Friday, 10 June 2016

Wondering how to use the blog...

I have been writing this blog since 2007. That is an amazing thought!  In that time I have made lots of real and virtual friends and had a lot of fun with it.  I have been to Chelsea and to the Malvern and Tatton RHS Shows.  I have blogged about gardens and houses and cooking and had the occasional rant about consumerism and the way we bring up our children.  I have blogged as often as three times a week, although generally my pattern has been to write a weekly blog.  I have blogged with photographs and without and have found that the urge to write has been like an itch I need to scratch, a pleasurable itch, but the itch of a strong urge to connect and to find the words that make sense of my life.

So why do I feel that I am grinding to a halt, losing it, letting it drift away from me?

It is hard to put my finger on.  At one level I very much do not want to stop.  I love the connections I have made and I know my life would be poorer without them.  Yet again and again I find that I do not sit down to write.  I don't know what to say.  In part that is a simple reflection of having blogged about my life for so long.  You know that the daffodils come out in spring and that in May the cow parsley is in flower in the verges on the lane.  Do you really have any interest in  my telling you again?  Partly it is a shift in what I am doing.  For much of its life this blog has been about an obsessive interest in my garden and the attempt to create one out of a rough field half way up a hill.  For the last two years I have lost the garden as the needs of my father and father in law, particularly the weekly six hundred mile round trip to Devon to try to support my father, have squeezed out the garden.  There was only so much time and energy to go round and the garden had to be let go.  It pained me but it was necessary.  And now six months after my father died I have still not really reconnected.  To do so seems to need more energy and commitment than I have.  I am doing bits but I am also holding it at arm's length.  I am too tired, too battered.  At the moment I can't do it in the way which I have done.

And I suppose that is at the heart of the matter.   Before my father became ill and my mother died it was very clear to me what this blog was for: it was to celebrate the beauty of this place, to record the progress of the garden, to celebrate times with family and friends.  It was not for personal disclosure.  It was a public platform on which I always tried to speak honestly but it was not a place where I wrote about the intimate or the personal.  I found I could not keep entirely silent when seismic changes rocked our world so I did write briefly about the serious stroke which disabled my brother five and a half years ago and I did write a tribute to both my mother and my father when they died.  I  think any reader would know the outline of the huge shocks which have rocked my family.  But there was much that did not make it onto the blog, particularly over the last couple of years as Dad's Motor Neurone Disease took hold.

Now I do not know what the blog is for any longer, perhaps because I myself am still a bit adrift.  I feel very changed by the death of my parents and the events of the last couple of years.  I still laugh and talk and drink wine and love good food.  I still take deep pleasure in the time spent with the next generation, four of whom have arrived in the last two and a half years.  I still read and knit and walk and watch property programmes on the TV.  I still love spring and plants and being outside.  So I would find it hard to explain to you what I mean by feeling that I am changed.  I am very aware that we are now the oldest generation in our family: my mother called it being at the head of the queue.  I am aware that the time that is left is much much shorter than the time which has passed.  I don't find that difficult or depressing but it does make me think a lot about what I want to do with it.  Nothing is more important than those relationships which have always been the core of my life but I find I want to do more looking out, going out, being out in the world.  I want to travel a bit more, even if it is mainly in my own country.  I want, I suppose, more adventure, even if those adventures are small ones.

And oddly I find that I cannot quite work out what I want to write about.  This new life, feeling my way to how it works without the loving restrictions of the responsibilities to parents, still feels very tentative.  I am doing a lot of things with my time, some of which I suspect might be simply diversions from those losses.  At New Year I blogged about trying to build a year based on adventure and reflection.  I am perhaps doing too much and reflecting too little but I also feel that I just need to live this year or so to find out how it works.  Perhaps the time has come to use the blog as a place for the reflection when it the past it has been so much about practical, physical things?

What do you think? If I take fewer pictures of the garden and spend more time thinking about what I am doing and where it is taking me, looking at how and where I want to live, telling you about my adventures instead of just doing them, would that be too much of change in the contract between us, between writer and reader?  I don't want to stop blogging but I may need to blog differently.  It won't all be contemplative stuff - I am too easily distracted by a fine flower or a good bottle of wine.  What do you think?

50 comments:

  1. Ah, I believe the contract between the reader and the writer is that one writes and the other reads. If you change your focus, because life happens, perhaps your circle of readers will change slightly. Perhaps they will settle more comfortably, because the new focus suits them even better.

    Still reading, and writing.

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    1. thank you Diana. you are right I know about the shifting contract and the possibly shifting nature of the readership. I should just do what I like, if only I could work out what that is!

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  2. I very much agree with what Diana says, above. I know that the reading community chez my blog has changed quite a bit over the past 8 or so years I've been blogging. I also know that while I try to keep my readers in mind for at least a portion of the posts, some of my writing starts out just for me, letting me sort out what's what. Sometimes I'm tempted to delete it all when I'm done, wondering if it will make sense or appeal to anyone else. Sometimes those are the posts that resonate most with the readers; sometimes I was right and the words resonate only with me. . . But like you, I don't want to stop writing, so I have to keep myself entertained along the way. I'm keen to keep reading whatever you write. This is relatively uncharted territory, this 60-and-beyond, surprised-it's-so-hard-to-be orphans stage of the big game. . . we all seem to find it helpful to see how others are muddling through it.

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    1. oh yes. it is uncharted territory and I certainly find it both interesting and somehow a comfort to see how you are navigating it too. it is both a sense of a kindred spirit and more broadly the realisation that we are all in it together, this rickety boat.

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  3. I think you should do as you please. It is your blog and it should give you pleasure, I don't feel that you have any obligation to me as a reader. You are generous enough to share your thoughts and I appreciate reading them. They give me a very different perspective to my own life in Australia. The one thing I feel strongly is that your blog shouldn't be a stress or a burden to you. It sounds like you have been through one of life's tough patches and they take longer to recover fully from than one realises, in my experience. If you write, I will read and think about what you have written. If your mind and body have other plans, I can wait around until you feel like writing a post. I just want you to know that I wish you well. 😊

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    1. Thank you Rebecca. That is a welcoming and encouraging response! I love to think you would be prepared to wait until I found my voice again. What a great thing to say!

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  4. I have only discovered your blog recently but find it very thoughtful, beautiful and quietly inspiring. I have a clamour of things I could say but surly Allen Ginsberg says it best..."follow your inner moonlight"

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    1. Thank you. I am sure you are right. It is just a matter of finding it again!

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  5. Hi Elizabeth
    You have summed up just as I feel and I think we have been blogging roughly for the same length of time. I too have lost my father in the last 18 months, although Mum is fine thankfully and I have had major changes in my working life which have completely changed my focus at home. In turn I too don't know what to write. I wrote a post yesterday, the first one in 2 weeks and I struggled to find anything to say. I am stuck between part of me wanting to show a plant I love but the rest of me just wanting peace. When I posted something similar to this post at the end of May I had similar comments to above along the lines of write about what you want but it is the writing that is the tricky bit and wanting to remain connected but without the challenge of finding something interesting to say. Maybe we should just read blogs and comment for a while and see how that goes!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your similar experience Helen. I have wondered about just reading and commenting but I suppose I have a sense that if I stop I might never restart and that would be a loss I don't want. Maybe I am wrong about that. I will let the idea brew for a bit!

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  6. I think that you have been through an awful lot with caring for your elderly and sick family members, then losing them and perhaps through all of that this blog has been a constancy for you. You knew it was there and what to do. Now there has been so much change in your life with their deaths you are totally free to do whatever you want and deciding on what that is doesn't necessarily come easily and so all is unsettled. Therefore your blog is unsettled. I think, as with all things in life, it is important to do what feels right when it feels right. So, do what you want to do and what you enjoy and what makes you happy. The advice often given to me in relation to all things, and blogging, is to be yourself. Write in your own way, share what you want to - or not - with or without pictures as and when and by being your real self doing what pleases you everything else will come into place. You might find that your blog readers change, I know that mine come and go, but there will be friends to connect with who are new and ones from the past too - I will not be going anywhere! So be happy and enjoy. Perhaps the technique of just writing might work. Just write anything when you feel like it and see where it goes. Most of all be happy and if I see you here again I will be delighted and if not, I will hope that you are off being happy doing other things! Hugs!

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    1. Thank you Amy. You are right to say that everything is somehow unsettled and that is doubtless why I am finding it harder to write. I have always tried to write in a way which is true to myself and my life and I think that is partly why I have continued for so long and enjoyed it so much. I might just try giving myself a "prompt", writing to that and seeing how it goes. I am a great believer in the discipline of writing without waiting for inspiration but somehow that has gone a bit fuzzy on me!

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  7. I had been thinking of you lately, Elizabeth and wondering how you are feeling and what is happening in your life. I have always enjoyed reading your blog, especially the posts that resonate as we have experienced many of the same life changes. I, too, am running out of things to say without constantly repeating myself, whilst still adjusting to all the changes and losses of the last few years and struggling with energy levels since Mum died. There are so many excellent and interesting blogs out there, well researched, beautifully photographed and well-written and for now I don't feel able to put anything out there. Glad you have though and as others have said, it is your blog, do what pleases you, when it pleases you. People will always relate to what you have to say and enjoy reading it.

    Who knows, one day we might actually sit down and have that glass of wine, or cup of coffee and catch up in real time! That would be lovely x

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    1. You represent exactly that connection with another which is why I do not want to stop blogging marianne! Every now and then I have made a link which really resonates and many of those people have commented here. It is good to be reminded that our experiences are shared and that there are others who see life as we do. I do hope we get to Suffolk or you get to Wales one of these days!

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  8. I have just finished 15 years of various family/friends being very ill and dying one after the other, sometimes overlapping. 6 months on my mojo is coming back and I am getting on top of the garden and house, and creating again. Just go with what you feel. The events you speak of are so draining. x

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    1. I am interested that you mention six months Beverley. I am six months on from dads death and maybe beginning to look around a bit more.

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  9. I just started reading your blog and like what I read. Keep writing.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement and very good to have you here!

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  10. I really like your blog but things do change. Living on the other side of the world I love photos of areas I will never visit. As I have got older (77 in October) my blog has changed to mainly photos of my walks and just a brief bit of writing as there doesn't seem to be much of great interest in my life, but if I don't blog I have messages from friends asking why I haven't. I do use it as a bit of a visual diary. Please don't stop.

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    1. I do find that the blog as a diary is a great thing! It allows me to go back and check what was happening at a particular time and to be reminded of the detail, which I think I remember but clearly don't!

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  11. Dear Elizabeth, as you know we connected through our earliest blogging adventures and attempts all those years age. It was so good to actually meet you and Ian and to discover immediately that you in person are truly the person I met via your writing.

    For me, the joy in blogging is that it can be whatever we individually wish to be. Tired of a format or repeated subject matter, but still loving the writing process...switch it up. Or, take a bit of a break and come back refreshed. Change the name of site, use more or less photographs. It is your choice, and that is what I love about the potential of blogging.

    You had me a bit worried in the first paragraphs of this post. I began to wonder if you might be signing off. What a relief to find those latter paragraphs.

    I continue to find it interesting and energizing to investigate the sites of folks whose comments intrigue me. New worlds of connections can continue to open up and suggest new interests. Well...that is my experience.

    My recent retirement has opened up many additional free hours every week, and I have used some of them to blog more frequently. I have used lots of the other hours to explore all sorts of interests that exist beyond the laptop keyboard. I still like the mix.

    xo to you and Ian.

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    1. You are right that there is a freedom in blogging to do it as you wish frances. On some occasions that is part of the pleasure, on others it feels as if there is almost too much choice! I think I must emulate you and read more new people. That would fit with my feeling of needing change, although of course I must hang onto my old friends too! Glad you are enjoying your retirement.

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  12. Nice words. Thinking of your last comment, nature and good wine compliment each other! www.mark-pict.blogspot.com. KInd regards Mark.

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    1. I agree. Nature and wine are a good mix!

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  13. Your thought processes are very similar to some I've been having lately, especially relating to the time elapsed/ time left perspective. Although my parents died a very long time ago I am anxious about being newly 'bereaved' when my sons and our daughter-in-law and grand-daughter leave this country. I wonder if I will have the heart to blog about the remaining life which has always been so centred around making a home for people. Your reflective words will be helpful to many I feel sure. I will certainly look out for them.

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    1. I hope you do continue lucille as your blogs are always a pleasure to read but I do understand the idea that you might not have the heart to. I think there has been something of that in my response to the blog of late. I also know what you mean about children and grandchildren moving away as one of ours and his family contemplate spending some time in Australia. I was helped to look that in the face by a friend whose daughter is already there. Use technology (what's app, FaceTime, Skype) seems to be key, and plan lots of visits!

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  14. I think you should use your blog to write about whatever catches your interest and especially about your adventures. Mine has been used to record the passing of the seasons but also as a kind of diary to record all the various places I've visited. It's really good to re-read the posts about my trips as it brings back things that I would have forgotten about otherwise. There are all kinds of other things included as well - just follow your fancies:)

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    1. I too have really enjoyed being able to look back via the blog and to see what was happening five, six, seven years ago. That is one the rewards.

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  15. I felt exactly like this at New year, six months after my husband died. For years I had been happily blogging away - food, garden, family, our move to the island, everyday life. And during my husband's illness, and in the early days of my bereavement I found such strength and support from the blog. As I went on, however, I lost the need for it. Like you, it's hard to define just what it was. I began journaling, and these reflections were far to personal to put on the blog, and I had nothing to say here. The first crocus pops up in the same place - the lambs come in April and we go to the beach in summer...
    It was becoming a bit of a chore that I didn't really need. I thought of continuing in a different way, but realised that, like a lot of things in my life, I needed to let it go. I don't miss it as such, but sometimes I miss the need to put my thoughts out there. Am finding that Instagram is a nice little microblogging alternative, and many online friends are there.
    I haven't really read many blogs, far less commented since then. Just happened to wake early this morning and opened up my blog reader on a whim to find this post.
    All the best,,whatever you decide to do xx

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    1. Thank you jacqui. I do recognise so much of what you say: the sense of having covered the ground before, the not knowing whether I have anything to say. I use Instagram too and like it very much and that probably fulfils some of the wish to connect. But there is for me still the itch to write, something...

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  16. Dear Elizabeth

    how these deaths change one! I too am struggling about, unsure what to do with myself. Still grieving and trying to step forward. That may not be exactly what you are feeling - you sound more like you really want some stimulation and activity and wider horizons (though looking at that view they are hard to imagine).

    I would encourage you to keep at it, writing about exactly what catches your interest at any moment. You put things so beautifully and so directly - and your readers clearly respond to that. Speaking personally I would be sorry to lose the reports, even on the knitting, which is not a thing of mine. Plus the recipes - your easy marmalade and your courgette soup are now mine too - the best I've ever found.

    So I love all that because you come across as such a lovely person, someone I can really identify with. But the reflective pieces, like this one, in which you write about your dilemmas feel like the real stuff of your personality, and I value them very much. I read this one a few days ago and have been thinking about these strange impasses that occur at moments of change and renewal or - my current obsession - relinquishment, ever since.

    But I agree with so many, it should not be a chore, you should do what YOU feel like, there is no point in forcing things. We should let ourselves off hooks that bother and hurt. So I suppose I want you to want to carry on writing about whatever you feel like on the day - there's a simple and easy way forward. xx

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    1. Ah Jane, your loss and mine, so much the same, so different. I have often gone to your blog to see if you have written again following the death of your sister. I share that sense of connection with you. It is interesting that both you and jacqui talk about, in her case, letting go, in yours relinquishment. Both of you have lost people who were much younger than my parents were. I feel my father went from me slowly over the last two years of his life. He once said to me, while he could still speak, that he felt he was being rubbed out. So I do think that one of the results of his slow dreadful decline is that his death itself felt like the only right thing. Is my wish for action, activity, new things, variety a reaction? I'm sure it is.

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  17. Hello Elizabeth, I am relieved that you will continue to blog, in one form or another. You have a very particular writing style that gets to the heart of the matter in a gentle way. As others have already said, you should not see your blog as an obligation but as a pleasurable creative outlet. I'm sure that your readers will stick around and enjoy reading about whatever takes your fancy and whenever the mood strikes. Take care and enjoy the summer. Sam x

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    1. thank you Sam. it's really heartening to read this. it's easy to lose the sense that people like what you write somehow!

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  18. Dear Elizabeth, just a quick note as we rushed back from the new granddaughter in the UK (and Herefordshire)and have just a stop-over at home and then going to North Germany,nearly Denmark for a family do. But I would like to tell you that I have always enjoyed staying ' in touch' with you via your blog and enjoyed reading what you are up to. And I hope that you vill continue to post from time to time. Myself, I try to maintain my blog mainly for family and friends, they are all far and read it and like the pictures. I could post much more often as there is so much to tell and show but I simply just have not the time to do so. And I never wanted to 'promote' my blog as following up with many others is also so time consuming. So please, stay tuned ;-)

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    1. I will stay tuned, as you put it. I like you drop in on others to keep in touch. there are a number of different ways in which blogs work which are emerging: the diary, the connections with people you know, the making of new connections, the writing itself and the satisfactions of putting words together.

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  19. Hi Elizabeth,
    Yours was one of the first blogs I started to read a number of years ago now. I have always enjoyed your writing, you have natural style and many of your thoughts resonate with me and could be my own. In particular when you are in reflective mode, as now, that seems to touch various chords with me and other readers. Your blog needs to be what you want it to be and what works for you. Although a reader for a long while I am relatively new to blogging itself and you have been one of my inspirations. Enjoy the summer and your garden

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    1. thanks you Sue. what a lovely thing to say. I do get great pleasure from those moments when I have written something which makes somebody respond by saying "yes, that's just how it is". doesn't happen often but is good when it does.

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  20. Like other readers, I felt a shiver from your opening words. Then I thought 'me too'. I can't, however, just stop writing. This seems to be the place I can be funny, truthful, fanciful, serious, vulnerable and try out the many aspects of a life that is normally lived very quietly under the obligations of family. Wherever your blog takes you and whatever it becomes I'll be reading along.

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    1. I think you, like me, have had times when you are less present on your blog pondside. I am always pleased to see you post again. yours is one of the long term virtual friendships which had certainly enriched my life and which I would find harder to sustain if I didn't blog.

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  21. Oh thank goodness - thank goodness, you'll still be blogging, thank goodness Pondside's words above echo my feels and thank goodness it's not just me! There's so much I instantly want to write here which I think is a lot to do with loss and grief - and the sorrow that my aunt now seriously ill - yet I'm at a loss about how far to go in my own blog. That apart, I'm very glad you will still be here and I look forwards to reading your blog when you're ready to post. Cx

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    1. thank you Chris. I'd hate you to stop blogging too. I would feel i had lost a window on your world. I do know what you mean about being unfair how much to say on your own blog. sometimes I find I have been more revealing in comments than in my own posts where i am concerned not to infringe other people's privacy

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  22. I'm so sorry about the loss of your parents. It's just like you to use this crisis for reflection. I'm relieved to hear that you will keep posting and look forward to see how your posts evolve. Personally, I love your West Country photos since I miss that area of the world. The landscapes are my favorites. But you do you, as my teenage daughter would say.

    I'm also on the verge of a big transition in my life, launching a writing career from an empty nest. Sometimes change is good.

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    1. I agree that sometimes change is good and I wish you all the best with yours. I just need to work out what my change might be!

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  23. The pattern of life changes and there are new themes and distractions, it's up to you how much and his often you blog. At times I've put my blog on hold - posted a few 'lite' posts - a photo and sentence or short snippets, then returned slightly reinvented. Life evolves, readers come and go, that's what makes a blog interesting.

    btw when you said you let your garden go, has it run wild or have you handed it over to someone else to tend?

    C xx

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    1. the garden had run wild Celia. it's a big garden so it has run wild in a big way. I do see that you manage your blog in different ways at different times. I have done some of that but perhaps need to be more conscious in the process

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  24. Elizabeth, I'm just now getting around to reading this post - it's been a flurry of activity here with a visit from Son#1 and his girlfriend (now, sadly, back in the US) and the arrival for the summer of #2 back from Uni. The whole pattern of life seems to have shifted for us, and it's been difficult for me to find a 'new normal' - it sounds as though the same thing has been happening to you - on a much more permanent scale. So many huge changes, including your focus. I agree with everyone above who has encouraged you to follow your heart, do what pleases you, and not let the blog become a burden or an unpleasant obligation. Let it "sit" quietly whilst you go about your business - whatever that turns out to be - and when you feel like writing or updating, we will be here, waiting to hear what you've learned. I've not posted on my own blog for months, and the questions you have posited about the purpose, focus, and meaning of the blog (and maybe your life in general) have ben percolating in my mind about my own blog as well. One thing I've discovered recently is that, after an almost 2-month hiatus, I am once again feeling that old urge to blog, to 'say something' and to share my adventures (such as they are) with the world at large. I think that feeling will come back to you at some point, too, after you've finished recalibrating and processing all the changes that have occurred lately. I really hope you don't give it up entirely, because I so love reading your thoughtful, meditative, unvarnished prose - but I love the thought of you heading off on adventure! As a good friend of mine always says, "Let it unfold." xx

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    1. I always notice when you have a break from blogging Caroline and I'm always pleased to see you back again. you are right that I don't quite know what the new normal is. perhaps it will indeed unfold!

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  25. Elizabeth, I'm just now getting around to reading this post - it's been a flurry of activity here with a visit from Son#1 and his girlfriend (now, sadly, back in the US) and the arrival for the summer of #2 back from Uni. The whole pattern of life seems to have shifted for us, and it's been difficult for me to find a 'new normal' - it sounds as though the same thing has been happening to you - on a much more permanent scale. So many huge changes, including your focus. I agree with everyone above who has encouraged you to follow your heart, do what pleases you, and not let the blog become a burden or an unpleasant obligation. Let it "sit" quietly whilst you go about your business - whatever that turns out to be - and when you feel like writing or updating, we will be here, waiting to hear what you've learned. I've not posted on my own blog for months, and the questions you have posited about the purpose, focus, and meaning of the blog (and maybe your life in general) have ben percolating in my mind about my own blog as well. One thing I've discovered recently is that, after an almost 2-month hiatus, I am once again feeling that old urge to blog, to 'say something' and to share my adventures (such as they are) with the world at large. I think that feeling will come back to you at some point, too, after you've finished recalibrating and processing all the changes that have occurred lately. I really hope you don't give it up entirely, because I so love reading your thoughtful, meditative, unvarnished prose - but I love the thought of you heading off on adventure! As a good friend of mine always says, "Let it unfold." xx

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