Filling a Void

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.

*     *     *     *     *

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.

20 Comments on Filling a Void

  1. Morgan G
    August 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm (10 years ago)

    Favorite post to date. Very important thoughts you’ve shared!

    • Sweets
      August 14, 2012 at 7:37 am (10 years ago)

      Thanks Morgan!

  2. Holly Jackson
    August 14, 2012 at 4:33 am (10 years ago)

    You’re one of my favorite new blogs! I personally believe that underwear and dessert should go together more often. Also, if you write about food more I will feel like I write about my tea obsession more. 🙂

    • Sweets
      August 14, 2012 at 7:34 am (10 years ago)

      Oooh, please write about tea! I always default to Earl Grey, because it’s lovely, but please lead me on a tea adventure! Thank you for your kind words 🙂

  3. Mary
    August 14, 2012 at 9:10 am (10 years ago)

    I am so, so glad that this place–I originally gave the noun quotation marks but decided it deserved to stand on its own, THANK YOU–has been something you’ve wanted to do right now, every day. I mean, it’s certainly something I want to read right now, every day (although apparently thinking about What Your Readers Will Like is the shortest path to complete creative inertia, according to David Foster Wallace). I know exactly what you mean about thinking it would be awesome to Be A Writer but realizing that, when you get right down to it, the actual Writing part is really, really hard work. And my goodness, I know what you mean about focusing on Future Self’s future happiness as a substitution for Present Self’s well-being, especially when Present Self is kind of getting the shaft right now. Sometimes that’s good–sometimes you really can’t handle where you are and thinking about the future will drag you along–but yeah, sometimes Present Self ends up neglected and even more down.

    Speaking for myself, though: I am a crazy big fan of Present Sweets, just as I have always been a big fan of Past Sweets (you know, when she was Present Sweets). Future Sweets–well, I’m so excited to see what she’ll get up to, because I suspect it’ll be awesome. But Present Sweets outshines her every single time.

    • Sweets
      August 14, 2012 at 9:51 am (10 years ago)

      I love you Mary. I especially loved how you said “Focusing on Future Self’s future happiness as a substitution for Present Self’s well-being.” Because yeah, we’re going to focus on the future! We always will. Hopes and dreams and 401(k)s are good things. But if, as you say, Present Self is getting the shaft, it may be time to touch base with her, or if that feels too scary, to take a beat. Grab yourself a moment of stillness and peace so you can find her again. I have adored knowing Past and Present Mary, and I know Future Mary is also going to rule, but knowing Present Mary brings me and so many others so much joy.

  4. Katie
    August 14, 2012 at 9:24 am (10 years ago)

    I love your writing, Sweets. Thanks for starting my day off on a pleasant, reassuring note. 🙂

    • Sweets
      August 14, 2012 at 9:52 am (10 years ago)

      I hope today kicks ass, much as you do. Go get em, Katie!

    • Sweets
      August 14, 2012 at 10:56 am (10 years ago)

      Good heavens, I’d be totally flattered.

      • wesley @ the way home
        August 14, 2012 at 11:41 am (10 years ago)

        As you should be! I’m wildly popular among family members and around seven or so of my friends. Expect your readership to soar.

  5. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
    August 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm (10 years ago)

    This is my favorite post I’ve read from you (maybe anyone) because I can completely empathize with that “When things get straightened out” attitude. It’s easy to forget what’s going right in light of what’s not, and it’s even easier to not enjoy life when things do pan out they way we hoped. Before opening my store, I wrote a book. I always wanted to be a writer, but I thought that was a silly goal to aim for because I never really saw myself as talented in anyway (in my mind, real writers are tortured geniuses, not well-balanced entrepreneurs). When rejection letters came in, it was like a self-fulling prophecy, and I put the book to the side. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of writing for my blog and even through emails, and I realized that maybe I just need to do what you are doing now: write. If nothing comes of it, then that’s fine, but at least I enjoyed the NOW of it. 🙂 Great post, Sweets!

    • Sweets
      August 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm (10 years ago)

      I mean, I sort of knew you were a good writer from your emails alone 🙂 It’s been really nice having a project that’s mine, with no pressure attached: no one depends on it, no money is involved, no reputation or professional goals are at stake. And lo and behold, it’s helped me see how much other women love projects like these, and it’s helped “meet” them and talk to them about shared interests and shared dreams. Dude, also, you wrote AN ENTIRE BOOK. Holy cow. No one can reject the fact that you did it. You took that step. Don’t stop now!

  6. thelingerielesbian
    August 15, 2012 at 10:29 am (10 years ago)

    Fabulous post! I have also been struggling with a bit of a transition in my life and figuring out what I want now & in the future– I’ve really always had the opposite problem, of actively saying “well we never know” as a way to avoid the responsibility for MAKING future things happen. Love your writing and I hope you continue finding the path that makes sense for you.

    • Sweets
      August 15, 2012 at 10:52 am (10 years ago)

      Yes! For me it was a deer-in-the-headlights reaction when someone said “well, what do you want to do?” GAH, it could be anything! I used to go into this weird freezy trance state when asked that question. I finally had to give myself permission to acknowledge the things I really cared about, and then it was like a lightbulb moment, “Hey girl, you should blog about them.” And I’m having fun! Even if I fall out of love with it eventually, I hope it’s taught me to trust my gut a little more. I hope you ease through your next stages of transition and trust your passions.

      • Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
        August 16, 2012 at 11:49 am (10 years ago)

        Thanks, Sweets! I love how the Internet can really bring you closer together with people you’d never have the opportunity to meet but who share mutual interests. 🙂

  7. Anna
    August 19, 2012 at 11:11 am (10 years ago)

    I am just so proud and overwhelmed by your talent when I read your posts. Keep writing!


2Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Filling a Void

  1. […] luckily for me, I read my friend Sweets’s blog this morning, and she had already said it. Sweets is a sweet (and sassy, and hilarious) friend of […]

  2. […] This sounds not unlike the planning for the future as a substitute for living in the moment that I have been working to fix.  Good to know that’s going […]

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