I was never one of the cool, popular kids. To this day, I have dark, lonely memories of elementary school, when I wore big bug-eye glasses, was a little too smart for my own good, was a little plump, commuted with my mother who taught a few towns away from where we lived, and because of her relationship with the other teachers, was often seen as the teachers' pet. In seventh grade I got contact lenses and a few new outfits, tried fixing my hair differently, and though it sort of worked--at least people talked to me--it never really changed the reality that I just didn't fit in. In high school and in college, I found a few friends, and we were our own small islands in the sea of popularity. I hated and loved it at the same time: I loved the intimacy of a few friendships, and the kind of deep work it took to maintain them, but I hated the people for whom likeability and friendships--or so I perceived them--came so easily.
As an adult, I've continued to cultivate a small number of closer friendships, rather than a large number of superficial ones, despite what my Fac.ebook following would suggest (many of those were my students, and before FB became the social media megacommunity it is now, it was a good way to hunt them down).
And yet, when I started blogging, part of me had fantasies of becoming the next Moxie or Dooce.
Don't get me wrong. I started blogging for myself. I still blog for myself. But I'm blogging, not journaling ... and oh, the lure of fame and fortune. Well, just the fame. Readers and followers are like a narcotic. You get hooked, without meaning to. I was thrilled when I hit 100 followers recently. But I lost two over the last two posts, and started to think "I shouldn't have tried this meta-blogging series" or "I ought to be posting better stories" or "I ought to be posting more vegetarian recipes ... lots of my followers are vegetarian or vegan" or "I ought to be posting more cupcake pictures, yeah, that'll keep 'em" or "I haven't posted about yoga in a while." Or "gee, maybe I really suck at this blogging thing after all." But the truth is, no matter what I post here, someone's going to not-care about it, or actively dislike it, or in some way feel disconnected.
Truth me told, I spent the better part of my life trying to please people. When I was young, it was my parents, especially my impossible-to-please old-world father, who would ask me where the last two points went on a test when I got a 98. Somewhere along the way it became my teachers. My boyfriends. My dissertation advisors. My boss. My colleagues. Because really, if I just made people happy, they'd love me, right? But it never completely worked, because I was always a little prickly around the edges.
Then again, I think about the Moxies and Dooces and Pioneer Womans of the world. Yes, they're awesome people--or at least, their online personae are (I haven't met any of them in person, though I hope to at BlogHer'12). But how many of their followers are friends, I wonder? How many people is it possible to hold close to you, without compromising the quality of those relationships? I used to wonder the same thing about people like the president of our university, or any leader, for that matter. He spent all day being diplomatic, smiling, shaking hands and kissing babies (well, maybe not the babies part), but how many of those people could he really connect with?
The bottom line is that I will probably still continue to worry about what I post here, and crave connection with my readers. I will be sad when the number of followers goes down, and I will wonder "what did I do to send them away?" Because just as I couldn't instantly gain friends in elementary school, I don't think I can change who I am. All I can do is be true to myself.
We're focusing on opening the heart center in yoga again this month, apropos of Valentines' Day, I guess. My yoga teacher tells us that if we reach out with the heart center, everything we need will be right there. Not everything we want, perhaps, but everything we need. I've been trying on ideas, figuring out what it is I need. Clarity of purpose? Self-acceptance? Understanding? Maybe all of those things.
I'm on a soup kick (in case you hadn't figured that out already). This one is buttery, slightly spicy, and sweet all at once. Funny thing about parsnips: while the root of the plant is edible, the shoots and leaves contain a photosensitive chemical that can cause phytophotodermatitis, and so when you're gardening them, you actually have to wear protective clothing. I like parsnips. I'm also pretty good at the core, but I'm not your harmless garden variety carrot.
How about you? Do you read big blogs with lots of followers? Do you feel connected to those bloggers? How do you approach your own number of followers?
How do you feel about parsnips?
And what do you need from your heart?
Parsnip, Leek, and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from here
1 T. olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. cooked cannellini beans (or any white beans)
3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
4 c. vegetable broth
2. c. water
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 t. dried sage
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
green onions for garnish
Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Sauté leeks for three minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the beans, parsnips, sweet potato, broth, water, thyme, sage, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, about 30 minutes until vegetables are soft.
Remove the bay leaf. Blend the soup by using an immersion blender or transfering it to a regular blender. (If using a regular blender, be very careful as the steam can sometimes cause the lid to blow off. I recommend allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes, then blending small batches on medium speed while holding the lid down with a large pot holder or towel in my hand). Serve hot, with salt and pepper to taste, and green onions for garnish.