Thursday, July 10, 2008

Point Of View

Let’s talk about blogs.

What is a blog? What does it mean to you? Why do you have one and why do you read others? Think about this for a few minutes – what does the blog feed?

For some it is security, vanity, confidence, control, can’thelpbutlookatthecarwreck, curiosity, assurance, comparison, validation, venting, catharsis, sharing, ranting, raving, information, bullshit, lookatmelookatme, pity me, help me, love me, be like me, support me, hate me, curse me, learn from me – the list could keep going. But what does it mean to you…or to me?

It was June 2006, when I had written a race report, sent it to a few friends and someone suggested I start a blog. A blog? What is a blog? I had never read one, written one nor heard too much about one. Looked into it and realized how easy it was to start and…a blog was born.

I’ve always sought solace and release in words. I have pages upon pages of journaling or writing or whatever you call the angst-filled ramblings of a developing pre-teen, teen, young woman to adult. A few months ago I was looking back into a small purple diary I kept when I was ages 8 to 11. It was filled with things like:

LouAnn is mean.
Stephanie farted in class.
I am a very fast runner.
The boy in the pool was cute.
We are going to Wisconsin.

And interestingly each entry closed with the time I went to bed. Clearly all of the more important parts of a young girl’s existence.

Years went by, the format changed – a binder, a notebook, looseleaf paper with troubles a bit more complicated but looking back – not really. Worries are all the same as we struggle on our way to becoming an independent and rational adult. Even still as we are adults. It was some time after college when I stopped the journaling and left things running simply in my head.

And now there is the blog. It reads like the pages of a diary or transcripts from my mind. At its best it is poignant, at its worst – like any day of our lives – mundane. I promised myself when I started I would keep it uncensored, mildly entertaining, and that above all I would always be me. My purpose was to share my experience with the world – whomever and wherever they may be – to help them to understand they are not the only one that struggles with whatever it is we all struggle with day to day. Whether it is traffic, laundry, bad workouts, injury, barking dogs, cold coffee – that these little things in our lives are really what weave us together into something connectedly meaningful and big.

Each day I find myself reading a few blogs. At times I wonder why. What am I looking for? And how is this right? In a sense, reading someone’s blog is like finding the key to their diary and taking a peek. Looking into a peephole, picking up the phone without them hearing, standing in the next room and eavesdropping. You get a peek into their life and their mind. In a way you get a false sense that you know the person. You feel like their friend, you know you could relate. Even though you’ve never met and live hundreds of miles away.

Yet we all keep reading. And that’s a good and a bad thing, I think. Good because we all support each other and eventually do become like friends. Bad because we get caught up sometimes. Perhaps we read between the lines for a story that isn’t really there. Or we see something they have that we want. Or we think to ourselves all of our problems would be solved if we were more like that. We would be faster if we did that. We get caught up in this world wide web of comparison. It’s only human. I bet some of us spend a fair amount of time thinking I want to be like that, if only I could do that when we read a blog. It’s like we live on a quiet suburban street with all of our kids and fancy cars and try to not only keep up with the Jones' but the Harrison's or the Wee's…..know what I mean?

We hear someone’s story about how they had the most effortless race day. Or how a 35 minute run with strides kicked their ass. Does this mean you are worse off because your race felt like ass? Or your 35 minute run always feels easy? What I’m getting at is that you are hearing one side of what happens to be a very multidimensional thing. Because a blog is just words it becomes very one dimensional – the rest is left up to your mind – as the reader - to add other dimensions and make it tangible.

And then we as blog writers can choose what to include and what to omit. Some writers are very good at giving you the good, bad, and the ugly. Even the fugly in case you were wondering. Some just report the numbers and the facts. Others put a positive spin on everything. It’s not that you can’t believe what all of these writers are writing – that’s not what I’m saying – it’s just that you can get caught up in comparing because there’s no reason to compare at all. Effortless might mean – I suffered through 20 days of piss poor training where my legs felt like lead and by some miracle it all came together on race day. Feeling like ass might mean – I had to run two days in a row, my coach is so mean! See what I’m saying? It’s all relative and variable and in the end doesn’t mean any one thing but lots of things.

Don’t get caught up.

In life we can be our own biggest enemies. We seek validation for the critic inside of oursevles every chance we get. This critic always looks to plant doubt about what we can be or seek confirmation about what we think we are. We have a doubt that we are not talented. The inner critic looks to validate. You didn’t win your age group. You can’t run a sub 8 minute mile. You’re slow. You suck. You struggled with that swim. You’ll never be fast. Says the inner critic to yourself. Blogs feed the inner critic as much as they feed the more positive places in our mind. Blogs make us think – you’ll never be fast if you don’t do that treadmill workout. You will never swim fast for feeling that 2,000 yards was hard when that chick swam 10,000 in a day. You don’t train like that so you’ll never do that well. It goes on and on and…..

I bring this up because I see this situation a lot – people reading someone else’s blog and then questioning themselves. Doubting themselves. Asking - what is wrong with me? Thinking they are not good enough, working hard enough, fit enough or doing the right thing because what they read on someone else’s blog is not what they are thinking/feeling/doing. Voraciously athletes read blogs and set about to compare themselves. The inner critic gets to work. But keep in mind that words are just that – words - there’s always more to the story, a part you do not see. And is the part you do not see really the part that is more like you? Is that the part that your inner critic really needs to see the one that was not written about, the footnotes to the story that show she really is just like me.

I talk to my athletes a lot about blogs – convince them that everyone’s blog is just that – theirs. Their words, emotions and experiences filtered through their personality. Is their story relevant to anyone else? Sort of – relatively speaking. Just because someone else does a 3000 yard swim that feels like nothing at all doesn’t mean for another person it won’t feel like shit on a stick. Just because Bree does an 8 hour brick and survives doesn’t mean it wouldn’t leave me shelled on the side of the road. We’re all different; we all experience things differently, we are all at different points and we all tell a different story.

Look back to the reason I started a blog – an outlet, a release, a witness for my life and words. A record of my experience in the world. I read other blogs to hear about their point of view. To peek in their diary. I walk away thinking about something in a new way. Or take away a strategy for myself. But I don’t compare. Each author is undeniably who they are, where they are. Their specific experiences in sport don’t really have much to do with me. But I like the way their story is told and from them I take away something I will make me a better version of me.

So then, why do some people use blogs as a measuring stick for where they are or how they are doing? I try to understand this every day. Is it doubt, fear, envy, insecurity, a neverending dissatisfaction with one’s self? Is it that someone are driven more by their inner critic than their actual self? Which version of the self will win? And are blogs helping the case either way? In trying to better understand people these are the things I think about; I wonder if blogs are a hindrance or help. Or if there should be a disclaimer about how to read. One that says: I’m telling you this version of the story and though it sounds hard/easy trust me there were days that were easy/ hard too. That for every day I looked thin in a picture I felt fat about 100 more. That for every time I said my legs felt great there were 2 were I could feel them going up stairs. That for every success I write about there were about 10 failures. That for every day I feel good there were 3 I felt like shit. So if I choose to write about the good please don’t think you are any less for feeling bad. And if I choose to write about the bad please don’t write me off as pessimistic and whiny.

It’s an interesting thing, the blog. It’s powerful in connecting us, stirring our emotions, touching us and making us think. What connects us is this make believe world of the super-information-and-story-saturated internet, wirelessly tied together by our words, experiences and views. But like any superhighway, it’s a risky place to be. Keep it all in perspective. Because it’s just that – a matter of perspective, someone’s point of view as they sit at a certain latitude and longitude that is different from where you’re at.

Compare yourself? Not necessary. Celebrate yourself, respect yourself, your personal experiences, your victories and defeats. Appreciate the view from your window, tell your own story to the world.


Danni said...

I am just going to say, thank you.
You know exactly why, coach.

Ashley said...

Hurrah! Well said. Thank you for the honesty... a reminder a need often. And please post more of your 8-11 yr old diary when you can... now THAT is entertainment.

Wes said...

I'll need to search your archives if I'm to find one of your blog posts that's mundane :-)

My blog allows me to expose my true self in its rawer form. Sure, I try to keep it entertaining too, and I take a few literary licenses to do that, but for the most part, it is a me that people in the real world will never see (except for "The Bug").

The ability to turn it off like a light switch has something to do with that, I believe ;-)

Stef said...

I started my blog because I love to write -- and I was/am more sick of legal writing than anyone can possibly imagine. I wanted to write about something I liked.

Triathlon fit that bill nicely and it still does. I also like that people read it and comment.

AND I like that I've made friends, both in the blogosphere and in person, as a direct result of my blog! My two training buddies that I'm riding with this weekend are bloggers that happen to live in Las Vegas/Henderson.

I used to rampantly compare myself to others' blogs and would come up woefully short, every time. That is so last year. I don't do it anymore.

Cy said...

As usual-Outstanding post!

Indeed we all have our reasons to blog; For me, its sort of my way to 'scrapbook' without having to cut and glue! Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the fun stuff others are doing and wish you could join in, but I also know I've learned a lot about attitude and joy from reading others blogs. It's nice to have the liberty to pick and choose the blogs you read, and for the record, yours is always worth reading. You are a very gifted writer.

I'm 'challenged' each and every time I do a post, by a ex-girlfriend stakler who enjoys writting 500word comments about what terrible people my husband and I are...

I just keep writing assuming people will find another blog if they don't enjoying reading mine.

IM Able said...

I think, in a way, blogs allow individuals to find relevance. You know? When I first started mine, I wanted people to read it. Like lots of people. Everyone, come and READ IT! I checked my stat counter each day (ahem, hour) and wondered if the people who visited found what I said relevant for them. And when they said it was, it made me feel important in a small way.

And then I kept writing and stopped focusing on who visited and why. I a began to realize that it's become more of a vehicle to find that I am relevant *to myself.* That every day I have is important (okay, some more than others) and it's important enough to me to write at least some of it down. And the more I began to realize that, the more honest and open my writing became. And easier.

Us bloggers? We are whacky folk, I tell ya.

Roo said...

Liz- This is why I love to read your blog. Because, as you put it, " I take away something that will make me a better version of me."

You always find a way to make me think and challenge myself to be better. Thanks for the awesome blog! Lisa

Train-This said...

Great Post Liz!I am in the same boat as Cy.... it's a way to scrapbook without having to have glue and fancy sissors. It's a way to connect with others, learn from others and celebrate accomplishments. The friendships we forge become so priceless! And as long as you stay true to you..... as you always need not worry about a thing!

:-) Mary!

Mira Lelovic said...

Great post, Liz! I have thought about blogs a lot and had some of the same thoughts you did. I have decided they are something to approach with caution, at least for me, and comments can be even more dangerous!

Still enjoy reading your blog as much as I did in 2006 when it was the ONLY blog I read!

Andrea said...

Whoa. Heavy. :)
Seriously though, the most eye opening part of your post, to me, was that people actually compare themselves to the people they read about.

I mean, how could I possibly compare myself to you, or Bree or anyother pro, elite, or anyone else involved in the sport? This sport is great because it's all about the individual - what YOU can achieve with YOUR abilities, hard work and genetics.

I read blogs to be inspired, for entertainment, and occasionally I learn a thing or two.

I want people to read my blog but I don't want them to compare themselves to me - wether they are faster or slower. That would make me feel bad on both ends of the spectrum.

I still want so-and-so's legs though! And seeing her posted photos, and reading her blog inspires me to be more than I am now.

Ron said...

Nice job stepping back. I guess as an egghead professor, rather than a diary, I want to propose ideas that spark conversation and promote community. I think the details of our daily lives-workout splits and even race times-will fade faster than the thinking we do in the context of the "whys" of life, like why blog.

Jennifer Harrison said...

Well, I believe I was one of the friends that wanted you to blog, Ms. Fedofsky...but, I blog for 1 reason - to TALK TO MYSELF or someone else. Haha. Seriously, I started it for my business. As a way to link my athletes together to me and just have an outlet of what I am doing. Some people care, others don't. I don't blame the ones that don't. And, the blog is ME...I am raw, I am dramatic, I am emotional and I am assertive. It is just me. Some people like me, some don't. But, the best thing about is ME. The only thing I wish I could do more bitch and moan on there about HOW tired I am OR how the phone rings 10 x after 9pm at night....but I can', I do have to filter my blog b/c of my work, but the REAL me is there...just with a HAPPY spin...because that is me too.

Thanks for this post. I think after our on-going chats about this...this is perfect timing.

And, I read blogs for a simple reason: I AM NOSEY. Really. I don't care too much that X person is doing 14 hour brick OR this on the treadmill b/c I 110% trust my training plan...and am confident in my plan...I read it b/c it entertainment. The blogs have been a nice substitute for the TV for me. Now, at night, I curl up and read blogs and enjoy them...for what they are: PURE entertainment and a connection in this sport we all so love.

Jen H. :)

BreeWee said...

Coach made me start a blog for my supporters/family in Florida and Canada...

BUT I am so glad I did!!! I agree with everything you said, and I love What CY said, we "choose" who's we read... I find my friends to read and those that totally encourage me (like yours big time). The ones that make you feel like junk... just don't read.

AND, like Rachel would say, it's something to do while icing and better than trashy mags...

Laura said...

I'm a lurker and have never commented on your blog before because, as some have mentioned, you are such a good writer and it's kinda intimidating (LOL), BUT, I L.O.V.E.D this post! Thanks so much for reminding me that I am my own 'experiment of one' and to stop comparing what I'm doing to what so-and-so is doing. For me this is fun and focusing TOO much on the competition of it all is not as much fun.

Amy Beth Kloner said...

So, what was YOUR workout today?

just kidding!!!

nicely put fedofsky ;)

Terri said...

I second the NOSEY part - that would be me. But seriously, I enjoy an informative and especially humerous blogs - I am amazed at the wit that I find in these blogs.
Also, I'm a creature of habit - and loved your blog roll - count on it to see which of my favorites have updated recently and click from your blog to theirs - but, where is it? I am soooo lost....

Mel said...

VERY WELL WRITTEN!!!! I LOVE the blogs that I have "choosen" to read..."real people" who have struggles and ups and downs just like me.. making me feel "normal" and not some crazy whack job:)
I agree don't get "caught up" and just keep it real and do "your" own thing!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for writing this. Some very precious introspection to say the least.


IronMatron said...

Hmm. I read and post because this tri-blogging thing is a community. It's a group of people who get it--who train incessantly and never tire of talking about it. I live in mommy world full of school busses and making lunches and stupid mom gossip. How great to break free of that and tap in with people who have the same passion as me? These are people I have never met who support me and encourage me, and I them. Maybe others are super lucky and get this in their hometown communities--but many of us don't. And I think that's why many of us blog.
With both you and Jen, though, it's also an awesome way to fuel a thriving coaching business!!! :)

tri-dogmom said...

this is a fantastic, dead on post! thank you...

Alicia Parr said...

See? I told you it was a good idea to start a blog.