It’s a small world now….

Thanks to the ever changing world of technology and social media, it’s become clear that there is no such thing as “six degrees of separation.” Frankly, I think it’s one-two degrees of separation at best. This point was brought home to me a few days ago when I learned that a local follower of mine on twitter had attended the same college as the Man Unit. Granted, the Man Unit’s alma mater is very well known for its journalism program but it is in the Midwest and we are in New England. In a case of how small the world really is, it turns out that this woman had not only attended the same program as my husband but they actually had in the same graduating class and once I told her who my husband was, she knew who he was. Talk about a holy smokes the world is small moment.

Lately I have found myself thinking about how small the world is as readership of this space grows.  I am still amazed when someone in my local offline life tells me that they have read some of my work. Offline I actually don’t talk about my writing life. Until recently, I kept my career as a non-profit administrator separate from my blogging and writing hobby (possible second career), but in recent months that has proven harder to do as local papers here in the state of Maine have spoken with me on various issues. Some months back, a well-known Maine journalist tracked me down for some of my insights and a day after his piece ran, I found myself in a yoga class with a several people who had read not only my thoughts from the other writer’s piece but who had looked up my writings.

Last night, I came across a piece from a writer I admire on twitter, who had a friendly rant about how there is no separation between our online lives and our offline lives. The internet is here to stay and gone are the days when you can hide behind a fake photo and name and say whatever you want without it eventually being connected to you. I agree.

It’s one of the reasons that despite many well-meaning people suggesting, I tamp down my online hijinks or at the very least use locked accounts, I refuse to. For starters, I live in a small rural state and being online allows me better networking opportunities than I have available to me offline at the moment. Then there is that pesky fact that as a transplant who is over 30, meeting people is just hard. A decade here and while I know of a lot of people, I really have few people locally that I consider friends and the slightly sad fact is I met most of those people through online ventures, namely a now defunct local parenting discussion board. Lastly, I enjoy being online, it doesn’t interfere with my offline life. The day job gets done, the family is tended to, everyone’s needs are met, so why not?

I admit it is slightly unsettling to know that local people are reading read my work, but it actually means they are getting a chance to know me. Too often, we only see people in one dimensional ways often based on what they do for a living. Here, I strive for honesty at all times and if it offends, that’s okay too.

The world is an increasingly small place and no matter how some of us feel about that, no longer are our lives neatly compartmentalized. You don’t get be one person online and another offline and as uncomfortable as that feels it is reality. It means we all have to be a lot more intentional about who we are especially online since in this brave new world, even seemingly unrelated things such as jobs have been lost because of the disconnect in our lives. As crazy as it is, I am not sure that is a bad thing. In the past I have been told I over share, at least online, trust me there is nothing that I say in any space that I wouldn’t admit or share publicly.

It’s a small world now and it’s getting smaller yet it’s a great chance to define or redefine ourselves and be intentional and authentic in that process. So if you do nothing else in 2013, my two cents of advice is to be intentional in all that you do.

Yesterday was a reminder of the sheer joy that I receive from blogging and sharing my life online. In this era of bloggers as businesses, I think it’s too easy to lose sight of the simple joys that can come to those of us who work more in the personal memoir style of blogging. I think until yesterday I was still feeling pretty discouraged and oh so close to saying good bye because I momentarily lost sight of what my original goals were for this space…to use my voice and to make connections. Sure money is great, hell I work in social services, I don’t exactly have a large stash of cash!

I met up with two of my readers for brunch, and ended up hanging out for hours. Reader one is a relative newcomer to Maine, who has big plans and I am looking forward to seeing her grow and showcase a side of Maine that people rarely see. So stay tuned!  Reader two is a designer who actually advertises in this humble space and while not a blogger, I am hoping I might get her to throw her hat into the ring.

It’s always interesting meeting up with people who know a lot about you, yet you know little about them. I am happy to say though that to date; I have only met one local reader that registered on my creep o meter. Instead everyone I have met is someone who I could easily see myself sharing coffee or a meal with and that says a lot. I admit I am always nervous meeting people who are readers, outside of wondering will they be creepy, I often wonder will I measure up to their expectations though generally once conversation starts such thoughts go out the window.

The thing is I strive to be authentically me, no matter what. In the end if a connection is not made, it’s because sometimes people don’t connect but not because I stopped being me. Hell, if anything me offline is a lot more me than what readers see in this space.

It’s so important to be our authentic selves, even online. How can I trust you to recommend a product when I don’t even know who you are? I know that there are many “formulas” for online success and sure certain techniques may work for a time, but if you bring anything less than your authentic self how do you gain trust? How do you keep that trust? With so many bloggers coming off their post BlogHer12 high, I have seen a slew of writing run across my twitter feed that frankly reads like a cheap advertisement. In this world one of the few things that those of us who play with words has, is our words and we best be wise and discerning in how we use them. Once you lose authenticity, the trust is gone. Sure you may still get the “hits” or numbers but will they trust you when you hawk a product or when you start filling your space with empty words because you “need” to get the numbers? Most likely not.

So while money is pretty much king in this world, for those who deal in words, maintaining truth and authenticity is even better.

PS: If you are thinking haven’t you heard this before to some degree, remember sometimes I use this space as a public journal and yeah, I might even repeat myself, it’s my prerogative as Bobby Brown once said!

Last fall I spoke publicly as part of a local series addressed at women called She Speaks, it was a defining moment in that I chose to be very public about my battle with anxiety…anxiety that was acquired over the years starting from childhood where I learned very clearly that sharing emotions was not a good thing. It’s taken a lot of work over the last 15 years to unlearn the fact that emotions are not bad and that in fact they can be very good at times. For me what was bad was stuffing down emotions to the point that I often triggered anxiety attacks.

While I started a number of years ago working on my issues, it was my son’s anxiety that started to manifest between his junior and senior years of high school that made me realize, I needed to get serious about unlearning my learned behavior. For years I had thought no one knew just how anxious I was but the fact is my son was starting to model the behavior I had modeled and thought I had done such a bang up job of hiding. (Note, I rarely write about my son since at 20 his story is his to share but in his music he openly shares this knowledge so I feel okay sharing here)

The reason I am writing this is because yesterday while killing time online, I came across a post on Babble that broke my heart. We strive so hard to raise our kids’ right, to protect them from hazards, to give them the best but for some reason as moms too many times the one thing we don’t give our kids is our real self. In this quest to be super mom, we seem to lose sight of the fact that it’s more than okay to be human. Humans are messy, complex and occasionally emotional. Moms are not robots and frankly we get mad, sad and straight pissed off. Kids are resilient, trust me on this, I have 20 years of parenting under my belt and to see mom occasionally freak out is not going to scar them.

The legacy of stuffing myself down has led me to strive for authenticity across the board in all areas of my life. In the past year I have become so honest that at times there have been repercussions for that honesty and its okay. I admit, I almost killed a business deal with my honest face… that was a tough moment.

I think the scariest thing about the state of parenting at the moment is how we focus so much on our kids that we seem to forget that we are humans too, worthy of everything we give our kids. I know for me that has meant giving my kids the leeway to say what they need to say and feel how they need to feel. I admit that is a work in progress to allow my daughter especially to have a bad moment without that overwhelming need to stifle her anger or tears but to simply be present with whatever she feels until she is ready to let it go naturally.

To raise our kids and to truly give them the best means a willingness to raise ourselves and realize this is all a journey and we can learn together.

Be me…the joys of being myself

Yesterday was that rare day where the sun shone bright in my world, all was well with me. No, the day did not involve a windfall of cash (which would have been nice though) nor did it involve any mind blowing sex (that too would have been nice), hell it didn’t even involve a day without work. What it did involve though was a concerted effort to live in my truth, to be me and to shut out the voices that often come from a myriad of places telling me I should be more or do more.

A few nights ago while reading Byron Katie’s Loving What Is, I had a light bulb moment when in actually doing Byron’s inquiry process, it hit me that so many times my inner strife is due to the mental tug of war I put myself through. So many times I beat myself up because I don’t earn enough, I don’t spend as much time playing with my kid as I think I should, and the list of what shoulds go on. The thing is all that stuff does nothing but to make me feel bad and as someone predisposed towards anxiety attacks, I end up doing a lot of work avoiding the attacks.

So I started my week off saying screw it! Instead of forcing myself to be who I am not, how about an experiment where the focus is on being who I really am? It’s still early in the process but let me say I am loving it! When the focus was not on forced play with my child, I found myself creating opportunities to connect without the pressure; the result was bonding time while painting a dresser for the girl’s room. I admit the dresser didn’t come out nearly as well as I had hoped but we had fun and the kid’s room is better organized. That task had been on my to-do list all summer but only when I took the pressure off myself did it happen. I went to a morning yoga class and took some chances on the mat that I had been previously unwilling to and even surprised myself. My yoga teacher often tells me many times we work life out on the mat…she might be right.

It hit me last night when I sat down to unwind and hopped online that when I am busy living my truth, the truth of others means less to me. I am less likely to compare myself to my friends who eat better than I am, I eat what my body needs and it’s fine. Suddenly I can take real joy in my work and greet the kids and families I serve with the authentic me when I live in the knowledge that in my corner of the world what I do matters…I can trust that the universe will provide for me.

As a heavy user of social media, I think at times it’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game. I hate to admit there are many times when I have read another person’s blog, looked at a friend’s photos and felt like a failure. I suspect I am not the only one this happens to and frankly as much as I love social media, I am learning there are times you need to turn it off. A while back I was discussing a local blogger and it turned out since Maine is so small, that two buddies of mine actually know the blogger. So I asked them both, is she really who she appears to be on her blog? Both said yes and one who has known her for many years shared that the blogger has always been working towards the life she has, that even without social media Amanda would be living this life. I admit that tidbit stayed with me and as I look at my own life now, I get it…when we live our truth, we present our authentic selves and that’s when it all comes together. Striving for anything less than being myself is a waste of time.

PS: If you are in Maine and near the Portland area, I will be speaking next week Sept 22 as part of the She Changes Speaking Series. It will be a great night of women speaking their truths! Check it out!