Lost and found: An object lesson in the value of things

by Kristin on October 2, 2012

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by gorbould

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

This often-quipped saying has no doubt resonated with each of us in the midst of big or small losses in our lives, but I don’t think it gets the reality of loss quite right.

In my experience, while the loss of something (I’m not talking here about someone) inspires intense thought and feeling around whatever it was that you used to have, it doesn’t necessarily provide clarity. If anything, stirring up extra thinking and feeling around something only muddies the waters with new questions. What is the true value of that thing I had? Why do I feel the way I do about it? And is getting it back always the best way to move forward?

Think about photographs. Many of us have lost a camera full of not-yet-downloaded vacation photos, or we’ve experienced the untimely death of a computer that wasn’t fully backed up. Losing photographs feels like a huge loss, but what exactly have we lost? The actual experiences? The memories? Or just “proof” that we were happy and had fun—that life has been more beautiful than it often feels during the dark night or the grey monotony of the everyday?

I became similarly philosophical when I “lost” four years’ worth of blog comments last week, after installing a new commenting software called Disqus. Technically as of now, those nearly 6,000 comments aren’t completely lost, they’ve just disappeared from sight on my blog. This is a comfort, for sure, but it also introduces a whole new category of questions around the public/private nature of who we are and how others see us.

I’ll admit, the first thought I had as I frantically checked one post after another, old and new, and found only the insensitive, curt “0 comments” line at the bottom of each post, was all about pride: “I have worked hard to engage people, promote dialogue and create a community here,” I thought. “Now there’s no proof of that. Now it looks like no one reads or enjoys my posts.”

Which is sort of a funny reaction, if you think about it. The reading and enjoying and engaging still happened. All the interesting conversation and encouraging words were taken in and fully appreciated by me. I have benefited and grown thanks to the words of my readers, who are still my readers—I haven’t lost them, just a public record of what they’ve said in the past. Is my attachment to those comments mostly about appearances and pride?

The second thought I had after realizing the comments were gone came in the form of a question: Who are you writing for, Kristin? Obviously, since this is a public blog, I write with hopes of an audience. I love the feedback and interaction, and how they nurture and push my thought process. But who am I writing for? Because if I’m writing for my audience, I’m doing it wrong—I’m thinking too much about what people will think, how they will react, who I want to reach and what I want to convince them of. If I’m writing for my audience, I’m probably not writing from my heart, for the One who gives me all of it—life and stories, the gift of words and the community to share them with. (This thought was sparked by Kyle Idleman, a speaker at the recent STORY conference, who asked, “Do you have an audience of many, or an audience of one?” It’s a question that’s been needling me—I wrote a bit about it here.)

After so much over-thinking about all of this, do you know what? I still really hope those past comments and conversations can be restored to my blog. Disqus says they’re working on it, so we shall see. Part of me thinks I just had to spend this week reflecting on what I really value in this space, and why. Maybe now that I’ve looked the object lesson in the face, the comments will return, and I’ll appreciate them in new, wiser, healthier ways.

Or maybe another week will go by without them, and I’ll begin to think about letting go and moving forward. Maybe I’ll learn to value each new comment and interaction the way I value a delicious meal—not as something to store up and put on display, but as something to savor and be fed by in the moment, for the journey ahead.

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  • http://sarahaskins.com Sarah Askins

    Oh, I’ve been there too(insert the most melodramatic drama queen meltdown that “no one reads my blog”), and it is hard to write anything, put it on display, have no one respond. But then again, shouldn’t our writing bring a response from us, and that’s what matters? I think so. I so keep blogging.

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      Yes Sarah—that “why do I write” question is one of the hardest and most important ones to answer. Daily, it seems! Keep blogging away!

  • http://annieathome.com Annie | annieathome.com

    I love this idea of seeing these conversations as a meal to be savored. Lots of good points to ponder here, in this funny social media realm where identity and art and work mix together. {Hope your comments are back soon!}

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      It’s such a “funny…realm” indeed—one that’s really tough to compartmentalize and keep under control. After writing posts like this one, I always have more questions than answers, but that seems like a healthy place to be. :)

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    i don’t know how you manage to write disappointment into something so lovely!

    at least on blogger, you can add disqus “from this day forward” or retroactively over once and future posts. i wonder if you un-installed, if you could get it all back and then add disqus just for comments on new posts?

    sucky, tho. i’m so sorry:(

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      That’s exactly what I was expecting to be able to do—install it for all future posts, without disrupting the past. What do I know about programming, though? The good news is that today—a week after the old comments disappeared—they’re back! I guess Disqus decided to oil the squeaky wheel. :)

  • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

    I just wanted to comment so you would have some more comments. :)

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

    So, I accidentally killed my blog about a year ago. And I lost all those comments, and I thought the same thing you thought: No one will see how amazing I am if they don’t see that someone has, in her comment, explained my brilliance, thereby validating me.

    But of course, you are more evolved than I. You pushed further, and you see that indeed, the relationship exists without evidence of written record. (Which causes me to ask my own questions about the value of history and of story in general).

    I’m still working through the destruction at the teeth of a spineless dog my precious boots, which are more than boots, of course.

    And finally, Idleman. He really got to you. It’s funny how we sort of pick up these bits of truth as we go through life, and they find themsevles woven into our own truths, in exciting new ways. Makes me think we’re all sharing our rag bag guys…

    • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

      You put it straight, for both of us: “No one will see how amazing I am if they don’t see that someone has, in
      her comment, explained my brilliance, thereby validating me.” Aren’t we ridiculous?!? Thanks for understanding.

  • http://twitter.com/bwitt722 Brianna DeWitt

    Ah, so even well-established bloggers do this! Good to know, haha. =) As a “baby blogger,” it’s so easy for me to find validation in post views, followers, and comments. I’ve determined to post every day this month, and this is something I’m going to have to remember every. single. day. I’m writing because I feel like I’m supposed to, regardless of whether anyone reads it or not. Thanks for the reminder!

  • themoderngal

    I think it’s the idea of having the documentation. We’re writing our own personal narrative with the help of our readers, and we want the whole experience preserved for posterity’s sake. In a way, it’s like correspondence from centuries ago but at warp speed.