I fell down an internet rabbit hole the other day catching up on some blogs I follow, which led to links to other blogs, which led to a link to a blog about blogging (but not, alas, to the Bob Loblaw Law Blog). There was a forum for the blog’s community members to discuss some blogging pet peeves, and an (apparently) well-known blogger came under particular scrutiny. While many of the forum members had criticisms about some lifestyle, health, and parenting choices this blogger made, what struck me was the perception with which they read her life, as presented online.
This woman is a dreamer. She has lofty goals for herself: get fit, be a parent, advance her education, develop personal style, deepen her faith, promote her blog, and perfect her relationship. These are great goals! No one would question that. But the commenters pointed out that as this woman revealed details of her plans and dreams online, she inadvertently (and most likely unbeknownst to herself) revealed a deep, deep loneliness and emptiness. She carefully cultivates and curates her online presence, but there’s a sense of unease, of nagging emptiness to each new goal she sets for herself or event she sees on the horizon. If only she can get fit, if only she can lose weight, once she gets married, once she has a baby, once the baby is toilet trained, once she runs a half-marathon, once she and her family move to a new home, once she finishes her degree, once she takes care of This Next Major Lifestyle Change, then everything will finally be perfect, and she’ll finally have true contentment and happiness.
Aspiration is human nature, and it’s healthy. It keeps us from getting stuck in a rut. Feelings of frustration or even disappointment and sadness can be great catalysts for positive change. However, as the forum commenters pointed out, this woman, for at least the last several years, has been living her life waiting for the “next big thing”: her birthday party, her vacation, her move, her new house, her new baby, next, next, next. She obsesses over and romanticizes The Next Step to such a great extent that by the time it arrives, she can’t enjoy it, or it fails to meet her expectations. She’ll write of the disappointment, dismiss it angrily, and turn her sights to the next Next Step, which will be the one that finally brings her happiness and contentment and about how she has to get ready, get ready, get ready for it . . .
I feel for this woman. I feel for her deeply, because I have been there. Once I lose ten pounds I’ll go on more auditions. Once my skin clears up I’ll go on more dates. Once I get my apartment clean I’ll have people over. Once this costume/makeup project is finished I’ll throw a dinner party. Once the dinner party is over I’ll invite a friend to stay. Once I move I’ll buckle down and focus on What I’m Doing With My Life. In fact, for quite a few years there after college I felt helplessly trapped in this cycle. My therapist would ask me how I was doing that week, and I’d launch into details about my menu plans and my guest list and my gym routine and plans for events that were MONTHS away. I was more interested in what Ideal Me would be doing in six months (starring on Broadway! Dating a wonderful man! Being skinny and stuff!) than in what I was doing in the present, I was miserable at work and lonely and depressed at home, and I felt adrift in a sea of people accomplishing things and living their dreams and getting married and making new people and having rich, fulfilling lives.
I still cared about things, besides myself I mean. I cared about people, about my friends, about women, about lingerie, about dance, about baking, about animals. I cared about how people felt about themselves. I cared about the messages aimed at women and the tremendous power they wield. I cared about why in the 21st century women struggle to achieve equal pay, equal recognition, equal respect, equal care. Why it was still so hard for women to teach, to lead, to defend, to minister. I was embarrassed by and dismissive of my passions, though. I thought they were silly and juvenile and unimportant, so I hid them.
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I was never a vocational writer. I occasionally wanted to be a vocational writer, because oh man was the idea appealing. I would keep beautiful journals and write in fountain pens and create achingly lovely and soul-piercing phrases and think profound thoughts in a window seat in the countryside with a cat lolling in the sun and a bird in a tree outside the window. I thought it would be neat To Be a writer, but I never thought it would be neat To Do the writing, you follow me?
And then one day in May I started writing. Just like that. I started writing about the things I cared about. It was easy, it was fulfilling, it was enjoyable, and it was happening RIGHT NOW. Not in six months, when I would be perfect and thin and beautiful and stylish and in love and accomplished, but right now. I was doing something, not trying to be something, and I unexpectedly felt really, really great about it. In acting classes you’re always told to come up with action-oriented subtext for your scripts, instead of being-oriented subtext (for example, if two characters are having an argument, one character’s subtext with a line could be “she wounds” or “she attacks”, rather than “she is mean.” Acting 101. You’re welcome). Well, lo and behold, life imitates art: doing feels better than being.
I wonder if the blogger the forum was discussing has found what she wants to do. A lot of it has to do with youth (this blogger is young); we focus on what we want To Be when we grow up, not what we want To Do when we grow up. For most of us, our formative experiences revolve around a journey with a neat resolution at the end: we’re born, we grow up, and there’s a graduation from a school of some kind for a finale. Once that story ends, where do we go? Reading the blogger’s cycle of plan/event/disappointment/repeat feels like she’s trying to force herself to be a part of a story that isn’t hers. I wonder if there’s something she truly feels passionate about that she’s hiding out of fear of judgment or ridicule or shame. Something that might bring her joy, instead of only the anticipation of joy.
Someone found Sweet Nothings this week by Googling “Why are bra sizes so complicated I’m going to cry.” GIRL, I HEAR YOU. Pull up a chair and grab yourself a drink, because you’re in the right place. Yes, I write about underwear and dessert. Yes, the blog is something that I don’t casually drop into ordinary conversation. I still haven’t told my dad about it. But it’s given me a way to indulge my passions almost by accident, simply by giving me permission to care about the things I want to care about. Lady Who Googled, knowing that you found the blog brings me so much more happiness than imagining what my life will be like when it’s perfect. Also, please don’t cry, and I hope you found what you were looking for. Bra sizes are complicated, but you’re probably complicated too. I hope you found something here to remind you that you don’t have to be a certain size. You don’t have to have a certain story. You aren’t a void that desperately needs to be filled.
But you do need to go to a reputable bra fitter. So sayeth I.