stability. A season for laughter and a season for tears. The length and order of these seasons may change or go against your plans, but I just don’t believe you can do it all all the time. Unfortunately, in this past season or two, blogging just didn’t take priority. While I’ve missed writing here, I don’t regret that decision.
My writing has taken on other forms lately. My days are actually filled with it, be it at the North State Journal where I work as a writer and copy editor or with my various freelance clients who I continue to work with each week. My life has certainly not been void of writing in my absence from this blog.
I have continued to wrestle with what this blog should sayand how to say it. There has been a significant amount of transition and change in our lives in the past year and as a result, I’ve wanted to keep most of these thoughts and feelings private from the likes of social media and an unknown audience. Yet, I want to continue to be here, to write in a way that inspires or relates.
So here’s my wave hello saying that I’m still here and will continue to come back. I’ll bring more of an update in time and continue to write so I can share it with you.
It’s been a few weeks, and I’m still not sure how to pick up where I left off. A lot has happened and is happening. A few difficult yet vaguely described months this past fall/winter were followed by some resolve, some redirection, and some utter ridiculousness. In all of that, I question what it is I most want to say.
I have talked a few times about how much I appreciate writing and have been grateful that this blog has been a place for that. It’s been a way to update people, to share my thoughts, and to think through the different things going on in our lives. But it is also a place people come to read those things, which is something I consider very carefully. A handful of people have told me that they read my blog, which is always a flattering compliment, so I have a limited notion of my audience. There are also many people I’ve never met and know nothing about.
To me, the listeners/readers are often just as important as the message. This isn’t a journal, so if I don’t consider my audience, I do a disservice to us both. Lately, with a lot of transition and life going on, I’ve been considering even more carefully what it is that I’m saying and how my words are portrayed to those who are watching and reading. There are times filled with great news or success that I want to shout about and times when I just love the little details in life and want to share them. There are moments of frustration I want to lash out in passive aggression and moments of hurt or fear that I want to describe and sort through.
But the question becomes, what is my purpose? What is it I most want to do through my life and likewise, my writing?
Do I want to have a big platform? Do I want lots of likes and attention? Do I want to promote or sell something? Do I want to woo or impress? Do I want to simply have a creative outlet or a modern-day scrapbook?
Ultimately, none of those are my purpose, and in realizing this, I’ve stepped back. I’ve considered each word and each post and the impact it has. In this time of contemplation I have yet to figure out where to go from here and what I most want to say. But I know I want to keep writing. I want to connect with people. I want to write in a way that encourages, inspires, and relates.
Not only is this my favorite type of writing, but this is the type of writing I most love to read. I have learned and grown so much from reading what others write as they face challenges, celebrate victories, find their faith, and pursue their purpose. Not only that, but these are the lives that carry the greatest impact. Some people have strong voices or get loads of attention, but I’m not after the megaphone moments or a picture perfect type of lifestyle.
It’s Valentine’s Day, so let’s keep with the love theme. I really love writing.
As a writer, you’re supposed to “show, don’t tell” and even though I just told you about my love for writing, hopefully you’ve seen it, too. For starters, this blog has been around for well over three years now, and it is far from my first blog. I have worked in all sorts of jobs and writing has been a part of many of those positions (including now). On top of that, I write in other places as well, be it with online publications or by writing lyrics with my talented musician of a husband. I’d like to think all of that adds up to “show” my love of writing.
So where is this going? I’m not really sure. I toy with the idea of writing even more. There are days and weeks that I write practically nonstop, be it for a book that may never see the light of day or submitting articles that are hopelessly rejected. I get caught in this cycle of making small progress with pieces of work showing up here and there while exhausting myself writing a mountain of content that most will never know or see. In that battle to write and create, I lose momentum. One lost blog post becomes a week and before you know it, it’s been over two weeks. All the “pro” bloggers wouldn’t dare go more than a day or two between posts, but perhaps that’s why I’ll never go pro.
For me, writing is so much more than having this blog. It’s a creative outlet, it’s a way to process thoughts, it’s an opportunity to connect with people, and it’s sometimes what pays the bills. But each of those categories take on different forms and live in different spaces. Processing thoughts and connecting with people both hold a place on this blog, but my professional pieces never show up here. Sometimes connecting with people looks more like a lengthy personal email or doesn’t include writing at all. As an ambivert, sure, some of my thoughts can be found here on my blog, while so many other thoughts are processed quietly and without any audience. Creative short stories or even waves of ridiculous tweets seldom shine in this particular space. Yet each of these different avenues and styles of writing ignite and inspire me, so I’m not willing to give one up to solely pursue another.
The last few weeks I’ve struggled with feeling more boxed in and constrained by what to write here. My writing has not stopped, it has just been elsewhere. Have no fear, I do not plan to quit altogether or start an entirely new blog my any means. I just want to allow myself the space and opportunity to continue to write in ways that appeal most to me. To be less of a blogger and more of a writer. To let go of self-placed pressures and weekly Thursday Three “deadlines” and hold on to what I love most about writing.
I love the blank space and the thoughts I did not even realize I had that tumble out. I love the clever hooks and the creative words that liven up a sentence. I love the challenge of relaying a message in just a way that captures someone’s attention and allows them to so clearly relate without ever having to directly experience something themselves. I love hearing life stories and figuring out the right way to tell them. I love summing up an idea or a thought so well that it perfectly describes what someone else is feeling or thinking, without ever having met them. I love the opportunity and the unknown with writing, even though it completely terrifies me. I love that writing has always been a part of me and likely always will be.
After a week of being sick followed by a three-day snow and ice storm, you can only watch so much Netflix and eat so many bowls of cereal and destroy so many tissues. So when the power goes out, you resort to all out ridiculousness and begin playing board games by candle light on a Friday night. We’re talking Sequence, Bananagrams, and good ole Life (the game, not the cereal as that had already been completely consumed earlier in the week).
We don’t consider ourselves “game” people. Music people, creative people, documentary people, active people–we’ll take any of those, but when someone excitedly invites us to game night, we often shrug our shoulders and wonder, “why us?” Don’t get offended, we’ll come to your game night, just don’t ever consider us regular attenders.
Anyway, the point is, we had maybe played Life once in our entire time of owning said board game, as evidenced by the lack of people pegs plucked from the plastic casing. I loved playing the game as a kid and dreaming what my life as an adult could be like. This particular version had a few new spaces and some modified rules, so I kept checking to read the rules to find out what different things meant. Half of the time spent was in set-up alone, so after the two of us played through rather quickly, we decided to play once more (and I might have needed a redemption round).
Here’s the thing, the game is rigged. You get so little control of what happens or doesn’t happen and very few choices throughout. Sometimes real life can feel like that I suppose, so for the sake of the game, I’ll let that slide (although I don’t think I’ll ever be a veterinarian turned entertainer turned hair stylist and later a Nobel Peace prize winner on accident).
My issue though was not that I lost (twice), but what determined the win. The whole game is just a big exchange of money. Maybe you pick up a few people pegs in your brightly colored car along the way, but each “life” event was represented in dollar signs. The best career to pick, the house to choose, the route you took–it was all solely motivated by ending up with the most pastel colored cash at the end.
Maybe you think I’m going too deep here, but indulge me for a minute–is that what life is? A long and winding path that declares winners and losers based on how much money you banked by the end? Are we so motivated and persuaded by the financial cost and benefit of things, that we give no other weight or meaning to what it is we are doing with our days?
I’m not so naive to think that money doesn’t matter. This last year was tough financially (to be all too honest) and obviously what we make does impact our every day life and has to be considered for our future. I’m not talking a pile of wealth to gloat about but more like, hey, we use money to pay the rent and put food on the table. So, yes, we need money, and it certainly comes in to play with many of our decisions since we don’t have the luxury of ignoring it.
But is it possible that society goes from basic necessities to a “success” measurement based merely on how high your money pile is? What about art? And creativity? Passion? People?
Is our impact and our worth instead better defined by the dollar amount we acquired at the end of the year?
I’m not opposed to getting or giving raises, far from it. Rent goes up every year, cost of living increases, needs change. Raises can show progress and reward work well done. Yes, let’s get raises. Also, it should be noted that passion projects have their own points of failure. Investing all of our time and energy in to something that has no return on our investment is, at times, maybe even negligent. Sure, you can have projects and pursuits that lead to little or no monetary gain, but there also has to be some balance and overall understanding of needs and responsibilities.
Okay, so we’ve established that I believe we should be paid and decently at that. But is there more? I think so. I don’t want the end to look like a pile of money, however big or small, declaring whether or not I won. I want it to look like a life that mattered, that I did something valuable with my time.
So, what value are we/you putting on money? Is it truly a living wage that allows you to live your life in a way that is also generous and creative? Or is it more so a measurement of your own personal value and a metric to constantly improve? Are those mutually exclusive?
The bottom line is perhaps, are we are asking the right questions, spending our money (and time and resources) the right way, and placing our value where it belongs?
Is it Thursday, really? I feel like the last week has been a blur, and the days are all merging together. Winter seems to do that to a person, especially when you’re stuck indoors. This weekend promises some sort of wintry mix, and around here that means the town is about to shut down. Guess we’ll just have to set up camp in the living room and hang on to our flashlights until the storm passes.
1. Saturday mornings are my favorite. I’m sure people have reasons to wake up and go do things on Saturdays, but I much prefer a slow start, breakfast on the porch (weather permitting), and a quiet beginning to the day.
2. Keep in contact with your loved ones. Sometimes we remember what it was like to be really cold and then gloat a little that we aren’t so cold anymore. I know this next weekend we’ll see some winter conditions, but it’s just for a weekend, not for months on end. Considering our lovely Saturday morning, it seemed only right to share a piece of our life with my mom as well as a little friendly “encouragement” considering what she was up against. It’s the perfect way to tell someone you’re thinking of them.
3. Being sick is the worst. I go on and on about not having expectationsand looking at life more realistically…and then I go and get sick, causing me to cancel every plan and commitment of the week. I thought I had it covered by just not making plans more than a few weeks out. Wrong again. Let’s just take it one day at a time I guess. Some sort of bug hit me on Saturday night and just won’t quit. I won’t share any photos or my symptoms (you’re welcome), but will take your pity, prayers, and Netflix recommendations.
Plans and goals–they sound like such good things. Dreams and deadlines mean something has to happen. It tells a story of progress and forward motion toward (hopefully) all of the right things. It is refusing to stand idle while life threatens to pass you by.
But is that all? Is it only the promise of good that can come from such hopes and aspirations?
What about the bitter disappointment that comes when things don’t go “as planned” in life? Or the fits we throw when someone doesn’t live up to our expectations? We lose trust and hold a grudge when things don’t look the way we envisioned, because that’s only fair. This was not what we had in mind, therefore it is practically our right to let the world know.
Honestly, you and I, we are allowed to be disappointed. I will never be the person that says you should only be happy or at least attempting happiness in every moment of life. Emotions come in a wide range and part of life is allowing ourselves to experience the many joys and frustrations that a range of emotions can bring. Go ahead and feel down when you’re sad, elated when you’re happy, conflicted when you’re confused or overwhelmed. This not only makes us human, it also allows us to cope with our situation and better empathize with others.
That said, sometimes I think we set ourselves up for disappointment when we don’t have to.
We put these high expectations on ourselves to be something and achieve something. Then we go around putting these expectations on the people around us. We make plans as if that will lock in the things we want and then pay no regard to the fact that we only have the slightest bit of control over it. If it’s in the calendar, then it’s bound to happen, right?
Right now, I have no interest in making any plans more than a few weeks away. There’s so much that can happen in a month, three months, eight months, a year. The farther ahead we plan, the farther it feels from something I can count on. I would not be planning based on reality, but on pure speculation and therefore creating more expectations to uphold. Life has too many variables and the vast majority of them are well outside of our control.
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, much less a month from now. Tragedy could strike, opportunity could knock, the unexpected could happen. Health-related, weather-related, people-related, work-related, government-related–which of those things can you reasonably control? Sure, you can exercise, bring an umbrella, invest in the lives of others, work hard, vote, and whatever else to contribute to the overall impact (and you should), but don’t fool yourself into believing you’ve therefore earned it and can will things to happen the way you want.
Let’s instead put our hope in the right things. Let’s give grace when expectations aren’t met and think more realistically when it comes to our dreams and deadlines. Let’s be cautious to make plans and realize when we are forming absolutes in our minds. Let’s do our best, but know that most things are beyond our control and therefore let go of our reliance on our own expectations.
Let’s give the same grace and space for in our own lives as we do in the lives of others.
What a week it has been. Anybody with me? Nothing too crazy, but it takes thought and intention to keep from covering yourself in blankets on the couch all day. Oh, winter.
1. Hug a kid. I should probably preface this by saying it’d be good to actually know this kid and maybe even have permission from their parents if necessary. But past that, I highly recommend it. They are usually all for it and this time of year the puffy coats that make them like little walking teddy bears are simply adorable. Is there a point to this hug? Just to show a little love and remind you where the world is headed–the future is definitely not all bad.
2. Take a walk. I know, it’s cold outside. Even here in North Carolina we’re having to take our coats out finally and wear a few layers. I’m not really a fan of winter, but I am a big fan of walking. When it’s decent outside, you’ll find me roaming the many trails nearby or the sidewalks downtown. When it is cold, watch out–I’m power walking through the mall. Sounds silly, but I can’t keep cooped up all winter long and the mall doesn’t require any sort of membership or serious preparation to show up. Plus, my favorite part about walking is going with a friend and talking while we walk, instead of going somewhere to sit still and pay for food or coffee.
3. Appreciate what you see on a daily basis. We can go through so much of our day seeing the same thing all of the time and ignore it. Last night, on a walk, the hubby wanted a quick picture of me with Krispy Kreme (but failed to follow it up by buying a donut). Very random, but the point was not our undying love for fresh & hot donuts, but a corner of our neighborhood we so regularly walk by, in a town we moved to three and a half years ago, where we have grown so much.