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Seven years, five lessons

I have been…’blogging’…here for nigh on seven years. Sometimes it was daily, sometimes I disappeared for months at a time. Sometimes I told my dearest stories, sometimes I barely scraped together a meaningful sentence. Always it was for me and no-one else, and always the potentially public nature of it was inexplicably important.

Why? Why did I start this? Why did I keep coming back? I revisit these questions in cycles, usually at the moment I’m thinking about taking some next step. I came here to learn about myself, and I came here to change myself. I came here to be better.

So, did it work? Clearly I thought so. Clearly I have found enough value in this to keep issuing the resources to continue. So, instead of asking why, this time I’m asking what, precisely, have I gained?

Now, to be candid, I think I’m attached to the idea of this being some sort of anti-blog. I don’t want to sell out and subscribe to the conventions of success. So the prospect of this descending into a listicle with a pithy, uplifting summary causes my lip to curl in distaste.

But I am feeling a responsibility, after all this time, to expand the value of this beyond what I get from it, and I think I’ve finally realised how. Grand words. Let’s see how this plays out.

I am a self-centred animal. I’m never going to take the pervasive, indulgent I out of these pages. They’re for me, and no-one else, even though you’re welcome to casually peruse them.

But…what comes out of me here may indeed find purpose beyond me if I repackage it with the beyond in mind. If I bring you only the things worth bringing, you may delight in receiving them.

So, what have I learned from these seven years of inconsistent word spew? Let me organise myself.

The first, and perhaps most compelling thing I learned was that shame cannot persist in the light. Telling a story here – making a confession – made it easier to tell that story everywhere else. Admitting to my human frailty here made it easier to be human out in the world. Being honest here relieved me of the burden of trying to be anything else. Shame disintegrated the moment I talked of the things that made me feel ashamed.

The second is that I like myself more than I thought I might. I am generally my own harshest critic, inclined to whip myself toward excellence in any endeavour and proclaim myself falling short. I rarely stop to appreciate what I may have accomplished, and I don’t take it well if someone tells me ‘good job’. This endeavour, in particular, is far from excellent. But all these arrangements of words I made exist; I quite like them. I rarely cringe at them. This person I have consistently shown myself to be, through the well-worn metaphors, repetitive refrains and cyclical revelations; I quite like her. I’m happy to be her. She has a lot of flaws, she’s wrong in lots of ways, but, on balance, she’s good. And if I hadn’t’ve written it down, I might have dismissed that conclusion as merely wishful thinking.

The third is that I don’t need to keep justifying myself. I can allow myself to be. I can allow my decisions to be. The justifications are always the most boring parts, and it’s fine to skip over them. I am valid person. This is a valid thing to do. Utterly detached from outcome, this is a valid thing to do. And yet...I haven’t quite stopped feeling the need to justify myself. So I guess this one is ongoing.

Speaking of; the fourth thing I’ve learned is that everything is ongoing. There are no neat solutions tied up with a bow. There are no full stops – not really. I repeat myself; I go back through doors I thought were locked; I revisit images I thought I’d torn up. I am a continuum, and everything I do is a continuum. Things I do over there bleed through to over here. What I unearth over here I carry with me over there. The past is the present. The future is too. Experience is a messy amalgation of fact and perception, and it never fucking ends. Until, I guess, it does, but I haven’t died yet, so I don’t know.

Shall we try for one more? Okay. The fifth thing I’ve learned, and the one I’ve most resisted, is that having the courage to express yourself, and having the courage to show up in the world are not one and the same. Solving for one does not solve for the other. I have written all these words, and I am still afraid. These pages are for me, and no-one else, and that is the only reason they’ve been able to exist. Whenever I try to take them to others, I end up running away. Because the muscles aren’t the same. The skillset isn’t the same. The required viewpoint is not the same. Being true and standing by it are not the fucking same thing. But both are probably required.

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