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Friday, September 12, 2014

Authenticity

Authenticity

I read an article this evening that struck me as important in this age of social media and in my life as a blogger: Instagram Envy, Being Authentic on the Internet, and When It’s Time to Break Up with a Blog @ Carrots for Michaelmas. I encourage y’all to go read the whole thing, but a couple points jumped out at me. They might be obvious, and yet we I forget them all the time.

I compare my unedited life with someone else’s edited life when I browse the social media/blog world.

This goes one of two ways for me: 1.) the person is a great writer and can make even the worst struggles either beautifully poignant or absolutely hilarious or 2.) the person is a fantastic photographer.

What I need to remember is that both the writer and the photographer are artists, and their art is purposeful—edited to deliver a message. My life, the day-to-day nitty-gritty, is unedited. I see everything, warts and dirty dishes and failures and all. It’s not fair of me to compare the two.

Authenticity in my own blogging means that no one should meet the real me or see my real world and be surprised.

I try, I really do try to be authentic in this space. It’s very difficult for me to show that through photography, however, because as an artist I want my pictures to be beautiful. And life is not always, sometimes not at all, beautiful. And sometimes the un-beautiful is not my story to share. I must be respectful of those whose stories are woven with mine. I am also not the brilliant writer who can weave a story to make you cry or laugh.

Really, there is more to say, like the fact that we have responsibility as blog readers and social media browsers to be aware of our own weaknesses and aware of what brings us joy or builds us up, but I need sleep so I’ll end this quick post with some authentic friend-to-friend honesty:

  • I can’t stick to diets or schedules. I love to eat junk food, and I am selfish and have poor self-discipline. I’d love to sleep 10 hours every night.
  • I don’t get up early every (any) morning. I’m terrible at making time for devotions or quiet time.
  • I take everything personally and get defensive at the slightest (imagined) criticism. And then I spend hours ranting in my head and having imaginary conversations with people who will never win the argument because I’m doing the talking for them.
  • I let little things bother me like a bur under the saddle. Like the lady at the children’s museum today who said my 3-year-old shouldn’t be running in the huge outdoor play area (after I used the phrase “she’s tired from running around in the heat for the past two hours”). Seriously?! I’m supposed to keep my toddler and three boys at a calm walking speed in an outdoor play area with ramps and ropes and stairs and slides and tunnels and mazes and whatnot? Whatever. Or that longtime friend who blocked me on Facebook (not unfriended—BLOCKED) with no obvious reason or communication whatsoever as if we (she) were middle-schoolers. Whatever.
  • We are sit-down family dinner failures in our house.
  • My front porch (and back porch, honestly) looks like a dump.
  • I am terrible at getting things done unless I have a deadline or a specific commitment. And then I wait until last-minute (or last-second) panic sets in.
  • I lose my temper with my children. Often. And it isn’t pretty.
  • I could enjoy reading a steady diet of romance novels and nothing else.
  • I could enjoy watching a steady diet chick flicks and nothing else.
  • I crave affirmation and praise.
  • I prefer need a day’s notice (or more) if someone wants to visit me at my house.
  • I am not good at house cleaning, much less deep cleaning. It takes me all day just to pick up surface junk, and then I’m too tired to clean.
  • I hate to volunteer for things.
  • My boys are voracious readers, but I assure you, they have less than impressive or pleasant qualities as well. (Ha!)

This list could go on for a long time, but maybe this will help some of you have a more realistic idea of my unedited life. [wry grin]

And now I’m curious. If you read my blog and then met me in person, were you surprised? It is my sincere desire that this blog be an authentic space, and I want to work on that if I’m falling short.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing... even if you feel like you can't write for the sake of beautiful story telling - I still find your writing informed and helpful. I read your blog to understand more about the Classical model and for great curriculum tips and literature ideas!

DianeS said...

Love your blog and your willingness to be real is one of the reasons I keep reading. It also inspires me and helps me find books for my boy. You're pictures inspire me to pick up my camera. They also allow me live vicariously in Oregon. Even though I'm a native Texan the heat here kills me. Hopefully we all know we only get a small picture of what someone's life is like when we read blogs.

jeana said...

One of the reasons you're blog my favorite. You've made it known that you and I are a lot (exactly) alike, and its okay. It's okay to not have it all together but to do the best you can with the energy you have. A lot of time my best isn't really my best, but its all I'm willing to do at times. I can be lazy and grumpy because I don't want my home or homeschool to reflect my laziness. It's hard to be real sometimes, but feels good to just admit it! :) thanks!

Melinda said...

I have been reading your blog for a few years now, and part of the reason I have been so committed is because you are totally authentic and real. Keep doing exactly what you doing with your blog! I look forward to reading it so much, and your photography is amazing. Thanks so much!

Catie said...

Thank you for this! It's so easy in the blogging world to make judgements (on ourselves and others) based on the tiny tidbits we see. Thanks for sharing Michaelmas post and for sharing your heart.

ChristyKaye said...

Oh, Heidi! We have sooooooo much in common! I guess that's why it's always so easy to just pick up where we left off. I love your honesty. Your comments assure me I'm not alone in my self-criticism & frustrations. It's been way too long-—again—we need to do coffee, chocolate, lunch, shopping or just visiting . . . soon :)

Karen said...

Heidi,

I love this blog post, Lady! Every time you do a "let's be real" piece I know I'm going to appreciate you ever so much more. This kind of thing pulls us together as moms. And how would we ever know for sure there was endless struggle with some of the areas of life we too, struggle with (things we greatly value or say we value)if amongst the beauty of your home, your inspiring adventures, your fresh, lovely holiday tables, and the intelligence that just oozes from you, your exceptional extended family, we didn't get to glance at the less than wonderful stuff, the messy stuff that is part of your life. It's the stuff most of us who follow you also deal with at some level but aren't sure anyone amazing could be quite as pathetic as we are. I include myself right there. Another insight I had while writing this comment: isn't this life sometimes so hard, so ugly that we are nearly desperate for beauty? An artist will both reflect the ugly and the blissful. We need both to survive in this world. Life IS good and gosh darn it we do need to stop, look at it, photograph it and like your header photo quote says, 'be astonished' by it. But life is also hard and in the midst of that you have offered us, not unlike good novelists do,the magic of place; the beautiful, rugged beauty of characters with all their faults; a story line that we can't put down; an honesty that somehow makes us feel better about ourselves; real life and real struggle that never fails to bring us, at the same time, a desire to grow (up)in a myriad of ways and the grace not to.

You are simply wonderful...stay authentic...we love it dear Heidi!

Karen

Danielle said...

For me, it's not so much what others are doing, but what I KNOW I'm capable of if I pushed myself. If I got up at 5; if I didn't crash at 8; if I didn't spend so much time on rabbit trails or Facebook . . . I've always found comfort knowing through your blog and friendship that I'm not the only one who got their dream life and then found they struggled mightily to live it well. But I know you are struggling well. :) Also, I too am a terrible house keeper (at least post-children), I often have imaginary rants going on in my head, and let's not even talk about my temper. Much love to you Heidi.

Heidi said...

Thank you, thank you, dear friends and readers for such kind words. This sense of community and connection is the reward of blogging. :)

Karen~ YES, sometimes we are nearly desperate for beauty. I love how you expressed that.

Danielle~ YES, I want to say that I'm am simply doing my best, but every day, every minute, I know (or think) I am not. It's such a struggle to balance grace for myself and a kick in the rear end when I need it.

Christina said...

You are relatable. That's why I read your blog. You are helping me more than you know! Thank you for speaking the TRUTH!

Beth Starr said...

I am a new follower to your blog and this post made me laugh. Are you sure you weren't peeking in my windows and looking into my life (while trying to sidestep the crates filled with odds and ends sitting on the front porch)?

I have had a lot of friends who read my blog comment on how busy I am and how I keep it all together. I always tell them, "You haven't seen my bathrooms!"

The Prudent Homemaker said...

It's true that people think weird things about you if you blog.

I met a reader who thought I must have a house in an "older" part of town. She expected a run-down place.

I live in a city that was mostly built in the last 20-30 years (and mostly the last 20). Houses are new.

I could see she felt I wasn't genuine--like poor people should only have old, bad-looking houses. Perhaps she missed where I talked about our income being cut 70%? People seem to forget that just because one may not have a lot of income NOW doesn't mean that they didn't have an income before when they purchased something (like their home).

Another time my niece came over and saw me taking food photographs. Now there is something deceptive! If you set up food photography or see how it is done, the staging is all within the camera's view. Outside of that, everything can be different. I was taking pictures at one end of the table, where the light was nice. The rest of the table and my kitchen were a complete mess (from making the food for the photo!). My niece pointed it out and laughed! But this is true with all food photography; I've seen it with professionals and learned how everyone sets up the shot to make it beautiful.

But what is forgotten is that that is WHY we often read a blog--for the beautiful photos. We don't really want to see the dirty dishes. Some people photograph them for authenticity, but no one really wants to see those. We want to see the clean house, because it inspires us with calm and order even while our own house outside the screen is not. We want to see the moms who are doing a good job, because it inspires us to rise and up and do better--or it should. I think that is why most of us read. I know it is why I do. If I'm not feeling inspired or I'm feeling bad, I'll stop reading a blog. The moms who do the things that are far from attainable for me (like traveling the world with their children all the time) are beautiful, but I can find that those are ones that I have to take a step back from, because I can find myself jealous. I would love to do the same, but then I can find myself unhappy with the blessings that we have, and that's where it gets dangerous. If we're being inspired, we should keep reading. If we're feeling jealous,for whatever reason, we may need to take a break from reading that blog while we get our own weaknesses straightened out and work on being more grateful for our blessings.

I think one place where jealousy comes up is in reading home decor blogs. It's easy to want the fancy, expensive house. What we sometimes need is to step away from the screen and just clean our own house, which we can then appreciate better. We crave the neatness and order of those pretty kitchens with no dirty dishes and no clutter. We could find immense satisfaction if we just cleaned our own kitchens and out a bowl of apples on the counter.

Heidi said...

Lots of truth there, Brandy. If we cleaned our own house and put a bowl of apples on the counter it does change a lot, doesn't it? I tend to be jealous of people with lots of space in their houses, though. :) Your point about food photography made me thing of this post that I shared a couple years ago: http://mthopeacademy.blogspot.com/2012/06/lovely-and-reality.html

And, you're right. I love blogs with beautiful photography. I already know what a sink full of dirty dishes looks like. ;)

About Laura said...

I love your blog, I use yours as a point of reference for the benefit of blogs because of your reality--I fondly remember the 'Target' picture with a child leaning out of the cart. One day someone tried to address that with one of my children, while I continued to shop, not turn around, and said 'good luck with that.' Your blog is so encouraging- your authenticity is so helpful in keeping it real. Thanks for your time and energy. and cute/adorable/precious kid picts. :)

Windhover Farm said...

You know I think those things don't surprize me. This means I think you're very authentic on your blog. You've never given me the impression that your life is a perfect photo. I do appreciate your beautiful shots and I'm inspired by your boys reading and all YOU learn and do and so much else you post. But you've never led me to believe that you're not having meltdowns and "stuff" is going on!

Meghan said...

I'm not super surprised, Heidi, but that is because you HAVE been authentic on this blog. I remember particularly your posts when you were going through the Storyline materials. I appreciated that you let us in to the frustration and ups and downs you experienced in that process. It made you feel like a kindred spirit to me--I also am terrible at sticking to commitments about junk food and could subsist on cookie dough and InStyle.com if required (with a big migraine). Your blog is a safe space, because you are real about your life and struggles as a homeschool mom. I resonate so much with what you post, including your list of revelations today :).

Debi Martin said...

Dearest Heidi- I could have written your "soul-baring" list. Verbatim. Unedited. Thank you for doing it for me! I think you're keepin' it real every time your write, and because of that, I come back to your blog, time and time again. I've quit reading so many others, but your combination of faith, learning, photography, parenting- well, it speaks to me. Thank you for putting it out there. I find it edifying :)

Melody said...

Hey Heidi :-) I had to stop and think how many years I've followed your blog...Enough that I have it on my favorites page. lol Everyone has had so many nice comments about you, your family, and your blog so I'll just keep it short and simple:-) LOVELY :-)

Mel :-)

Skeller said...

It’s funny. I popped over to the Instagram-Envy article that you linked, fully expecting to be exasperated by the same ol’ tired people-don’t-write/blog/IG/FB-authentically accusations. Peoples’ perfect/extraordinary/pretty social media selves make my ordinary-sometimes-messed-up self feel bad and inadequate accusations. Those “perfect” internet people suck because they don’t tell the whole truth accusations. I feel like I’ve heard variations of those complaints for the last 8 years. In fact I can remember forever ago joking with an IRL + blogging friend who was distressed because some people she knew from the internet were coming to her home and she was scampering to clean because they only knew her “blog house” – grin. All those “inauthentic” accusations make me want to tell the accusers to buck up. Put on their big-girl panties. Stop the whole Stuart Smalley (remember him?!?) compare-and-despair cycle. Stop worrying about what others are supposedly doing and carry on with living their own life. Fully.

But you linked it, so I read it ;-). And it was so good. She said everything I’d want to say. Only she said it better and nicer and more graciously (I can say this, because I’m comparing and … rejoicing! Not despairing. So that makes it ok, right?!? Big grin)

Anywhoooo. To your question. I met you online first. And then I met you in person on my beach territory. And then I met you – and your kiddos and husband and sisters and mother and ChocLit guild – on your home territory. I was not surprised. I was delighted. It’s my humble belief and experience that you represent yourself authentically. 

Heidi said...

Mmmmmwwwwaaaahhhh, to all of you. <3

Susan~ That's odd. I remember a conversation just like that one you had. ;) I'm so thankful that you took time out of your trip(s) to spend time with us! And I remember our beach day so very fondly. Thank you for the lovely words.

Mary said...

I believe you have been very authentic in your blog and your blog is all the more encouraging because of it. LIfe is so messy, especially if you do hard things.

I will begin homeschooling my two boys next year and I look forward to referencing your blog. I know I can find great resources here and hope for the difficult days that are sure to come!

Juliana said...

If that list is the real you... I think I like you even more!