Tuesday, March 1, 2016

the post in which i reveal that I am a (jaded) transcendentalist

Here we are, in March. It's been long months since I last wrote. I have given up almost entirely on my blog. But sometimes I feel nostalgic and I'll come back and read what we were up to this time last year, or look at pictures of the kids in their younger years. When I do those things, I feel that I probably shouldn't abandon these efforts completely. I'm grateful that the stories and pictures that I used to share so freely and often were saved.

I think the problem sort of is that I've lost my courage. I'm almost 35 years old now, and it seems with each passing year I should be getting more sure of myself, more stable, more everything except for maybe judgmental. But I find that this past year, I have lost my bravery. As the world races towards everything being on display, and then being ridiculed and paraded, and nothing held sacred, I feel myself pulling back. The internet trolls are becoming less a minority and more expected behavior. If you let yourself be seen, be imperfect, then you deserve that sort of thing though, right?

Where has our empathy gone? Our willingness to find our neighbor innocent long before we jump to any sordid or cruel conclusions? When did we decide that our police men, our mothers, and our teachers must never make mistakes--and if they do, they must be punished endlessly and publicly? I find this new way of being worrisome and tireless and tiresome. The Sound and the Fury, signifying nothing. There is so little soft cushioning in this new world. So very few places to rest your heart and your head. To be broken and cared for.

So all of these new technologies have come. And all of this constant access. We have found ourselves unable to resist the acceptance of new "morals" that allow all things equal standing, irregardless of their potential for long-term detriment of societies and children. Each thing is to be heralded in and made welcome at the table. We all want all of our parts to be accepted, without learning to accept all parts of others. And yet if we are being honest, it's not really all of ourselves. We will only put our best on display, and hide the rest oh so carefully. It is all of the excess and none of the responsibility. It is a free fall without wanting to acknowledge that at some point, there is an end to the falling, and it is never truly free.

I find such an atmosphere impossible to be freely myself. I see people that I admire stifled in their beliefs. I find the tyranny of outliers overcoming the majority of normalcy. We don't admire the smallness of individual lives that are normal. We run around, losing the value of the things that used to be what we as humans have valued for thousands of years. We hold a facebook like in the same esteem that we used to hold a card in the mail. How is that possible? My friends, how is that possible?

I have made my life very small and sad this past year. Retreating inside myself, finding fault with everyone and everything, but most especially myself. Because I don't know how to be in this new world. I used to be free in my own mind--I used to feel unfettered. I found pleasures in painting dressers and sending my children to school, and having over the top book clubs. Now I am much encumbered. I struggle with my church. I struggle with my parents. I struggle with everything except, perhaps strangely, my husband and my children (most of the time). I know retreating and retreating is not healthy, but I also feel strongly that what is left outside of these walls is no longer healthy either. I have lost my trust and faith in the goodness of people. I have become suspect of motives--something I hate with profundity.

I'm a bit stuck, and wanting to go back. And so far all that I can come up with is to dream and plan for a day when we can buy a few acres and be even more apart from the noise and busy-ness of the world. I romanticize that old Thoreau way of living (minus the part without indoor plumbing and a/c), but just of being quiet in a loud world, and doing small, hard work on things that no one would care about except our family. And I hesitate to even hit publish because there is a sort of movement out there now of other folks like me, who have decided that having some breathing room and owning some chickens might help them make better sense of their lives. And it sounds ridiculous and stupid, but I can't help that it also makes ten thousand pounds of sense to me right at this juncture of my life too.

It is probable that this post will seem completely strange and out of no-where and maybe even just plain crazy. And I'm not even sure why I'm going to hit publish. Except sometimes it still feels good to me to write something, send it out, and hope that someone that I know will echo back that they too have felt these pressures, and are searching in their own way. That really helps me to not feel so alone, which is about the only part of this endless access/excess of technology that I find of good report.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” 
― Henry David ThoreauWalden


Anne Lake said...

I have often thought that this is a different world than the one I grew up in and I am fearful, excited, anxious, hopeful... for my children. I really liked this line from the other blog post: What if I never really amount to anything when I grow up – beyond mom and sister and wife. But these people in my primary circle of impact know they are loved and that I would choose them again, given the choice. I think we love and serve and help people. Some people will do that on a large scale (build an orphanage) and others on a small (read a book with my son). Both are equally important and needed. It can be challenging to change one's expectations and find happiness in them. Just this morning I was thinking about some changes in my life I am trying, and how I don't feel any different, so why not go back to the way it was before and be happy with it. Because I enjoyed the old way better :) Anyway, not sure if this is just more ramblings but it is some of my thoughts.

Emily Foley said...

This makes me sad. I'm sorry. But it seems to me like you have your answer? Retreating inside your own walls is not a signal of defeat--that's exactly what we want our homes to be. Safe havens, safe from the outside world, a place where you can all just be who you are. And when you get your acres and your chickens it'll just be that much better, right? :)

Jennifer S said...

I can see why this post might make people think I am sad, or that they feel sad for me. But I feel like it is more just an acceptance of what has always been. I guess that can seem like giving up? I don't know, it seems more like giving up on outside people and their opinions/behavior to make me happy. It's probably something I should have gone through when I was a teenager, but I guess it had to wait because my parents were having their own major life issues. So all this to say, I don't feel bad for myself. I'm just working through things. Thanks for your comment.

Jennifer S said...

Yes it is very much about expectations. It's something I have struggled with my whole life.