inside my thoughts

9:09 AM

These days papa bear and I rarely have the opportunity to see a movie in the theater. So when presented with such a rare treat we make sure to find a well deserving movie. Last weekend, while in town with our family, we were afforded such a date and without saying a word we both knew exactly what we wanted to see. The soundtrack had been mesmerizing us for weeks. "Five Hundred Miles" was my favorite and I played it over and over again until it became impossible to tell when it ended and began. Inside Llewyn Davis was subtly great. It comes into your life like a quiet stray cat that you don't even really notice for weeks until you wake up one day and you have no idea what life was like without it.
To me a wonderful movie is made better by reading insightful reviews that help unpack a timid movie. And so it was with much glee that I devoured A. O. Scott's review of the movie. Having thought this myself I was grateful for the artful way in which he articulated something that I believed to be the most piercing of the movie's truths: "hard work and talent do not always triumph in the end" as well as "But at least one of its lessons seems to me, after several viewings, as clear and bright as a G major chord. We are, as a species, ridiculous: vain, ugly, selfish and self-deluding. But somehow, some of our attempts to take stock of this condition — our songs and stories and moving pictures, old and new — manage to be beautiful, even sublime." I've been thinking about this ever since.
With the dawn of each new year the scent of success hangs heavy in the air. Most goals are built around eventual success and change hinges on the premise that the "new" will bring about greater amounts of success. Occasionally we visualize what or "who" success will look like. We draw lines in the sand, numbers, events... Social media gives us cords to plug into ourselves to track the varying levels of success we will encounter over the course of a year, coloring our daily interactions, thoughts and drives. Good, bad, not good enough. Not enough. We're constantly lashing ourselves, like a racehorse to try harder, do more, and do it all faster. Of course it's never truly enough.
I've never done well with concepts of "success." The one competitive bone in my body (just ask any of my friends and family how many times I've left a board game mid-way through after getting bored) rarely reveals itself and I've never found too many correlations in my character with those individuals who would be considered "driven." In a more crude sense one may call me lazy. And most of the time I'm fine with that, most of the time. Sure there are days that I am lured into daydreaming of a more glamorous/famous/rich/popular/jetsetting life but invariably it doesn't last long before I am once again in the happy cocoon on my own family life.
I've been writing since I learned how to write. Silly stories, poetry (I went through a massive-- much to my current embarrassment--poetry stage in middle school), half-books and diaries. I wrote with the same passion and appetite with which I devoured books until my life resembled a one person English department. Needless to say the discovery of blogging was like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one. Gosh I was so prolific in those early years, in fact every post I wrote resembled this one in length. I was part of a small community where we all sort of poured our hearts out to each other and it was super dreamy in a very Austen-like way.
Back then the idea of making revenue off of what we were doing would have sounded preposterous. And yet, eight years later here we are. Where quality is measured by the number of banner ads and value by the number of followers. And so we are constantly pushed to be successful, to be more, more, more... And in this mess I believe, at least for me, the meaning of what a blog should be got lost. Blogging is what I used to do when my heart ached and the only way I knew of making it better was turning that aching into words. Blogging is when the words of a stranger read like the pages of my diary and I found myself wanting to hug people I had never met, so often. Blogging made me feel, cry, think, laugh, challenged me and grew me. And then it all changed, sort of imperceptibly at first until blogging today actually looks nothing like what blogging looked like almost a decade ago.
Now there are conferences geared around making your blog more "successful," around teaching you how to read numbers in order to figure out your "audience," and there are services that comb through data to help package your words and pictures just so. What this does is create this endless rat race that essentially says that if your blog isn't "successful" your words aren't "good enough." Your words aren't valuable. It's just a waste of time. And yet...
And yet, the blogs that I read on a daily basis often garner less than four comments a post (my comment counting as one of them). They often don't have ads and they don't have "sponsors." They are quiet and humble and just GOOD. They fill my soul with grace and my heart with love. They keep me coming back every day, desiring to hear more. And every so often they change me for the better. They remind me to be more at peace, to listen more, to be kinder and challenge me to write better.
Perhaps these blogs will never "make it big." Or perhaps they will, and trust me I will cheer them on all the way there. But regardless of what sort of revenue or following, if any, they will amass in time I hope the authors know that their words have so often been sublime, if even for just one other human being. That's the thing I used to love about blogging - it celebrated the way each of us human beings are sublime in our very own, special, and unique way. As Kathleen Kelly once so beautifully put it:

"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small."

That's really all I ever hope for, to have lead a valuable life. I'll leave the success for the talented ones. I want the things that I reach for, and in the off chance accomplish, to be things that spring out of me organically - I want to create simply because I want or need to, not because of the possible outcomes. I want to stop looking at the end game and instead revel in the process itself. I want to work on things because they feel good to do, not because they feel good when they're finished. I want to focus on creating things of value.
This will be an ongoing battle, no doubt, but one that I am determined to win. I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by people seeking the same goal and over the years I have distanced myself from those obsessed with "being on top." I'm tired of counting and comparing and always ending up on bottom. It's like a never ending video game that you can never win. I want to go to bed each night simply knowing that I did my best - perhaps I made someone happy, perhaps I challenged myself in some way, perhaps someone's words changed me for the better or my words were a comfort to someone else, perhaps I all I did was laugh and giggle with my baby and for once I want any of those to be ok. No, I want them to be more them ok, I want those things to be sublime because any interaction with another human being is truly sublime. 

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