An anonymous reader has announced that s/he will no longer be reading this blog because "the narrative arc has stalled." Goodbye, and godspeed, anonymous friend.
There are lots of good reasons not to read this weblog. It is small in scope, and its author is inconsistent, judgmental, haphazard, and has many blind spots and personal flaws. She's fixated on personal growth but keeps faltering on her own path, and she's indecisive about how much to share. I've been trying to decide whether 'a stalled narrative arc' is a fair criticism. I don't think it is.
The question has been interesting to ponder, though. Because I'm pondering it on two levels: one -- does a successful (or meritorious, if you prefer, because 'successful' is such a loaded term) personal weblog HAVE a narrative arc? If so, how do the authors do that, without being contrived? I still haven't managed to do a good job predicting out which events in my life will later become significant and which ones will shine bright for a short time and then fade away and disappear. How, then, do I foreshadow and underscore and build tension to the meaningful moments in my life? I mean, do your friends have narrative arcs? When you hang out and have coffee with a good pal, do you ever get up from the table saying, "Damn, I'm out of this friendship, because the narrative arc has stalled." The closest I might come is to implore someone who has been perseverating endlessly to drop out of school or quit their job or break up with the girlfriend, to fish or cut bait already. Sometimes the narrative arc of life stalls.
But I suppose good bloggers can create a satisfying sense of motion and continuity out of the planned and unplanned moments of life. I think it's fair to say that sometimes I do that here and sometimes I don't. Dooce does it better than any blog I've read, and Stephanie Klein does a pretty good job, too. What Dooce manages, and where Stephanie Klein falters, is to convey continuity and spontaneity in an authentic way, without appearing contrived, without suggesting veils and editorial spin. I mean, the whole project of blogging, especially with the audience those two have, is contrived. You sit at your keyboard and you feel like ranting or whining or daydreaming and the sensible, cautious part of your brain says, um, yeah, you can't say that on the Internet. I think the most interesting weblogs are the ones where people post that stuff anyway. And it's a fair criticism of this blog to say that I don't, always. I have three or four posts I've written in the last week that I haven't published, just because they felt risky for one reason or another. And I know that the risky stuff is the most interesting.
On the second level, if we assume a personal weblog (and a life) needs a clear narrative arc to be worthwhile, is it fair to say that mine is stalled?
No way. I'm on the eve of a transition. Sailing season is wrapping up, and pretty soon I'll be jumping into my car and driving to North Carolina, to spend an indeterminate time period with Mr. NBT. Will the doggie be coming? I don't know. My parents have offered to take her, and she loves it there, romping with their dog Cody. I'd rather not take them up on it: I want her with me, and I'll miss her a lot if I don't bring her, and she needs to meet NBT's doggie sometime, so why not now? On the other hand, we've got a crowded agenda of travelling: we're going to go spend some time on the coast, we're going to spend Thanksgiving with his parents (and their two dogs). And we'll be living in a small house with another dog who isn't all that friendly toward other doggies. So bringing Lila would add a layer of logistical stress to this visit, especially the early days. Good thing or bad thing? I haven't decided. The visit is already fairly loaded: it's a test run of sorts. How does it feel to be together on a daily basis? If it feels good, we need to make a plan about how to do that more permanently, which is a whole can of worms in itself. I'm not writing about that mostly because the implications are too big for me to think about for very long before my brain shuts down: it means, I really believe strongly in this relationship, which is scary to say out loud; it means I would consider moving to be with him, which is scary to say out loud; it means --- ack, meltdown. You see why I can't write about this? Meanwhile there's some job things in the hopper at the college, and I am trying to decide whether to accept the summer job on Islesboro that I've always wanted. One of the HOT girls wants us to sell the boat, and I've been sort of ignoring that because I don't want to face it, but it might be the right thing to do. Neighbor and 517 are beginning to make noises about having a baby one of these days. It doesn't feel to me like the narrative arc is stalled.
I think we have narrative arcs in our life -- we try for things and we fumble, we get comfortable and we are stretched, we hit milestones and we wonder if they're the right ones. I think a life well lived is full of this stuff, even if the author doesn't know what they are ahead of time, and even if the life doesn't involve lots of dramatic events. But I think what ebbs and flows with me is how willing, able, and interested I am in talking about them. In season I'm learning that I don't even have enough time for the team, let alone tending to the narrative arc of my life, let alone sitting down here to write about it for you. So at certain times, it's my energy level that's the problem. Sometimes it's about boundaries: something I'm mulling over or need to solve involves people or relationships that would be hurt by being exposed on the Internet. At other times it's just my courage. It's still hard for me to be vulnerable, to admit how many ways I'm clumsy and imperfect, how often I fall short of my aspirations. Is it fair to criticize the weblog for my lack of courage? Yes. And it's good for me when you do. But I am trying.