>So Much Cooler Online

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A dear friend has a blog I enjoy very much, and one day I checked in to see what she had written, and the title said, “I’ve Got Nothing.” She just felt empty and bored and didn’t have much to say, so she told us how she felt, and it was actually encouraging to me. And of course, once she started writing, she came up with a few interesting things to say. I think it’s because having a blog is kind of like having a talk show, where you hope that your “audience” is eagerly waiting for your next post. And like me, this blogger feels constrained to write something great and have great pictures and all that for every post, but sometimes, our tank is empty.

So, that’s how I’ve felt for a couple of days, like “I’ve Got Nothing” to say here. Or at least not a “hook” or a “thread” that I think people will want to follow. So I’ve given myself a couple of days to breathe and think about why I’m feeling this way, and here’s what I’ve come up with: I’m so much cooler online. Like the character Brad Paisley created for his song (click on the arrow to view the video below) I’m feeling like a fraud—like I’ve created a façade to make me feel better about myself.

And like Alice Peacock’s song, “Into the Light,” which you can listen to here , I do keep “looking for answers outside myself.”

You keep looking for answers outside yourself,
When you’ve had them the whole time,
It’s time to see yourself as holy,
Time to see yourself complete,
It’s time to set aside the anger,
The spirit of defeat.
Come into the light, yeh, be the one you’re born to be;
Into the light, wake up from your lonely sleep,
The shadows can’t conceal what the light wants to heal,
Come into the light. Come into the light.

This is nothing new…. I’ve been doing it all my life. And I’ve learned a lot about why I’m that way, and hopefully I’m making some strides to heal… with therapy, prayer, letting people love me, writing essays, and my memoir-in-progress.

But last weekend I was with a group of people on the balcony at City Grocery in Oxford, having drinks after one of the author readings at “Camp Square Books,” when someone said two things that gave me pause.

First, he said, “Susan, you’ve got a great blog.”

That felt authentic and I just smiled and said, “thank you.”

But then he added these words, “and you’ve got a great life.”

I was speechless. I’ve only known this person a few weeks, and yes, we’ve exchanged a few emails and visited a few times when I’m in Oxford, but his words made me feel like I had created a persona on my blog, like Mary Chapin Carpenter says in her song, “He Thinks He’ll Keep Me,”: (watch the video here)

“Every Christmas card showed a perfect family!”

So I sent him an email saying thanks for the compliment about my blog, but when you said, “and you have a great life,” I thought, “how do you know?” And then I proceeded to write about some of things in my life that are not so great, and here’s (part of) what he wrote back:

People say all kind of things to you and they don’t put any thought into it. I say you have a great life on the balcony at CG, and I meant it, but only after the most shallow observation. How do I know?!?! People weigh in on matters just to be polite. Or just to be mean. Or just to dump their shit on you. Don’t let that happen to you. My hunch is you know good and damned well what the deal is on a lot of this stuff, but you, like the rest of us, are looking for some mysterious visitation of grace, some secret passed along by a stranger that solves everything, some sign, some book that provides the eureka moment, some philosopher who nails it all down. Those things tend to happen when we least expect it and after we’ve already engaged and gone to war.

And then he gave me some really good advice about how to “engage and go to war” with the things in my life that aren’t so great. It was just what I needed to pull me out of a slippery slide to depression that I had climbed onto. I especially liked these words:

Quit listening to everybody. You have more information than you can make use of as it is. Get out of the abstraction, the peculiar and painful bliss of big confusion.

Get out of the abstraction. Wow. And the peculiar and painful bliss of big confusion.

I’ve never thought of bliss as painful, but I can see how it is. Because all it does is delay the inevitable… and distsract you from the reality of what’s right before you, on your plate, right now. And what’s on my plate right now?

The people in my life that I love and care about—my family and friends.

My ongoing wrestling match with God and His Church.

My memoir-in-progress and several essays at various stages of revision, which is to say, the work I have chosen.

So, now I’ve blown my cover and everyone (who didn’t already know this) knows that I’m So Much Cooler Online. But today I’m going to listen to my friend’s advice, and to the wise lyrics of Alice Peacock, to quit looking for answers outside myself, to set aside the anger and spirit of defeat, and to see myself as holy… to come into the light.

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