Being Everyone

A friend came up to me at a party. “So I’ve finally started reading your blog and now I totally feel like shit!” she joked.

What my friend was really saying is that when she reads about No Spend Month, and keeping the garden, and cooking from scratch, she feels like maybe she should be doing that stuff too. Never mind that she single-handedly coordinates all the volunteer and fundraising activities for her son’s school, keeps chickens, always makes time for her friends (I barely talk to my best friends) and is raising a wonderful family. Somehow she came away feeling like her own life’s fullness wasn’t enough.

First, let me be clear: the point of this blog is never, ever to make someone feel like they aren’t doing enough or need to be keeping up with me – or anyone else – in the garden or elsewhere. If you kick around here for awhile and get inspired to go grow a kale plant (or, hell, just try cooking kale for the first time) I’m thrilled. Really. If that’s as far as it goes for you, I’m still thrilled. My thing doesn’t need to be everyone’s thing.

That said, I kinda get it. This virtual blog world is great. You get to see what other people are doing, find a community of like-minded folks, and swap tips and ideas and inspiration. But it is so easy to see other people’s thing and want to emulate their passion and pretty, close-up-photography-documented successes.

I want to be plastic-free like Plastic Free Life, I want to be a wealth of green knowledge and action like Crunchy Chicken, I want a berry patch like Martha Freaking Stewart (and the help to maintain it), I want to simplify my world like ZenHabits, I want to have exciting and educational activities planned for my children like Simple Homeschool, I want to have my financial house in order like Get Rich Slowly, I want to be prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse like Survival Mom, I think I’d like to write a book like Kelly Coyne or Erik Knutzen or Novella Carpenter or Harriet Fasenfest, and I definitely want the body I had pre-second-baby back (and I’d like it back, now, please, without the year of solid work it’ll take to reclaim it).

If only keeping those abs didn’t take 3 hours a day I might still have them.
In the course of a 20 minute blog-stroll I might find a half-dozen virtual lives I want to live. It’s easy to stare at the peaceful tone-on-white web design of ZenHabits, to read about releasing my expectations and finding peace by accepting things as they are, and start to kind of resent the way things really are: messy, disrupted, far-from-Zen.
Three times a day, stained clothes and a food-covered baby and a 25-square-foot landing zone of yogurt and oatmeal and half-gnawed carrots and chicken wings all over the floor marks meal time at my house. Three or four times a day I wipe, hose-off, toss, tidy and sweep, just to get a tablespoon of food into my little guy. Feeding my 10 month old is a 4-hour-a-day job (7 hours a day if you include nursing).
In a quiet moment, I step away and look at these mom blogs, full of family pictures of 5 or 6 smiling scrubbed little siblings, all about 13 months apart and lined up politely on an homeschool educational field trip and I wonder how the mom to that brood does it. What trick does she know, what discipline method does she use, what pill does she take?
Looking at those shiny Brady Bunch pictures, the dark nagging voice of self-doubt can creep in: Is it just me? Am I the only mom who has refused to sweep the floor 3 times in 30 minutes and has just allowed her crawler to eat whatever happens to be on the floor? Am I the only mom who has said, “oh, fuck it,” and opted to work with gravity and just feed the kid on the floor, like he’s a dog? Am I the only mom who has ever felt she deserved an honorary PhD for the genius move of feeding her kid in the bath, thereby killing two birds with one stone?
To save my sanity, I must believe that those other sites are doing exactly what I do most of the time: posting up the pretty, avoiding the awkward, mostly skipping over the total failures. Here on NW Edible, I do not put up recipes for the “here, kid, have a hot dog” dinners. I do not as a rule take close-up, tight-focus pictures of the weed infestations threatening to overtake certain parts of my garden. But those dinners do happen, and those weeds are there.
When I see those other life snapshots in those other shiny blogs, it’s like going shopping in an exclusive boutique. I like to finger the cloth of all those other lives, I like to appreciate the craftsmanship that made them. I like to see all the variety of design and pattern, and I might even find a few things worth trying on in my own life. Once in a very great while, I might take something home and find room for it permanently. But mostly, after I look, I happily slip back into my dirty comfortable yoga pants and my Muck boots and my messy floor and I tromp out the the garden to take pictures of my own pretty.
We cannot be everybody. And we sure can’t be what everybody looks like while pushing their thing on their blog. Our lives are full and complex and complete in part because of the messes and the weeds and the not-quite-right bits. It’s fun to vacation in the shiny but who really lives there?

Comments

  1. Jesus Christ Erica! Sorry, didn't read the second half of this blog post yet, as couldn't get past your photo!! Is that really you? Wow! Awesome, can see why you want to get that back…

    OK, going back to read this (possibly beer-induced??) post some more…

  2. Great post… yep, real life happens here too, and (mostly) I love it, but there are times when I would like a little glossy-magazine-house, or the glossy-blog-life, but I think the only time I'm going to get that white-walls-minimalist-chic is in an Institution. Trying to keep up with people's lives whom you only see a snapshot of would drive anyone crazy!

  3. Love the honesty. I've definitely had to scale back my garden due to my active-runs-for-the-road toddler and my lumbering in-my-7th-month-pregnant self and it crushes me to see my garden go to pot when I see all these other mom bloggers doing a kick butt job maintaining life, a career, a garden, a stocked home-preserved pantry and a drool-worth photo-heavy blog. Thanks for the reality check. :)

  4. Brava Bella

  5. I love this post. Sending my readers over here again via today's blog post.

  6. Haha…thanks for the post and the chuckle! Yes, it is nice to fantasize about all the beauty and glory happening everywhere but here, but I rather enjoy the reality of it all…even the dead mice and the chicken poop ;-)

  7. First time here at the suggestion of Real Life Living. Loved this post, and oh, so true!

  8. Dreaming of Jeanie says:

    Okay, so I'm with dixiebelle on this one….IS THAT YOU WITH ABS IN THE PHOTO??? If so, forget being jealous about your garden. I'm now jealous of the fact that you once had abs like that. ;)

  9. Ah, you forget that we all present a rather rosy picture of things, neatly neglecting to mention (or show) the absolute chaos that is really going on.

  10. Holy Crap! Look at your abs!

    I can so relate to the shiny happy – sometimes I let a REAL post through once in a while. My blog is usually a safe place for me, but there have been periods of uncertainty over putting it all out there. I've posted things and then removed them, more than once. I tend to feel jealous of bloggers like Calamity Jane who put it all out there, and then I wonder why I don't.

    I feel the pressure to post the nice pictures (tough with my crappy camera). For next week's thing you're hosting, I was even bugging out about weeds and THE COLOR OF MY DIRT, thinking, maybe I should pull those/dig around a bit – whatever – to make the picture look better. Now, a week postpartum, I'm not going to, but I still feel insecure about it. Dumb, huh.

    And if it makes you feel better, I've skipped sweeping all together for days on end and, yes, I let my kids eat off the floor too. It builds their immune systems, right?

  11. I keep thinking "I can do it all" but then remember "but not all at the same time." Used to garden more when I was a stay-at-home part-time-working-from-home mom, but the garden got scaled way back when I got divorced with a 3 and 6 year old and worked full time (albeit from home). Now that they're in their high teens, the garden is growing larger again and I got chickens, something I wish I'd done when they were little, but it wasn't legal here then. It is fun to glimpse into other people's life but we all only have so many things we can (or choose to) do for various reasons.

  12. Love this post…think I need to do a post linking to it and share this goodness.
    And I'm chiming in about those abs too – I didn't even have those in utero! Makes me think of my Iron Man sister in law…who at least can say,'I did once.' Good for you! :D

  13. i'm sorry, Erica. you know i love you, but those abs are just sick. wrong. were you on steroids? what were you thinking putting that photo in a post designed to make people feel better about themselves, anyway? shit.
    otherwise, great post. you know how i feel about all that. in fact, reminds me of at least two posts in progress in my draft box. hmm, better get to work.
    no ab photos on my posts.

  14. Thanks for this post – so well put.

  15. Shoot. I can get those abs with a little well-placed bronzer.

    :)

  16. Thank you for the reminder!! Even Martha frickin' Stewart isn't all she appears to be. Love reading your honest account. Oh, and I am TOTALLY the mom who let her kids just re-eat the snacks they spilled on the floor! Whatevs!

  17. A-freakin-men! I woulda commented sooner, but I tripped over the dog, toppling the basket of fresh basil, knocking over the open bag of pine nuts, and, as I screamed "Son of a b…," stepped back on the still-hasn't-made-it-to-the-laundry-room basket of clothes, flipping it over on the cat. I needed a minute to decide if all that mess REALLY needed to get picked up right now before I sat down at the laptop.

    Now, as for the pic…um…I've never had abs like that…even before the four kids & middle age did their thing. Just knowing you had those at some point in your life makes me want to mutter ugly things about you under my breath. ;):D

  18. Loved this post. Thank you for a little reality check! Just the night before you posted this I was bemoaning the fact that everyone else seemed to have it together. Glad to know there are some other "normal" people out there!

  19. AMEN! I've totally fallen victim of the jealousy bite of the blogs I follow. Very well said. Makes me feel better, though I still want someone to invent a "go to culinary school while you sleep" CDs. /sigh. Hehe
    e blogs I follow. Very well said. Makes me feel better, though I still want someone to invent a "go to culinary school while you sleep" CDs. /sigh. Hehe

  20. I loved this post. I wanted to share with you the blog that I have been working on, which basically is about this exact topic. I always wanted to share my enthusiasm for growing and making and doing, but I am, honestly, not always that good at it. I'm stretched thin and kinda lazy and a little flaky and real poor, but I still love it and I wanted to be able to start a conversation about that. Just because you love something doesn't mean you will be perfect at it, but that doesn't mean you should stop doing it. So, I am writing over at http://halfasshomesteader.wordpress.com. If nobody else will do it, I will take the pretty glossy pictures of aphids and weeds and failed jam.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I cooked Kale yesterday for the first time. It wasn't yucky. I don't have good abs. I've decided to become one of those people who keeps a neat purse, so to commemorate that, I bought a new $300 one. I've given up on Harvard Law, Columbia School of Journalism, and dental school of anywhere (just because white coats are rad). But mostly I'm over wanting to be someone at something since I don't have the focus and maybe that's ok. There's a reason why I can't dance en pointe. So I've decided to be ok with being nobody at everything. Or just me at every my thing, even if that means new things all the time, which makes my family members raise their eyebrows and say such things as "since when are you into [fill-in-the-blank]…" — Angie from Edmonds / ATL

  22. Anonymous says:

    Love the post. I often look at your garden and wish it were mine. But I know I'd never get done what you get done. It would be to much for me. Instead I pick my other 'things' and focus on those and try to do them as best as I can and just be thankful for what I got. It is so easy to look and see what is out there and think you should do this or if I only have that. As I have gotten older I make the choice each day to think … I am lucky that I have x or that I can focus on y and I am the star for my family and their expectations and mine. No one else's. That is enough for me. Thanks for the post and the reminder. Loved it.
    Shoreline fruit lady.

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