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Being Carly

Finding Myself Through Family History

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My posting on this blog has been a little sporadic lately. I’m tempted to start this one with, “Sorry I haven’t been posting a lot, but…” except that when I see that on other people’s blogs I always get a little annoyed, either because it’s a sorry-not-sorry about how they have other things going on beyond their blog (which totally makes sense because if you didn’t I wouldn’t be reading you) or I didn’t even notice they weren’t blogging and apologizing for it makes it seem like I was just wringing my hands and counting the days because I have nothing going on beyond their blog. So I don’t want to be that person.

Anyway.

I do have a list of things I want to share that are all part of the regular programming (a fun art project, my new favorite sunscreen, a few books from a children’s illustrator I discovered, and this summer salad that is so easy and so so good) but it’s all been on hold because I’ve been feeling a little restless about the blog lately. I don’t want to stop writing (at all!) and the stories pile up for every day I don’t post an entry, but I do really want to find some sort of focus. Something besides, “Carly writes stuff.”

For example, my other blog is “a celebration of Disney weddings and engagements, most of which take place at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.” Boom. Done. That’s the whole story. You know what you’re getting when you go over there. That’s good business. It’s good blogging.

This blog, though…this ever-favorite blog of mine…I don’t know. The hard thing about a lifestyle blog is that it really only ever catches 2% of your life (recipes, projects, book reviews) so that 2% isn’t really “you” but rather this sliver of you that you decided to publish. So which tiny puzzle piece should I share? Which would be pin-worthy? Which would be marketable? Not homeschooling, since that experiment proved only one thing: homeschooling is not fun. Not just the kids because it’s not like this parenting experience is magical or exclusive or something I even want to write about every day. I love them madly, but I can say with absolute certainty that they are not the end all be all of me. They aren’t my whole story.

So is it a mix? A window into my life? A catch all of whatever I happen to be doing that afternoon? And is that enough for me to put out into the world and feel like I’m really contributing something to the noise?

Identity crisis. This blog is having one.

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I don’t think it’s actually the blog, but the blogger who is mid-identity crisis. I love my job and I do feel like it’s important to share these thoughts and be part of the larger online community of women/parents/people but more and more I’m having that feeling of BUT WHAT AM I DOING? Posting recently about social emotional education, I remembered how passionate I was about helping schools when that was my daily job and how I really felt like I was accomplishing something, even though ultimately I think I was just pushing back waves on the ocean. Helping kids is a thing. Improving K-12 public education is a thing.

Mom blogging….what is this thing I’m doing?? If I’m a professional mom, what is my scope beyond these two kids? Does that mean that my career proficiency is dependent on how happy they are or how advanced they are or how talented they are? If they grow up to be parenting bloggers because that’s the height of success in their eyes, is that a big win or a big fat failure? Or is it other moms that I’m lifting up…other families who need the casserole recipes and the potty training horror stories and the top ten lists for father’s day gift ideas?

First world problems.

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Weirdly enough, I’m finding my way out of this murk by looking backward at a past I’m not even a part of. I’ve dabbled in genealogy here and there, but family history has always seemed a little overwhelming (so many branches to the family tree!) and, to be honest, has felt even more pointless than sitting around having an existential crisis about mommy blogging. So someone five generations back was married to this other person five generations back and they had these eight kids and one of those kids went on to marry someone else and had more kids? So what? It’s not like we don’t all know that someone way back when had some kids and more kids and more kids and *BAM* a child of the eighties is born. Why do we need their names and their military records and their stiff grainy portraits.

Turns out, it’s the stories.

Stories are currency. If I sell a vintage cardigan at a garage sale for a dollar, I might get a buyer who is interested in expanding their closet. If I sell that same vintage cardigan online but I add the fact that it’s the cardigan Walt Disney’s wife wore to her daughter’s wedding, that cardigan is worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Same cardigan, but now it’s a cardigan that owns a story.

Family history is a way of owning stories that didn’t happen in our lifetime. The Mayflower voyage is a vague general thought bubble about pilgrims on big boats, but once you know your great-great-great-great-great something is on that boat, two things happen. One: it’s like a tiny part of you is standing on that deck in the salt spray, searching the horizon for life-saving land. Two: you have changed, because you are no longer just you but you+Mayflower. You are a Mayflower descendent and now you own that story.

So, for the last week and a half, I have been knee deep in my family history, searching harder than I ever have before. I haven’t found what I wanted to find, since it turns out my family history is more “underbelly” than “underdog”, but people four and five generations back have come to life in a way that I didn’t understand before. Even information I knew already feels different now that I’m looking back as a mom. She lost a baby? Sure, lots of people way-back-when have lost babies, but it means something different now. It isn’t a statistic, it’s a mother who waited and hoped and sent love to her growing belly and later had to decide which outfit and bit of blanket she would wrap her infant in when she held it for the last time before putting it in the ground forever.

It doesn’t matter that losing a baby was just a part of life. It doesn’t matter that thousands and millions of mothers lost babies before her. That single act of burying a child matters because it’s part of the human story and shedding tears over it three generations later just proves how grounded and connected we all are.

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I’m starved for every scrap of information I can find out about these people. I want to know what they had for breakfast, where they got their clothing, what health problems they woke up with every morning, and how many times they were in love. It’s a thousand little things, but every piece of the puzzle is another pixel in this image I have of myself and each one makes me want to turn around and keep writing about my home, my kids, and this one beautiful life I get to live.

I don’t know how/if I’ll share what I’ve found out, since my family history has proven to be more sensational than even I anticipated and not in the Daughters of the American Revolution kind of way. What I do know is that these people are grounding me when I’ve been floating for months and I’m eager to get back to opening that window into our home in the hopes that I can keep that chain of human connection going because I understand better what these stories are doing.

Soon.

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Finding Myself Through Family History

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1 Comment

  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    There’s a show on TLC where celebrities get their family histories researched that I watch sometimes. I think it’s a cool project and I hope that your research helps you find who you are. I like what you write on here, but I know it’s all a balance of what drives others besides me to come back and what drives people to pay you for what you write. lol

    June 23, 2015 at 7:14 pm
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