When starting on any journey, most people like to know where they’re going. Who wants to end up in the desert if they were expecting paradise, the shade of palm trees and a bathe in the sea?!
Those who’ve experienced travelling with me will likely tell you, I may be very clear about our final destination, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have any idea about how to actually get there! Fortunately for us all, I hope I have more orientation as far as blogging is concerned. This week has been a reflective one for me as I’ve been considering and reviewing this blogging journey. I’ve been challenged by two books that I read, to consider my journey and to consider what my purpose is with this blog.
Where are we going?
The question is not where I’m going, however, but where we’re going? That’s if you’re going to come along with me for this journey. If this blog were only about me, then I’d be writing a journal. I do write a journal, but I have no intention of publishing it online, or anywhere else! A journal is my private writing and that’s my space to process, but this blogging journey is different. In my personal journey, I process for myself, but on this blogging journey, I’m going somewhere and inviting my readers to come along with me. I’m not on a solitary walk in the park; it’s a group pilgrimage.
Are we going on a journey to paradise then?
The short answer is: that depends on your definition of paradise!
One of the books that I’ve found a challenging read this week is an ebook by a man called Ryan Biddulph. He’s become fairly well known in the blogging world, particularly over the last year or so. Ryan knows where he’s going and he knows where he wants to take his readers. His blog is entitled: Blogging From Paradise and his tagline is, “Retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging.” His purpose is clear. Ryan and his wife are able to support themselves financially through blogging and to live in “paradise” travelling from island to island, staying in such exotic places as Bali and Fiji. Ryan blogs for those who have a similar purpose.
What’s my paradise?
I didn’t pay too much attention to Ryan’s blog in the beginning because I don’t intend to retire to a life of island hopping! But as I started reading his blog and one of his ebooks this week, I was challenged. I was challenged to consider what my “paradise” is?
Paradise for me as a blogger is a metaphor. It’s my reason for writing. It’s the journey that I’m on. It’s where I’m inviting you to come with me. Some of you may wish to retire to an island, or two or three. If so, please check out Ryan’s blog; it’s a fun read. Anyone interested in travel, or blogging, is likely to enjoy it. However, my journey, my “paradise” my purpose, is different. Just like Ryan, I seek freedom too. I seek the freedom to rise above my circumstances, not to be tied down by them. I seek the freedom to be authentic and not to accept platitudes, clichés or easy answers to life’s challenges. I seek the freedom to wrestle, but also the freedom to find joy in the moment.
The Journey to paradise isn’t always perfect.
My “paradise” isn’t perfect. I could seek perfection and an ideal life, but some of those decisions are out of my hands. I would choose not to have MS. I would choose to have children. I cannot control either of those things, despite the miracle solutions that some may give me! I can be proactive but I cannot control the outcome. My “paradise” is about being real, about being present in the moment. I believe there’s freedom in that. My desire is to be authentic and to encourage others to grow in authenticity.
I’ve spent time this week mind mapping (yes that’s a very me thing to do. Ever since my A’levels, I mindmap!) I’ve been mind mapping my reason for blogging. What’s it all about? Where am I going and where am I taking my readers? In the blogging world that’s quite an important thing to be clear on. Each blog needs to find its niche. I’ve not found that easy because I don’t like being boxed! I write about infertility; it’s part of the journey, but I’m not only an infertility blog. I write about more than that one topic. So what is my niche? It’s to do with how we respond to life’s challenges. My challenges are MS and infertility, but I don’t want this blog only to be tied to those things. I hope that my experiences and thoughts will also resonate with those whose challenges have been different to mine.
At the end of the day, whatever we wrestle with, we’re still wrestling. We need to be free to wrestle, to process, to be real in the midst of that. That was my reason for starting a blog. It’s not that I feel this huge urge to broadcast my life issues online. It’s that inside me there’s a desire to be authentic and to encourage others to be authentic and to scream from the rooftops that it’s ok to be real! It’s ok not to have all the answers. It’s ok to grieve. It’s ok to reject the platitudes and insensitive comments. It’s ok to be you. And my “paradise” is writing and growing in authentic communication. I long to be free to stay with the questions when sometimes there aren’t any answers. I long to speak words of life and freedom. I long to be authentic and say it how it is, to be allowed to process the pain and not have to hide it away. I long to encourage others to grow in how we respond to the whole area of suffering. Suffering is not the destination it’s merely the catalyst. We cannot always choose what happens to us but we can choose how we respond to it. In that sense, we get to choose our destination.
Ever Upward is Paradise
Another book that I read (or rather listened to on audible) is called Ever Upward. It’s a book about infertility and about overcoming challenging life circumstances. I’ve been getting to know Justine Froelker, the author, a little on twitter and she was kind enough to send me a copy of her book in exchange for a review. I was happy to be able to write her a 5-star review.
Often the encouragement that we want to offer people is that everything will be perfect. We may even interrupt their concerns and grieving process to assure them that’s it’s going to be just fine, “you have to be optimistic. You have to think positively.” What does that mean? Does being optimistic and positive mean that we have to be so focussed on the perfect ideal option that we aren’t even free to consider other options? In a Christian/Church context, does faith mean that we proclaim that everything will happen exactly how we want it to or could it include the possibility that it might not?
I question the idea that optimism, positivity and faith mean that we have to focus solely on the best case scenario without being free to consider the alternative. There’s a time for everything. There’s a time to fight and to believe and to keep going and keep trying. There’s a time to walk and push through although your legs are buckling. There’s a time to stop and take a rest because it’s not doing you any favours (yes, I need to put that one into practise at the moment!) There’s a time to focus on becoming a parent and a time when it’s ok to question whether or not that will happen
Justine’s book is authentic and as you’ll have gathered, I like authentic! It’s an autobiographical account of her experience of infertility. Justine has come out the end of that journey, not because she’s got the “happy ever after ending” that all of us on the infertility journey seek, but because she has defined her own “happy ever after” when things didn’t go according to plan. I find that inspirational. It’s inspirational because I know that many people do get pregnant after infertility, with or without treatment. But let’s not give a false sense of security here, not everyone does. For me, if I can imagine the “worst case scenario” (and not having kids is a pretty bad scenario for us) and imagine finding happiness even in the midst of that, then somehow infertility loses its power over me. I’m not talking about being happy about the circumstance, but rather about finding happiness in the midst of it. There’s an enormous difference. I’m still free to cry; I just don’t intend to drown in those tears.I’m still free to cry; I just don’t intend to drown in those tears! Click To Tweet
Check out Justine’s blog: Ever Upward
My paradise Tagline
My journey towards “paradise” my “Ever upward” is one of authenticity. Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with my tagline this week, the words under the main blog title. Eventually, I came up with a phrase that, along with the surviving the platitudes title, sums up what the purpose of this blog is, “Let’s embrace authenticity and face life’s challenges.” I’m on a journey, to rise above the platitudes, to look down on them and refuse to let them have power over me. Being a fairly sensitive person, I’m not sure whether that initial sting will go away, but I can choose whether I let it make its home inside me. This is a journey for all of us, a journey to take the risk and to dare to rise above the apparent safety of platitudes and to be who we really are. We can be authentic in the encounters that we have with those who are going through a tough time. We can dare to be authentic and to reject the platitudes when we’re in the middle of our own situations. Platitudes are often a form of avoidance, a sign that we don’t really want to engage. There is freedom in engaging with our own life situations. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. There is freedom in authentic encounters with those around us too. That’s the brave thing to do, to face the challenges rather than try to turn our back on them. Though we may go through the hardest of times, let’s not lose ourselves in the process. That would be the greatest tragedy.
The Paradise Pilgrimage
For those that feel more comfortable to hop in anonymously, read and leave, that’s authentic and we like that on this blog! But the truth is, I love hearing from you. I love to know that you’re accompanying me on this journey (that one of the anonymous stats I see is you!) I love hearing your experiences, your thoughts, your journeys. I’m on a pilgrimage of discovery here and I believe that my readers have much to teach me too. The comments are here for community as we process together. If that’s not comfortable for you but you have something to say, there’s always the option of a private Facebook message, email or DM tweet. I’ve so appreciated hearing from all of you who have sent me messages. Thanks so much for the encouragement.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new tagline or how the direction of this blog resonates with you.