Addressing my Hanging Chad
Boy, did I ever give up on this thing.
It’s kind of funny how you can be totally committed to something one minute and it can become the bane of your existence the next. Okay, that was a bit dramatic. Blog writing didn’t become the bane of my existence. But around the time of my last few posts I was becoming increasingly aware of how much time I was putting into the maintenance and quality of this little bugger, and how little time I was putting into existing as a human outside of my computer.
When I last wrote, a little over three months ago, blogging felt vital. At that time, I was generally liking how things were going in Spain, but I was still observing life in Madrid as an outsider. I felt the need to reflect on my experiences in a concrete way in order to make sense of what was happening around me. I was still so overwhelmed by my surroundings that I think I actually needed to catalog my experiences in order to process them.
Cataloging felt good for a while, but then it began to feel constricting. I started to worry about the uncomfortable blood-shot eyes and runny nose that came weekly from waiting up all night for people back home to read what I had written. The combination of loneliness and perfectionism made my first foray into the world of blog writing unhealthily all-consuming. This was the way I was connecting with the people I love, and I became obsessive about maintaining those connections. Pretty intense for a dumb blog, wouldn’t you say?
This was supposed to be a fun exercise. And it was supposed to be easy. But I didn’t read much as a kid and my vocabulary and grammar are shits because of it. So pushing out anything worth publishing took time and consideration and a certain meticulousness that was supposed to have been left home in Toronto.
I decided to take a week or two off or, rather, I forced myself to stay away from my computer for a little while. I planned to take some space, gain some perspective on how insignificant this thing is, and come back a more relaxed and natural writer. Instead, I guess I just stopped.
At first I thought I was just too busy to put anything down on the page. I had a few visitors pass through- first some old friends from London, and then my parents- and those days were so packed full that I needed the following weeks and weekends just to play catch up on the life I had started to develop here.
Then when things settled back to normal I told myself I wasn’t allowed to spend time on the blog unless I actively spent time studying Spanish. Preventing myself from writing because I was being lazy about my Spanish was fooolish- I have never been much of a studier nor am I particularly self-disciplined (por ejemplo: my two and a half decades of nail biting) and I have not picked up a book to study Spanish since the weather became too cold to comfortably sit outside for more than 20 minutes.
I think I was okay with studying in the summer because it was hot and gorgeous and I had a pretty successful reward system going on with myself. Getting in an hour of studying per day was easy as long as I had the pleasure of people-watching and sun tanning while doing it. In the summer I could prepare myself for an afternoon of “studying” knowing that 80% of my time would be spent watching people make out in Retiro or by the Palacio Real.
But it’s for real cold here now and when I try to use a winter-friendly reward system with my own brain, I fail. The part of my brain I’m trying to trick usually tells me to eff-off and consumes the reward anyway. I’ve eaten a lot of candy, read a lot of Game of Thrones, and watched a lot of TV because of this. Actually so much TV that the other day I went shopping and found myself unconsciously selecting shirts and dresses that looked like the outfits on Downton Abbey. I kept trying to figure out why everything I liked on hangers looked ridiculous on my body until I realized what I had been drawn to and had to face the reality that Mary Crawley wears corsets and doesn’t have any boobs.
So, since my Spanish studying was at an all time low, and I had told myself I didn’t “get” to blog unless I studied Spanish first, my regular posting ceased. I put the get in quotation marks because what really happened was I fabricated a perfect excuse for myself for not updating. It made sense in my head that Spanish should come first and I felt less guilty about not writing by telling myself it was for my own punishment.
The truth is, at some point, both blogging and studying Spanish switched from being exciting pieces of my adventures in Spain to chores that were getting in the way of my having any. Giving them up for a while relieved this pressure and allowed me to actually find my niche here.
For about a month I was relieved not to have anything to put my brain into. But then, around the time my parents came to visit, I felt inclined to write again and just couldn’t. It wasn’t a writer’s block or anything- I started keeping notes of interesting things that might be post-worthy- but almost overnight had no idea how to fit writing into my life.
As it happens, I followed the same pattern with writing on the regular as I do with trying to make a habit of working out. Sometimes I can get myself really into it and make it a totally significant part of my weekly routine but then I stop for whatever reason- maybe a bad cold, a boyfriend, a preference for going out for nachos over yoga class- and have no idea how to reintegrate it. I tend to give up exercise for months at a time until my body hurts enough for me to see no option but to start again. I suppose that’s the feeling I’m having today as I write this. Though for the last few months it has felt impossible to fit writing into my day-to-day, I’ve more recently felt an uncomfortable stiffness in my fingers that has led to no option other than forcing writing’s reintegration.
I’m not sure if I’m going to write much more, but I felt inclined to write this if only for my own piece of mind. The thought of it being 5 years from now and me going “oh hey, remember that time I wrote a bit?” and then looking online and finding a half-finished account of my experience made me feel uncomfortable and a bit like a quitter. Putting something up publicly is such a weird thing as it is and I just didn’t want it to look, even to myself, like I had disappeared.
So now this post exists and if it ends up being my last, cool beans. I’m satisfied, my fingers don’t hurt, and I can cross it off the things I have to do if I decide that’s what I want. Kind of like with working out though, I actually hope I don’t want to cross blogin’ off for good. It’s a good way to be reflective and it challenges me more than it probably should. In any case, whether I’m up for this kind of challenge in the future or not, at least now I can hit the publish button and feel guilt-free.