Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. – Vin Scully
Our culture measures many things, including the passage of time, and looks to data for evidence. Last December, I wrote a post, 2013 Blog Highlights, that focused on my most popular articles based on views. Since then blog traffic, followers and “likes” on Facebook and Twitter have increased steadily and I began sharing my work on Medium.com. My inner bean counter, still feisty as ever, would like to analyze the data up the wazoo, prepare bar charts and perform other dazzling corporate-esque feats of comparison to impress the stakeholders (oops! readers) and possibly itself. I could point to those numbers as proof of something(?) and create a narrative around them, but that might not illuminate anything. Hence, a more qualitative reflection.
Paradoxically, writing has become both easier and more difficult since I began. Generating ideas and drafting posts feels smoother than just a year ago, and for that I credit increasing doses of Feldenkrais. Early on, I fretted over every typo and agonized over how my words would be received and if errors would be found. Often I held my breath when I hit the “publish” button, then waited for that invisible and omnipresent “other shoe” to drop. Frequently, even though people were reading my posts, and very few shoes dropped, I was more disappointed than relieved by the quiet response. That’s precisely why writing has become more difficult: to generate more meaningful interactions with readers and inspire them to reach back to me, I have to risk and reveal more, perhaps write about situations that others would keep to themselves or discuss only with close friends, say things that not everyone wants to hear, and peel away successive layers of fear around truth-telling and self-expression.
In that spirit, I wrote about a panic attack that visited me instead of shoving it under the rug. It’s one of my better pieces of writing and helped transform my relationship with myself and that episode. While I did not break into a sweat when I published that post, I hesitated before sharing the link on Facebook, which is where many readers find me and, therefore, feels more public. When it received no reaction for almost a full day, practically an eternity on social media, I felt as if I were again hanging onto a narrow branch for dear life. Had publicizing a humbling and frightening moment been foolish instead of courageous? Eventually, several commenters appeared, completing the act of writing by lovingly witnessing my words and even thanking me. A few others shared their experiences with panic; suddenly, I was in excellent company. Had I not brought that event into the light, I would have missed an opportunity to connect. Worse, it might have festered in my psyche and contributed to a loss of freedom.
That is one reason I write: to find freedom, whether that means expanding possibilities or shedding attitudes, habits, physical objects and even foods that don’t support wellbeing and, hopefully, encourage others to find more freedom for themselves. In the last year, a few people told me that my sugar divorce (2013) inspired them to stop eating it, too; one of them reported losing 40 pounds. Others have let me know that my Feldenkrais posts have either motivated them to recommit to their own practice, try it for the first time, or apply Feldenkrais principles in challenging settings such as the dentist’s chair. Learning that, my heart leaped to high five the Universe. One e-mail from a reader reached right to my soul and brought tears to my eyes: among other moving things, he said my words had helped him to continue to “unstick” himself from an accumulation of trauma, no small feat. To facilitate or participate in another person’s healing or liberation, even through a computer screen, is both humbling and a high honor. Such feedback reminds me to write what I need to say and, true to the Feldenkrais Method, build readership organically in ways that feel authentic, rather than reeling them in with “click bait“.
When I lobbed a gluten-free grenade at The New Yorker, in response to one of its articles that lazily pooh-poohed this contemporary phenomenon, I noticed that being pissed off didn’t feel so good, even though I transformed my righteous indignation into prose. While I picked up a bunch of new followers, they were mostly food, nutrition and other single issue bloggers; I wondered if they’d read other things on my menu. Neither the magazine nor the journalist acknowledged my post, my tweet or even my subsequent letter to the editor. Since I was immersed in Feldenkrais Training at the time, I decided to forget about it. Upon discovering that my article had been chosen for this roundup, “The Worst Gluten Outrage of 2014”, I experienced more amusement and delight than vindication or even pride. It was like icing on the (gluten-free) cake.
The cake itself can only be made when my writing moves or touches another. Sentences and paragraphs are like batter in a pan; they need readers to provide the heat of attention to transform them into something nourishing and delicious, not just for the reader but for the writer, too. Hence I’m still savoring this mouthwatering morsel from a new Australian fan: “…reading your writing is like standing at the patisserie cabinet of a rather discreetly quality side street French cafe, in a suburb of supermarkets. I can’t stop drooling.”
That comment kept me grinning for hours and reinforced my commitment to face the blank screen; while writing is less cumbersome than before, it will never be easy. That’s just the nature of the endeavor. So, dear readers, fellow explorers, kindred spirits and those who’ve touched down here via Google, I thank you for following along thus far or joining me at this point on my journey. There are a few of you, including the very thoughtful writer Ken Lutes, who’ve “liked” many, if not the majority of my posts, and frequently commented. I appreciate everyone’s support and the time you’ve spent reading, whether “statistically significant” or not.
Together we can concoct the invisible but palpable cake of connection and possibly make magic. Without your presence and contribution, I’m just mixing up batter and, thanks to my sugar and gluten sensitivities, I can’t even lick it from the bowl. Which is not to say that whether I write or not depends on having an audience. I need to write and there are no guarantees as to whether it will be read or by whom, or even understood. It’s simply more rewarding when people let me know they’ve visited my à la carte buffet or patisserie case and told me what they nibbled or devoured. My intention is to whip up more posts on Feldenkrais and other topics to keep “bringing awareness to the menu of life,” the tagline for my blog.
Wishing everyone variety, discovery and adventure in 2015!