I had a bit of a reality check yesterday.
I got a pleasant little email informing me that due to the fact that I’m no longer meeting their required guidelines, I got the boot from the Southern Blog Society. My guess is that since I barely post often enough to even consider myself a blogger anymore, they had to kick me out. Bear with me – this isn’t a bitter anti-SBS mean girls post. I really can’t say I blame them. Although, I’ve read a few of those posts before.
I’ve told you about all the wonderful and crazy things going on in my life. I promised you I wasn’t giving O&P up. For the past two years, I’ve been posting at least once a week, sometimes 5 times a week, sharing what I’ve been cooking, doing, making, finding and experiencing. It’s brought new and amazing people into my life. It’s helped me keep in touch and get back in touch with people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. It’s helped me launch a business and it’s been the best creative and writing outlet I could ask for. It’s enabled me to realize that I love shining a light on often overlooked people, places, and things.
I love writing, I love taking pictures, and I love blogging.
However, the longer I blog, the more negative feedback I get for blogging, too. Lately, I’ve been told how selfish I am. How self-serving I am. How I blog (as well as do most of the other things I do) to seek praise from others. How I should have mentioned this or that in a blog post. How clearly wrong I was to leave something out or put something else in. It’s quite the damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t situation.
Since I started Oysters & Pearls, I’ve tried to keep my blog posts at an arms’ length distance. I’ve never gotten extremely personal in this space. I’ve been hesitant to share too many personal stories or details or thoughts or feelings. Let’s be real: I’m not very good at sharing that kind of thing anyway. I’ve been told that was a mistake, too, in fact. And I get it – the blogs I enjoy reading the most are the blogs that share the personal stuff in life – the real talk about marriages, friendships, babies, faith, houses, pets… the whole nine yards. You feel like you know that person. And for all intents and purposes, you really do. But then you stumble upon blogger-bashing sites like GOMI (stands for Get Off My Internet – I’m not even linking because I don’t want to direct traffic to that site) and get sucked into the reality that the more personal you get, the more people will find all the things that are wrong with you. That’s a scary thing.
But when you keep things impersonal, what then? I have been told that I think I’m perfect. That I’m trying to act like I’m perfect. That by only showing the pretty parts of life, I’m not being real, that I’m lying by omission. I am not a perfect person. I am messy and scattered and busy and forgetful and happily imperfect. I do like for things to look pretty and tidy in this space, mostly because I like pretty things and pretty food and looking at pretty pictures. But trust me: just outside the frame of that pretty picture, there are most likely dog toys and/or dog hair and a cat sniffing the food and 3 pairs of Wheat’s shoes and one to five of the 40,000 bags I seem to constantly tote around. Maybe I should be trying to show the messy side of life more. But I’m not trying to trick anyone into thinking I’m perfect, and I certainly know I’m far from it. I just like pretty pictures.
So let’s get real.
In the two years since I started this blog, a lot has changed. I went from simply working and coming home (which let me tell you, was a sad state of affairs), to writing this blog, to being on the Humane Society board and being very involved in that, to ramping up my blog, to starting Maiden South, to helping start a Farmers’ Market, to freelance writing for the Thomasville Townie, Southwest Georgia Living, and a series of publications by Southern Forestry Realty. I’ve taken up (and become obsessed with) knitting. And I’m sure I’ve done some other stuff, too. And that’s on top of life, which is getting busier and busier by the minute.
I don’t say all this to have a pity party, for sure. I am passionate about all of these things! I certainly don’t list them all for the praise. And I most certainly don’t list them all so I can passive-aggressively tell you that I’m busier than you. Although, that’s how I must come across to some folks, and for that I’m sorry.
Lately, I’ve had to dig deep, do some soul searching and figure out where I want my life, and subsequently, this blog, to go. I stretched myself thin in 2014, no doubt. It’s been wild and thrilling and scary and wonderful. But it’s been exhausting. And it’s been hard. And it’s been rough to be told a lot of awful things about yourself after you’ve worked and tried so hard to do the right things. And it just plain sucks to have that self-doubt in my head now. Am I doing anything I’m doing for the right reasons? I thought I was… but maybe I’m not? If some of the people I love the most (and for that matter, some people I don’t even know!) don’t support my decisions, or tell me I’m selfish and self-serving, how do I know if I’ve even made the right decisions at all? Regardless, I’ve decided that 2015 is a year for reflection and self-examination.
I usually don’t talk much about my faith, but the past couple weeks, I’ve been praying. An awful lot. I’ve been reading my devotional. I’ve been reading Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer with my business partner (and a true blessing to me and this town), Jessica. I’ve been reading Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. I’ve been seeking guidance on my next steps in life, family, blogging, business, and basically all. the. things.
On day two of Thirty One Days, one of the calls to action is to choose a verse to memorize over the course of the month you spend reading the book. I stumbled across the most perfect verse that has become my mantra – and probably always will be. So much so, I even created a handy little graphic with one of my favorite pictures from our trip to Yellowstone to plaster all over every computer/iPhone/tablet screen I can find. No need for it really, as I’ve already memorized it, and I repeat it to myself every few minutes, it seems. But I don’t ever want to forget a single word: each line in this verse hits home hard for me. If they hit home for you, too, feel free to snag it and use it for yourself.
I wish I always knew how to answer everyone. I wish I could always have seasoned conversations full of grace. I try to make the most of every opportunity, but Fear is always a nagging little voice sitting next to that jerk Self-Doubt. I need to be more wise in how I treat others, most especially outsiders. And I need to devote myself to prayer more, always being watchful and thankful for my many, many, many undeserved blessings. As an aside: I love that word watchful. I really do like to think of blogging and instagramming the little things I observe and am thankful for one way to be conscious and watchful of the blessings around me.
So where does this blog fit in and where does it go? I don’t know. I think I still want to use it to share things going on in my life with friends. Because most of you are friends! And if we’re not, I feel certain we would be. I cherish this creative outlet and platform, however small it may be. But I’m afraid that it’s become a platform to promote myself for vain and self-serving reasons. I stress and worry that I’m not doing a good enough job at blogging. My hobbies and interests and goals are varied and crazy and different and I feel my blog going in different directions. So if you’ve made it this far down the page… I guess I’m asking y’all: what do you want to read here? What do you want to know about? More about my life? The nitty gritty personal stuff? Far less about my life? Knitting? Beekeeping? Maiden South? Recipes? What I’m up to? What my dogs are up to? All of the above? Or none of the above? Do other bloggers out there wrestle with this personal v. impersonal v. blog niche dilemma???
I can’t make promises anymore. I can’t promise I’ll be able to devote my time to thoughtful, well-researched, thought-provoking posts. I can’t promise that you’ll like each and every recipe I post here. I can’t promise my posts will be perfect, grammatically or otherwise. I can’t promise they won’t just be a bunch of iPhone pictures of my dogs eating apples. Which, by the way, is hilarious. I’m sure I’ll get an email or comment now about how apples are really terrible for dogs and how I’m a bad dog mom. (I swear, I don’t let them eat the seeds!)
I can promise to try my very best to keep my conversations here and elsewhere full of grace and seasoned with salt, but I respectfully ask for the same from y’all. I don’t know where this blog will be a year from now or a week from now. But I do know that I appreciate the positive things this blog has given me, and I appreciate each and every one of you who took the time to read this ridiculously long, wordy, out-of-the-ordinary, touchy-feely post that took me four days to write and hit publish because I was so nervous about putting myself out there. And I hit publish knowing full well that no matter how open and honest I feel this post has been, there will be someone who finds fault in it and in me.
Now it’s your turn, if you so choose. Let me have it. I’ve told everyone and their mom what I’m feeling. So whether you’re another blogger with a similar struggle, someone who thinks I’m just an awful person, someone with another devotional/book recommendation for me, or you would like to see more or less of anything or everything here on the blog… go ahead and give it to me. Seasoned with salt (and a little grace), preferably.