You may remember that I’ve mentioned doing some MOPS talks before. MOPS stands for Mothers of PreSchoolers and the International church in Toulouse hosts the only MOPS currently in France, I think, although I know another local one (this time French speaking) is starting up soon…
I’ve spoken to them before on the themes of Advent, Easter, and Going Green. This time they’ve asked me back to speak about…
Blogging! I really enjoy spending time with these mums – they are a diverse and interesting group of women, and I always learn as much as I share when I speak with them.
Obviously, a talk about blogging isn’t much without access to the Internet, so we will be on line and looking at this blog and others while I speak to them, and this post is going to be the basis of my talk! Please read on, as your thoughts and comments could be really helpful to our session…I guess I’ll begin by talking about why I began blogging. My mum became very ill, and nearly died after surgery, two years ago. She made a surprisingly good recovery but found it difficult to talk on the phone or type emails, so I was looking for an effective way of communicating with her across the distances. I also started doing some patchwork, a lot of it whilst I was visiting my parents in Edinburgh, and I started looking on the internet for interesting ideas and information about patchwork.
I discovered not only patchwork websites, but also… blogs!
Obviously I knew what blogs were, but was really astounded not only by the visual delights but also the amount of comments, some perhaps fairly superficial, but others showing real friendships between people who clearly hadn’t met in ‘real life’.
So for two reasons – sharing daily life with my mum, and wanting to attempt to join the blogging community, I made a tentative start at a blog.
I was very nervous at first, and kept checking to see if anyone liked my posts, and had left any comments. A few very kind bloggers were very supportive about leaving a message – Sal of Sal’s Snippets, Jeannette of Sans Soucis and Niki of Nostalgia at the Stone House gave me real confidence through their kindness.
And the rest is history – I’ll just give you a run-through of what I have encountered and learned through the world of blogging over the past 16 months:
If you feel a little odd in terms of the things you like doing (thrift shopping and Make Do and Mend and environmental stuff and folk music and collecting lace, in my case) you will find that you are not alone once you get onto the internet! In your local area, your friends may have different tastes to you, and that is great – not a problem at all. But if you feel a bit weird, the internet will put you in touch with people remarkably similar to you, which is both exciting and reassuring. I am not so strange after all…
Whilst blogging could be quite superficial, in fact, most bloggers tend to be honest and thoughtful, given constraints such as my own, where I always want to be up-beat as my main aim is to cheer up my mum. Therefore, I have learnt through the discussions of their lives and the books they have recommended, more about my own life and behaviour (what Jane Austen praised as ‘self-awareness’) than I learnt in the previous 10 years together, I suspect.
Through bloggers and my own blogging, I have learnt that:
“The unconsidered life is not worth living.” This is something Socrates noted about 2500 years ago but it’s taken me this long to find it out for myself… sigh…
For me this has meant discovering that I have tended to rush through life ‘doing’, and not given much time to consider the things that are motivating me, and especially ignoring my feelings. This has often caused problems for my family because I’ve been completely unaware of mounting stress or irritability, caused maybe by pressure but maybe just by a headache or something as simple as hunger. I’ve learnt to step back and say to myself, ‘I feel a bit grotty, so I might snap at the next person who asks me for something’, and that way I’ve been prepared for my negative reaction, and learned to counter it with a more considered response. Honestly, it’s embarrassing that I got this far in life so thoughtlessly… So that’s a big plus for blogging! I think my family would agree.
I’ve also learned that true friends can be made through blogging. The MOPS book asks a question about how much you would actually want to spend real time with your online contacts, and for me the answer would be very positive – a number of bloggers have been very understanding and supportive about my mum’s illness and about many other issues, big and small. They have left blog comments but also emails, sent birthday presents and cards, handmade gifts and books which could help. They have become real friends just as ‘real’ friends would be! I’ve even met two of them.
Another big part of my life this year has been the Challenge of the Utmost Kind. This deserves a proper update in a full post of its own, but I’ll explain it to the MOPS ladies!
Is there a down-side? Of course there can be. Self-confidence and self-control are both needed to avoid:
Feeling that every other blogger has a perfect life and only yours is a ghastly mess (see my Reality Check, put in the sidebar when I realised that some readers mistakenly thought I had a tidy home and angelic offspring!)
Leaving a comment in haste or even anger that offends another blogger or commenter. This is so important – in a particular forum I used to visit some years ago people clearly used their anonymity to become furiously abusive to people with different ideas. There is something wrong with people who do that, and it’s important not to care if a bit of that happens to us, but also to make sure we don’t accidentally get a little like that with other people. The blogging community we are a part of is incredibly thoughtful and caring, in comparison with many internet forums.
Feeling that life on the internet is the ‘real’ one, and that the actual one you’re stuck with is a disappointment. For me, far from feeling like that, being able to share the wonders of bringing up a family in the south of France with my mum and the rest of you has made me massively more appreciative of the blessings we have here. We’ve tried new things and visited new places just to be able to tell you about them, and it’s been great!
So, over to you, blogging friends. If you’re still here, can you let us know what you think about the pleasures and pitfalls of internet life? Your comments will really improve the MOPS session – I never like to do a talk ‘solo’!