Why

The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.

~ Carl Gustav Jung

One of my favorite bloggers is a guy named Jack. Jack is a simple man with a beautiful family and some endearing stories to share about life and love and family and all the minutiae these often ambiguous words entail. Jack speaks to me on so many levels; as an elegant writer, as a befuddled father, as a bone-tired working man, as a studious observer and participant in this thing called life. You may have taken the time to read the guest post Jack wrote for The Cheek several months ago. If not, then you should do it.

Just don’t bother trying to click through to read more of Jack. The link is broken. The Family Clay, the blog anyway, is no more.

Jack’s final post is a doozy, a mixture of all that I love about Jack – as a person and as a blogger. He’s wrestling with spirituality (it may surprise you to learn that this is a topic of interest to me) and shares this about his family’s recent trip to church . . .

When it came time to extend wishes of peace to nearby parishioners, that’s when [my daughter Agalia] really made her presence felt.  Because she was really too young to take part the last time were at church, I gave her a brief description of what was about to happen.  “You’ll get to shake hands and say ‘hello’ to the people around us at church.”

She beamed. Getting the chance to meet new people is to Agalia what getting buttered is to toast.

There were only a few people around us, but the first to turn and acknowledge us was a man in his 50’s or 60’s who was there with his mother.  He waved to Agalia, but she wasn’t about to be shortchanged from meeting new people – she extended her hand and said “hi”.  The man gently smiled, and then his mother turned.  In her you could see that osteoarthritis had long ago grabbed her spine and bent it like it was copper wire.  Her hands shook a little when she moved, blue veins traced over a pallid face speckled with age spots, but she still had a bright smile.  Being more than arm’s length away and probably not wanting to risk a broken bone for a wish of peace, she smiled and waved at Agalia.  Agalia would have none of it – she squeezed past me and reached further and further over the back of the next pew until she was able to touch the elderly woman’s hand.

The woman beamed.

The expression on her face resembled that of someone who just learned of the best news she’d ever received in their life.  She stared at Agalia for a few moments, taking in her bright eyes, her warmth, not being sure what to say.  She just knew she wanted to bask in that glow awhile . . .

Recognizing the import of stepping stone moments like this is what makes Jack tick. He concludes . . .

We’re beginning the process of casting a broader spiritual net – we’ll be visiting Lutheran, Methodist and other denominational churches as well as nondenominational ones.  Ones where there’s a mix of age and race.  We’ll try to find one where they don’t believe that every other brand of worship will land you in hell, where only certain kinds of people with certain orientations are worthy of passage through the pearly gates.  Jesus didn’t mind hanging out with whores and lepers, right?

I hope Jack finds what he’s looking for. As one who has been there and done that ad nauseum, I can say for certain that, when it comes to faith, there will always be things that fall short of our expectations and send us reeling for something solid and sensible. I would encourage Jack to keep his rudder in the water, his hands on the paddle, and his gaze set on the horizon. There is more than we can know, and our task is to keep rowing . . .

Jack then took the time to call me out . . .

Tysdaddy – I didn’t comment as often on your blog as I should have.  Maybe with a bit more time now, I will.  With the effort you put into your posts, I always felt challenged to make comments of equal caliber.  Not sure if I accomplished that, but I tried.  I hope the work you put into your non-traditional student activities pay off in the years to come, and serve as an example for your kids that learning doesn’t stop when you graduate.

Jack, I want you to know it has been an honor having you at The Cheek. You are always welcome here.

Of course, all this parting sorrow has gotten me thinking . . .

As of this morning, my Google Reader tells me, I have 457 unread posts in the 70 blogs I monitor. Some of you post daily, sharing the little things that strike you, giving me a chance to pause and reflect on the things I overlook. Others of you take the time to craft lengthy, less frequent posts I can curl up with and savor over a hot cup of coffee. Some of you I love reading. You’re in my Top Ten. Others of you I feel an obligation to read. Not in a “must” but a “should” kind of way. You’ve become interesting acquaintances that spark something in my frantic mind. You share comments and emails, and keeping up with your blogs is like passing you in the hall, spending a few minutes catching up, then moving on to wherever is down the road until the next time our paths cross.

Please don’t take it personally when I don’t get back to you as often as I should. I say this because this is the kind of stuff I worry about. That you’ll think I’m just ignoring you or may have forgotten about you and all that you’re going through.

And I fear that, in response, you may choose to walk away.

To be completely honest, I think about this all the time. “Why hasn’t so-and-so commented lately? They must have found someone more interesting to read.” Silly, I know. I’m a pouting sour puss who interprets the silence of my readers as an indication that something is wrong with me. I create a mental distance based on assumptions that are seldom reality, and then mourn the loss that isn’t really there. Even at this ripe old age, my armor has gaping holes. I still seek validation from those I shouldn’t expect it from. And worse, I brush it aside as accommodating bullshit when it’s extended by those who truly care.

Yes, dear reader, I am one seriously messed up individual.

Why do I continue to blog? To worry about this little community I have created? Have you ever seen the movie Lost In Yonkers? Like Bella, I want it all to mean so much. Perhaps that’s why I do this. I feel what I have to say means something. And it may not always make sense, for this is about fleshing out the random shit in my head, getting it out of there and onto here, finding some unexpected buoy and mooring my conceptual vessels so that they are no longer being tossed to and fro upon the seas of my churning and foggy mind.

To believe that I’m making a connection. That I’m not just blowing smoke or spouting some tired party line. I guess that’s why I do this. As Jack says, this is HARD work. Blogging, staying connected, consumes my free time like Takeru Kobayashi downs Nathan’s hot dogs. Yet it leaves me bloated and smiling. And, for now, until the “why” doesn’t make sense anymore, I’ll continue to belly up and do this thing.

Just remember that I never promised smooth sailing . . .

[photo credit]

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29 thoughts on “Why

  1. Ditto.

    I love your comments. And I know you’re a terriffic writer. And blogger. And student. And employee. And dedicated dad. And doting husband. So if something out of that list has to go, I’d really prefer that it be the comments.

    But really, I think you’ve summed up what so many of us go through, with this whole blog thing. Good work, you.

  2. “Not in a “must” but a “should” kind of way.”

    In retrospect, “should” really does mean “want to”. No one is a “should” in the world of The Cheek.

    Ginny,

    You are kind, my friend. Even when I’m whining, you dig me.

  3. Oh, I’ll sometimes leave you but then I come back! I can’t quit ya’ said that poor brokeback mountain caballero. But, seriously, isn’t that really the advantage of blogging vs. real time relationships. You can neglect them due to this and that but then pop in and they are happy to see you with no guilt??

    70 blogs In your Google reader? Seriously? That would come awfully close to not being enjoyable to see all those unread things!

  4. 70 is down from over 90 during the holidays. I did some whittling, and will probably do some more. A few of the blogs I subscribe to are the “cool” blogs, written by people I spent some time trying to get to know so they would visit The Cheek and perhaps add some credibility to my writing. They are “big deal” daddy bloggers, so I tried to join in the conversation, hoping for some reciprocity blog-style. But I’m learning that so much of that is simply a waste of time and emotional energy . . . and makes me feel like the nerdy kid I was in high school, trying to win over the popular people by sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong . . .

    And that’s why I loved Jack. He was real, not necessarily big time, and took the time to get to know me. And why I’ll miss reading his stuff . . . a lot . . .

  5. My “why” rarely makes sense. Does anyone’s, really? I guess we do it because on some level it does feel good, it’s satisfying and that is enough.

    I heard a football coach once respond to criticism about his focus. He replied that he coached football because it was enjoyable, fun. And when it stops being so, he’d quit. And quit he did some two years later, but he remains one of the happiest, most peaceful guys I’ve ever known.

  6. I’m with you in many ways, Bryan. I haven’t accumulated quite as many messages in my reader (40 at the most), but still I find myself becoming more selective about what I read. More and more, I skip or unsubscribe. I’m always tempted to follow a new link, or check out another blog (like Ed’s above), but damn, there are only so many hours in the day and some living, breathing, in-the-same-room people deserve my attention too. I just can’t do it all. I like to think of my reader as a still. Some excellent mountain whiskey is starting to drip out.

    That’s just me. You need to keep blogging and reading and feeling guilty until you figure out why you need it. The truth, your truth, is underneath the noise of your thinking and it will come out. You don’t strike me as the kind of guy to give up and dissolve into willful ignorance.

    In any case, you’re part of my excellent whiskey and I’ll keep enjoying it until the jar is empty. Cheers.

  7. There is this little button on your feed reader. It says ‘mark all as read.’ When I started blogging (my lord! almost two years now!) I felt like I had to read it all and say something pithy everywhere.

    Now, with 587 subscriptions, this is impossible. If, as I suspect, you started a blog as part of your developing self/writer process…. hit that button at will. WRITE more than you read.

    P.S. Thanks for reminding me 🙂 Off to hit that button now myself.

  8. I started blogging on a whim last April and had no idea how much time I would end up spending on it–not just the writing but the reading as well. My next post will be No. 100. I keep thinking it shoud be profound, but if that’s the case, then it will never be written. I rarely go deep, but I enjoy it when others do. Childhood tales of vomiting on the side of the road while dressed like Heidi are more my speed.

  9. I did the 100th post thing. It was fun, but hardly profound. In fact, if memory serves, my 100th post was actually my 101st. Keep it simple and be yourself.

    And I’m now whiskey. Not just any whiskey but the harsh, throat-scraping stuff that comes from stills. Cool! Though I prefer to be something mixed with fruit juice, like a Sex on the Beach. Much more enjoyable . . . and if you have the time, do check out Ed’s blog. He must be a cool guy, for his writing is inviting and he has a daughter named Zoe. Yeah, we’re buds . . .

    As to why Jack quit blogging, his reasons are myriad and understandable. He wanted to record life lessons for his kids to enjoy as the years roll by, but he also had hoped to make some cash through the blog. In the end, he felt incapable of crafting posts that would entertain the larger audience required to make the blog profitable. He is also self-employed and felt the need to concentrate his efforts toward his other online and real-world ventures. He did say he plans to start a personal journal for his kids, so he will be writing, and that’s very cool. For he does it well, and his kids are in good hands . . .

    I’ve sent Jack an email and invited him to chime in here at The Cheek, but his server may have been shut down by now so I’m not sure if it got through. I found his final post almost a week after we published it, so I may have missed my shot at hooking up with him again. Which is why I went on about my overloaded reader and opportunities missed.

  10. I’m struggling with a couple of things that you wrote about – keeping up with commenting on others blogs, there is just no time. Also, I’m trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing with this whole blog thing. What I hope to achieve Why I’m spending so much time on it rather than on more gainful pursuits. Don’t know the answer.

  11. It’s funny what Jack mentioned about commenting here, he didn’t do it as often as he should because he felt he needed to match the caliber of the post. I have said the same time and time again, I often feel under qualified or simply a little too dumb to contribute here constructively.

    You won’t get rid of me though.

  12. Thanks for the post, Tysdaddy. Way kind of you.

    Funny thing – I discovered that I’d paid for two years of hosting in advance, so I still have a year’s worth of hosting to wait out.

    As for why I quit – the blog wasn’t turning into what I’d wanted it to be. Sure, I’d like it to turn a few coin, but I also wanted it to be something about the kids, for the kids. Too often I didn’t feel I could post the things I wanted to tell my kids and still have it speak to a larger audience. Plus, many of the recent posts were self serving, and it seemed I’d gotten in that rut and was struggling to extract myself from it.

    So I’d rather spend my time just writing, freely, to my kids by way of a private journal that I’d then give to them when they were much older.

    I’ll stay involved with the web, as I have a few sites that are generating some revenue. But for this one it just became far too difficult for me to make it what I’d wanted it to be. I think some people can do it, I’m just not among those people.

    Thanks again.

  13. Mm-hm. Connecting – I think you do that particularly well! And pulling out that inside stuff to get a different perspective. Those are the reasons I blog, too.

    I don’t know how, but I’ve given up being concerned with how many comment, or don’t, or whether or not someone’s still reading me. I blog for me, mostly, I guess that’s why, and if I pull others along with me at times, that’s a beautiful thing – but not necessary.

    Of course, having said that – when a post gets lots of comments, I’m thrilled beyond measure! Because it means that connection has happened for sure. But I have connected with blog posts that others have written and I haven’t commented, so I reckon that happens with mine, too.

    I understand about folks’ reluctance to comment here – I had to look up palimpsest the first time I visited, and I now don’t remember what it means! I have learned, though, that my voice is my voice – it doesn’t have to be your voice. So I’m not intimidated… most of the time. ; )

  14. First and foremost I want you to know that I always smile when you show up on my blog, and I love the fact that from time to time you find something I’ve said here worthy of commenting in a note back to me. But never think you have let me down by not visiting my site or personally noting my comments here.
    We’re grownups and we live in the real world, most of the time. Our families, our jobs… that stuff has to come first. Otherwise, this isn’t a creative, emotional outlet anymore. It’s a chore. This stuff should never feel like a chore, or you’re doing something wrong.
    It’s really hard not to get caught up in the community of it all because we do develop bonds with one another, but if you began this blog for you, you have to work at keeping it that way. If you began it as a source of entertainment for the people who stumble upon it, then, work hard to keep it like that!
    I’m extremely selective in the blogs I read often. I have maybe ten. The list seems to be growing, but rarely do I feel obligated to read any of them. I try very hard to surround myself with like-minded individuals. Meaning, people who know I might disappear for a week, but I’ll always be back.
    Just like you. 🙂 You don’t always comment, you don’t always read. But I know you’ll wonder back over when you can, when you have time, when you think of what I might be up to… when you see me here and realize you haven’t visited in a bit, etc.
    You’re right. You do have something to say. If you burden yourself with feelings of guilt or inadequacy, I’m afraid your voice will get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let that happen.
    The thing I like most about your blog is it makes me think. There are times when I haven’t been over here for a while, and when I finally make it here, I’ll have a few posts to read to catch up on, and I like it that way. It forces me to take the time to actually think. It might be on five different subjects, but that’s okay because I like the pace it forces me to slow down to and just think.
    All I’m trying to say is don’t let your worries make this all an obligation. It’s too nice having you around, and when people start to feel weighed down, they go away. I would pout at you forever if you did that!

  15. I think everyone who blogs wonders if they smell, when their regular readers don’t come around. I used to keep a lot more blogs on my roll, for many of the same reasons you listed. Then I had an epiphany and realized I don’t need that many pseudo-friends – if you’re on my blogroll (and you are!) then I read you because I like you, like keeping up with you. Quality, not quantity, just like in life. Some of my most devoted readers never comment, choosing to give their feedback in person. Family is what it’s all about for me, and you, my brother, are family.

  16. I know how you feel. I haven’t gotten to the point of reading quite as many blogs as you do, but sometimes it starts to feel a little overwhelming if I get behind, and then I need to remind myself that the purpose of my blog is to promote family, so if I need to spend a little “real” time with my family, then so be it.

    I enjoy your writing, don’t ever stop!

  17. This is a brilliant post. I have had similar thoughts. My feedreader shows I have a LOT of people subscribed/reading my blog, but I am lucky to get 6-7 comments on any given post. I’m still trying to solve that one.

    I gave you the go-ahead for my Pater Ex Animo badge in my comment (with due credit, of course 🙂 ). I DEF look forward to reading those posts.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post today. I have a similar church story I will link back to this post when I write it. I appreciate the inspiration.

  18. Holy crap! My reader is officially empty! It took a couple days, and I did skip a few posts, but it felt good to get caught up a bit.

    Thanks for all the comments, folks. Tweakers Rule!

  19. Because I’ve been living life, I too have fallen behind in my Reader. Your descriptions of the blogging experience are excellent and I relate to every word. I don’t have the time to create the beautiful pieces that you and other bloggers do. I’m okay with that now. Michael’s words ring true. These blogs are for the individual.

    Sometimes the “community” I feel/see when I visit various blogs makes me feel more isolated than included. Clicks are created so quickly in the blogosphere. Surprises me.

    Please know, I am a faithful reader of your blog regardless of my time/ability to leave a meaningful comment (although I recognize you probably appreciate the goofy, not-meaningful comments too). I truly expect nothing in return. Just keep writing. 🙂

  20. My unofficial New Year’s resolution is to do only the blogging things that I feel like it and enjoy. I have met so many cool people and learned things and been moved by things that I don’t want to sully blogging by making it feel like a job. It takes effort yes, because you do want to be a good ‘friend’, but when I’m busy I read my friends but don’t always comment so I assume they do the same. Those of us that blog know how good it feels to get those comments, words of encouragement or a little applause so I always want to heap it myself on others who deserve it, but there’s so amny great bloggers, so many great posts.

  21. Theres nothing I can say that isn’t summed up in the comments above but I liken your feelings to the inevitable ebb and flow of just being human. One minute I’m everyones darling. i can do no wrong. I sparkle, I dazzle. I’m embraced. In a blink of an eye, I’m tarnished. I’m lackluster. I’m less then you thought, I’m less then I thought.

    I blogged for me, I never published or promoted my address. Then I was uncovered. Maybe I commented, maybe I was stumbled upon. I had readers, but no comments, then I had commenters, then quiet. I read but don’t always comment. I see tres witty cool cats (hello Rassles) and she kills me with her arcane humor and brilliance. I’m know I’m not cool enough to play in the big pool. I don’t have the vehicle, the layout. My thoughts aren’t tight, my ideas not original. But it’s ok. because it’s for me. And while the validation is gorgeous, it’s not necessary.

    Your blog, you might want to know is my #1 read. It’s the first I check, before my “real” friends, before some of my emails. It’s my treat. I’m blessed when I miss a day because often I have multiple posts to catch up on and I’m bereft when you don’t post.

    You may not hear me but I’m listening. And I’m always grateful for what you share – and actually who reads YOU – because those folks are fairly freaking cool. I’ve learned a lot visiting your world and I don’t intend to stop. Keep on keepin on.

  22. I’m such a bad blogger lately but I don’t CARE! I just don’t have time. I still read most people on my reader (that includes you!), though there are a couple of mass-merchandising type blogs that I should get off of there because I never read them anymore. They got to the thousands of comments level and lost their charm for me. I live in the 4th largest city in the U.S., so being part of the herd doesn’t appeal to me much. I also blog for the community of it, the connection to other people, and I’m so glad you do, too, Brian.

    I’m trying to find a way to have time for family/work/school AND blog, but obviously blog is coming in last.

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