Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Downs and Ups

                                                by Laura Crum

            Well, this blog post has gotten a little convoluted. I wrote it a week ago and it started out just like the title sounds. First I whined a bit about the negative stuff in my life, and then I described the stuff that brings me joy (with photos). I reread the post a couple of days later and the whining sounded irritating, even to me. So I deleted that part. But then the post sounded very Pollyannish—all roses and sunshine, as if my life were one long idyll. Which it isn’t.
At this point I began to contemplate the larger issue (I have a habit of this). Was it better to be truthful about the downs, or just express gratitude about the ups? Not only in blog posts and facebook posts, but in conversations with friends and loved ones…etc. I thought about how I view others. I don’t care for those who do nothing but whine, but neither do I care for those who seem to have their heads buried in the sand and refuse to acknowledge reality. I do not admire the Pollyanna mentality.
So I rewrote the post again, adding back in some of the negative stuff I had deleted. I tried to make it as honest as I could. I also found a few more positive things that I’d forgotten to acknowledge the first time. What you see below is the result. I’d like to ask how you feel about this. Do you like the notion about being truthful about life’s ups and downs? Or would you prefer this post if I’d eliminated the whining and stuck to the gratitude (and the pretty photos)? I’m really interested in this topic in an overall sense. Is honestly and openly acknowledging the negatives a good thing or not? I know we all have our share of negative feelings. Even the best of us “pace restlessly between longing and gratitude,” as my friend Elizabeth Speth so eloquently put it (Mostlybeautifulthings). What is the best approach to that which brings you down—not just in blogging, but in life?
Anyway, here is what I ended up with—I would love to hear your thoughts.

 There are times I feel sad. There are times I feel pissed off. I don’t tolerate injustice meekly. My family has gone through a tough year. Some of the adversity that befell us was nobody’s fault. Just fate, I guess. Health issues and the like of that. Nothing anybody could have done to prevent it. But some of the problems were quite preventable. They were caused directly by poor behavior on the part of people we trusted, that we thought were our friends. The hurt and bitterness from such a betrayal of trust lasts a long time. I do my best to let go, forgive, and move on. But there is no denying that anger, like a bright flame, burns in my heart from time to time when I am reminded of how false these friends were.
            There you see my downs. I acknowledge them. I don’t see any point in hiding from reality behind some kind of pretense that “it’s all good.” Paradoxically, it is truth that sets me free. Because I can feel the downs I can also feel the ups. Each and every day my main emotion is joy and gratitude. I have a good life and I know it. It is so because I actively create it that way, as do my husband and son. We are, all three of us, very good at appreciating the beauty around us and choosing to create more beauty in engaging ways. The world can hurt us, yes. But it cannot make us unaware of how lovely our life is.
            There are times when my faith in humanity in general is pretty low. But there is no day when my trust in the glory of the natural world ever falters. There is no day when I do not find much to delight me here on my property. My sense of connection to what is good and true and beautiful remains intact. My ability to make choices that make me happy is a very real part of me. And I can readily see that my husband and son are the same. We know how to tell the truth—both to ourselves and to other people-- and we know how to see the truth. I have a feeling this may not make us comfortable people for much of the world to hang out with. But I, at least, am willing to pay the price of rejection by those folks in order to have the delight of connection with the reality of plants and animals, wind and water, stone and sky. I honestly do not think this sort of connection is possible without a spirit that can recognize and acknowledge truth and respond in kind.
            I am so grateful for my husband and son and the lovely place where we live and the animals and plants who share our home. I am also very grateful for the good people in our lives—of which there are many. Both real life friends and internet friends. Not one day goes by that a friend doesn’t make me smile. And one of the greatest recent gifts I’ve discovered is the pleasure of seeing snapshots of other beautiful lives on the internet.
            So today I want to go through a little exercise in gratitude and sharing. I know, I’ve done this before. But it makes me happy to dwell on the beauty around me, and some of you have said that you like my photo posts. Perhaps these pictures will make a few people smile.
            Here are some shots of the life that gives me so much joy. (All of these photos were taken in the last couple of weeks.)
            Our new little pool is a real gift on hot days.

            Every single day when I walk down to my barnyard, I smile to see my horses. Here Sunny is on the “tree tie” to be groomed while Gunner and Henry play “bite face” in the background.

            The greenhouse is producing more vegetables and salad than we can eat. We do not buy these things any more. I am so grateful to have healthy food that we raise ourselves.

            The vegetable garden is just coming into full production also.

            My husband begins making tacos with veggies that all came from the greenhouse and garden and beef from our own grass fed steers—and a whisky sour for the cook.

            My son and I ride together once or twice a week. It makes me very happy that we can still share this activity on our good horses, now that my boy is thirteen--just as we have been sharing it since he was a baby.

            The world we ride through is beautiful.

 My son and his 26 year old Henry enjoy the coolness of the redwood forest on a hot day.

            My husband is a piper and every year on Memorial Day he plays his pipes at the old Soquel cemetery to honor the veterans.

            I see spotted fawns out my window.

            There are butterflies. What more can I say?



Anonymous said...

I can handle the truth, but I think fantasy is more profitable. There is a blogger who lives on a big ranch, she has mentioned that her policy is to never say anything negative on her blog. I believe she makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in advertising alone, then she has book deals, a food show and a movie deal. Still, I'd rather read her blog than hers.

Your vegetables look wonderful, I'm working on getting mine going. I love it when I can go shopping for dinner in my back yard.

Laura Crum said...

redhorse--If you meant to say that you'd rather read my posts than "hers," I'm very touched. Because I know exactly which blogger you're talking about and she is very, very popular. That said, I would have no interest in leading her life. Way too busy for my taste. No time to contemplate the butterflies.

horsegenes said...

I vote "keep it real"!

Without recognizing the bad or negative how can you really appreciate the wonderful?

We have several friends that post on FB everyday about how wonderful their life is, how perfect the children are etc... Makes me wonder who they are trying to convinence? :)

I also don't want to hear about how your colonoscopy went or who is sleeping with who on FB either. But that is a whole other topic.

My life is good. I have my share of ups and downs. I try to appreciate the downs for what they are. They are important lessons to learn from. I have said to you many times that negative, evil people do not exist in my world. I do know they are out there, I just choose to not give them the power to bring me down.

Kristen said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter. I have the same exact issues when trying to write journals, statuses, or even conversing with friends. I try to balance the good with the bad and step outside of myself and my feelings when interacting with others. I always prefer the truth, whether it be kind or harsh. If I'm constantly venting, I chase others away. If I'm constantly happy, this also chases people away. However, if I'm not true to myself or my feelings, I don't think that helps my soul much. I don't know how else to put that, I hope that makes some bit of sense. I vote for keeping it real, I love reading your entries, the ups and downs keep me intrigued.

Thank you for posting this, I'm having an exceptionally rough day and this helps me to put things into perspective.

Val said...

Keep it real, please.

I have been meaning to ask this and always forget. Where are your cattle?

Laura Crum said...

horsegenes--I always think of you as one of the most sane, realistic people I know, and I frequently remind myself of your approach--those nasty people are not real in my world.

Thank you, Kristin. I'm glad this post resonated for you. I've come to the same conclusion. If I don't tell the truth (hopefully without too much whining OR bragging) it just doesn't work for me. I hope your day improves...and I appreciate the comment.

Val--The cattle live in a sixty acre pasture in the Sierra foothills (about three hours from my home). I've owned this piece of ground for twenty-five years. I used to turn my horses out there during grass season, and an old friend of mine who lives five minutes from the pasture has always looked after it for me. But the horse thing became more difficult as I had neighbors who began keeping a mixed herd of mares, stallions and babies over the fence from my horses, and I just grew tired of the stress of having my horses so far away for five months of the year. So I began keeping cattle there with the intent of raising my own grass fed beef--about ten years ago. My friend looks after the cattle, and we split the beef fifty/fifty. I don't worry about the cattle the way I did about the horses---and I give them several years on the pasture and a humane death--and they give us healthy food.

The Equestrian Vagabond said...

You're posting more about reality, not negativity. Difference there. And you write it well and thoughtfully. Keep it up!
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Jan said...

I would guess most of your readers fall into the keep it real category. Real life, real emotions, real ups and downs, or it just isn't very engaging.

There is so much ugliness where people are concerned that we have to balance it out with the good things, the good people, the things that make life worth living.

The bad things and bad people are in our lives for a reason. Without them we wouldn't appreciate the good when it appears. When the crap comes knocking on my door I acknowledge it, deal with it and then let it go. Sometimes easier said than done but holding on to it, and letting it have a presence in my life, or my thoughts just gives it more power.

Everyone has bad shit to deal with in their life, it is unavoidable, and sometimes just hearing or reading about another person's bad shit gives us perspective on our own. So by sharing your downs as well as your ups you remind us all that this is just how life is.

Normally in my life the scale is tipped heavily on the side of good things, and I won't let a few asshats tip that scale in their favor. Things happen that I can't control, but that is one thing that I can control.

On the subject of Pollyannas, the ones I have known are hiding a lot of pain behind that perfect façade, and usually one way or another it all comes crashing down.

Once again a very intriguing, thought provoking blog. Nudging us into introspection is a good thing!

Anonymous said...

I did mean what you said. And I really do prefer this blog to that other one, you're much more thoughtful and you are a horsewoman. She isn't. However, I will admit she has some great photos over there, but you did a great job in that category with this post. That pond would be nice after a long, hot, mosquitoey (?) day in the garden.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I blog is that it forces me to be honest - or at least as honest as I'm capable of being - about what's actually happening with my horses. Sometimes it's not as good as I'd like, and a lot of the time it's pretty great, but I try to put it all down. I generally have a positive attitude to my life, but I'm not interested in being a polyanna either. And I most enjoy blogs that take the same approach to blogging - the ones that are all glitter dust aren't real enough and the ones that are all whining seem to miss the point somehow. Life, including life with horses, does have its low points, but there's a lot of wonder and delight there too.

Just keep on doing what you're doing.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you so much Merri and Jan!

redhorse--I agree about the photos, but the blog itself just never did work for me--I seldom read it. I think all the hoopla puts me off. But good for her for turning her blogging into a successful money-making venture. One has to assume that's what she wanted...and it certainly worked.

Kate--I very much appreciate your honesty about you own ups and downs. As Jan said, sometimes hearing about someone else's problems can give us perspective on our own. I am grateful to all the bloggers like you who are honest about their ups and downs.

So I guess I will continue to put the downs as well as the ups out there. I suppose I always knew that I would--but I am curious to see how others view this. So far most seem to see it about like I do.

Laura Crum said...

Also, for a new blog that I really enjoy reading, I highly recommend the blog I mentioned in the post--Mostly Beautiful Things. I love Elizabeth's writing style and her approach to life.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

One doesn't need to be Sigmund Freud to realise that someone who posts nothing but "how wonderful their life is" might just be trying to convince themselves that some bad stuff doesn't really exist. And if others become cheerleaders for the perfection of that life, how supportively reinforcing of the illusion that would be. Perhaps they think that they are just cynically making money? But how sad for them, and what an indictment upon society that so many people need that charade as a crutch.

So do keep on being down to earth, Laura. And take care arriving home in the dark: your parking spot looks quite close to the new pond. We don't want to read about the car taking a bath.

Laura Crum said...

whp_- That made me smile...we actually thought about the possibility of cars "taking a bath," and made sure to put two large boulders as blockers at that end of the pool. A person would have to have quite a few too many to ignore the jolt of hitting those boulders...