A Step (Or Three) Back

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I’ve taken a step back from blogging.

Two steps.

Three steps.

When Cee’s flare started to ramp up in October and then through the beginning of November, it didn’t get as depths-of-despair as it has in the past in our house.  Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten used to how life looks in a flare.  Maybe it’s because we’re all a little older.  I think it’s because I had an outlet.  Something creative.  Something that didn’t have to do with calling insurance companies or talking about options with a rheumatologist.  Writing.

The first step back was intentional.

I knew I wanted to get a lot done before Advent.  As November came to a close, I focused all my noncritical home-maintaining time on Christmas cards, planning gifts, and wrapping our Advent books.  There wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for writing.

Last summer I signed up to take a fall continuing education class in order to renew my teaching license.  Although the course was interesting, it suffered from a severe case of back-burner-itis.  When I realized the deadline was days, just days away, it got cured pretty quick.  And everything else in the world caught back-burner-itis while I finished up.

After my class and most the Advent preparations, I planned to jump back into blogging.  There are several “communities” I participate in regularly:  a library haul link up, Just Enough Info, Seven Quick Takes, and My Sunday Best.  I looked forward to writing more consistently after the flurry of late nights working.

Then, as Advent kicked off, I came across a post by Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee.  Titled “Connected to What’s Real,”  she reflects on social media and missing out on real life.  It’s an inward focused post; Jenny is assessing her presence online vs. presence in real life.

“But overall, when I asses my own usage of it and my endless appetite for more!clicks! I have to be honest with myself and admit that 90% of the time, I am not being enriched by it. And not just in a “you could be using your time better” sense, but on a deeper level.

I am not enriched by the hours I spend distracted and separate from my actual life.

I would venture to say that you are not, either.”

 

Even though I started blog with the goal that it could at least be self-sufficient (thanks Amazon shoppers for using our links!), I knew that actually making money blogging takes way more effort than I’m willing to put in.  The goal of blogging was to find a hobby after 8 years of being hobby-less while taking part in the online Catholic mom community.

I enjoy being a part of that community!  I certainly don’t participate in My Sunday Best because I think my style is going to be the new it thing.  (Ha!  Double ha!)  I participate in My Sunday Best so other moms online can feel less badly about how their kids are behaving at Mass.  So they can see that other people only have a handful of Mass clothes that work– and it’s okay.

“Sometimes I’ve joked in the past that I’m going to have to answer to God one day for every hour spent on Facebook. And while it was said tongue in cheek, that’s actually a terrifying prospect. Not that I used social media, per se, but how much time was spent there, and doing what.

The tools are neutral. Our actions with them are not. I don’t want to get busted having buried the talent.”

I only just dipped my toes into social media by getting a facebook account a few months ago.  Started as an experiment, I thought it could help readers stay connected.  Not everyone uses bloglovin or email subscription to read blogs, after all.

Although most my new readers have come from facebook interaction, facebook is really just a big time suck.  Letting facebook go seems like an easy first step in unplugging, but to do so means to embrace my destiny as a blog with only 3 readers.

Struggling with how Jenny’s post applies to my life, my time, and my blog, I’ve stepped back again.

Jenny’s previous quote has me bunking at Camp Discernment.  I don’t want to neglect my kids for the sake of selfish pursuits.  I don’t want to call my writing a “ministry” when only a handful of people ever read it.  I am not the only Catholic mom blogger out there. (Though I maintain that most my old favorites, the ones who helped me delve into liturgical living, have super-slowed down their posting, creating an opening for newbies like me.)

Please know that I am neither fishing to be begged to keep blogging nor condemning anyone for their life choices.  I can’t handle facebook and a blog, but you might be able to juggle a job, Twitter, Instagram, a blog, and a second part time job all while cooking completely from scratch.  Good for you!  It’s just not my story.

If you’ve read for long, you know this blog certainly isn’t a lifestyle blog, full of white, white, white, everything white perfect pictures.  It isn’t a braggy showcase of my great momming.  (Ha!)  It’s a peek into a real Catholic family, warts and all.  We’re a mess, but we manage.  Those are the kinds of blogs I like to read, the ones that aren’t perfect.  I like the idea of contributing to the honest movement.We just colored in our St. Nicholas coloring pages yesterday.  Moe thinks that the Eucharist involves cheese.  We’re just doing our best.  That’s my story.

The third step back was accidental.  Moe the happy button pusher took it too far with our TV.  It gave up the will to live after exhaustive button pushing torture.  That means I’ve lost my after lunch “mom time” when Ms. Frizzle or Mister Rogers would take over for a little while.  (Okay, okay.  Or Timon and Pumbaa.  We have standards, but we’re not purists.)  No “mom time” means no blogging.

The kids can still watch some Wild Kratts on the laptop, so don’t feel bad for them.  Plus, our friends offered one of their extra TVs.  In addition to wondering about Sweeping Up Joy’s future, I’m still trying to decide whether replacing the old girthy TV is prudent.

I’m not that great at discernment.  I’m a rule follower and a people pleaser.  From speed limits to wedding registries I’m happy to oblige whenever there are clear guidelines.  Throw me into a sea of gray, though, and I flounder.

So here I am, stepped back and uncomfortably floundering in my gray sea of discernment, waiting for a sign, a calling, a strong feeling, about how I’m supposed to move forward.  What is worthy of my time?  How do I balance my duties as a wife/mother with pursuing personal growth?  Is “personal growth” just a modern feel-good construct, or does it somehow play into living out a vocation?

My inclination is to completely withdraw from facebook, get a TV, and keep blogging, but that would mean giving up my connections with The Zelie Group, since that’s where the communication happens.  Facebook is where people are, so the blog is almost guaranteed not to grow without it.  Is that okay?

Another option is to go cold turkey with all the internets.  No blogging.  No outlet.  Is that an admirable sacrifice?  Or some sort of false martyrdom?  I don’t want to be part of the “oversharing problem,” but I also don’t want to hide our feeble attempts at being a Catholic family in the modern world.

I’d love any advice, article or book suggestions, or prayers.  How do you decide where to spend your time?  How do you maintain the line between self-care and being selfish?  What tips do you have for discernment?

Thanks for reading: in the past, now, and hopefully in the future.  I miss blogging.  But it’ll take some time to figure out if that’s enough of a reason to return.

10 Comments


  1. // Reply

    Oh wow. I don’t know if I have any discernment advice, but I can at least say you have a talent and I enjoy reading your blog. (On a selfish note, it seems a bummer that I just “found” you and you’re stepping back from blogging… Ah, timing 😉 )
    I think it’s your transparency and of course, your way with words, that is so encouraging to read. I, too, have 2, maybe 3, outfits that I wear to Mass and when I showed my daughter a picture of the Holy Family yesterday she identified the members as being “Mother Mary, Father Joseph and Baby Owen” (doh! Though points to her for paying attention to the fact that we do have a new little nephew to thank God for!)
    Anyway, all that to say, count me in as one of your three readers who will miss your online presence… Though since i didn’t come from Facebook, you should make that four. 😉


  2. // Reply

    Dear Alicia,

    It is a beautiful thing that you’re trying to discern and be prudent. I think you’re right to see that many mothers get absolutely lost in social media, to the neglect of their children.

    This same question you are asking is one I feel I am constantly discerning about over the ten years of my blog’s life.

    Sometimes I’ve thought I really should quit all of mine, I’m never going to be one of the Truly Popular Mommy Bloggers. But I’ve had one woman *come back to the Church* from reading my blog for a couple of years. A few times a year, a reader will email me about some profound effect of being able to see my witness of just trying my best to be Catholic in this world.

    Since most of us can’t see into each other’s homes, these blogs do serve that purpose and it can help, especially isolated women who aren’t ensconsed in a wonderful Catholic community like mine.

    So, I keep at it, but it has to be kept in proportion and, during certain seasons, my blog takes a real back seat. Right now, my only real goal is to write my Quick Take Fridays, which I write in tiny spurts at night during the week (not all at once). If I get in some other blog posts as well, that’s bonus.

    I hope that helps.

    Blessings,
    Katherine


  3. // Reply

    P.S. For years and years, my blog traffic didn’t exceed 10, 20, 30 people–which really means my family and a few friends. But after nearly ten years, now my traffic is 100-200 individual people per post consistently. Being slowly and steadily consistent can get more traffic. Obviously, I still will never be on of the Big Writers. 🙂


  4. // Reply

    Oh Alicia, I hear you. Discerning is hard. I stink at it. But know that I love reading about your family and what you’re doing to live out your faith, and I’ll read your blog even if you’re not on FB and only post once in a blue moon. I’ve been thinking of taking leave of FB entirely, as well- I increasingly get the feeling that it’s not a good place to spend much time. Praying for you as you decide what to do!


  5. // Reply

    Can you find some time/room for maybe some spiritual direction? I drag my kids with me – the chaplain is good about that! Or, I had someone watch my son when I went in the past – it became the only “me time” I had when my husband was on deployment, and it wasn’t a priest, but a lay person trained by the diocese for spiritual direction.

    I, too, am finding FB to be a huge time suck. All of social media, in fact. But, through the use of my day, I am starting to really hone in on my usage. I am pre-scheduling posts the night before, to post the next day (I’d love to go several days out). I am also trying to take one day a week off social media (started this week, and tailored it to allowing the Advent Photo Challenge post, and that’s it. Learned I” not missing a whole lot…😏) I am taking blogging down to maybe 3 days a week. I am trying hard (it’s a *complete* work in progress – some days are better than others) to limit my time on my computer to when kids are sleeping (so, right now, early in the morning, before they wake up and after my husband goes to work, or last night about an hour -or more- after all three went to sleep).

    And, I find I am only using social media to really build myself up – reading only articles designed to affirm my vocation as wife and mother, and that means most of my time is used reading articles written by other beautiful Catholic mommies such as yourself. It’s the “keeping it real,” and allowing it to be okay that is important!

    Your presence has been missed, but I understand – and struggle with the same thoughts!


  6. // Reply

    Umm, are you in my brain? I’ve been having many of the same thoughts. FB is soooo frustrating because not being on it means missing out (like, my oldest’s preschool class has a group that posts info and I already miss out from not checking it obsessively. Ugh.). So I’ve been setting screen limitations slowly, to make sure they sink in. I think writing is just too much in my blood to quit cold turkey (although sometimes I wonder if I’m just ignoring God’s promptings regarding my blog…) so for now I’m just posting as I’m inspired – whether it’s twice a week or once a month. Prayers that you figure things out!

    P.S. I found your blog outside of FB! I do agree it grows readership the fastest, but I’ve still managed to have (a small number of) loyal followers before I created a FB blog page earlier this year.


  7. // Reply

    I also found you outside of Facebook 🙂 and thanks for the shout out. I love that we’re having these conversations and discerning what’s good/what’s bad/what’s neutral…and that maybe social media and internet usage isn’t one size fits all, but has different applications for different people’s lives and vocations. I realized I was still using Facebook with the same gusto as a college student (I was an early, early adapter back when it required a .edu email to even be on!) and I can’t give that level of attention to something with 4 little kids at home. I also wrestled a bit with what it means to be a blogger, and if it’s inauthentic to create digital content and not be super available and interactive online. The more I discern, the more convinced I am that not only is it deeply authentic, but it’s much, much healthier for me in this state of life.

    I’m loving this more cafeteria style approach that more people seem to be taking now, picking what works for them and jettisoning the rest. There’s no rule that says we need to be connected All The Ways, but I think for those of us who came of age with the rise of social media, we’ve just kind of collected new accounts as new technology has sprung up, without stopping to examine the realism or the prudence of it.

    Hope the rest of Advent is beautiful for you guys!


    1. // Reply

      I feel like I was sitting in a coffee shop, talking about Julia Roberts’ latest movie with a friend AND SHE JUST WALKED UP AND JOINED THE CONVERSATION.

      (This is me pretending to act cool. Julia Roberts is at my table, and I’m being chill.)

      Yes! I love the part where you mentioned that tools are neutral. Just because someone is using social media doesn’t mean they are terrible. But like any tool, we need to use it for its designed purpose. I feel like I’m peering into a jumbled up toolbox, wondering what, if anything to grab. Ongoing discernment is essential for everyone in life, though.

      (And now I need to go tell David that Julia Roberts said words to me. For real.)


  8. // Reply

    Great post and I can totally relate. I’ve been going through this myself and I don’t have any children at home anymore, so I know what a struggle it must be for you. I will pray for your discernment. I do enjoy your writing and hope you still continue to blog once in a while anyway.


  9. // Reply

    Every blogger (and probably, every living person) has to stop and ask themselves the very same question. I also wrestle with the concept of me-time and how much and to what end and purpose.

    The fact is that I know I’m having a positive impact on some people’s lives through my blogging, but it also takes time away from my family and maybe some of the more eternally worthwhile things I could be doing with my time. Sometimes I feel like I should quit blogging because eternally it doesn’t matter, but if everyone did that we’d have no great novels, no inspiring music, no Olympians, no artists… truthfully I don’t think God wants a world where no one devotes time to developing their (secular-ish) talents, either.

    So I don’t have the answer, but lately I’ve felt inspired to rank my 4 main priorities (1 – God, 2- Self, 3- Spouse, 4 – Kids) and then identify the most important thing I want to do every day in each of those areas. For God it is daily scripture study and prayer, and for self it is to get enough sleep… speaking of which it’s past my new bedtime so I’d better go before I make a liar out of myself.

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