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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Virtual Reality -or- How to Make a Life




I tend to live too long sometimes in this world in my head, fueled by online friends and brilliant blog wisdom, where hours are marked by hashtags and Facebook becomes a lifeline, where I register a comment count or today's subscriber numbers like a self-worth bathroom scale forever showing a number that leaves me feeling bloated and unsatisfied.

In this neighborhood and since it's my fantasy, my quaint old chippy farmhouse with miraculously leak-less faucets is nestled right in there with awesome neighbors like Emily and Sarah and Lindsey. I lunch with Anne and Ann and Annie and Anna and we break bread and talk about life and God and gratitude. My kids hang on the neighborhood monkey bars next to Shannan's and Lisa-Jo's

I camp in the woods in invisible tents with Emily and Suzannah and their beautiful families. Tam├íra, Preston, Nish, and I debate microbrews at the backyard barbeque. My pretend writer's group meets at the corner bakery where Jeff and Mary and Dan and Shauna, over bites of something buttery, offer brilliant insight on this tricky manuscript, which I can't wait to share with my make-believe agent, Rachelle.

Because this is sorta what it really feels like for me to live here in this online space. To wander from house to house and blog to blog, to eat my lunch beside you folks and nestle myself into your reality, make you part of mine, let your words make mine somehow come out a little better next time. Like a fantasy. Like one of those dream sequences on TV marked by foggy edges and a twinkly soundtrack.

It's not merely virtual, though. The real-life encouragement, support, prayer, and tangible love that floats across keyboards and computer screens is not make-believe. It is substance and it is depth and most days, it gives me strength I haven't had before.

But I have a real life too. I carry spare pairs of cartoon underwear and emergency fruit snacks in my purse. I have foreheads to kiss more often than I do, and toilets to clean and filters to change and sunscreen to apply and more book ideas floating around in my head than time to write them all down. I have dirty carpet and friends I need to visit (the kind who knew me when I wore leg warmers and slap bracelets and crimped my hair). I have movies to watch, stories to tell, a husband who keeps me one step ahead of psychosis every day. Somewhere, there is probably chocolate I should be eating too, regardless of what my protesting belly pooch has to say. There are real books with real pages to read and holy moments to be had.

There is life to be lived, and you have one too.

Is virtual reality overshadowing actual reality, in your life?

This is a struggle for me. I'm a writer at heart, and at times, I think I need to set up camp in this virtual space to "make it" and make sleazy flashing billboards to get my voice heard. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves out there, and the Internet never sleeps.

But flesh and blood does.

It sleeps and cries and laughs long over good wine with good friends. It turns the laptop off sometimes to paint toenails with pigtailed daughters, to play in the rain with fuzzy-haired sons and attempt daring new recipes. It kisses your husband long and sweet, and dips its toes in river water. It leaves the bedroom window open and listens late to crickets and rhythmic breath and cars driving past. It star-gazes and goes out dancing. It eats the moments of life like bites of a sweet summer peach.

Be careful not to miss it.

Don't trade your life for eye-strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Don't sell your soul for another Twitter follower if you aren't bringing your whole heart into the world beyond the computer screen. Virtual reality has a funny way of reflecting actual reality. If your life is empty, your work will be empty. Live.

As much as I love my fantasy neighbors in my make-believe neighborhood, I have real neighbors I've never met, ones with pet roosters who wave enthusiastically every time I drive by. I have a lonely grandma who could use a lunch date. I have avocados to savor and dandelion heads awaiting the breath of a small boy who doesn't yet know about making wishes.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off go make a living… and make a life. 


26 comments:

  1. This is so, so good Cara. You put into words but most of us feel daily. Thank you!

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  2. cara, this is lovely and true. this online space can be both blessing and idol, and we must use it well, not neglecting the better thing.

    have a beautiful summer of glorious, embodied memories. and let's pitch those invisible tents, too, because it does my heart good. xo

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  3. oh that dipping the toes in the river water paragraph just sings. Love. 

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  4. Beautiful, Cara. There is such a goodness to living fully right where we are, and that enriches our art (or writing, or work...) even as our art enriches our lives. Learning, learning...

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  5. Dear Heart, I so understand this struggle.  The real and the virtual are getting all mixed up, and there is no definite line.  I met my first blogging friend face-to-face last weekend.  I was very nervous.  What if we didn't recognize each other? What if there was nothing to say? After all we'd only spoken once on the phone.  But, my fears turned to fantabulous friendship.  We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  And talked about writing, held one another's hand when discussing hard subjects and hugged each other tight and long when it was time to say goodbye.  It's all very inconvenient, this world of virtual reality.  It would have been so much easier if we didn't get along.  Because, I have a feeling that I've gone from a few good friends, to a few dozen, and that dear one is almost too much to maintain.

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  6. this is lovely, true & pure.  thank you for speaking truth and still sharing your heart.  And yes, avocados to savor and a grandma who could use a lunch date.  This life in the real is worth pursuing fully.

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  7. Awesome writing, Cara, and I truly relate to the dilemma you're describing. To me it's like the difference between salt & light that Jesus told His believers to be -- salt needs to be in intimate contact with the food to do any good, whereas light can be seen from a  great distance by many people. Writing on the Internet may reach many, but to keep our humanity we also need to minister one-on-one.


    Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on Saved by
    Grace! Your blog is a blessing and I am now following it, and I
    invite you to follow Saved by Grace also:


    http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/


    Love in Him,


    Laurie Collett


     

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  8. Awesome writing, Cara, and I truly relate to the dilemma you're
    describing. To me it's like the difference between salt & light that
    Jesus told His believers to be -- salt needs to be in intimate contact
    with the food to do any good, whereas light can be seen from a  great
    distance by many people. Writing on the Internet may reach many, but to
    keep our humanity we also need to minister one-on-one.



    Thanks so much for visiting and commenting on Saved by
    Grace! Your blog is a blessing and I am now following it, and I
    invite you to follow Saved by Grace also:



    http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/



    Love in Him,



    Laurie Collett
     

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  9. I heart this post, and I'm humbled to be mentioned among the greats. I think it's cool that we share similar roots in where we live or have lived. :) Maybe we'll reconvene. :)

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  10. Beautiful , sweet words Cara. Wise truths here, and this fantasy world,..... I know it well. Sometimes it feels like I'm living two lives at once--so very strange and wild ...... But so critical to remain in reality , kissing REAL husbands and babies, dripping from puddle play.....

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  11. Love this... and can't wait to have actual real lunch with you in October! =)

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  12. This is such a good reminder.  It's so easy to get caught up in the online world. 

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  13. Yes, and in the pursuit of a writing career, there is so much pressure out there to be constantly in pursuit of your platform and constantly trying to wave flags and catch the attention of everyone who will listen. But I am being reminded that no matter how much writing success I find or don't find, all of that is secondary to the more important things, to seeking first His kingdom, then being present for the people who are most important to me, and then sending what is left over out into the world. It is tempting for me to mix up the order of things, "just for a season," but there is no season I want to miss on the better things just to trade them for the lesser. Thanks for your encouraging comments, Jess!

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  14. Me too, Anna! And an impromptu Target trip, methinks. ;)

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  15. Yes. Thanks for your encouragement, Kris. It is nice to have real friends who also understand this funky two-dimensional life that we pour our souls into and keep us accountable. You are a blessing to me, girl. 

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  16. Thanks for coming by, Mary. Would love to reconvene. Looking forward to soaking up your wisdom at Allume in October! 

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  17. Thanks Kamille! The life in the real... that I would be mindful that for all the fanfare of the online world, it is flesh and blood that matters. Will you be at Allume again this year? Hope to see you!

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  18. There is so much vulnerability to putting ourselves out there and then living up to it in real footsteps. Thank you for coming by. Enjoy that dear friendship! 

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  19. Yes, life enriches our art that enriches our life, and it all enriches our faith. What a beautiful picture of the spherical nature of this humanity business. Love you! 

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  20. Thank you Emily, for coming by and for your sweet words. 

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  21. Blessing and idol, yes. Hope you have a beautiful summer too, Suzannah. I'm sure it's a busy season for you. Here's to peace and rest and mental vacations in invisible tents....and flip flops. ;)

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  22. Thank YOU for coming by and for your encouragement. Glad to know I'm not alone in the temptation to make too much of this place. 

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Your comments are such an encouragement. Thank you for sharing your valuable words.