Blogging is all about the present tense. It can’t help it. It’s the nature of the format. Each post is contained within a given date. It is marked for obsolescence the moment it is posted. The structure of blogging demands now, today, the instant and immediate. It’s like a newspaper in that today is what counts and yesterday is something that only those on a mission to find a given something come to visit. Yesterdays papers are bird cage liners and fish wrappers while yesterdays blog posts are even less purposeful. You can’t wrap a salmon in a blog post. Last years “365 things that don’t suck about L.A” cannot protect your floor from bird poop and sesame seed shells.
To tell you the absolute truth the one thing about blogging that I don’t like is its obsession with now—and it is sort of strange to be working in a tense that I have some antipathy towards. Present tense is, as a rule, not my favorite one; rather, it’s my least favorite one. Don’t get me wrong, I get that we all live in the present( even when we may live it while looking forward and backwards). It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with now (from what I hear from Twitter quotes, “the point of power is in the present moment”;” the power is in the now”; “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, that’s why we call it the present.” Ugh, I hate those quotes). It’s just that if hindsight is 20/20 now-sight is Mr. Magoo with a cane and a seeing-eye dog. And the past is so full of narrative and myth and stories well-told. The future is so filled with hope and potential and endless possibility. Now is just a three letter word( so is sex and god so I suppose some good things do come in little word boxes on occasion).
As a writer and as a therapist I have always been a bit obsessed with the past. “What happened?” is a question that can fill a ten-year analysis or Tolstoy novel. “What is happening now?” seems less filled with wonder. In this moment, what is happening is that I am sitting on my couch and my dog is sleeping and I have the TV on and yet there is nothing on the screen except “Finished: Weeds S6:06. The Christmas tree is blinking. I’m dressed as if I belong outside: coat, scarf and Ugg boots and I am writing this post. I guess I could turn that bit of now into a story but in order to do so I would need to bring in some past and future-tense. You see what I mean? Before (past-tense) I started to blog I was all about past-tense, actually I think i have always been about past-tense and future-tense. Memoir has always been my favored genre of writing and it is pretty much about remembrance of things past. I have no interest in Science-fiction or any future-oriented writings—but I can tell you that I think a whole lot about the future even thought I don’t write about it. Also, I don’t tend to talk a lot about the future with my clients unless it is a tense that they want to talk about and then I am happy to time travel with them.
There is a new movement in psychoanalytic psychotherapy to abandon history. What that means is that you no longer spend the first one, two or three sessions learning what has happened to your patient. The new way of working is to just start where your patient is and let the history emerge organically. The philosophy behind this is that the past will emerge in the present and to trust that in time the history will be reveled. There is a certain sense to this and even though I was trained to take a history I am slowly starting to abandon history for in the moment connection. That said, I will admit when I learn something about the past I tend to treasure it in a different way than I do when I hear about current material. History holds weight for me in both my personal and professional life. I am terribly tempted to put in a quote here about how those who don’t learned from history are doomed to repeat it, but I won’t.
When I go to a new blog I start with the now and only occasionally do I time travel back to the the beginning of the blog. I always feel bad about this because when I meet someone who I like I never ignore their past; I want to know my friend’s history and I also want to know their hopes for the future. So there is always a bit of guilt when I start reading a blog from the first day I find it. I notice the impulse to want to read the archives; I want to go back to the beginning, but mostly I don’t. I just don’t have the time to go back to the beginnings of a four-year old blog and read 1400 posts to catch up. I have noticed on occasion wishing that those 1400 blog posts existed in a book as I would be much more apt to read all of the posts if they were out of the framework of the blog and instead were in a linear narrative from start to end. I can’t exactly articulate why that is, it somehow feels related to the reason I am more apt to watch a repeat of a film on live television than I am to watch it on DVD. I feel, somehow, that I am less alone when watching something on live TV (I wish someone could explain this phenomenon. I know I am not the only one to have this feeling). When I time travel to past posts it feels, by the nature of the blog post, that I am in the realm of DVD watching and out of live TV. Any analysis of this, my learned friends?
I have seen blogs that have attempted to counter the ephemeral nature of blogging by having many blog posts displayed in a column like fashion( kind of what you see on Huffington Post) so you can’t tell which blog post is today’s. But there is something about coming to a blog and having it not stick to the blog structure that sort of overwhelms me. It is as if all the posts are saying “we are all new and equally important and you must read all of these posts now” and that kind of message gives me a simulacrum of what it must be like to have ADHD. I, in an attempt, to stop that feeling of overwhelm tend to click away from that blog and go to a blog that sticks to the structure of what I have come to accept a blog should look like.
Ultimately I think that blogging has been good for me in expanding my appreciation for the now. Overtime, three years to be exact-ish, I have learned that the past isn’t the only source of material. Each day I am noticing events, thoughts, and experiences in my experiences that might be blog worthy. And I think that blogging and writing in the present tense has liked likely taught me the lessons that are proffered in the Power of Now( I am just guessing, I couldn’t bear to read a book about the now. I much prefer Proust and his associative Delorean-desserts)— I think writing about now on this blog has inadvertently given me a greater appreciation for the present moment. Sure the past comes up, but only when it relates to something going on now. Maybe Igor gets some credit for this change in my tenses too. Yeah, sometimes when I can’t find anything in a given day to write about, I do turn to the past for material—but rarely. Here are a few posts from the past in which I was writing about the long ago past: Grayed Memories and Dancing and Dessert, just in case you are curious.
Enough of me, do you notice that the “nowness” of blogging impacts what you write about or what tense you focus on? I’m curious. Feel free to write your comments in any tense you prefer.