Honey, I'm home.
In the last month, I've been high and low, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, I've been close to home and across the water, I've been alone and seen old friends and new. I've never strayed too far, though. I read all your comments and have responded to many, though not every one yet.
I did almost all of the things I usually do: Went on walks with my family, took countless pictures of my cats and quite a few of my feet, wrote notes on books I'm reading, on the ideas they spawned, thoughts they gave rise to, and yeah, I also followed Ariadne's tangled red thread around the internet.
What I didn't do was spend hours in front of the computer. My interest in facecrack, or endlessly reading the papers online, was pretty minimal. I read a few of my favorite blogs, but not the ones I peruse when I'm procrastinating. I wrote a few long emails. Got lost in some research once or twice. I checked in and then, quickly checked out. I even took an internet sabbatical for five days, checking only for weather a few times, a couple of emails, once out of necessity and once out curiosity, but always hurrying away from the next click.
And what did I feel? An emptiness, a longing? A relentless question itching for a quick, dirty, delightful Wikipedia answer?
One of the things I figured out in the past few weeks is that though the internet is addictive, and it's easy to gorge on its smorgasbord of articles and pictures and stories, though it's a huge maze that you can easily get lost in, for what seems like days (and there are quite a few Minotaurs!), once you finally emerge, nauseous and blinking into the light, it's easy to leave behind. That is if you can walk away.
Once you leave the internet, you pretty quickly forget it ever existed, save for the convenience of finding a recipe, the future rains and winds, how your friends and loved one's are doing. But of course, there are other ways. They were always there, just waiting for you to get back: the cookbooks, the horizon, the phone, the letter...
Maybe I don't have an addictive personality, or maybe I'm just a born quitter, but giving up bad habits has always come easy to me once I actually decide to quit them. Smoking, TV, coffee gone... At least for a time. I still dip into coffee on trips, and watch hours of shows on DVD in the winter and when I craft, but I don't have to have them each day, at regular intervals.
The longer I quit things for the harder it is for the addiction to return in full swing.
One of my favorite authors, frequently featured here as well, Lauren Groff, takes a month long internet sabbatical once or twice a year. It sounds so tempting. I think though, that to start with, I'm going to take first one, then two days offline each week. It sounds so easy, so little, but I think we all know it's big.
And what did I miss, you ask?
You, silly. And this space.
I missed having a writing assignment, be it self-imposed, a couple times a week. I journal, I write fiction, but this space is sort of my uncharted place, somewhere to write quick, but composed, complete pieces. There's a wildness and unpredictable-ness here that comes from the perfect storm of having to forge personal writing into a cohesive form.
This format is rather well suited for my recreational writing needs. Not to mention the delight and nostalgia I already feel combing through the archives. I can only imagine how sad I would be not to have such a good, illustrated record of my family's future exploits. I won't tell you I haven't felt a little lost without it.
However, the concerns I shared with you about blogs, blogging, micro-blogging, how feminism relates to them, collective narcissism, the personal and the public, are still very real to me and I haven't quite wrapped my head around them.
I'm still figuring out how much time this hobby should take, how much love I have to spread for bloggers I enjoy. What the limits are between a healthy online life and addictive behavior?
I wish I could return with some sort of a statement, a manifesto of what I plan to do with this space.
All I know is that there's a compelling argument, made by many of you, that one way to solve the problem is to be a counter-force to that which one finds unnerving and wrong, and that maybe this space has been just that, regardless of my doubts.
If anything, your comments made me feel like there's a near universal exhaustion with our current media overload, the cult of cute, the skim read, the unmitigated glossing over of our online selves, at least among my readers. Frankly I'm a little surprised by how few differing opinions came out. I hope you know that I would welcome them. I like a lively debate.
Know also that I never meant the piece to be interpreted as reproachful towards you. I wasn't accusing you of skim-reading, lack of commenting, or frivolous social media use. I simply think that often an effective (and in this case heartfelt) piece of writing needs to not be written in "I statements". That a writer should be able to use their own experience to at least attempt to speak for a wider constituency than an army of one. The meaning of "you" depends on the context and I do hope you caught that.
I can't say I wasn't flattered and honored by how many of you felt the need to tell me they read the post from start to finish. Know that you are more focused readers than I am some of these days. And that I salute you for it. It's grand to know the word-girls (and boys?) are out there.
And it was a little unnerving to read the goodbyes some folks construed us as saying, kind of like attending one's own funeral.
Perhaps it wasn't evident from what I wrote that I just needed a sabbatical, a little space. That we're not braking up.
I have a lot of love for this blog. It's brought me great things in this life, friendships, new ideas, books, music, self-knowledge. All of which reach into my real life by now. This may be a parallel universe, but it spills over into the physical one every day.
The best of these spillages for me has of course been a posse of real-life buds, soul mates, sisters-by-another-mother. Know too that these tight relationships are not some exclusive club as a few readers confessed to feeling like, but rather something that could happen to any of you.
As Heather so wonderfully put it in her comment, perhaps this sense of ennui with the more superficial aspects of the internet will lead people to reject it in their hearts and focus on what's real here.
It was good to have my oldest internets friend visit right in the middle of my sabbatical, to give some much needed perspective, possibly in the form of trying to explain to one of my local friends how we actually met. I believe the words "an internet subculture where women post pictures of their daily outfits" were used. It was kind of hard to tell between all the hysterical laughing.
It still never ever seizes to amaze me how out of something so frivolous, could grow a community of women who've seen each other through brake-ups, new loves, babies, the joys and sorrows of a very real life.
If the only thing I ever got from this venture were the relationships, all the relationships be they intimate or tentative, longterm, or short, deep, or casual, it would have all been worth it a thousand times over already.
This much I've figure out, so far, with a little help from my friends: I want to continue to use this space and what little influence I may have to put forth the stuff I believe in. To put the political, environmental, radical into the personal.
At the same time, I want to remain true to the roots of this movement, subculture, whatever: this blog is the journal of my family, my brain children, my weird relationship with my hair, my herbal expeditions, my love of 90s DIY culture, my dream with looking like "that 70s teacher". I don't ever want to feel like I can't talk about something just because it's silly, or pretty, or pretty silly. All I can hope is that I can put these obsessions and personal interests into a wider context than just "I got this new cute dress on Modcloth."
And for the record: I think I can. It's in the cards for us.
I won't promise to stay forever, or not to wander into the woods again, or hide in the dark for a while. And I wont promise particular content, or a publishing schedule, when exactly I will return and how often, but I promise you this: stick with me kid and we'll figure it out together. And probably have a pretty good time doing it.
There's also a lot of excitement in the cards right now. The stars are aligning in all kinds of wild constellations.
Come what may, I hope you'll be there with me.
ps. I also got my html on and cleaned house. How you like it?