Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Come Ride the Merry-Go-Round...

So what is today…January 10? The time has really flown since Christmas, hasn’t it?

Disassembling Christmas went so much more easily this year than in the past five. Though taking down the big tree in the living room was a four-hour marathon, the rest of the holiday has been peeled down and stowed away with a fair measure of order and logic. It’s possible I might be able to corral all my Christmas boxes in one area of the garage this year, instead of stowing them in any available nook or cranny from the shed to the office to the nasty crawl space under the stairs. Goodwill will benefit from a couple more boxes of pretty nice stuff that has had its day but needs to move on to another stage.

I have to admit, I feel a little under-challenged—what with putting up and taking down holiday decorations being Job One in my life for the past couple of months. On the other hand, it strikes me that I should take this opportunity to thoroughly enjoy being under-challenged, given the perpetual—and irresolvable—challenge I strapped to my back every day for five years. Counting on my fingers yesterday afternoon, I was shocked to realize it has been eight months, almost to the day, since we closed the doors of the Old Town Café. Has it really been that long? If I take a moment to examine where I am now, versus where I was eight months ago, I understand that I have come a long way—emotionally, physically and spiritually. But I also realize that my experience with restaurant ownership will leave some permanent…well, “damage” is too negative. Let’s just call it “baggage.”

I’d like to say that I have a list of things I’m going to work on in this new year. Hell flippin’ no…there is no such thing. One piece of baggage that seems to be sticking pretty close to my hip is my complete aversion to “to-do” lists. In fact, my self-discipline is in shambles. I have little appetite for making myself do anything. I find I have to set a stage and nudge myself in a direction, rather than come up with a plan complete with bullet points and a deadline. For instance, I’ve brought the treadmill in from the garage, along with all my hand weights and other fitness paraphernalia. It’s sitting right in the corner of the family room where I can see it and use it on a whim. And I’ve stocked the house with food that will give me energy and NOT add to the extra baggage. This way, I should be able to improve my general physical shape sans the Diet To-Do list. This is my current recipe for achievement. I set myself up for success, rather than formulate a concrete plan from which I am guaranteed to run away screaming. Funny how I have to trick myself into forward momentum; but if that’s what works right now, I’m not too proud to do it.

I speak of my lack of self-discipline as if it’s a benign case of the “fuck-its.” And for the most part, it is…but it has affected me in some not-so-benign ways. For example, my writing has suffered a big hit. There was a time, while the dust of the café was still settling, when I thought I was looking at the perfect opportunity to go for it when it came to the thing I’ve always loved to do best—writing. Real, intense, professional writing takes a monstrous dose of self-discipline. Exactly the thing I am currently most lacking. It figures, doesn’t it?
I mean, at the very least, all the time I have on my hands should have manifested itself into some deep and prolific blogging, right? Not so much…obviously.

Some time ago I mentioned that owning a (failing) business had had a deleterious effect on my blogging. I compared the number of posts on “Coming to Terms” during 2009 and 2010 to the years before. I had dwindled down to 42 posts in each of those two years. About a third of what I considered a “healthy” blogging number (not sure where I got that figure, but let’s just go with it.) On June 1 of last year, I looked at the number of posts I had so far for 2011, and saw I had 35. Not great…but certainly better than the previous two years. Now that I was “free,” I took a close look at the goal of 120 posts by the end of the year (that gave me seven months to come up with 85 posts.) I realized that might be pushing it a bit, but surely I could make it to 100!

I also noticed that I had over 900 all-time posts by that time; 928, to be precise. That was when the 1000-post carrot materialized in my half-numb mind. So close! Why, I only needed 72 entries by the end of the year to make it to 1000! Wouldn’t it be great if I could post my 1000th page on New Year’s Eve? Or even New Year’s Day, 2012? I was stoked…or as stoked as I could be in the condition I was in by the end of last May. And, as it turned out, I was seriously delusional. I ended the year with 87 posts. Way short of any goal, real or imagined.

To be fair, my loss of self-discipline hasn’t been the only contributor to my inability to turn my semi-retirement into a blogging extravaganza. A closer look at past years when I regularly published ten to twenty blog entries per month shows that many of those were just pictures, or memes, or other junk pursuant to the AOL journal community. Facebook has taken the place of blogging for purposes of community fluff; and rightly so. I put the good stuff…the real stuff…the creative stuff here. The writing that comes from my head, through my heart and out my keyboard. Perhaps it is asking too much to come up with ten meaningful essays a month. Especially since nothing NEW is going on in my life right now, and I’m pretty sure no one is interested in coming by here to watch me beat dead horses.

But that’s a problem, too: The part about no one coming by. At the apex of my blogging experience, I had, and very much appreciated, maybe a couple dozen regular readers. Many of those had become friends—people I would not have known had it not been for this medium. They meant the world to me. I could have happily continued using my blog as a pen-pal post office box, as well as an outlet for my attempts at more meaningful writing.

But life is about change, isn’t it? Especially life based upon 21st century technology. I don’t like to think of myself as a relic, but it all seems to move just a hair too fast for me to keep up. Ten years ago, folks facing social challenges for a variety of reasons were naturally attracted to a place where one could put one’s thoughts out there and attract the notice of others…others like themselves, ideally. The attraction for me was not necessarily the community, it was the communication. The opportunity to get my thoughts out of my head and put them out there for someone—anyone—else to see. I was instantly addicted to the readership and the communication; the community, as I have often said, came as a side benefit.

Less than five years later, we were spat out of our little place of post and giggle, give and take, challenge and comfort; out into the big, impersonal internet-at-large. While we were paddling around, trying to figure out where we were going to go with our little group, along came Facebook. The end of the community blogging experience as we knew it.

Actually, I take nothing away from Facebook. It has been the perfect place for much of the community to land. For many of those folks, it was not as much about the writing as it was about the socializing. What better place for them to end up than on “Social Media?” Truly, some forward-thinking souls identified that market and came up with the exact thing to fit the bill. My hat is off to them. But the advent of Facebook has altered my blogging experience to the point where...I’m really trying to figure out what my focus IS, anymore.

I consider myself a writer. As my readers and friends have trickled away to social media, I have steadfastly maintained that, no matter what, I will write. And I will continue to write HERE, because there is no reason not to. But I have found this: Writing to little or no audience is extremely difficult. Interspersed with the memes and the fluff in the Good Old Days, I posted some pretty impressive essays. Some of the best I have ever written. People came by, agreed or disagreed, commented in some way. It was an unbelievable high for me, to know that after decades of scribbling letters to myself I was finally COMMUNICATING. Other people were reading and appreciating what I had to say. Many of my best essays started with an idea and the breathless zeal to share that thought with my readers…my friends.

Those days are SO gone. Yes…I have a few faithful friends who come and read whenever I post. And I do appreciate you; don’t think I don’t. But it isn’t the same, is it? People read…but they don’t comment. Certainly it’s possible that my writing has deteriorated to the point where it isn’t interesting enough to inspire comment. I think that’s probably true. If that is the case, I also think it’s probably true that my writing has suffered for lack of comments. When I DO get an idea, it’s more a case, now, of sitting down and making myself write. The kind of process which, in my current condition, is more likely to send me backing away, making the sign of the cross, than buckling down and producing a worthwhile piece of writing.

This is, what, my umpteenth treatise on the positives and negatives of blogging? I’ve been doing this for more than eight years, and I can’t get through more than a couple of months without being inspired to fire off one of these. I suppose that speaks to the relative success of my blogging experience. A normal person would have demanded more satisfaction out of the medium by now…absent that, she would have been long gone. But I continue to hang in; I’m not even sure why, anymore. It’s kind of like walking the halls of an empty school. The memories are pleasant…but the actual experience is pretty lonely.

And talk about lack of self-discipline! This post was intended to be Confessions of a Yule-a-holic…and look where it went! Seems you can’t always mask what’s most on your mind…


  1. I read every word you write. However I am a horrible writer, what is in my head does not come out on the page. I have no pithy comments, I get no deep meaning from things, I just know what and who I like you read, and I always look forward to seeing you on my google reader. So please keep it up. Thanks Sue

  2. Well, I for one am on Facebook to keep up with what the heck is going on. i found out my nephew was engaged after my daughter read it and called me. I keep up with what the hell is going on with my re-found (is that a word?) college buddies. Man I look forward to those gatherings. But for sharing of ideas and experiences, challenges etc....FB is not for me. i can not come up anything! I am trying to fire us my blog again. I find I am looking forward to writing and it is beginning to flow a little better. But I agree, without comments it is just not the same. Sorry I have not commented more, but I have just only begun to immerse back into the blogging world. It's still there, just different.

  3. I can never figure out how to leave a comment. I will try one last time. (url? google account? I don't have those or know what those are) I don't comment because I offend people IN PERSON -- much less on a blog. I have very strong opinions and share them openly and have no filter and that equals... people... offended. I enjoy reading your blog and it is a therapy for you too, to write all this shit down that has happened so keep writing. I laugh, cry, think about things, but I don't like to comment. Who asked MY opinion anyway you are just writing to write your feelings out.