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.