Archives For Shame

Life is full of ups and downs. Have you ever stopped to consider if either extreme is within your control?

I’ve lived long enough to know that I’ve lost some of my naiveness from younger years. I believe that life will naturally take its twists and turns and, the majority of the time, we are simply along for the ride.

Yes, we can choose to concentrate on development and eliminate distractions to put ourselves in the best position to learn and evolve. Yes, we can make time for and really listen to those around us in order to build better relationships. Yes, we can make daily choices in order to solidify better habitual patterns.

Yet life doesn’t always go according to one’s plan. You expect the fast ball. You get the curve.

So believing this to be true, I struggle sometimes with my conflicting desire to try to be in control of the uncontrollable.

I want to be seen as a top achiever, as having a firm grip on life, as being compassionate and present in the moment. I want to be seen as trustworthy and able to be relied upon. I hope by controlling “x” in my life, then “y” will naturally result.

The problem with wanting to be seen though is that you need to first answer the question, “Why do I want to be seen?”

There is a big difference between giving off the illusion of having what society deems is “it all” – prestige, power, influence, health, wealth, and happiness – versus what gives you a sense of purposefulness when you are alone with your thoughts. One is a facade, the other is truth.

Why do I want to be seen?

I want to be seen to know that I matter to others. To know that I am of value to them. To know that I make their life happier.

Fortunately for me, my scope of “others” is relatively small. My “others” are also generous in doling out their gratitude. My family in first place, friends and confidants second, creativity sharers third, and so on and so forth. Believing that God sees me in my truest form, I know I am trying to do right by Him too of course.

I believe I originally embraced blogging and other forms of social media sharing as a creative outlet. I love expressing myself through writing. Selfishly, it feels good to know that others find value in what I choose to write about.

However, the social media sharing world from when I first began back in 2009 has spiraled into what I can best describe as social sabotage in less than 10 years time.

I’ve seen people fight about posts and pictures. I’ve seen relationships I once thought were solid fall by the wayside. I’ve seen people needing to be right more than needing to be understood. I’ve seen people (young and old) not wanting to miss out online, while inadvertently ignoring what’s waiting for them to discover in real life.

And while I’ve been watching all of this unfold on screen, real life had a way of moving on in all of its inherent beauty. That’s the funny thing about life. It happens with or without you noticing sometimes.

I watched an episode of 60 Minutes recently that talked about people’s reliance on their smartphones and how Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps, and social media to get you hooked. Here’s a snip-it I highly encourage you to watch.

In this episode, Anderson Cooper interviewed former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris along with several other guests. Tristan left Google to lead a movement called Time Well Spent, with a mission of aligning technology with humanity.  I would also encourage you to read his most widely read essay How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds – from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist.

The information that Tristan shares in his interview as well as in his writing escalates that icky feeling I experience anytime I have my own nose buried in my phone or I see those whom I love doing the same.

My blog posts are fewer and farther between these days. And that is intentional.

I will continue to write. I still want to share (overshare?). I still want you to read what I have to say. I still want to hear from you.

But more important than any of those things, I want to start seeing more and being seen less.

Do you feel the same way?

What can we discover together, yet not feel compelled to share with each other?

Life is most breathtaking when it is unfiltered, with no clever captions, and uncontrolled.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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First and foremost, Ms. Armstrong, I readily acknowledge that you probably don’t really care what it is I have to share with you. With over 1.5M Twitter followers and an online empire that dates back to 2001, I imagine you have this sharing-of-your-soul thing down pat and aren’t exactly out looking for reassurance from total strangers.

Yet here I am.

Not even sure why I feel the need to type you this letter. (Isn’t the concept of the “open letter” about as outdated as hammer pants? What can I say? I think they’re both worth resurfacing.)

I ran across this Tweet last week and then watched your 19-minute talk that it linked to on YouTube.

Heather Armstrong

It’s taken me a few days to articulate how hearing your words made me feel.

I participated in a Q&A session back in 2011 with other local “celebrities” (if you squint long enough while staring at me, I morph into someone others could possibly consider influential, as long as the A-listers and B-listers are already booked that is) while helping to raise money for a local nonproft that strives to serve homeless and at-risk youth within my community.

One of the many questions posed was “Who would you like to meet and job shadow for a day?”

MY ANSWER: HEATHER ARMSTRONG FROM DOOCE.COM

I went on to explain how I admired your free spirit and unfiltered writing. How I thought it would be compelling to see how you balanced your creativity with your career.

I sometimes questioned the level of depth you revealed, simply because I couldn’t ever picture myself spilling out so much with my friends and family (or even perfect strangers for that matter). I can’t say I always agreed 100 percent with your opinions. Yet I respected you time and time again for bravely and honestly standing your ground with whatever you believed to be true.

Your personal battle with postpartum depression had the power to rob your heart and mind. By sharing your demons, you no doubt freed many others from theirs.

Your innocent, lovely girls and devoted dogs made me smile and I cheered for your entire family. You were living the life we all hoped and dreamed was possible.

And then 2012 happened.

You and your husband’s trial separation period was a little too raw for me to read about. I felt if I continued to gawk at your personal struggles, I was no better than the nosy neighbor who sits out on her porch shooting judgmental glances at unsuspecting passerbys.

I remember one of the final posts I read described you staring down at the dog leash you were holding in your hand and knowing that if you wanted it to (and you assured us all you did not), that leash had the power to make everything go away.

In your talk about why you are now choosing to walk away from sponsored content writing, you serve as the crystal ball into which so many of us mommy bloggers yearn to gaze. We all start off with two things after all: a love of writing and a desire to share our parenting reality through our own life’s lens.

The funny thing about mommy blogging, however, is that we all think we want to reach as many readers as possible because volume typically equates to popularity and opportunities. But, at the same time, we are wary of the fact that earned readership and opportunities may come with unintended sacrifice and consequences.

I guess, more than anything, I wanted you to know that I believe you and Jon started off on this journey together for all the right reasons. I imagine your sudden rise in fame took you both by surprise – equal parts thrilling and terrorizing. I bet you collected a handful of really sentimental memories together with your girls through your professional blogging that you wouldn’t trade for the world.

Knowing you have also felt completely torn apart as a result of your decisions, especially the gut-punching sense that your girls were included in the massive pile of collateral damage, well that’s something that no mom would ever wish on another.

You may have decided to turn a different direction on the professional path you are paving, but know this: You are still teaching all of us who have followed you for any portion of your journey. And for that, I wanted to thank you.

Read about Ms. Armstrong’s journey here and here.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I am parenting three pretty great people at the moment. My boys are ages 12 and 10, and their little sister is 6 years old. I think I’m in a phase where I might be so physically exhausted most days from running around, however, that I’m not exactly giving them my A game. So I decided to write them a letter to explain my current inadequacies and beg for their forgiveness while promising better days to come.

 

Forgive me for my lack of hustle, kids.

Forgive me for my lack of hustle, kids.

October, 2014

Dear Mr. Know-It-All, Mr. Mind Wanderer, and Miss Thang,

Do you remember what it was like when you were young and naive and didn’t put 2-and-2 together that not EVERY mom was as clueless as yours is in the kitchen? The days when frozen snacks like chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, and toaster strudels didn’t seem like a total cop out?

I made a fatal mistake in letting you sleep over at your friends’ houses. I recognize that now. Hindsight is always 20/20. I see that look in your eyes when you return home and try to mask your disappointment, fully cognizant of the fact you will not experience that level of culinary fulfillment until the next invitation is extended.

Cooking frustrates me. Why spend more than one hour on something that A. no one will like, or B. people will like so much that it disappears in 8 minutes flat? It’s like the precious artwork you bring home that you later find in the recycling bin. You pickin up what I’m putting down?

I also feel the need to address your nonstop extracurricular activities. I see the moms of your teammates stand outside in the bitter cold, as daylight is smothered by dusk, watching every practice drill. Me? I often find myself getting lost in cyberspace, taking multiple hits of Vine videos from the comfort of my van. Just like an addict, I sulk a little lower with every passing onlooker. DON’T JUDGE ME.

 

The mom who unplugged, while I watched Vine videos.

The mom who unplugged, while I watched Vine videos.

 

Plus I work a full-time job in insurance. I can’t even begin to explain to you what that means other than by saying it’s like standing in line waiting for the chance to eat your favorite cafeteria food (pizza, french toast sticks, nachos, you get the picture) but the line is 8 hours long. When I get home at the end of my shift, the couch is my favorite cafeteria food. And I am ready to consume it.

I figure I’ve got six to eight years ahead of me before you’re in college and I become the mom of all moms.

My care packages are going to blow your mind. I will have worn dad down by then about all financial matters. After all, he will have put up with me for nearly A QUARTER CENTURY by the time you’re in college.

Since I will no longer have to drive you to anything and can just show up before tip-off, the first pitch, whatever (assuming you’re still playing), I’m going to be that chill mom you always wished for. Balancing a drink in one hand and a hot dog in the other, you won’t even know I’m there.

I’m going to remember what it’s like to hang out with your dad again. You’re going to turn around one day to introduce us to your advisor, and we’ll be pinching each other in awkward places that will make you cringe.

Just you wait. Bonfires will still involve s’mores, but there will be stories that you’ve never heard us tell you before. I will tell you about dad giving me my first wine cooler in his parent’s basement. He will tell you about the book he always wanted to write detailing all of the dumb things I’ve said in total seriousness.

My tears of laughter will morph into tears of sorrow knowing that you are running a pace that I can’t keep up with, yet I am so proud of you for maintaining.

You may strip me of all my energy now, but there is no other way I’d want to spend it.

Love, Mom

Written by Heidi Woodard