Navel-gazing: What Rilke Can Teach A Blogger

What’s the WORST thing to read about in a blog?

I think the worst (and I am not even counting those bullsh*t posts hawking the latest and greatest in detergent), is a toss up between the following two:

1. The fake humility post: These posts come from the successful bloggeratti member who is posting from her free, fabulous vacation in [Somewhere Amazing I Have Never Been] wherein she says, “Oh, I can’t believe I am here with Dooce and Scary Mommy…. Pinch me please.”  Those are hard to stomach because I am feeble-hearted and very jealous.

2. Navel-gazing: These are the posts that I can’t stop reading no matter how sore my shoulders get from cringing.  They are generally penned by “Mom bloggers.”  These posts are all about the BIG QUESTIONS in life and how to answer them while wiping kids’ asses.  Something about them makes me recoil– it hits too close to home, those questions make me twitchy and it’s all a wee bit self-indulgent (not that I am above that).

Well, folks, I am about to go in one of these two directions.  Since I am sitting in my own damn bed right now with this computer in my lap, and I haven’t earned a penny from blogging, you are stuck with a post by Outlaw Mama inspired by her own navel-gazing.  (If I do this in the third person is it less odious?)

Here’s how it went:

Right before taking a nap, I was reading Time Magazine’s “100 most influential people in the world” article.  I asked myself if it was a list I would aspire to join. Do I want to reign among such luminaries as Louis CK or Christine Lagarde?

My answer: No.

And while my “no” is not a full-body “no never ever,” I can readily admit that having scores people under my influence may not necessarily benefit humanity. Or me.  More importantly, I think that being that influential wouldn’t make me happy.  I can’t even see how would it change my life if legions of people were influenced by my ideas, except that it would make more work for me.  For starters, I would have to go out and get a bunch of ideas.  Too exhausting.

Moreover, I actually sort of mistrust my goals. Some of them have turned out rather hollow and were expensive.  Like that law school education, which didn’t come cheaply.  When I started law school, I wanted to be the best.  Then, I made all the requisite sacrifices and graduated at the top of my class and became a lawyer — just like everyone else in my class who also had more balanced lives while I was busy trying to get to THE. TOP.

After school it seemed logical to go to a great firm, so I did.  It was great, but I have never known loneliness like that in my life.  I don’t know why, but something about Big Law made me feel stalked by loneliness.  There I was at an apex, and I had never been more lonely.

Why should I trust my goals?

Sometimes, I pay a lot of money to navel-gaze in the presence of my therapist.  About six weeks ago I told him, without looking him in the eye, that I wanted to be a writer.  First, he said, “you already are.”  I didn’t like that answer because it sounded glib.  I wanted something deeper, something to justify the $185.00 I was spending on an individual session. So, he told me read Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet. 

Required reading from my therapist

Required reading from my therapist

So, I did. Now I read it every night. The first letter, dated February 17, 1903, has become a prayer.  It wholly removes me from the victim role as a writer.  I have choices: I can sit around and bemoan the fact that being a writer is so hard or I can show up at the blank screen to let out what is inside of me and then let go. When I read Rilke’s words, I feel joy and I give myself permission to just do my thing– write my blog posts, work on my novel, and follow my circuitous and blissful path.

I don’t want to hog all the Rilke.  Here’s a nibble for you:

“I would give you no advice but this: go into your life and to explore the depths whence your life wells forth; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create.  Accept it as it sounds . . . Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist.  Then take your fate upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking for that reward which might come from without.” — R. M. Rilke

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16 thoughts on “Navel-gazing: What Rilke Can Teach A Blogger

  1. Great post! I understand what you mean by not liking the “You already are” answer – it’s a hard balance to strike, wanting to be a writer, feeling like a writer, and feeling like I’m practicing at one day becoming a writer. Rilke’s book was so inspirational to me when I read it a few years back. I may have to pick it up again! Thanks for writing this!

  2. well I am glad I didn’t read this post before I hit publish on my most recent one because a) I would have probably delayed it since they are sort of similar and b) I would have felt awful about myself and all the damn navel gazing I do. Do you really hate those posts? I enjoy reading them. Although like you said, they do hit close to home.

    • I loved your post! I hate them because they call the question which makes me feel anxious and unready to answer. Funny! We are on same wavelength. It’s always better to have company. Let’s exchange chapters one day and you can tell me if I am PK.

  3. Rilke was required reading from my mentor who I met in college. Incredible. And the older I get, the better he becomes. According to my mentor, the writings evolve with you, too. Magic. I need to dust off my copy again.

  4. Okay, yes. How have I not read this required reading? I love this. And that you are a fellow Big Law escapee, and that you question your goals. A kindred spirit indeed.

    • YOu are a big law escapee too? All my favorite bloggers end up to be former lawyers. It makes sense, I guess. What a weird, circuitous path my life is on. Glad our paths intersected. YOu gotta read Rilke. Balm for the soul.

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