The pitter patter of cats playing brings me back from waking dreams to the present moment, and this attempt at writing, before distracting me again. Waves of feline driven attention lapping consciousness’s shore. This pleasant early morning dance between grounding myself in the now, and communicating with others in the ether, accurately depicts my last couple years. My motivation to write, share, or participate in any community larger than my family has been at an ebb tide.
While trying to figure out a revenue stream as a stay at home mom, I thought I would get good at ‘the gram’. I posted consistently and at the right times of day, followed other like minded profiles, made sure to share stories of my posts, I honed my ‘brand’, got to know my ‘audience’ and made sure to engage them daily. It worked, my likes and followers grew, but I was left feeling more and more hollow.
I learned the kind of daily effort involved in growing my online presence and after about a month, I was over it. Sure, I got results and attention, but for me the cost was too high. I have never cared too much about the opinion of others, so to constantly sell myself to strangers is foreign to me. The things I create speak for themselves; even if it is a whisper no one will ever hear, and that’s fine. I feel bad (not in a ‘I’m so superior’ way, but honestly and empathetically) for those whose livelihood is tied to these online Wendigo entities, and their constantly shifting rules and algorithms. I have seen many of my friends’ small businesses suffer with the change of an algorithm. Overnight, the stable foundation for their business platform they were promised, becomes endlessly shifting quick sand. A carrot always out of reach.
I maintain that social media is what you make of it, but boundaries are paramount. I love all the foraging, wildcrafting, mushroom and plant ID groups I’m a part of, but interweb life has jaded me over the last few years. Maybe it is pandemic related, but I keep coming back to lessons I learned as a child growing up in the boonies, where extended power outages were frequent.
Power outages divide life into two categories; things that still work, and things that don’t.
TV and Computer? No.
Cellphone? Depending on reception, but without wifi.
Painting, writing, drawing, sculpting, creating? YES, YES, YES!
I made a decision after my ‘Insta’ experiment, that I was not going to put large amounts of time into things that cease to exist when the power goes out. I stopped posting on my blog, and only post sporadically on my social media, even on my personal pages. I made many new beautiful things, but did not post about them. I have lost interest in sharing my opinion, with all but a few good friends. Screens are vortexes to places other than where my feet are, and I like this place and the beings here with me.
They are enough to occupy my days.
I remember my first experience with a video game. My dad worked for Apple and so I had access to computers and their diversions sooner than most. The first game I ever played was a chess game; every time you won, a new item would appear in your “trophy room”. It was literally a tower in a castle! Soon mine was packed with all sorts of interesting items. Around the time a huge rocking horse appeared, I decided I wanted to get my prizes out of the machine. I looked at the floppy disk slot, but after some poking, deemed it void of the material needed to make me a life size rocking horse. I eyed the printer, thinking I would settle for a large printed horse, if it came to that. I had earned these things through my time and effort, I wanted them.
At that point, my poor mother made the mistake of coming into the kitchen and by default, became the bearer of very bad news. Those things were not real in any tangible sense. The prizes that a person ‘won’ would never, in any way, leave the confines of the plastic box. Even at my tender age I defined that as some b u l l s h i t. Though I was better mannered than to say so. I questioned the Maternal Unit further, looking for loopholes:
“Did they exist at Apple? Could Daddy bring them home?”
“So the tower is not real either?!”
“Do we just need a better printer?” (incidentally, this is accurate today.)
“What was the point of them at all if you couldn’t ever touch them!?”
“What kind of monster would make a game for children, then after HOURS of their devotion, show them a room FULL of toys that they could never touch!?!”
She patiently waited while I railed at the system that had set my expectations to rocking horses and then gave me buttkiss. She assured me that it was indeed very unfair, but it was the simple truth of the matter nonetheless. “Can I go get my water now?”
“I guess…” I slouched in the chair and turned off the machine, WITHOUT quitting the application OR going to ‘shut down’. I ‘off switched’ the motherfucker and secretly hoped it wouldn’t boot up again. (As my father always assured it would if I treated it in this manner.)
From that day forward; whether it was arcade games, or the ever evolving world of home computer and video games, I was unwilling to spend too much time on activities where one’s accomplishments were entirely digital, AND disappeared entirely when the power went out.
These lessons have informed and molded my current level of electronic interaction. During my ‘insta-speriment’ I found myself more focused on the sharing of my crafts than the process of crafting itself. It drove my deadlines and rushed the process. All so I could feed that never sated screen beast living in my pocket, in order to make it poop out little red squares with pictures of hearts and faceless people in them. I had to rethink the way I was interfacing with the various nodes of social media communication and connection.
Having an anxiety disorder makes unhealthy relations with many things much easier. In my twenties, it lent itself nicely to an all consuming eating disorder. I could feel the slippery terrain of the social media slop giving me that same feeling in the pit of my soul. Remembering another time when the numbers on nutrition tables almost ran my life, and health into the ground.
I took a break. I didn’t do one of those “I’m taking a break from social media…” posts, (though I suppose it could be argued that this writing is exactly that) I just stopped. Since my income is not yet tied to these modalities, I had the privilege to do this at little personal cost. Initially it produced swelling anxiety, but that soon mellowed and my day became mine again. I embroidered, sewed, painted, stained glassed (not a words), wrote, drew, all without any intention to share it. I felt my vibrations clear, and I got back to taking direction from the medium and the universe, rather than asserting my trend-driven will over the process. My practice became creative again, rather than reactive.
I realized that #selfcare means making my way down this new path (away from professional hospitality services) in such a way that I am not creating another reality that needs to be escaped from. Life is so short. I often think about doing something unsustainable because of the monetary pay off. “Sure, it will suck for a few years, but then I will have the money to…”
In the long run I want the daily process we create to be nourishing for our simple life. We are two people who want to spend as much time together as possible, creating space for plants, kids and critters to grow and flourish. We are trying to do it in a system that no longer values simple ways of living, making it that much harder.
The pandemic hasn’t helped either. Like most times of turbulence it has made a lot of things clear, and for that I am grateful. The way we live has been such a resource, it seems clear we have done a few things ‘right’, as if that’s a thing.
Long story, long- my S.A.D (social anxiety device; credit for this acronym goes to one of Odin’s favorite teachers) and I were in an unhealthy relationship, but it’s better now. It is a powerfully addictive ego boost to do well in these arenas and obviously, I’m not done yet. I am trying to move forward and use them in such a way so they are amenities, and not admirals in my life. I’ll let you know how it goes; on my wall, in my stories, on my grid, in reels, and so on.
The house tigers have taken a break, and the kitten is curled up on my feet. I have to go, take a picture, maybe I’ll post it later and maybe not.
Follow me to find out @wickedrural 😉 it will be ironic.
The picture was posted WAY before the blog post, it is after all, so much more instant.