Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aspirational Blogging: on Authenticity, Artifice and Studio Toots


I feel compelled before I begin writing this to pause and collect my points
because this post won't be popular to some

because it asks something of its intended readers

that we all don't necessarily want to do.

Gentle reader, this post is not a take-down of the pretty girl
nor is it a condemning of the artful photograph.
It will neither celebrate nor denigrate the mathematical equation of realness to beauty divided by grim reality and narcissism.

This post is a challenge to the dark parts of us that cringe at the false cheerful portraits we see and yet continue to click on a blog or website we despise
to the part that sinks when we see someone else's success 
or crows when a mighty egotist fails

This post
is a tough pill to swallow if you were hoping I'd throw in some slightly veiled barbs at women you may not like
or who have hurt you, me or us.

That won't happen in this space today or ever: 
I have too much love in my heart to dabble in immaturity and too big a realization that this heart only has so many beats before I'll be dead,
before this magnificent life will burn out and whip me back into the Mystery.

There will be no elbow-nudging you with my clever cruelty like, "Eh?Eh? See whatididthere, yeah?"


this post is a request that you 




Figuratively speaking.

(In writing 'you' I am also addressing myself, lest this come across as preaching from a mountain top of personal power and awesomeness.)

I have thought about this subject for so long and hard my brain has muscles
and the conclusion I've arrived at is that the power to choose joy or aggravation is within our grasp and merely requires that we demand self-reliance and strength.

It's too easy to choose the evil twin: we look at a beautiful blog and we feel slovenly there in our sweatpants and bedhead, the cellulite clinging to our haunches miraculously missing from the tawny thigh of glimmering self-portraits that celebrate the miracle in everyday living.
I understand: 
that's tough to handle even for the confident
even when the sweatpants are cocktail dresses or business casual
even when our everyday looks pretty passable:

a good day pales in comparison to his there in the Brooklyn Coffee Shop, bokeh from a good lens shot behind his thick perfectly fashionable vintage eyeglasses

or hers vaulting across a dappled meadow with three wild-haired kids and a smile that rivals the sun...

but dear friend,
no one's life looks like they look online.
They're human
just like you and me
and the reason that they blog in the first place runs the gamut of infinite possibility
from the greatest pain to the most overwhelming joy.

They fart in their studios
wake with bad breath
cry ugly
yearn for things unmet
fold laundry
wrestle with demons and lose

There are no rules
and that kinda pokes at our sense of justice, doesn't it?
Can't we all be a part of something honest and without artifice?

Not everyone can be honest.

So here's what I propose for all of us who have ached with a sense of missing some big announcement on How to Live According to Curation -

Use that sense of deflation to pinpoint what you most wish to change.

If all you want to do is find someone company for your misery you can stop reading here: the rest is for those who want to take a juicy bite out of life in all its bitter and sweet.

Your heart aches at the scenery of her country living?
Gas up the car and get out of the city.
You look at her perfect coif and tuck a frazzled end behind your ear like you have since the last subpar haircut you got?
Get online and research salons in your area: search Yelp for reviews and get your hair done.
Take that course
plan that party

The thing that pokes us may be the very thing we feel is missing from our lives: going and doing something about it empowers the observation and gives rise to our own adventures or the investment in a torch or pottery wheel or horse.
Read up on how to maximize your point-and-click to get some great pictures
plant a tiny garden
get out that dusty paint set...

Use the twinge!

An ignored stomach twist can grow into a green-eyed monster quicker than you would imagine
but if your twinges lead you toward the unfulfilled in order for you to fulfill them, what a gift!

What a gift!!

The other option that applies to that feeling we've all gotten that this perfect scene has a snake coiled around the rafters
or that the noble words of self-bravery are a dig at someone else's expense
is to simply stop reading.
Stop going to that website
unless you like to feel uncomfortable.

The careful curation of a life has nothing to do with you, other than that you read it and appreciate it or simply pass on by to find other material.

I find that personally
there was nothing like pushing a human being out of my body and into the world
(with all of birth's pain, glory, blood and strength)
that quelled the desire to read pretty things with little depth.
I currently favor cooking blogs
because they help me feed my family and I love to hear the stories behind a dish.

Sometimes sweet streudel has a surprising origin
and chicken soup contains the power to heal a marriage as well as the common cold.

I love the blogs of friends
of fellow designers
and florists
and motorcycle mechanics
of seekers
and humorists

but I run like Hell when I catch a twee tone emanating from syrupy words;
someone writing about how to have a good marriage must be honest and grounded for me to keep reading and coming back.
I like problem-solvers.

Everyone has their tastes (I am writing on an empty stomach, can you tell?)
mine have grown grittier and simpler as the babe gets big
as I age
as my Bullshit meter gets crazy-accurate and fine-tuned...

If these words sound harsh it must just be that I am tired and ragged at the edges
but they are filled with so much love, I hope you can feel that.

I want you to see that there are ways to approach this genre of writing and reading that help you hone your energetic instincts and honor your time and interests:
blogs are awesome and often chock full of useful tidbits and community
in ways that uplift and inspire.

Don't waste any time being upset about how another person is managing their work and expression:
go out into this big bold world and experience 
it fully -

who knows what your shared experiences will gift another in frustration
or appreciation.

With Love,


Libellula Jewelry said...

You are a wise woman. :)

VisionQuest said...

my bullshit meter is set on LOW tolerance and.. I .. fart in my studio.
Yeah for being human!

Allisunny S. said...

Not at all ! I just struggled for so long before I realized it was all about the lens of our perception. Eureka!!

Jaime said...

Oh Sunny, you had me at "Studio Toots".
Seriously, Amen sister.
I am no innocent, I have envied others seemingly perfect lives in the past, and it is a funny thing, the more you focus on what others put out there, the less you love your own life, little by little. That is the thing about wasting time envious of what others put out into the universe - you take something away from yourself each time.
Imagine how we would all be if we took those few moments of focus on how amazing someone else's existence is and instead use them to focus on our own damn lives. People only get on pedestals when we place them there. If you can't read some beautiful poetic beauty's blog without feeling threatened/insecure/hijacked by the green eyed monster, then don't read it. Instead perhaps reflect on yourself about the process of owning one's own shit, and why that might be just a bit more important.

Personally, I feel it is a whole new level of lightness to think of others as mere humans, just as I ;-)

Allisunny S. said...

;) I also sometimes dance passionately to Skrillex and knock things over in the process. Xo

Anonymous said...

Yes, to all of it! When Blogger isn't mysteriously deleting my entire reading list (!) I have to admit I sort of view reading some blogs as a way to check off items on my bucket list.... You scaled that mountain with two broken legs? Phew. Now I don't have to. You wrestled that great white shark...and with only ONE arm? Duuude. Check. You make your clothes from woven grass clippings and tree bark? Right on sister. I'd totally rock that peasant top, too. Check. Check. You rode those grade-5 rapids on a log? With only twigs as paddles?? My polypropylened hero. Check. Check. CHECK! The best part: I manage ALL this with two feet of bed hair smothering me (you know all those Yeti sightings in the PNW you hear about...?), crappy fake coffee because of my 'delicate' constitution, and ratty pilled yoga pants that have never quite progressed past (seated) mountain pose!

At this rate I'll have checked off the top 100 items on my bucket list by noon tomorrow! Woo-hoo! =)

Allisunny S. said...

Envy totally chips away at the preciousness of our own experience - spot on my dear doe-eyed Canadian woman!!! Xoxo

Allisunny S. said...

I think my laughter just woke my husband - you are brilliant, Ash!!!xoxo

Sybil Ann said...

The ONLY way to be relatable is to be true.

But you know that.

It opens up the possibility of great art. It's the ONLY way.

I block "Fauxs" on Facebook and do not seek them elsewhere.

And I pity anyone who needs to present their life as "perfect" because they are caught in a struggle they'll never win.

Amy Nicole said...

Thank you once again for your eloquence with words in tackling a topic that has puzzled me from my beginning blogger days. It didn't take me long to figure out that some online images were very carefully curated. There was a time when I thought I too must curate this seemingly perfect existence, or why even bother? I am always drawn to down to earth people, real people. I am not attracted at all by affected airs, and I almost just as quickly realized that I just couldn't do it. Real life is ugly sometimes. I have a tendency to not always share the ugly (I was raised not to air your dirty laundry) but I do always try to be real. This post did connect with me on so many levels. I am luckily hardly ever plagued by envy. I've always approached some of these perfectly curated images with a sense of wonderment and curiosity. Wondering what was really real and what was not. I guess that's why I love to read this space so much, you always keep it real. Beautifully real by being your authentic self.

Katherine Willis Pershey said...

Yes. To all of it.

Lindsay Attaway said...

If you haven't found her yet, http://notwithoutsalt.com/ is a wonderful cooking blog. No BS to be found there. Just good honest words and delicious cooking.

Marcie Abney Carroll said...

My mom used to say "Yeah...and even Jimmy Carter takes a dump." I seriously had no clue what she was talking about until I decided to ask her one day. Turns out she and my dad worked the coat rack at one of his inaugural events. She said it was totally uneventful until the Secret Service went shuffling by with Jimmy in the middle. They were headed straight to the bathroom beside the coat rack. She said she looked at my dad who shrugged his shoulders, "Even Jimmy Carter takes a dump."

Lizzie Derksen said...

Well said. I wrote you a couple of lists, in solidarity.

Sukascot said...

You nailed it.
Jeppers, I love you.
Even though I'm too long a stranger.
Or maybe especially so, because tides take me elsewhere a while and I grin to see you are still YOU.

Valerie Brown said...

Well said.

bonddi said...

Comparison is the death of joy. Somebody said that but not loud enough. It is all perception -- but the hard part is catching that little negative voice in action and choosing to think the in the way that fills you with peace. Still working on that part.

Lisa said...

I am so glad you posted this. I always have to remind myself that these blogs are just tiny glimpses of a life. It's so easy to forget that these people also have dogs that poop on the floor, or children that throw insane temper tantrums, or mountains of dirty laundry, or a sink full of dirty dishes, etc. Thank you so much for this reality check, I've needed it lately.

Hollie said...

This is by far one of my favorite posts. So much truth, and "studio toots", is one of the best combination of words. Preach your truth sista, we definitely all agree! I would much rather read about everyones struggles, than be constantly comparing myself to someone who seems to have it all together and be able to do it all. I have taken a lot of blogs that I used to read religiously off my daily list, because even though it is beautiful and lovely, it also has a slight smell of bullshit. I say give me the dirt and grime along with the beauty, isn't that what life really is anyway?

Corinna said...

You are magnificent!!

pencilfox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Allisunny S. said...

Damn, I have some fierce and awesome readers and friends here. Thank you for writing!!! Xoxo

Carlene said...

Awesome post! I'm kinda speechless after reading this. So all I can say is WOW, you hit it right on the head, and you are the most authentic person I know. And if we lived in the same state, I'd come over and give you a hug :)

thewindhover said...

I must comment, I must, and say I am so glad you said all you did. I struggle with the exact same thoughts and concerns and failures and measuring up, or not. I try to own my shit, still in an emily-way, but I want to do it more often and damn its hard. I think the breaking point for me was when one dear friend (and reader) wrote in a letter "you make motherhood look so effortless" or something to that effect and I never wanted that, actually being a muma to my boy takes every once of me and more... more on this soon. but so much love to you courageous friend xx

Sierra Keylin said...

YOU.ARE.AWESOME...Thank goodness for the clarity of age and the accuracy of Bullshit Meters.

"Envy totally chips away at the preciousness of our own experience"...Brilliance at its best. I am so guilty of this and have been trying to keep that shit in check, it's no good for my soul. After reading this I am newly inspired to BE ME!!!! It's really just as simple as that.

Kelly Z.. said...

No words have been more true...an honestly wonderful post Sunny.

Natalia said...

Ohh I loveee this post, and every single comment.

Once with two friends, we were discussing a blog, and then as usual the row of questions and self doubt came, " Is this how you have to do it? Is this what people want to read?","My life is not interesting enough","I don't really like taking photos of myself"

And I felt awful and I busted into rambling about how each of our lives have something so remarkable,we are each so different and have so many stories etc...

If your blog is YOUR blog, frustrations, good and bad days,everything goes, but some people use their blog to create a picture perfect world, that other people want to be a part of, full marketing, the point is to sell, so it should never ever make us feel bad, I say we take it for what it is.

I am off to share this amazing post, and thank youuuuu! :)

Abbystreasures said...

50 years ago this month I started college. At the first gathering of freshmen, our dean gave us a lecture on being inner directed and self motivating, and not worrying about what others think. It was up to US to decide what we would get out of college and how successful we would be. It made a huge impression on me, and throughout my life, have tried to listen to my inner voice.

Wonderful blog, thank you for sharing!

gallerydarrow said...

Oh boy Right on target sister! I barely look at blogs anymore for the aforementioned reasons.

Hey I'm old, I don't fit into any of them anyway, I can no longer be adorable, I can tell adorable is a big selling tool though.

I like being me and I like that you like being you too.

xo Ro

genie marie said...

Girl...you always get me thinking.

Cat said...

and this is why I love you!

so beautiful put
straight form your heart

what more needs to be said????

love and light

dailycoyote said...

Oh Sunny, if you start a flickr group called "The Uncurated Life", I will submit a photo of my shower full of dishes (I don't have a kitchen sink - two strikes! :)

Gorgeous post, gorgeous you ~

UmberDove said...

A-fucking-men sister.

I'm glad you wrote this, I'm glad I know you, I'm glad I know poop incidents sometimes happen on white sheets.

Also, you had me at "or a horse." I guffawed with such a bellow that BC called out from the opposite end of the house to check in.

Kelly Reece said...

I'm afraid my response may not be as agreeable as others.

I too used to literally get "annoyed" by some posts, some pictures, some words... "What does she do all day, take pictures of herself?!" Frustration and pure annoyance, followed by hypocrisy and copycatting. Oh yes! I was guilty of trying to recreate what I too thought was beautiful. As humans, it's hard not to imitate what we find to be beautiful.

But as I aged, I was able to appreciate their seemingly picture perfect lives because of a simple fact... this is how they want to view their own life. I sincerely doubt bloggers are going out of their way to create envy in others. Sincerely. If they were so concerned with how others viewed their blog, then they too would be copycatting those they envied, not innovating their lives, attempting to grow through their work and pictures. Aspiring further and further to attain that which they themselves see no end to.

It's an appreciation of their progression through life. I agree with Amy Nicole, not to "air your dirty laundry". Bits and pieces of doubt and vulnerability are visible if your mind isn't distorted by jealousy.

Allisunny S. said...

I am confused: your response is exactly what I meant by writing this whole post - that how someone presents themself to the world is their business and comes from a myriad of sources from joyful down to fearful. That our response is our responsibility: the event of their writing and sharing is a neutral thing until we view it through the lens of our own lives.
How are we differing here in our views?

Naomi Mimi said...

One of the plethora of lessons I learned over the last two years on the road reminds me of the Velveteen Rabbit.

It's when you are shabby, worn out, wearing your insides on the out, that you become REAL.

The messy gypsy hippie community that took me in, grieving and puking my pain on anyone who would listen, cut me down to reality and showed me in so many brilliant colors of grace what love and life is really all about.

Amen to the farts, the shit, the snot, the tears. Amen to the heartwrenching imperfection of daily life. Amen to embracing that lens of thanksgiving and "returning to the wisdom of the sage" as the IChing reminds us so often to do.

We are all loved. We are all linked. It's pretty fucking awesome ^_^


mairedodd said...

well written, beautifully written and oh-so-wise, a -
for me to say more would only serve to detract-
well done

Appaloosa*Moon said...

Gentle writer,
What I write here is nothing new or that you haven't heard before, but I couldn't resist a thought or two... or a bit of preaching! Xo

Is the glass half full or half empty?

I support your encouragement! It's paramount to healthy living that we empower ourselves to do whatever it takes to make the necessary changes to feel good...about ourselves & our lifestyles. A healthy head & heart thrives in a positive, supportive, caring & loving environment. As in every part of your life, it's imperative to steer clear of ANYthing (blog/website included) you despise! It is extremely TOXIC & damaging. Aside from being just plain evil, the jealousy created that is stirred up is just plain ugly!

Be selective. Be Smart. Be Strong. And don't settle for less, you know what is honest, real & right for you! Nurture your heart with inspiring things to help you grow! Feed your soul with positive energy so that you may put the same back into the universe.

I have a limited amount of time on this planet, why waste any of it on something or someone that I despise? So I don't. I remain true to the people & things that inspire, educate & support me. Cuz, quite frankly that guy in the Brooklyn Cafe wearing the vintage glasses w/bokeh all around...ain't interested in me!
that meadow leaping momma, with the wild blonde haired babes & a smile as bright as the sun...doesn't care a whoop about me...so what good is it?

Keep Centered, Inspired & Supportive
Carry On!

Cathy said...

Sometimes I find writing, such as yours, across the interwebular space at *just* the right moments in time. I've found this whole idea of envy, whether of blogs in the interwebular space or in person, to be just as you said it is - a small tumor we carry around with us, drawing all of our good energy away as we focus on what we are "not" in comparison to another rather than celebrating that which we are or satisfying whatever ache it is we have.

I see blogs as simply a curated space, much like my living room or my bedroom, my studio or any other space I maintain. Of course it's going to look just as I want it to - and that's the point. But for every beautiful snapshot, I realize there is heartache, sadness, jealousy, turmoil, dissatisfaction in all of us. I don't begrudge what others don't want to share and allow to float about in the ever expanding reaches of the internet - that's their business, not mine.

I cannot say with honesty that I have not felt diminished in some way, next to someone I felt was "prettier" or "smarter", "more witty" or "talented" than I. I think it's natural to feel heavily the presence of things we see in others that we may feel we lack in ourselves. But as I grow older, just as you, I try not to carry them around like tumors, their jealousy eating away at me, but rather I attempt to celebrate that which makes ME the best I can be and to fill the voids or ask myself what it is that I'm really searching for.

To be honest, I sometimes feel sorry for those I know who think they must paint a perfect picture to be considered worthy of their family's love or their friend's respect. How tired they must be, maintaining this facade. I hope they will find peace one day and realize that being imperfect is always enough.

Candace Morris said...

After several days (and obviously myriad of comments), I want you to know I've been thinking about this...you and others I know have such a different beast when it comes to blogging and your online presence. You are business owners, selling a product - which, as selling art would have it - means (according to Kelly, who recently informed me of this very thing) you have to have a relationship with your readers. This means, for whatever it's worth, that you have to sell a lifestyle. It wasn't until I began to meet some of my bloggy friends that I realized how different people are than their online persona. I used to judge them for this. But then I realized that they aren't necessarily being disingenuous, they are just exposing one side of one elbow. And that's their choice. We don't have to give everything to everyone who asks.

I think I've always had an element of being a bit misunderstood because I find great expressive freedom in words, and then people meet me and I am a bit quiet, sometimes aloof, often flat affect.

Another quick point, I like that you carefully noted that the blogger isn't at fault for selling a life not entirely real. It is indeed the job of any reader to use their perspective and extend grace and wisdom. Many people are not who they say they are, why would their online presence be any different? And why SHOULD it be? I like that you said to take the ping of jealous and note that it's probably the exact place you need to address. More exercise if you see such skinnies all over the blogs.

Just thoughts, just wanted you to know your words lingered with me this week.

EmeliaRo said...

Well said sister :)