Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts on Candidness, Self Esteem, and Pride in One's Self

I am realizing that I actually know a disproportionate number of folks who live their lives in a state of shame about one thing or another. However, this wasn't something that became clear to me until relatively recently.

I grew up knowing more than a few people who had this sort of attitude. Also, I'm a bit of a late bloomer who is so introverted, I make actual recluses look social. This means that my span of experience with other people was relatively limited for most of my life. Therefore, if I grew up around it, it seemed normal to me until I had one of the many "oh shit" light bulb moments that have characterized my 30's so far.

I've always been a pretty staunch champion of honesty and openness for the most part. Yes, I can be very private. However, I will almost always simply decline to expound upon parts of my life I don't care to have people knowing about. I won't lie or make up stories instead. I won't "technically" tell the truth, but knowingly try to give someone the impression that I'm someone I'm not or that my life is something that it isn't either. If other people don't like something about my personality or my choices in life, then I consider that to be their problem, not mine. If I myself am ashamed of something about myself or my life, then I change it... so I can look my own self in the eye every day, not because I want other people to like me more or something.

If someone gives me credit for something I didn't do, I correct them and tell them who they should be giving credit to. If someone has what I consider to be an unrealistically grandiose impression of what I do for a living or of something specific about my life, I put things in perspective for them. If someone takes one look at my baby face and assumes I'm still 25 or something, I tell them my real age.. or at least mention that I'm a lot older than I look if I don't feel like giving a number. It makes me really uncomfortable not to for whatever reason. If there's one thing that life has taught me though, it's that this is not something enough people I know actually do. I don't know if it's just too difficult for them or what, but they just let people think they're younger than they are... or more successful than they really are. In some cases, they allow people to go on for years with a completely false impression of who they are as people.

They also often tell outright lies about certain things. In a relationship they're not proud of? They just keep it a total secret from the rest of the world and deny that it exists when asked about it outright. Job title not as impressive as you'd like? Just get creative with the wording you use to describe it to make it sound like you're ten levels ahead of where you are. It's like these people can't be bothered to actually make changes when it comes to things about their lives that bother them, so they simply say things are otherwise when talking to others. It's as if other people thinking it about them is all it takes to make it true in their own minds or something. I personally get nothing out of basking in praise I don't deserve or accepting rewards I didn't earn, so this is not something I understand at all.

I'm not even trying to sit here saying that I've spent my whole life feeling ridiculously proud of who I am. Trust me, I know a thing or two about what shame feels like to varying degrees. I've been in relationships with people I didn't even want to be seen with before. I had an unhappy marriage to someone I didn't love just like half of the other human beings on this planet and I stayed in it way too long. I've made a living a million different ways over the years, but I've never been truly satisfied with any of them or considered them brag-worthy to any extent.  (This includes the great majority of the freelance writing I'm doing these days.) I also know what it's like to be the person other people are ashamed of.

Even now when I'm doing much better at life than I was for a long time, I feel like I have a long way to go before I will feel comfortable thinking of myself as a successful person who has anything of substance to brag about. However, I'm also honest about all of those things. If something is a really sore subject (like my marriage was back when I was still in it), I just decline to talk about it at all. I don't spew out a pack of lies instead. Now... if I start feeling like I'd need to in order to come off the way I want to to other people, then that's my cue to start thinking about making a change. It's a pretty good system that's served me well over the years.

I've had haters say in the past that they're not really sure why I seem to get so much respect from other people in general, because I'm "not that great" (usually behind my back, because that's how haters roll). Yeah... duh! And I'd be the first person to tell you so, too... but perhaps those people should consider something. Maybe it's not that I'm "that great". Maybe it's that I'm that honest. People know what they're getting with me and that's probably a relief in a world that seems too full of deception and dishonesty to me. More people should try it sometime. They'd probably be shocked at how much more readily they're accepted by others in exactly the way they want to be.

On Documenting Life and Evolving into the Future

I've kept some sort of journal for organizing my thoughts and recording my mundane little life for as long as I can remember. I don't exactly remember how old I was the first time I started one, but I do remember that I was really super young. We're talking "little kid" young -- well before my teens or anything when most people get angsty and start keeping a diary.

I think I got one of those cheesy "Dear Diary" type deals for Christmas one year. You know the sort. They're designed to appeal to young girls. They're pink or have flowers printed on the outside and have a page for every day, each one of which starts with the heading "Dear Diary". Even as a little kid, I was a shy person of few spoken words, but who was full of thoughts and feelings all the same, so there was something about that diary that really appealed to me. I couldn't wait for January 1st to come around so that I could write in it for the very first time and I've remained hooked on journaling ever since that first New Year's Day.

Obviously, I've changed a lot over the years as far as my journal-keeping habit goes. My writing style evolved and the things I wrote about got deeper and more complex as I matured into a person who is now an aging adult, not a child. The frequency with which I journal has fluctuated some as I've grown older, gotten busier, and expanded my horizons as far as the different types of writing that I do. After I joined the digital age and started relying on my computer for more things, I made the switch completely from paper journals that I hid under my mattress or kept in my night stand to online blogs that I actually share with other people. However, journaling remains a big part of my life... even when I'm neglecting it in favor of other responsibilities.

All that said, I've been feeling a number of changes brewing lately as far as how I write and to what extent I really want to share it. This extends beyond blogging in many ways, but it also very definitely includes it. Being an introvert who also writes in front of people for the most part, I waffle back and forth a lot as far as how I feel about that. As I mentioned, I journaled in private for the greater part of my life. Then I made a drastic jump to public (or at least semi-public) blogging where I was pretty share-happy for years. Now I feel myself settling back into something that strikes more of a balance between the two.

I still very much prefer blogging to private journaling for the most part, because for me personally, it's begun to feel like a bit of a waste to spend time writing things that aren't available for other people to read to at least some extent. I also adore the internet and the whole at-a-distance social dynamic connected to it. Getting feedback on my thoughts and the things I write has been a big part of my evolution as a person and I would like that to continue. However, I can tell I'm changing again in that I'm tired of broadcasting everything I write absolutely everywhere. It's starting to make me feel over-exposed. It's also been making me feel more pressure to compose fully fleshed-out posts each and every time I blog in public at all, as I don't want to be all "hey read this" unless we're talking about something with at least a bite or two of meat to it. This in turn reduces the frequency with which I write in the first place.

If you follow my Creative Cat blog on Blogger, then you've heard me dropping cryptic hints about feeling overly visible and even monitored to some extent, often by people I don't particularly want following my life. (It's fine if they do, obviously, or else I wouldn't be posting public entries here or anywhere else. Doesn't mean I want to encourage it though.) You've probably even heard me openly bitching about feeling writer's blocked in many ways. I think this steadily growing feeling of overexposure is a big part of that and I've been taking little steps here and there to fix that.

Today, for no real reason at all, I cancelled my blog broadcasting set-up on Networked Blogs. I'm just sort of sick of the auto-posting to Facebook and Twitter every time I make a post on one of my public Blogger blogs. Not everything I want to write is broadcast-worthy in my opinion... and sometimes I just don't want to for whatever reason. This is even more the case now that I have as many different blogs as I do. I feel like people don't know what I'm about since I do, write, and think about so many different things. I feel like all this needs to be compartmentalized a little better so that people can pick and choose what they care about without being forced to bother with the rest. I'll pick and choose the posts I think are actually important enough to broadcast to my entire social network, which by now is pretty expansive.

So I guess that's where I'm at right now. I think it's part of a larger shift toward writing and creating more for self-expression than the cultivating of opportunities or social connections. That can only be a good thing, as that's a massive part of my creative problems right now. I'm excited to see where the gods take me in that arena.

As a small aside, I've also decided to change the name of this blog from The California Cat to The Curious Cat, so if you're here wondering if you're in the right place, I can assure you that you are. I keep worrying about people mistaking this for a California living blog into the future once it actually develops an audience and I can already feel that that's not even close to what it's going to be. I tend to blog a lot of observations and random ruminations. Sometimes I blog personal accounts as well, but they almost never have anything to do with where I live. Hopefully the new title will be more representative of who I am and what this blog will wind up being about.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Greetings and Salutations... Again

Monterey, California
The first post in a new blog is always something of a snore, don't you think? It almost has to be an introduction of sorts so that people at least have some sort of a clue as to what they're reading so they can decide whether or not they want to be bothered to read more of it in the future.

If you're reading this at all at this point, the chances are pretty good that you follow one of my other blogs on Blogger. I have three of them -- a food and recipe blog, a spiritual and astrology blog, and a creative blog that revolves around my artistic endeavors and my life as a full-time freelancer. Either that or you're one of my friends from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. That being the case, there's probably little need to spend a lot of time introducing myself.

Suffice it to say that my name is Shannon (or "Cat", depending on who you are and from where you know me) and that I'm a freelance writer and artist from Monterey, California. I'm engaged to a man named Seth who is also a freelancer in the arts... but then you very likely know and understand all that. Instead, I'll sort of introduce the blog, I guess.


Despite the actual name of the blog, this isn't really a blog about California or California living, although I'm sure those subjects could show up from time to time. However, it could well be described as the everyday diary of a California girl. The other day, I was spouting off about some random thought I was thinking about writing down and posting somewhere. Seth actually asked me off hand if I even have a public blog anymore that I just treat as a journal for recording thoughts, daily doings, and just stuff about... me. Not who I am as a writer or an artist either, but just who I am as a person.

I guess... I don't. I still have my old LiveJournal, as some of my better online friends may know. I even made a passing attempt at posting publicly there from time to time. However, in the end it just didn't feel right, not least of all because people like clients were constantly finding it and lurking on it. That's... my place for working through personal dilemmas, feelings, and emotions these days, so having just anyone who was passingly curious about me hanging out there and absorbing what I wrote felt a bit like a violation. Naturally, it wasn't long before I simply locked it back up so LiveJournal could go back to feeling safe and private again.

I guess that's why I decided that if I wanted a blog to treat as a public journal, it would be best to just start fresh with a new site so I could simply allow it to accumulate a completely new readership and develop its own unique vibration. Then I'll be less likely to feel violated or intruded upon when clients, business associates, and passing acquaintances get curious about me and start Googling my name hoping to find a blog, or a journal, or a Facebook profile. I've always enjoyed Blogger for that. It's easy to use, new readers seem to find you without you really having to bother very much, and it comes attached to everything I personally like my public sites to have including a "timed post" option that lets me write when I feel like it -- which is typically super late at night when no one is reading -- but schedule the posts to actually appear some other time.


To go off on a slight tangent, as much as I love the Blogger service, I'm not particularly thrilled with some of the changes Blogger has apparently made since I opened my older blogs here. To begin with, I really dislike pretty much all of the layout options that they currently offer for new blogs. They appear to have done away with anything that actually looked simple and classy. These days, everything seems to be this "new", distracting, completely overdone style that I loathe.

I honestly prefer the really very basic design my other three blogs have and I am disappointed that I can't simply have the same thing in a different color for this new blog. I don't need all these fancy-schmancy picture backgrounds, transparent layers, extra columns, and other disco garbage. It took me forever to find one that I felt I even might be able to tolerate, but I still think it's pretty ugly.

That said, the look of this blog is likely to change several times before I finally settle on a layout once and for all. I just don't have the time or the inclination to design layouts for this stuff from scratch anymore, so hopefully I can eventually find something free and ready-made somewhere that doesn't make me want to wretch. Otherwise, I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and design something some weekend.

The content here will mostly just be about my life and daily thoughts though -- a sanitized version appropriate for family, clients, or people I barely know to read, of course -- because I feel like I'm losing that part of myself as far as my public internet life goes. That said, it will probably be of the most interest to people who actually care who I am as a person outside of my work and niche interests.

Food posts, spiritual or philosophy-centric posts, or posts related to my writing and artwork will continue to be posted at the sites set aside for them as before. Those subjects don't and probably never will feel like they belong in a journal-type blog, so if that's what you're interested in, see my sidebar for links to the other blogs I manage.