John Keating: [talking to his students while looking at photos of school alumni] They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary. (Source: IMDB)
I first saw Dead Poets Society in late 1989 in a Fort Collins, Colorado movie theater when I was 21, a senior at Colorado State University, and contemplating going to China to teach English. After watching I was inspired to “seize the day,” take life by the reigns, and go. (And I did. From 1990 to 1991, I taught English at a university in a southeast province of the PRC.)
DPS is one of my most favorite films. Over and over I have watched this movie for inspiration, and each time I am encouraged to write the verse of my life in the actions I take each day.
I’m more than twice the age as when I first saw the film, but I am not yet fertilizing daffodils and I have not heard any fat ladies singing, so I take it that I still have more to write in my life (literally and figuratively).
What is this post about?
For the past couple of months I have had a post stewing in my head, and it was a comment on the blog JenX/Generation X (this post specifically) that prompted me to go ahead and write it.
It’s been on my mind to write about blogging — what it is to me, why it is that I have felt drawn to it all these many years, and where the future of this blog is going. It’s really one of my favorite topics: blogging about blogging. I know — how “Meta” of me! Annoying, probably, to some. But it’s how my brain works and often I need to write through these things to be able to figure them out. In addition, I have not been able to get away from the questions, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?” and “WHERE IS THIS GOING?” Those two questions have been obsessing me so much that I have had a kind of “blogger’s block” and not been able to move forward past those two questions to just create and write for this blog. I have had a bad case of “What’s the point?” and not been able to really find a good enough answer to the question, nor my groove with the blog for many months now.
So in the post I referenced, Jen replied to my comment, “Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I enjoy your comments Karin! I always click on your blog to see if you’ve written. You should write more!”
It’s always really nice to receive feedback that comments are appreciated — and I love reading and leaving comments on blogs, maybe even more than I love writing blog posts themselves. I love the conversation that ensues because of thoughtful posts; I love the dialogue internal to posts that carry the ideas and conversation further. I love supporting other people and their writing efforts. Maybe it is the former English teacher in me that makes me feel this way: I kind of view people’s posts as expressions to be encouraged and supported. I like to read and find the things to write that will encourage and support people in their creativity.
I was glad to know that Jen has visited here and been checking in to see if I have written, although she finds nothing much that is new. I appreciate her encouragement to write more. It’s true: these days I do not write as much as I did in the first year of this blog (2009-2010). Since January of 2011 I have only averaged about a post a month, a far cry from bloggers I know who post at least once a week, if not once a day. There was a time when I used to love writing on my blog(s) a lot, too. At various times in my blogging life I have posted daily, or nearly so.
I’ve written before here and there about my blogging history (I’m not even going to try to link up past posts as it would be a very time-consuming chore and I would rather just write, but I think I tagged the posts with “blogs” or “blogging” and have a category here called “Blogging“). Here’s a little recap of my blogging history for the people who may be new to this blog and may not have read past posts nor know very much about who I am and what I write about.
The very first blog post I wrote on a blog of my own was back in 2004 on a now-defunct Blogger blog. I hit a blogging peak in 2006-2008 on the social networking and blogging site Yahoo!360 (also now closed), and then I moved to Paris in June of 2008.
I spent a year floundering in Paris, with agoraphobia (fear of going out of one’s living space), and knowing almost no one except for a wonderful co-worker of Paul’s with whom I started to attend yoga classes and my friend Tess (who appears in several early posts here on AAP), whom I happened to meet on an Internet bulletin board. It was by total coincidence that we both had signed up and been commenting on this bulletin board, and she had just moved back up to Paris from the South of France in December of 2008. I received encouragement from my best friend in near-daily phone calls, and with my “Imaginary Blog Friends” (as my imaginary blogging friend Daisy calls the Internet friends with whom we are very close, but may never have met face-to-face). These IBFs were “living” in various internet neighborhoods after Yahoo!360 closed and were keeping me sane as I wrote interactive journal posts. From them, I received encouragement to start An Alien Parisienne back in July of 2009.
Why is my blogging past important information to know?
Well, it seems that I have been having a lot of conversations with people about this blog — the topic comes up at blogger meetups and with other friends I know and meet with because of this blog. Questions like, “What do you blog about?” are asked, and I have to have a fairly tidy answer at the ready in these meetup situations. Then there’s the fact that I’m relatively silent on my blog these days, especially in terms of writing the personal, newsy and/or introspective tomes I used to write in the past. Not really having a neat and concise answer to the “What do you blog about?” question, and the fact that I have slowed down so much in writing has led me to question yet again, “Why am I even doing this?” It’s a question that has come up for me a lot in the past 15 months or so.
I think that one of the factors in my writing slow-down is that I have been doing this “blogging thing” for a really long time now and that perhaps I am evolving out of the need to blog and especially the need to blog about Paris and my life in Paris.
Yet, I am not ready to fully close the door on this blog, either, and say, “I’m done with it,” although there are days when I have thought about making such a declaration.
In trying to decide what to do and figure things out, I have thought back on my reasons for beginning AAP.
Why did I start this blog in the first place?
It’s pretty simple. I needed to seize the day. I needed to take care of myself.
My son (pictured above) visited me at the end of May, 2009 and stayed with Paul and me through the month of June. His visit forced me to get out of the house, face my fears, and show him a good time in Paris. I had gotten some help along these lines (someone visiting to force me out of my shell) when six months earlier, my good friend Michelle had come to visit for a week. She helped a lot. But my son visiting me helped more because in his case, my “mother lion” had come out to care for him and in so doing I was caring for myself more, too. My needing to be there for my son had allowed me to be there for me as well.
On the day he left, June 25, 2009, on the way back from dropping him off at Charles de Gaulle airport, instead of getting off at Gare du Nord and going straight back home, I took the RER B to Saint Michel instead and went on a walking adventure. I came upon a book market at Saint Sulpice and went on to visit the Chapelle Notre-Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse.
A few days later on the 4th of July weekend, I went to lunch with Tess, then out by myself to the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement to walk around and take photos, and on Sunday, July 5, 2009, I started this blog.
Seizing the Day and Taking Care of Myself
September 2011, I was asked to write a guest post on outdoor activities in Paris (it’s linked from my blog here.) I was asked to include a byline/author description, and I wrote the following:
Karin Bates Prescott, resident of Paris for over three years, writes on her blog, An Alien Parisienne, about feeling like an “outsider” in Paris. Gluten and dairy intolerant and often ambivalent about the city everyone seems to adore, she is learning to love and appreciate Paris on her terms one day at a time.
Not long after, in trying to get at this question, “But what is my blog ABOUT?” I came back to this byline and the last sentence: “she is learning to love and appreciate Paris on her terms one day at a time.”
As a result of creating this byline, I changed my Twitter description from “Chick in Paris” to “I’m parisienne by location but americaine by birth. I am alien, regardless of location. 🙂 I have multiple food intolerances, love books & try to Carpe Diem” and this led to my changing my blog description, too: “Trying to put the “carpe” in “diem” in Paris”
A dawning realization…
A few weeks ago when thinking about “What’s the point of my blog?” I suddenly saw what had been before me all along: my blog has always been about seizing the day and taking care of myself. It was the original mandate from my Imaginary Blog Friends, “You’re living in PARIS! Seize the opportunity! Don’t just sit on your ass and fester there! So Paul is not interested in going out with you to see Paris? Then DO IT YOURSELF.” (At the time, Paul, having lived here for almost 20 years, had cooled in his excitement about seeing and doing things in the city. I wrote about some of this in this post here, “Paris is Often Not My Kind of Girl.” I just skimmed it, and hilariously enough, I address many of the same things I do in this post. I guess I have a need to continue to ruminate about what the hell this “blogging thing” is, haha.)
Maybe some of you have read the classic self-help title Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie. In a nutshell, Beattie’s book is for people (“codependents”) who have developed a pattern of letting “another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior” (p. 34, second edition, the one I linked in the title there). Beattie goes on to write on the same page that:
the other person might be a child, an adult, a lover, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a client, or a best friend. He or she could be an alcoholic, a drug addict, a mentally or physically ill person, a normal person who occasionally has sad feelings, or one of the people mentioned earlier [i.e., having a relationship, personally or professionally, with compulsive, troubled, needy, or dependent people, page 33] .
But the heart of the definition and recovery lies not in the other person — no matter how much we believe it does. It lies in ourselves, in the ways we have let other people’s behavior affect us and in the ways we try to affect them…
Beattie’s book suggests many ways to get oneself out of a codependent vicious circle and one of the best things one can do is detach and take care of oneself.
Detachment involves “present moment living” [emphasis mine] — living in the here and now. We allow life to happen instead of forcing and trying to control it. We relinquish regrets over the past and fears about the future. We make the most of each day (p. 61).
Beattie teaches that “undependence” — to learn to be independent of others and dependent on ourselves — is how we move forward to focus on our own needs, wants, feelings, and life, not to be wrapped up in and controlled by the needs, wants, feelings, and life of another (p. 107).
Basically, it comes down to seizing the day and taking care of oneself.
That, my dear blog reading friends, is what this blog boils down to. It’s taken me two-and-a-half years to figure it out and see the obvious, but this is indeed the emphasis of this blog.
This blog is not really about Paris, it is about how I, Karin Bates Prescott, choose to seize the day, and how I try to take care of myself in the process. Writing blogs here has kept me accountable in this process of trying to seize the day and take care of myself. Some of the ways I most love to seize the day is by getting out there and seeing stuff and taking photos of it all. A lot of how I take care of myself is by coming to my blog and writing introspectively about how it is that I do these two things: seize the day and take care of myself.
In the past 15 months, part of seizing the day and taking care of myself has actually been to NOT post on this blog! Part of my life is that I now do quite a bit of babysitting and a little tutoring, as well as going out and meeting up with people I know because of having started this blog. Part of seizing the day and taking care of myself has been about getting AWAY from the computer and living life — stepping away from social media activity and reading books for the book club I go to, or writing a draft of a novel (one that I have started working on the revision process this month).
It has meant reading some of your blogs less, and spending time doing things like going grocery shopping to buy special foods and cook them from scratch, because I still have a lot of troubles with digesting food and experiencing side-effects from food sensitivities (sometimes the side-effects appear as incapacitating fatigue, which also means stepping away from the computer, resting, and going to bed).
So there you go. That’s where I am at these days. Part of me wants to write more for this blog. I still take a lot of photos with the intent of writing posts about them. But time gets away from me, I get busy with the process of living life, and pretty much blow off this blog. It’s the main reason I don’t write more here: I am busy seizing the day and living life.
Sometimes it’s because I am spending more time over on Facebook, Google+, or in reading up on things people link in those two places. Sometimes that’s all I can handle in a day: vegging out on social media sites and going on auto-pilot. Sometimes I need to be offline altogether. I’m blowing off the blog because the influx of emails, articles, blog posts of others to read, and so on is overwhelming. I’m not alone in my need to “unplug” from blogging and social media and set about doing other things.
There are several articles and blog posts I have read which have contributed to my thoughts in this post. I hope that you will take the time to read through some of them and do your own introspection about the things I address in this post like, “Why do I blog?”, “What is my blog about?”, “Is my blogging helping me or hurting me in terms of seizing the day and taking care of myself?”
- Beth Arnold addresses the need to unplug in her insightful post LETTER FROM PARIS: 28 days (without the internet)
- Blogger Jennyphoria a few weeks ago on Facebook linked me into an article that really got me thinking about what it means to take care of myself and spend less time online The American Scholar: Solitude and Leadership.
- This from the Lantern Hollow Press blog, as seen on WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed” page, Losing Yourself and Finding Some Chocolate: Beating the Writer’s Block.
- Pugly Pixel and the post Sustainable Blogging. I loved the ending to the post:
“I realize that consistency is a requirement for blog success (whatever success means to you), but consistency doesn’t just mean posting regularly every day. It can mean posting with consistent quality. It can mean posting with consistent excitement and enthusiasm. And it can mean being consistently true to yourself and posting only when you feel like it.” [emphasis added by me — I claim not consistency in frequency, but certainly in being true to myself!]
- In Over Your head [dot] net and 100 Tips About Life, People, and Happiness. A GREAT list at suggesting some ways to seize the day.
- Exposing the Truth [dot] info and Top Five Regrets of The Dying. HINT: Wishing they had posted more blogs was not one of the top regrets.
- The Wikipedia article for Blog. I came to realize from reading this entry that I truly do have an “old school” personal journal, and this is exactly what I want my blog to be. I am not trying to educate or inform you, I am not trying to be an amateur journalist, I am not trying to sell something. I am not trying to show you fancy photos of typical Paris nor make you drool over the plentiful pastries, and so on. There are plenty of those blogs out there and each of them has a unique beauty and creativity to them, too. What I really am trying to do here is share part of my journey in life with you. This particular personal journal of mine is focused on my experiences and adventures in Paris. Sometimes I have been in situations where I have chosen to write about what other people are doing to help make their (and others’) lives more satisfactory, too (ergo the “Special Reports” on this blog).
- Last, but not least, this post by The Fearful Adventurer called The Trouble with Blogging. This line says it all: “It’s better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.”
I want to leave you with a final image, photos from the pages of dearly-loved book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. These pages from his book remind me that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and if I have never walked with ten cats on my head, well maybe I should. I have a lot to live for and accomplish still, here in Paris. So do you, wherever you are. Carpe Diem.
“Live long and prosper!”
Paris Karin (an alien parisienne)
My head is full of so many things after reading your wonderfully wise post. It really didn’t help me to to read the verses from the Dead Poet’s Society. Seeing Robin Williams and those boys in my memory and feeling so moved… I LOVE that film.
I am wishing that I knew you when you first came to Paris but, I am proud to know you now and call my my friend. You have come a long way, babe. Rejoyce! I relate with your soul seeking because I too ask myself questions about life.
Just go with your flow and blog as you feel. With your rules. I don’t follow geek blogs or advice on gaining more traffic. I just do my own thing and voilà.