Sunday, June 8, 2014

Documenting lives

Both my children are traveling right now. My son is on the road from upstate New York driving four hours to Connecticut where he will spend the week training and certifying lifeguards for summer camp, the same one that he was a camper at since age 11, then a counselor, then a unit director. He's not working at camp this summer though. He's just training and hanging out with the counselors, many of them his long time friends, before the kids arrive, and then it's back to the city and his job at the sports club. He's also going to continue coaching track and field, and still has his sights set on working as an EMT, although to his frustration, most of the jobs posted ask for a minimum of one year experience. He has a lot of freedom right now. He lives rent free with his parents, though he contributes in myriad ways to the financial, physical and emotional health of the household (even if the floor of his room is always littered with clothes), he hangs out with friends whenever he wants, and there are many of them around, he visits friends in other parts of the country, and he works as many shifts as he wants at the sports club, sometimes seven days back to back in a row. He has the sense that he's waiting for his life to start, but to me it looks as if he's creating something that allows him to mix work and play on his own schedule. He and a couple of friends might get an apartment together once he gets an EMT job, the idea being that the income will be more regular. Whatever he wants. The rules of this game have changed since I graduated college. Kids aren't automatically going on to grad school any more, not unless they are pursuing a passion, because it's too damn expensive a holding pattern otherwise. He's a good boy. He'll make a life. He is making a life.

My daughter meanwhile is in the air, traveling to Chicago where she will spend the next two months working as a dining services management trainee for an assisted living community. She hopes she will love it, that it will feel like a calling, creating high-vitality, antioxidant rich, gourmet meals for seniors and in surroundings that make them feel elegant and cared for. She decided she didn't want to work in a restaurant again this summer, that although she loves the food and beverage aspects of the hospitality industry, she might in fact not like restaurant work. With so many elders in her own family, and people all around us worried for their old folks, she thinks it might be a worthwhile occupation to contribute to one's golden years being something other than a s**t show. This particular internship pays rather well, and the organization is basically permanent stay luxury hotel or country club-style living for seniors who are well enough off to afford assisted living facilities that are rich in amenities and activities, but my daughter wonders how she might replicate the model to create something that people of lesser means could also afford. This is her thinking. It's important to be idealistic when one is young.

There was a suggestion made on my last post that my children certainly lead well-documented lives. The comment left me with the uncomfortable question of whether the person thought I might be violating my family's privacy, or else being intolerably self-indulgent in how I write about them. I wasn't completely clear on why the observation pricked me, but it stung enough so that I immediately took down the post, and found myself unable to write another one while I processed my feelings. I suppose what I've arrived at is that documenting our lives is the point of this blog to begin with, to document my life and the life of my family, to put it right here in one place as a record, to celebrate my extravagant blessings and to explore some of the harder realities too.

Which is not to say I tell everything about my life, or my husband's or my children's lives. Even though the blogosphere can sometimes feel like old friends gathered around a kitchen table, still there is so much I never broach here, because in fact I do respect my children's privacy. I never put up posts that they might feel uncomfortable with, but they're the Facebook generation so that gives me quite a bit of leeway. Still I was pitched to that edge that I suppose all bloggers must navigate: writing for oneself or writing for one's readers. In an ideal world, one hopes to do both, but considering it anew, I realize that if I must err on one side or the other, then I am most definitely writing this blog for myself first, as a way to see my life whole, to feel the great ocean of gratitude at being the mother of these two particular children, to process my own fears and anxieties, to set down the tenor of each day, to keep myself rooted. Sane.

The truth is, sometimes I don't know what I am feeling until I write it down. And sometimes I cannot hold on to what shines and heals me until I fix its light and shadow in a photograph. So I accept that this friend (a person I very much admire and care about) may ... what? ... disapprove of? ...  some of my blogging choices, but if it weren't what I needed to write for myself at that moment, then I would not be writing it. And if a photograph didn't have enough meaning for me as to make me want to collect it in this place, then I wouldn't be posting it. It gets tedious, I am sure. I remember when my own mother would talk what felt like incessantly about my brother and me to other people, glowing with pride in us, I would say to her, "Mom, please stop. These people are going to hate us." But she didn't stop. I guess I won't either. That's just how it is.


14 comments:

  1. Amen. Good for you. Sweet Jo

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    1. Thank you, dear Sweet Jo. I am glad you are here. xo

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  2. I'm glad you put it back up. I enjoy seeing the contrast between my children went and yours are going.

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    1. Kristin, they're all going in different directions that we did, aren't they? xo

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  3. Why else do we blog? To document. I have never once felt that any of your posts or pictures have intruded on the private lives of your children. Ever. Or even gotten close.
    Don't stop.

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    1. Mary, thank you for being so central to this blogging community we have here. Thank you for being you. xo

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  4. I am so touched by your daughter's thinking about good food for the elderly. What a remarkable insight and I hope she lets her idealism define her passions.

    I'm so grateful that you document pieces of their lives and share this with us. What wonderful people you all are.

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    1. NOLA, I am touched by her desire to nurture seniors, too. I hope this summer is life changing for her. Or at least life-defining. xo

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  5. I think I'm the one who made the "well-documented lives" comment. I am SO SORRY if it sounded critical. I honestly didn't mean it that way, though I can see how it seemed like kind of a backhanded snarky remark.

    I think most of us blog for both ourselves and our readers. I certainly fill my blog with a lot of (probably tedious!) documentary information about my days, partly so I can go back later if I ever have a question about when something happened and how I felt at the time.

    So, yes, blog about whatever you want! I, for one, do not tire of seeing your photos of your children and your life. I'm sorry if I gave you that impression. Goodness knows Olga leads a well-documented life, too!

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    1. Dear Steve, I knew in my heart you weren't being mean, it's not who you are, so don't worry. Our response to what others say is always more about ourselves than the other person anyway, and it was good to pause to check in with myself about why I do this and where my boundaries lie. I value your friendships so much; please don't feel badly at all. xo

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  6. I agree. Why else do we blog? Brava dear Angella!
    Carry on.
    xxoo

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    1. Yobobe! I always love when I see you here! Hugs, dear woman.

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  7. I think I was in my early 30's by the time I realized that my life wasn't ever going to start. That it already had, it had been happening all that time I was waiting.
    Blogging is the hardest form of writing. Sometimes I wonder what it's all for. For me? For readers? A record of our lives? I do know there are many things I wouldn't remember had I not blogged about them. Which could make me crazy if I thought too hard about it. We can be sensitive to perceived criticism because we are doing exactly what Kafka says we are doing at the top of your blog. It's never easy.

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    1. Vesuvius, there are many memories I have fixed for myself here, too. I think its even more complicated blogging as a mother (or father), but I have to say my kids like seeing their stories through my eyes, but curiously, they say it's because it gives them another kind of window into me. I am so glad you blog. Your writing shines.

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