September 22, 2011

Telling Truths

Tomorrow is the official beginning of fall, but the new season changed for me with my book club’s “last hurrah of summer” weekend trip to Cape Cod. It was like a last gasp. We walked down to the beach on Saturday, and the early September air made sitting in the sand in your bathing suit just a little too cold. We braved the water anyway, and swam far out past the kelp to discuss our book in a water-treading circle. Some of us turned back after that, to get a closer look at the seersucker-and-boat-shoe wedding happening back on shore, but a few of us swam out to a sandbar. The swim warmed us up, and the shallow felt warmer. I could have sat in the sun on there all afternoon: fingers and toes in the sand, hair whipping dry in the wind, talking with my dear friend. And had she not spotted the tiny, translucent jellyfish surrounding us, we might have. We had tingly fingers later, but we survived, and it’s still one of my favorite memories of the summer.

The whole weekend felt a little like that: wonderfully fun, but a little bittersweet. And isn’t that always the way when summer ends? The air was just a little too crisp, the sunlight just a little too soft. We all knew the seasons were changing, and that work waited for us at the end of our six-hour drive back home. And until Sunday, I was almost convinced of charade, dancing into the wee hours, and having a beach picnic (champagne + pepper jelly and cream cheese = heaven), breaking into big, gorgeous lobsters at dinner and drinking rosé like it was still humid July. But morning Sunday broke and the jig was up.

Once I got over my initial resistance––and that is always my way––fall felt good. Women broke out their tall boots, my coffee went from iced to hot, apples had new appeal, and I saw a little boy on a street corner wearing plaid and holding a football. Suddenly, that soft light seemed downright enchanting.

A year ago this fall, my life felt very different. I had so much free time, and I used it to write, to cook, to make playlists, to go to the library and buy dahlias. It was a very, very nice way to live, and it gave me lots of lovely things to share here. But as the year drew to a close and we started talking about what we wanted in the new one, I knew what I needed next: fullness. I had spent the past two years living quietly, and it seemed high time to turn up the volume. I was used to the breathing room of free hours, but I wanted to fill my life right up to the edges.

That saying about being careful with your wishing? Yeah, it’s cliché for a reason.

Why did I think it was important to press on the accelerator instead of tooling along and enjoying the scenery and the local radio stations? Truthfully, it was because I was feeling a little lonely and a little under-stimulated. And partly it was just to know that I could.

And this is all my very long, rambling way at trying to get at this: my life feels so different than it did a year ago, but I’ve been trying to blog here as if it’s exactly the same. That’s meant fewer posts, and phoning it in sometimes, and that’s felt disingenuous. It’s been causing me a lot of grief. I would love to cook every night and share the recipes here; master a headstand in the middle of the room and think grand thoughts while I’m doing it; host relaxed, joyous parties and report back here about why they matter so much. But that’s not where I am right now. Instead, I’m trying to figure out the best way to manage stress; to find something to eat because it’s 9PM and I’m starving; to figure out when I can squeeze in a workout; to find time for myself, my friends, and for…nothing.

My favorite part of being unexpectedly stuck in Seattle for a week was calling up Molly and asking if she wanted to get dinner. I felt nervous (everything she does is so right, so admirable), but I needn’t have been. Over wine and beer, two salads, three pizzas, the best chocolate chip cookie ever, and our husbands saying funny things––I asked for a bit of advice. Her answer was smart and just what I needed to hear: blogs have to evolve in step with the people who write them or they stop serving their purpose. They stop being real and they start being a chore.

Instead of feeling guilty about not cooking and not giving you recipes, not going to yoga and not telling you my latest thought about living well, I’m going to try a more honest tactic. I don’t even know what that might look like, exactly, but I do know it feels like a huge weight has been lifted.

And I also know that you don’t have to make dinner every night to live a lovely life. It’s one of the pieces––just like having friends over is, and creating something that delights you, or finding the perfect fall coat––but it’s not the whole piece.

So let’s begin here: my biggest “cooking” breakthrough this summer was the deli counter at the fancy grocery store up the street (where I saw Michael Showalter last night). I can buy a rotisserie chicken there or turkey meatballs, some Israeli couscous and some roasted cauliflower. And then back home we unpack the boxes and arrange it on plates like we made it ourselves. It feels more wholesome than ordering in, and I get to sit down for a nice dinner with my husband. I didn’t make it, but it doesn’t matter.

And that, all of that, is what I really wanted to tell you.

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  • Denise @ TLT - The Little Things: This post truly inspired me. You are so right; life your life the way you want and your blogging should follow that life. It shouldn’t be something else, no pretending…
    And besides: couscous and meatballs for dinner? Count me in!6 years ago

  • Cait: Lovely post, Sarah. I’m in a similar space, so looking forward to hearing about your little survival tricks & tips.6 years ago

  • Sharon @ Currently Coveting: Thanks for this post. And thanks for passing along that piece of advice from Molly. I’ve been feeling a general “blah” in terms of my blog, my life and this was a nice reminder. Things are not always going to be perfect and charming and beautiful and that’s just fine. We are forever evolving and changing and that in itself is a beautiful thing to experience. Better not to fight it, as you said.6 years ago

  • Betsy: Hmmmm. I agree with your friend. I also think you might be pregnant.6 years ago

  • Margaret: BWAHAHA- I was going to respond with a Brava, Sarah! and then I read the above comment, which made me swerve. Personal life decisions aside, back to intended comment:
    Beautiful post, lady. The way I tend to evolve my blog is to let it lie fallow for a while, and when I come back, I have renewed interest in communicating my doings. It still involves cooking, baking, observations, nature photos… which is fine, since all that stuff is still part of me.
    You might want to read this post, it’s a good one: years ago

  • Denise, I’m so glad to hear that. 🙂

    Cait, Tips and tricks–I hope I learn some myself!

    Sharon, Nothing wrong with a little fallow phase, as Margaret says below, to get your groove back and feel inspired. And here’s to not feeing any guilt about any of it!

    Holy curve ball, Betsy. Nope, not pregnant.

    Margaret, I completely believe in the fallow phase, too, and think it’s a super important part of any creative endeavor. Thank you for think link! Going to read now.6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: Snort. I do have to say this. I doubt that even our savior, Miss Martha Stewart has time for a home cooked meal 3 times a day 365 days a year. One that is artful, soulful, and scrumptious. I bet even the best of us all has to resort to store bought ravioli and sauce once in a while or even weekly, so long as we have a little more time for sanity.

    Because that’s the real crux of it, isn’t it- Time for more sanity? I’ve been in hiding myself, I even blogged about it last night, that I have been hiding from reality, the world, getting myself going again, all that jazz, when I have PLENTY that needs my attention.

    In reality, we either imagine our rose colored glasses or we find them to put them on, you know? Sometimes we all lose those glasses. And even glasses need cleaning or get uncomfortable sometimes. But if you are prego- I get to knit more stuff! Tee hee!6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: Oh and for years, my mother canned jalapeno jelly and my breakfast was whole grain bagels slathered with thick cream cheese and that jelly with loads of black coffee. HEAVEN INDEED.6 years ago

  • That sounds like a pretty bad ass breakfast, Sara, and also: well said.6 years ago

  • Jackie: Sarah, your writing is beautiful, and I think your readers will happily follow you on whatever journey you’re taking right now. I, for one, will enjoy seeing how the blog evolves alongside your life, in whatever form that may be.

    I’ve never commented before, but I just wanted to thank you for always providing me with posts to look forward to and savor. I absolutely love your blog!6 years ago

  • Cadi: First I have to say I would have given MY RIGHT EYE to have been at a fly on the wall where you and Molly were dining, much less actually sitting close enough to eavesdrop. My two very favorites at one table?? *Swoon!*

    Fan Girl Swooning aside, her advice is sound, though. Your blog should evolve with your life, as it’s an extension of you. And all of us, your loyal readers, know and understand that. I can’t wait to see what that evolution is. 🙂

    And now, thanks to Sarah Rose, I’m going to go get a jar of pepper jelly out of the pantry and whip up that bad ass breakfast.6 years ago

  • stephanie: You write so beautifully.6 years ago

  • Kate: I think most of us reading here just really love your voice. I know I do! It’s just nice to hear it, whatever you are talking about. Most blogs I read have changed shape and focus over the years; our lives change, so why shouldn’t your blog? Thanks, as always!6 years ago

  • Amy: And this is where your magic is: you’re telling us of arranging take out on plates (uh, sometimes I dump my Chipotle salad into a bowl!) and of feeling disingenuous and of wanting to be honest that life isn’t always so pretty and simple, and yet it’s still heartbreakingly beautiful to read your words.

    I adore you, Sarah. And this post was perfection.6 years ago

  • Katie: I just wanted to echo Amy’s comment right above – it feels so good, such a relief, to read such honest words that are still so lovely.

    I’ve definitely been feeling the guilt about not having it all together, especially at dinnertime – but it is liberating to let life, and dinner, and blogs, evolve with who we are in any given season.

    Also, I’m glad you had a lovely end-of-summer trip. Julie told me about it too, and it sounds divine.6 years ago

  • MrsB: 😉

    Youre so right and very much not alone. I remember when I began writing my blog, thinking why are there not more long lived blogs, it seemed that people wrote for a while, often for a purpose and then they vanished. It came to an end. I have had two periods since where I tried to write off the blog. I missed it and as I look back over it, I see that it has subtly changed and evolved. I suppose this is the case with me.

    You have been through larger changes while writing this blog, so of course your blog will see big changes. I had had my babies so the change had already happened, my blog saw me making sense of it, with tweaks here and re models there!

    hee hee! its really quite a fascinating, modern, dilemma….do you think diarists thought these things too??

    Your post has been utterly inspiring!

    xxxxxx6 years ago

  • EB: No matter what you do, it will be authentic. I’m glad you’ve decided to not worry about these changes, but to embrace them.

    We’ll be here for you just as always-

    EB6 years ago

  • Tricia A: All you have to be is yourself. Show up when you can, with what you have to offer. Because that’s why we are here! We get it. Life is complicated and beautiful. We are evolving together…the whole lot of us who read you. : ) I too love Molly’s blog/book so that is a nice thought to think of you two together. (big smile)6 years ago

  • Tricia A: You put it out there into the universe. Now what the universe rise up to meet you!6 years ago

  • Donna: THANK YOU! Thank you for coming back to the blog when it had started to feel like an obligation to you, and for letting it evolve. You write beautifully no matter what you talk about (no pressure, there…just write…we’ll read). This was a very timely read for me, as I’ve ignored my own tiny family and friends blog for too long now. Somehow living life cancelled out being able to write about living life. Thanks for your honesty.6 years ago

  • Ashleyavd: You’ve been one of the most inspiring and thoughtful bloggers for so long, we’re so fortunate to read whatever you can give. We all adore you and have gone through those frozen pizza or deli dinner periods. You will do it with grace and charm, I’m sure! Looking forward to seeing your blog evolving in whatever way best suits your needs right now.6 years ago

  • Jen: Amen – just write…we’ll read. Couldn’t have said it better and I can so relate to your new found fullness! New challenges and new busy-ness have me grinding my teeth and clenching my fists in my sleep!! I haven’t cooked a nice dinner in months, but I made my new favorite grilled cheese last night in 5 minutes and we ate on the couch.
    Oatmeal bread, brie, green apple sliced thin and turkey.
    YUM.6 years ago

  • Ewa: Dear Sarah,
    I am, too, at a pretty similar point of my life – jumping from having a lot of unstructured time for all things small, to trying to do a good share of all things important, all while trying to remain healthy, strong and sane.

    I think that any change in your blog’s orientation, whatever it might be, will reflect not only the changes in your life, but also in your readers’ lives. After all, we are growing up together, arent’ we?:) Also, a friend of mine once told me that we are defined by what we don’t have at a given point in life: money, time, love, children. Remember how you asked us how you feel about changing the blog’s tagline some time ago? How about ‘a busy girl’s guide to the good life’?;)6 years ago

  • Suzy: Yes, don’t try to be something you’re not–or at least, are not RIGHT NOW. We don’t expect you to be superhuman, just your lovely, ever-changeable, REAL self. After all, too much ‘perfection’ only makes us feel badly about our own less-than-perfect lives. So yes, be who you are, rotisserie chicken and all (not that I ever thought anything negative about them anyway)!6 years ago

  • jora: I love this. I read blogs of all types, but there is always one thing in common: they are written by people who aren’t afraid to expose themselves and be real. I would much rather have less of you but more real stuff (not that you have ever given us anything different!)….and I’m kinda jealous you got to go to dinner with Molly and Brandon. Just saying. 😉6 years ago

  • Katie N: Hi Sarah,

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog it was been inspiring and fun. However, your blog’s evolution sounds like something I would also like to read. As a fellow NYer life is often crazy, busy and overwhelming, finding happiness and joy in the face of all of this also deserves a space on the web. 🙂

    Katie N6 years ago

  • Dalila: Sarah, post when you can, when you want, we’ll appreciate it whenever! Your posts are always filled with peace and I love how you take time for the simple and fulfilling things in life. Thanks for posting when you can!6 years ago

  • Kishori: Love this post, Sarah!6 years ago

  • Michelle: Love your posts and the way they change and vary!6 years ago

  • aleda powell: I just wanted to say good for you. Sometimes it’s hardest to be honest with ourselves. And I think you’ve done so admirably.
    Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Just be you, and follow along. :~)6 years ago

  • Michelle: You don’t owe us anything, Sarah. You don’t owe us recipes and playlists and decorating ideas and life advice and shopping tips. I love all of those things, but I don’t expect them or depend on them. It’s your beautiful, honest writing that matters to me, and reading about how you’re trying to figure things out. I’m trying to figure things out too, and it feels good to spend time with someone else who doesn’t have all the answers but is trying to find them in the most fun, interesting, inexpensive, creative, thoughtful, and meaningful ways possible. I don’t care what you write about because I know that whatever it is, it will be authentic and that is what has made me such a fan.6 years ago

  • Michelle: And please, nevermind the typos…that’s why I’m the reader and YOU’RE the writer.6 years ago

  • Sage: Wow, thanks for such an honest post. Blogs do change over time–that’s because WE change over time too. I’m glad you noticed when you were phoning it in and that you want to make a conscious effort to be real. You don’t have to figure it out right away, but your readers will be here with you.

    I recently changed my blog from focusing on fashion to how to live more joyfully. The book “Simple Blogging” by Rachel Meeks completely changed my outlook–a must read!

    Good luck! 🙂6 years ago

  • Jess: I’m glad you’re still going to be blogging. I was afraid for awhile that this was a goodbye post.

    I like the recipes, but I come for the writing. The eve of a new season seems like the perfect time to note and welcome changes. If Fall isn’t a season of truths, I don’t know what is.6 years ago

  • Rebecca: Lady, I’ve been reading you for YEARS, and I’m not about to stop. I’m here for the ride, regardless of what journey you’re going on.

    Also — SO glad this wasn’t a goodbye post. I like to think we’d be good friends if we knew each other in real life — and I don’t expect my friends to be cooking fabulous dinners every night and waxing poetic on their love of daisies and baguettes. I just want to read more about YOU. And if some daisies and baguettes happen to show up now and then, that’s perfectly alright with me.6 years ago

  • Emily: I am in the same place. Honesty is best! Thank you for your words.

    I was underemployed and threw myself into my hobbies and had time to experiment and blog. Now I work long hours at a job I love, but miss having time. And know I still need to exercise. Balance.6 years ago

  • Rachel: I can’t wait to keep reading !6 years ago

  • miss post: Such a beautiful post. Your friend Molly has wise words.6 years ago

  • brie.: this is good. i read a blog that suggests that we should never apologise for these ‘shortcuts’ in life – the pie crust is store-bought but the company loves the pie? say thank you. it’s a new recipe and you’re not sure if it has gone well, don’t say anything until after the first bite – we pre-apologise too much i think. we are where we are. it’s a season, you’ll be in another before you know it!6 years ago

  • wendy: I would like to just say ditto to everything that has already been said, plus one little thing. Words mean alot to me. Some times I need to find an alternative to fit a situation better. Others have used the word embrace, quite a bit. I find it hard to hug a feeling. I choose acceptance. Once I accept the dinner on the plate as dinner, no matter where it comes from, I am being honest with myself. So the cleaners does my laundry, It’s clean and I’m presentable. So the dinner is from the diner, it’s food to fill and warm. Your decision to change things should be as natural as buying that new book or pair of fall boots. You don’t always need another opinion to tell you what to read or wear do you? Chances are that any changes you make will be benificial for you.
    Acceptance. It is what being honest with yourself is all about.

    So no matter what you do with your blog just know this, Alot of us have already chosen to follow along. Keep up discovering who and what and why you are and we will join you in the journey.6 years ago

  • Tina: All I know is that I have missed hearing your words, regardless of what they are and what they represent. I welcome back the “new you” and look forward to hearing more! Your voice is what compels me to keep checking in, not necessarily content. You could never be disingenuous! March on; we’ll fall in step:)6 years ago

  • Lana: Oh, no! I just found you and now you are pulling into your turtle shell?? Sigh…6 years ago

  • I was planning on responding to each of you individually, but that seems like too tall an order now. Thank you all so much for you kind, encouraging words. I’m so glad we have this community here.

    And just in case there is any lingering confusion: I am definitely not saying goodbye! Quite the opposite, in fact.

    So bottom’s up, and hellooooooo! Onward and upward. 🙂6 years ago

  • Anne: Brava! Evolution is good.6 years ago

  • Jessica: I don’t think I can say enough how much I enjoyed reading this! My own life has taken a huge turn from the way things were just a year ago and I never thought I would be where I am, so thank you for making me feel the comfort of solidarity. Looking forward to more. 🙂6 years ago

  • Evon T.: Beautiful post. I understand exactly what you mean. Me… I kinda like the quiet days because it allows me to reflect on the things that make me happiest in life. I’m not very hard to please, so it really is the little things that makes my life feel full. I find that if I do too much, then the day goes quickly, the week, the month, and then year… my life just speeds by. So for now, fullness for me means keeping my thoughts full of all the lovely things about this life that keeps me sane and overstuffed with whimsy.6 years ago

  • Karen: This post spoke to me in many ways. When the end of summer approaches I always get a little melancholy. A big part of that is the kids going back to school another year older. Autumn is my favorite season once I get over the hump and let go of the last sweet days of summer.

    Transition time…. my baby is a senior in high school (my oldest is in college already…. time flies). After being a stay at home mom for years I started back to work part time last year. This fall I am starting a new job with more hours. I have quickly realized that I can not do everything. Dinners sometimes consist of a good take out pizza right from the box.

    Change is not easy, but I have been working on going with the flow as I have been in transition for some time now.

    Sarah, thank you for your inspiring posts. Your writing is delightful and insightful. All the best to you on your journey. Looking forward to seeing where it takes you!6 years ago

  • Becky: Great post! It takes an evolved person to recognize that their life is developing and changing all of the time. No need to fight the change, just embrace it and go with the flow. It’s an important part of life to sit back and reflect on what is happening, how you feel and how you will choose to respond. I look forward to watching the blog develop as I always do.6 years ago

  • Tracy: Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I started reading your blog when my days were full of leisure time and thoughts of recipes and home decor. My days are now filled with stress and 9 pm dinners of cheese and crackers — I too felt proud the other night when I put rotisserie chicken on fancy plates! — but I have kept up with your blog because I love your voice. Cheers to finding beauty in the small moments, no matter how small.6 years ago

  • Anita: ((((((((HUGS!!!)))))))))) Girl…I’ve been following you ever since you posted videos like Noah’s Floorzagna. I’m not going anywhere.

    You’ll find that balance. We all go through seasons of change. It’s part of growing and maturing.

    Looking forward to your future posts!6 years ago

  • Lindsay: There is a great post on etst that relates to what you are discussing above:

    I think there’s a lot to be said about filling your life “right up to the edges” with the things that make you happy & I think the more those things evolve and change and adjust the better the living.6 years ago

  • Tami -- Teacher Goes Back to School: thank you for sharing this. as i sit mere days from my whole life changing i can’t help but wonder how that will change what i write about and what i want to read about.

    it’s nice to know i’m not the only one facing the great unknown. i think i can say confidently that you have created a group of people really rooting for you, not your recipes or play lists, but for YOU.

    i look forward to seeing where you go next. xo6 years ago

  • Grace: Looks like I’ve found your blog just as you’re about to go through some changes:) I look forward to seeing what unfolds.6 years ago

  • Mel: “The truth, and nothing but the truth…” – beautiful post Sarah. Please keep being you, your blog is a joy to read. I wish I had discovered it sooner!6 years ago

  • Kathleen Slocum: “Her answer was smart and just what I needed to hear: blogs have to evolve in step with the people who write them or they stop serving their purpose. They stop being real and they start being a chore.”

    Thank you for sharing this. I am new to blogging and looking for all the advice I can get. I can only hope some day my blog is as insightful and authentic as your blog is.

    Also, that picnic sounds fantastic!6 years ago

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