Saturday, March 20, 2010

More bloggish musings

It's hard to blog when there are cats sitting on your computer chair.

What is the function of your blog? I’ve mused on this question before but it’s an interesting one. (Or at least I think it is.)

One of the function of mine is to record my life. For me. Not that I’m claiming that it’s a particularly interesting or significant one – but it’s the only one I have and I want to preserve it. I’m struck by the fact that I occasionally look back to see what I was doing this month two years ago, for example, and come across things that I’d more or less forgotten about – not huge life events, obviously, but amusing little snippets or enjoyable visits or whatever. I also like looking back to see what the garden was doing at this time in another year.

For this reason, I wish that I’d had a blog when the children were little. All those jewelled mummy moments that Stomper Girl, for instance, records on hers – lots of mine are probably forgotten by me because they were never documented. On the other hand, I do have more recent bloggy bits from when ours were still at home and I’m glad of that.

Another blog function is to communicate. I love the feeling of scattering words and being aware of them landing in people’s heads in distant lands. Now, I think we all feel that while quietly chuntering to ourselves is satisfying, it’s more so if people leave comments, making the communication two-way. It’s striking (to me) how many people read without commenting. I hardly ever do this. Somehow I feel as if I have to earn my pleasure in reading by at least waving hello. I think “lurking” suggests the slightly underhand sensation one gets from merely reading. And yet of course it’s a free world, this Blogdom. If we don’t want people to have access to our burblings, we shouldn’t publish them.

The only times I don’t comment are when there’s nothing I feel I can say – when I really don’t agree with what people are saying/doing (and this applies to very few people I read); or if there are already so many comments that there’s nothing to add.

My fourth blog birthday passed at the beginning of March and, reading back, I’m struck by how much sadder my life is now than it was then. Then, the children were all at home (including our soon-to-be son-in-law), my father was still alive, my mother was reasonably independent. Now the offspring have flown, my father’s dead and I spend a lot of time supporting my mum who, while amazing for nearly 88, is getting gradually frailer. I do still have Mr Life (a fine chap and I’m grateful for him). But I feel my life has changed from colourful to sepia. It's all right, day to day. But only all right.

I say all this because of the third function of my blog: not really to canvass sympathy, despite the pathetic tones of the previous paragraph, but to force myself to clarify my thoughts more publicly – and therefore possibly more coherently – than I do when just gently musing. I’m not really one to bewail my lot and then expect angels to descend from the sky and sort things out. (Though this would be handy.) My children aren’t responsible for my happiness. I have to find a way of being happy, some point to my life. And it needs to be a bit more than just getting up, breathing a lot, teaching, marking and then going to bed again.


  1. I'm with you on so much here. Very clear indeed.

  2. I don't know how you feel about this, but have you read the Dalai Lama's "Art of Happiness". It helped me through a very sad time in my life and I cannot recommend it enough.

  3. Isabel, sometimes when I read your blog I feel that you must be reading my mind. I, too, was wondering about the purpose of my blog. I'd like to think I'm contributing something to the world, but really I know it's just 'noise'. I also wondered about comments. I got exactly one comment on my last blog post. Admittedly, it wasn't a very interesting post, but I felt a little neglected anyway. But quite often I read other people's posts and don't comment - for the same reasons you stated. I have resolved to be a better commenter. No matter what the purpose of a blog, everyone writes with the hope that someone will read it... and how are we to know someone's reading if they don't comment.
    I hope you find your happiness, Isabel, although I don't feel I can offer much advice (but you're probably not looking for advice) because I haven't found mine yet.

  4. I also write for myself, always have, but it makes it really nice to throw your words out there and have someone throw some more back at you! Connection is what it's all about. I wish Blogger had been around in the early 1900s. I'd love to read what my paternal grandmother would have written on her blog the day she heard she was to marry my grandfather because her sister, his first choice, had either died or rejected him! What do you think you'd have written if you'd found yourself in such a pickle? We'll never know about our grandmothers, even though we'd love to. I have a feeling our grandchildren won't be as curious about our lives. Because every thing is "out there" these days, nothing mysterious to wonder about, all you have to do is google....Which reminds me---I need to burn all those letters my husband and I exchanged when we were young and foolish. That would definitely be too much information for the children! Blog on Isabelle!

  5. Amen to that last bit.
    Though some people at work seem to think it's perfectly reasonable to expect us to live like this...

  6. I agree with your thoughts on blogging particularly the three categories, recording, communicating and clarifying.

    Getting the feedback too, is a good thing. I always think the more you comment, the more you'll receive. I'm always slightly surprised by lurking but then I am a very talkative and opinionated person so I like to weigh in!

    I'm sorry to hear your life has hit a sepia patch. I sincerely hope it is a temporary one and that your cats or your garden or your choir or your family will contrive to bring the rainbows back. And maybe when you read this post back in 2 years time you'll be surprised to find you felt that way...

  7. you have given me a lot to think about ... i guess that my life is sepia, too ... and i wonder why that seems to be almost a relief to me?

  8. Sometimes I also ask myself why I bother writing my blogs, but like you, I do it to record stuff about my life that I can go back to at a later stage to see what I was doing that I've since forgotten...don't bother correcting the grammar - I know it sounds all wrong, but you'll know what I mean! (I hope).
    I also use my blog to write my day to day stuff down in order to print it off for penpals who don't have access to the Internet. Yep - PENPALS. Some of them for about forty years.

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  10. I hope you did your musings standing up, those cats look too comfy to move.
    I blog because everyone I know has seen, and are now bored with my collections and also with my cute cat stories so have had to go worldwide.
    Can't do much musing as I only type with 2 fingers and frequently stop to check spelling and grammer in case my posts and comments are read by a school teacher.

  11. What a lively discussion, but has anyone mentioned the compulsive writer?
    I stopped blogging for almost a year, but then realised I was missing it, and also the comments from all over the world.
    Yet during many years of professional writing I would actively avoid contact with my readers (newspapers on trains etc) and certainly did not want comments. It's an interesting distinction.

  12. What a good analysis, Isabelle. I sometimes feel that my blog is incredibly dull but that reflects the way my life is at present, stuck in a sort of limbo, so I'm not surprised when I get little comment - and really pleased when I do. I try and comment on the blogs I read, unless, as you say, I don't feel I have anything to say which would make a contribution, and I love getting emails from people.
    Like you, I do find it a good way to clarify my thoughts and just saying publicly that you intend to do something is enough sometimes to make it happen in a way that a private diary doesn't achieve. It must be great to have smaller children to blog about, what a great way to record those memories

  13. As ever, Isabelle, you succeed in provoking thought about so many interesting things. The sepia stage of life - ah, that hits, or creeps up on so many of us. Sometimes my life is very enjoyable, at other times I can feel very miserable and sorry for myself, but mostly, I think and hope, I manage to mooch along, and have been trying very hard to overcome and handle better some of the things outside my control.
    While venting my feelings about some of the downs of my life, I do try not to indulge in hateful thoughts. And though I too write for myself, for fun, to clarify my thoughts, to clear some of the negative things away, it feels very good to get comments, friendship and help from other bloggers. What affection blogging can generate. Like so many others, I wish I had been able to record daily events, and life in general. In the hurly burly of a busy family life, it is so easy to get out of practice with expressing yourself and communicating.
    When children leave home, the nature of mothering changes, and one can feel very bereft, unless and until new mothering ways are developed. We never feel that mothering has been completed.
    I have just finished Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years, and wound up somewhat disappointed, and am trying to work out why. Perhaps I feel she tossed a dice in deciding on the ending.

  14. I admit to being a lurker on a lot of blogs. My excuse is that I'd be typing all day if I commented on all the blogs I read. Some I just look at the pictures of quilts. Lazy I know.
    I find that retirement helps a lot with making life more interesting once the kids have flown the nest. An interesting hobby is much more inspiring than marking papers for some reason.

  15. maryanne11:36 am

    I like your honesty, Isabelle.My oldest is almost 16 and we're just starting to realise that this period of parenting really isn't forever. Already, I'm starting to feel a pang.

  16. Anonymous12:43 pm

    Change is a natural part of life and every life is lived in different stages. The path you have trodden in the past few years is one that all families will tread in the passing of time. If this makes a sepia tone, then you should know that I love that a sepia photo shows details and delights that are missed when colour is added.

    I hope you find details and delights within yourself and your life with your husband. Things that you would have missed in the hurly burly of colour created by the busy-ness of a house full. You have worked hard to earn this sepia time. We should all be so lucky as to raise well balanced, clever, loving children who leave home and allow us some sepia time with our life partners.

  17. Anonymous4:06 pm

    For me, blogging is a record of our family life.. I tend to get very few comments and mostly, I think because I have very few readers. I also enjoy being able to look back and see where we were a year ago, 2 years ago, etc.. because life is moving so quickly.

    I read other blogs for inspiration and for comfort.. it comforts me to read your posts because you are a fellow teacher..and I feel better when I hear you whinge about grading and being trapped by mountains of work... because it is the same for me even if I am on another continent. You validate what I am feeling, and therefore I no longer feel alone. It helps me keep going. It lets me know that others feel sad as their children fly the nest. That this is a normal phase to life.. and having that sense of isolation eased, or the feeling that "I must be the only one on the planet" abolished, has always been useful to me. Reading and knowing about other womens experiences, and seeing how global they are is a huge contribution to my mental stability, lol.

  18. I often think about the meaning of blog writing too. Someone once told me these wise words that I think of often... that we never really know the impact we are having on another's world by the things we say or do. It might be in just the smallest of ways, but I think it's kind of a nice way to think about blogs. I know for a fact that I always come away from your posts with a lighter heart, or at least having learned something I didn't know.

    As for this being the sepia part of life, I'm very nearly with you there, girlfriend. Elderly parents and children beyond the age of needing to be parented... these transitions aren't easy. I can hear my mother-in-law saying that we each have to make our own happiness; no one else can do it for us.

  19. Boy, you've really hit several topics here Isabelle! I can't tell you how many times I've wished I'd had a blog when the kids were small. I tried a few times to keep journals of what they were doing, but they were largely unsuccessful. The fact that we can add pictures to blogs, makes that journaling so much more interesting to me -- I'm sure if I'd had a blog back then, I would have been successful at documenting their young lives.

    I'm hoping your sepia patch is short lived. I'm guessing that one day, when you grandchildren arrive, the joy and color will come back with them.

    And lastly, I've often wondered about the purpose of my blog too. I receive so much quilting/sewing/knitting inspiration on the internet, that a large part of my blog is show and tell in an attempt to do my part. I love the family documenting aspect too, although for me, there's a fine line in knowing how much is too much to put out "there". Not that I think anyone cares, but I do worry that someone might find me that I don't want to find me!

  20. I think I have been a follower of your blog since your early days. I still enjoy your posts.
    I too blog mainly for my own satisfaction, but it is so lovely to have people comment, and either agree or disagree.
    I know you would love, a/several grandchild/children, and being mindful of this, I endeavour to appreciate both my grandchildren all the more.

  21. I read your blog regularly. I don't think I am a "lurker" -- I am a reader. I don't comment very often. I would miss your thoughts if you stopped blogging.

  22. Wow - you've got everyone coming out of the woodwork haven't you??!

    Your thoughts about how you're going to make yourself happy at this stage of life were really interesting to me for a slightly different reason. It doesn't look as though I'm going to have kids now (never say never and all that, but probably not). So I have to reconcile my long held but unthinking assumptions about the purpose and future of my life in much the same way.

    It's interesting if nothing else!

    And the blogging is part of it. I'm not very cerebral so I think I would hardly ever sit and mull or clarify unless I forced myself to do so for the blog once in a while.

    I bet this sepia phase is just that, a phase - your life doesn't sound very sepia to me!

    Lesley x

  23. I was about to ruin the gentle and thoughtful nature of your post and the comments by suggesting a pub crawl to pep up the sepia. But I won't. I too blog to provide a reminder of my family and their doings - my memory is such that I would have no chance of recalling FB and SB's bon mots if I didn't write them somewhere I can't lose them. But I would be lying if I said I didn't like the conversation part just as much - meeting wonderful, interesting and defiantly non-sepia people like yourself (both online and IRL) make it well worthwhile.

  24. It's midnight and I don't seem to be able to come up with a reasonably intelligent thought, but I am giggling at Loth's suggestion of a pub crawl :)
    You sound tired, Isabelle. Are you getting enough sleep? I am more easily discouraged when I'm tired.
    (I'll be tired tomorrow!).
    Isn't retirement looming on the horizon for you? Perhaps you're just exhausted from constantly keeping time schedules and marking papers, and are well and truly ready to relax and have more time to do the things that you find interesting and satisfying.
    Is Mr. Life retired? I much prefer to be home with my retired hubby these days than off subbing, as much as I enjoy the children.
    Mine is a garden blog and I've learned so much from other gardeners and enjoyed their gardens immensely, but the most joyful aspect of blogging for me is communicating with interesting, like-minded you, dear Isabelle.
    You cause me to think and you make me smile....a lot! I find your life anything but sepia coloured.
    Happy spring! May you feel that life is brighter soon.
    See how much conversation you generated with this post?

  25. I'm sure everyone's life fades into sepia from time to time, and then with a swift kick to the telly, suddenly it's back into lurid technicolour! I'm sure your metaphoric kick is just around the corner.

    I also like to keep my blog as a record of things I know I would forget if I didn't capture them and write them down. I used to have scattered notes kept in various journals but the blog keeps it all together so much more neatly!

  26. Hi Isabelle,
    I'm delurking to say I love reading your blog and am so happy my mother, (Kerri at Colors of the Garden,) introduced me to it. I'm sorry you're a bit sepia at the moment and I hope you burst into color soon. Our school season ends soon- will you get some time off to relax soon? Sometimes the best way to deal with emotion is just to sit there and feel it. Isn't that a happy thought? I know that I've done this a few times and tend to come out the other side faster. Looking forward to your next installment. (ps-mum says you tried to comment on my blog, but I haven't used it in awhile. I'm back in school and have been too busy. Graduating in May though! Looking forward to blogging again.)

  27. I just used my blog archives to find when I was officially hired at a job in 2002.

    Sorry the empty nest is weighing on you. I second the vote for reading some philosophy, Buddhist pholosophy in particular had been really good in helping me with "is that all there is?" type difficulties. Though you know I'm just a baby, I have also been very sad at times.

  28. I think another reason you blog is that you enjoy the craft of writing. I know I do. Creative writing is fun.

    Regarding de-lurking, I know a couple times I've been following a blog, then finally make a comment only to see the blog made private or taken down altogether. Some people are not comfortable receiving comments from strangers, I think. So unless I know that a blogger is cool with receiving comments, I just lurk.

  29. I started out writing my blog as a "vent", just for me, but as I've slowly gathered regular readers, I find that it's turned into something that's more like letters to my friends. Still about me, but written more with readers in mind. Sometimes I find that if I'm in a vicious bad mood, I won't post, to spare my blogiverse friends. Or I turn it into a humorous black rant. Which means the blog is not exactly what I thought it would be, but I think the value that my blog friends add to my life is worth the sacrifice of not using my blog as a garbage dump.

    As for your sepia phase... everyone has them, and the point of having them is to make you realize the contrast when things go full color again.

    Want to bump things up a notch? Do something daring - and secret! Not necessarily naughty, but something no one would have guessed you'd do. Keep it secret until you find out whether it worked or didn't work for you. Then blog about it. Having a delicious secret will make the colors come alive again.

    - M

  30. I don't see much point in reading without commenting, except accasionally when I'm curious about a blog but haven't introduced myself, and decide I don't want to. It just seems like frittering to drift about the internet like that without making contact. But I know there must be people reading who aren't commenting at mine, and I don't really mind that, they just aren't real like the commenters are, and I don't do stats so I've no idea about them at all.

    It is interesting and useful to know what was going on a t a given time, isn't it. I can pin things down which memory lets me down about much more easily with the blogs as reference.

    I'm sorry your life seems sadder. Perhaps even chronicling this is useful and helpful. You know it wasn't always so, and it will surely change again.

    I know I'd probably do more in some ways without this blogging thing, but I think it seems to make life more complete, makes me look at things differently.

    I love your blog, though I don't come as often as I'd like. You write in an unassuming sort of way that belies the depth and sharpness and thoughtfulness behind it. And you're a lovely, generous blogging friend to so many people.