For a big chunk of the day yesterday, I wrestled with some major doubts about this blog.
That’s not good. In fact, I don’t want be thinking about it at all during the day. That’s one of the reasons why I write in a big burst first thing in the morning - to get it all out of the way and just be done with it. As far as efficiency goes, this strategy has been working very well. I’m writing a lot. Quickly. But that doesn’t mean that the blog itself is out of mind for the rest of the day.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to not think about things on command? If I say “purple elephant,” you’ll think about a purple elephant. Itches in the brain, especially the ones you want to get rid of, tend to remain. To linger. I’m fascinated by mind control and recently I’ve been trying to focus on developing my ability to not think about X, especially when the only thing I can think about is X. The brain is a funny piece of work.
The misgivings I have about this blog mostly involve fear and embarrassment, the king and queen of all silly, stupid, destructive, meaningless thoughts. But there’s more to it than that. And it will require some time, patience, and focus to fully unpack.
On a really high level, Readup is my attempt to fix the internet as it relates to getting news and information about the world. My blog is my attempt to fix the internet as it relates to sharing yourself with the world, and staying in touch with friends and family.
I think my main concern is that blogging is bringing back some of the same feelings I once had when using social media. Bad feelings. Something to do with superficiality. Fakeness. I have resolved to focus on absolute honesty in these posts, which, in turn, can lead embarrassment, but being embarrassed is a whole lot better than being a full-on fraud. A liar.
My friend S once used “welcome to my fake life,” as her Instagram bio and I remember thinking that that was brilliant.
Driving around the country, to places where I know nobody and nobody knows me, it occurs to me that I could easily construct an entirely fake life on this blog. I could tell you stories about made-up experiences and non-existent people. Essentially, I could turn myself into any person I’d like to be, rather than the person I actually am.
That’s weird. But only kind of.
Sometimes, I catch myself thinking about how exciting and fun it could be to give up on truth and accuracy altogether. I could just start writing fan fiction about myself. Perhaps I’ll start casually initiating threesomes with beautiful eighteen-year-olds in high-school parking lots. I’ll get a sleeve of tattoos on a whim. I’ll hurl Sputnik off a cliff and start hitchhiking. I’ll streak. I’ll go to prison. I’ll steal a baby and run.
Alternatively, I can take the opposite approach. I can be honest online but adapt personas in these small towns I visit. I don’t have to be Bill Loundy. I can be Tanner Murphy, Ken Kelly, or just Xavier, X, with no last name, a rebel billionaire, a monk, a prophet, a Bigfoot hunter.
It all sounds fun, and I might even give it a try, but I’m still dancing around the big problem I’m having with this blog, something I need to confront head-on: I want to live for the sake of living, not for the sake of bragging about it on my blog. In short, the blog is severely getting in the way of my ability to be in the moment. Be here now.
I did some cool stuff yesterday. I hiked around Munising Falls. I stood in the rain. I collected some blue and yellow wildflowers, put them in water in a skinny glass jelly jar, and identified them using my Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers. I staked out a waterfall where I’m going to bathe at some point in the next few days, and I parked Sputnik, in reverse, on the edge of a dirt lot near a fishing pier with my stoop extended out over the gentle breaking of tiny waves where I sat and ate peanut butter and looked at a turtle. And some wild geese. I’m always looking at wild geese. The young ones are getting so big now. They’re teens. Entirely grey. Ugly as sin. Uncomfortable in their newly big bodies. Thanks to Mary Oliver, I never just think “geese,” I always think “wild geese.” And then I think they are calling to me, harsh and exciting, announcing my place in the family of things. And, maybe, depending on the day, I’ll think about the preceding line: “no matter how lonely.” No matter how lonely. No matter how lonely.
I talked to a few people yesterday. Not many, but some. Two librarians, two park rangers, a first grade teacher, a rocket scientist from Los Gatos, a stoner at a grocery store who got me psyched on toothpaste with baking soda. And I thought about those conversations in the context of an amazing article I read on Readup. It asked, “Who needs neighbors when there’s an app for everything?” This sums it all up, I think. Later in the day, it will happen again. Another article, The Gifts of Reading are Many, another summation of everything.
How does this keep happening? How is everything connected to everything? Then again, of course it is. That is the essence of things. No man is an island. My life is such a bundle of coincidences, they no longer catch me off guard. I’m never not reading about me. I’m never not writing about everything. Any day now, Rebecca Solnit is going to appear out of thin air, sit down on a bench right beside me and I won’t even be surprised.
I put an egg in my ramen and pour it over a blend of baby chard, kale and spinach. Deluxe. Multiple times, I think, Oh, I can blog about this tomorrow. Then, NO! It’s just a fleeting thought, but it brings about a sad, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. Even worse, it’s dangerously adjacent to another thought I must confess that I have sometimes: “People will think this is cool! People will think I’m cool!”
I need to zoom out. I need to remind myself that intention, the sibling of attention, is the key ingredient. Overall, my feedback loop is still quite slow. Certainly a whole lot slower than the folks who were taking selfies at Munising Falls and uploading them to Instagram. Remember, I tell myself, these are not bad people. Quite the opposite, in fact. They are beautiful. They are human. They’re just not me. They’re not on a quest to figure out the future of the internet. I’m doing what I’m doing for them. It’s all gravy. Big waterfalls rule. Enough said.
My comments are closed to non-readers. I love that. Even more, I love that I don’t need to “promote” or “sell” myself or my writing. I like that I can just write from my heart and that people don’t have to pay attention, and that’s perfectly okay. Attention is a gift. (A gift!) “Attention is the Beginning of Devotion.” I learned that on Readup too. Oh hey again, Mary Oliver. Long time no see. See you again soon.
For years, I have been trying to develop the confidence to write - publicly, daily. Now I’m doing it. And now I want, more than anything else, to have a good reason to stop. There is none.
Again, Mary Oliver:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
You must ask for what you really want.
Tell me. Ask.
Ask. Tell me.
The noise, slowly, dissipates.
I like the blog again. I like being patient zero. I like trying to defuse a ticking time bomb attached to the wrecking ball that is the internet. It swings out into the distance, giving me the space to bang out yet another post. I’ve got this. I’ll never not have the energy to play the game. This game is life. I love a good metaphor. I love a good challenge. I love being me.