We are ready to move forward into the new year, but we need to start by first looking back at the past month. This post is a little long, and I’m not entirely sure that I’ve clearly connected all the dots, but I hope you’ll read through. And then let us know what you think.
In the week following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Cane and I took two of our kids to the Portland Grotto’s Festival of Lights.
This Catholic church is illuminated with thousands of lights, and every evening during the festival it is filled with the voices of local high school choirs.
As I wrote before Christmas, I am not a religious person. I visited the Grotto not because I was seeking a spiritual experience but simply because I’d heard it was beautiful and because we wanted to do something full of light in those dark, dark days.
While sitting in the chapel filled with young voices raised in hymns of praise, I realized that while I am not religious, I am a person of faith–meaning, there are things I believe to be true that cannot necessarily be proven with evidence.
I believe in schools. I believe in their power to change individual lives for the better. Although I have no empirical evidence to support my belief, I nonetheless believe that changing individual lives for the better will change our world for the better–that individual peace is the path to world peace. These beliefs are why I work in education.
I also believe that love is the most powerful force in the world, the greatest change agent there is. While we can force compliance through fear, we can only create willingness through love. We can only empower others to build healthy, happy, peaceful lives by loving them and teaching them how to love. For me, love is the highest power there is.
We believe this is true in our schools, in our churches, and in our homes–the focus of this blog.
As bloggers, Cane and I have had trouble fitting comfortably into the “home blogger” niche. We care deeply about home, and we’re passionately interested in questions about what makes a house a home. It comes, I suppose, from living for years in houses that did not feel like home.
But much of what we see in the home blogger niche has always made us uneasy.
Too much of what we see online breeds discontent and fear. All the posts and pins and likes and chatter are often not about anything real. As one of my favorite bloggers, Rachel Meeks, so eloquently put it in the week before Christmas:
“Being gone for a while and coming back to the profusion of gift guides, giveaways, recipes, and holiday crafts, it kind of looks like the internet has gone crazy. Don’t people have jobs? Don’t they have work to do? Because I haven’t experienced that level of free time since junior high. Then I remember that some people’s jobs are to take professional pictures of things you could do, but no one expects you to actually do them. It’s for entertainment purposes only, like window shopping.” (emphasis mine)
After the shootings in Connecticut, I was dumbfounded at some of what I saw in my Twitter and Facebook stream. Such trivial, unimportant blather. I knew the posts–about gifts, and giveaways, and holiday decor–were likely automated. But really, it didn’t matter.
It’s not that they were less meaningful because we were in the initial hours of a national tragedy. They were simply not meaningful, regardless of anything else.
And I had to wonder: Why am I allowing this into my world?
Because it was me allowing it in. Those things were filling my stream because I had selected them. I’d chosen those content providers and they were filling not just my stream, but my attention, my time, my life.
Why? I don’t know. It just seemed like the thing to do, the way to be part of our blogging niche.
But in those days of contemplation following the shooting, I came to feel that many home sites and blogs are the “entertainment” equivalent of Playboy (hence, the term “decor porn”). If most are not outright porn, well, they’re much like beauty magazines–and I’ve long believed the advice given in the famous sunscreen commencement address:
Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
While I enjoy entertainment as much as anyone, I’ve never liked entertainment that makes us feel “ugly,” delivering messages that leave us feeling less-than, that stoke our desires for stuff that detracts from our lives, that feed our fears that we aren’t enough just as we are, that divert our attention and energy away from the things in this world that desperately need our attention and energy.
I wondered how we can we feel peace in our homes if we are bombarded with messages and images that leave us feeling “ugly.” And how can we be creators of peace in the world if we don’t feel peace at home? We can’t be discontent on one side of our doors and loving on the other side of them. We just can’t.
As I grappled with my feelings of intense sorrow and outrage over horrific violence in a school, a place that is sacred to me, I realized I can no longer participate, even tangentially, with blogs and brands that are not about bringing more peace into our homes, another type of space that is sacred to me.
So I began unfollowing. It felt right. It still does, a few weeks later, even after the emotional dust has begun to settle.
As I began sharing my feelings with Cane, our talk naturally turned to what we are doing with our blog. We began talking in a different way about what we want to do with this space, with our attention, our time, our life.
We talked about our longing for a home blogging niche that promotes substance over style. We want to read (and be) a blog that helps all of us see the stupefying beauty that’s available to everyone, every day, right now regardless of our income or house or neighborhood. We want blogs that help us learn how to make home in ways that don’t diminish home for others–and not just our neighbors down the street, but our neighbors on the other side of the world.
We’ve found some bloggers who do that, but they’ve been hard to find. We think we’ve sort of been one of those blogs here, some of the time, but we want to do more. The more we talked, the more we realized that we want to live and blog more purposefully, passing every post through a new filter–not one that asks, “Will this be popular?” or “Will this help us grow the blog?” but instead asks,
“Will this make the world a better place?”
We know we’re just one little blog. But we began wondering what it would be like if a whole lot of home bloggers (big and small) did this. What if we stated outright that we are not about decorating our mantels or creating cheap designer knock-offs or following trends or filling empty space with stuff just because we’re uncomfortable with empty space? What if we struck the word “vignette” from our collective vocabularies and eschewed projects that are done for entertainment purposes only?
What if we decided to be the Dove Real Beauty equivalent of the home blogging niche, featuring real photos of our real homes all the time?
What if we called ourselves “home bloggers” but wrote about all the things that make our houses home, not just the pretty ones? (And we’re talking about authentic posts and photos about the not-pretty, not the disingenuous ones that claim to be about embracing imperfection but are filled with perfectly styled images of charming imperfection.)
What if our purpose were to help you love your home–which means not telling you all the ways you might change your home, but helping you see what there is to love in it just as it is, right now, today?
Would that create more peace in the world?
We have no real evidence to prove it, but we believe that it would.
Do we have a plan for how to accomplish this revolution? Not really. But we’ve learned that the first step in making substantive change is often just stating an intention.
Please consider ours stated.
Many bloggers have been writing in the past few days about choosing a word for the year, rather than creating a list of resolutions. As I have wrestled with this post for the past few weeks, I have wondered what a word might be for us. Early on the morning of the first day of this new year, I came awake with a start, and the word was just there:
We have been so heartened by your responses to our survey (if you completed it for us, thank you–and if you haven’t yet, we’d still love to hear from you). A full 82% of you said that you come here because you’re interested in reading about how to live simply/purposefully/intentionally–the most-selected response in the survey. Your feedback has strengthened our resolve.
So: This is our year to blog, to live, to be intentional. We’ll still be writing about how this looks for us in the context of crafting a home. We don’t have any big plans for change afoot here. We’re just planning to move forward with greater intention.
We hope you’ll join us. If you support this notion, we hope you’ll leave us a comment saying so or pass this on by pinning or liking or tweeting it. (There is strength in numbers.) And if you’re a blogger who writes about home, we hope you’ll join us by sharing this post in some way with your readers.