The paradox of fulfillment

I don’t like to admit defeat, but I am forced to admit that sometimes life becomes jumbled with too many commitments. Life is full of surprises. These past few months have been personally tumultuous (in a good, 'this is helping me grow' kind of way). I’m in a very different place than I was when Will and I launched this blog. My attention is elsewhere, and it’s become obvious. This post is partly an apology for that neglect and partly an appeal for help to decide what to do next. Tenth to [...]

In our first year in our home, Will planted a vegetable garden in our front yard. It was a glorious explosion of cherry tomatoes, snap peas, carrots, beets, salad greens, rosemary, sage, chives and more. But then we had another baby, and like so many other hobbies, work on the garden took a back seat to shushing, rocking and cooing.

We had hoped to reclaim the garden this year, but we were humbled by the invasion of weeds that took over our garden. Every time he went outside, Will grumbled about the garden and threatened to nix the whole thing. Then one day, he did.

I loved our garden, weeds and all, and never failed to believe in our power to redeem it. He grumbled, I hoped. Finally, one day Will came home and announced the gardeners were coming next Tuesday to grass over our garden. I was opposed at first, but conceded because I could tell it was important to Will. Once the work was done, however, I was shocked to find how much I like it. The emerald grass sets off the purple lavender bordering the walk and makes our other remaining plants really stand out. Clearing the riotous random growth makes our garden look more intentional and peaceful.

I don’t like to admit defeat, but I am forced to admit that sometimes life becomes jumbled with too many commitments. Sometimes it’s better to just grass it over.

I have often seen the metaphor in gardening and blogging. I have felt very guilty that Tenth to the Fraser has been such a sadly neglected patch of the Internet these past few months, and I’ve been at a loss of what to do about it. I keep meaning to return to it and help it thrive again, but if I’m honest with myself, right now it isn’t the priority it once was.

Life is full of surprises. These past few months have been personally tumultuous (in a good, ‘this is helping me grow’ kind of way). I’m in a very different place than I was when Will and I launched this blog. My attention is elsewhere, and it’s become obvious.

Much good has come of these changes: more time with my two young children, more time out and about enjoying the sun in the community I love, and a newly rekindled interest in long-abandoned hobbies like playing piano, sewing, cooking and reading actual paper books. Unhappily, all this personal growth has come at the expense of other interests, most visibly in the neglect of this blog.

This post is partly an apology for that neglect and partly an appeal for help to decide what to do next. Tenth to the Fraser is more than just my blog. I feel like it “belongs” to the community too. Given that, I’d like to hear from you before I decide what to do.

I’m sure those of you who noticed how long it’s been since I’ve blogged here have been wondering what’s been going on. I’m sorry for abandoning you all so suddenly. As you know, Tenth to the Fraser is my hobby, not my job. Other commitments have demanded priority, and I’ve had to put blogging on the backburner.

In the personal tempest during which I was rethinking my work situation and mourning the bummer summer that rained out Summerfest, I made the decision to simplify my commitments and bid adieu to full-time work in favour of working from home as an independent consultant. That business has taken off more quickly than I expected (yay!) but the unexpected result is that I have had to put aside blogging these past months in order to focus my much-reduced time at the computer on billable hours. Surprisingly to me, I really like having less time at the computer and more time in the world. Before I knew it, my brief hiatus ‘while I figured things out’ stretched longer and longer. I can’t ignore any more that I have to change how I’m going about things.

I have been wrestling with what to do with Tenth to the Fraser. I remain passionate about life in New Westminster, and I love the parallel online communities on Twitter and Facebook that have emerged along with the blog. And yet, the inner need that drove me to launch this site has been met. I was motivated to start blogging because I felt lost and disconnected in New Westminster, and I longed for a more meaningful life in my community. Thanks to the people I have met and the opportunities I have received through blogging, I have received all that in spades. Paradoxically, now that I do feel connected and involved in my community, I don’t feel as strong an urge to write about it.

Realistically, I don’t see myself having much time to blog for at least the next month or two. I’ve got two vacations to plan (& enjoy!), a number of big project deliverables to complete and a ton of miscellaneous projects that I’ve been putting off doing for far too long. On the other hand, it’s possible that once my son’s back in school and these big projects are handed off that I’ll have more time and mental energy to invest here. I might feel very differently a few months from now than I do right now.

I’m sorry for rambling on so. Thanks to those of you who have indulged me and read to the end. If you have any words of advice or encouragement I’d appreciate hearing it!

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

Briana Tomkinson is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.

25 comments

  1. It's not all on you, Briana. TttF has evolved tremendously since you two started it (3?) years ago (and gave a certain someone a mixed endorsement in the last civic election, hmph 😉 It's become a community pulpit for a multitude of New Westminster voices, and it's done well as such. The rest of us regular contributors have to take some responsibility for not submitting articles, you're not being paid for this and shouldn't be expected to carry the entire load.

    I hope your post will rattle the tree a little and get more article submissions because there is definitely a lot of stories left to tell in New Westminster. With the civic election there will definitely be things to post, debates to critic, platforms to pontificate. And yes, that includes me needing to hunker down and get some material for TttF too.

    Don't despair, it's the summer, most websites and organizations get sleepy in the summer. I'm sure there is more fun and intrigue around the corner.

    1. Thanks Matt – I would love to see more people step up to the plate. Running this site has transformed the way I look at my community (in a good way!) and I would love to see others experience the same. Plus, it's always great to get a few more voices in on the action.

  2. Bri:

    First off, love you (in that platonic way that a semi-regular acquaintance and occasional collaborator/co-conspirator can with us both being married to other people).

    Your contributions to the City, especially to the on-line presence in the City, have been so great, that no-one would spite you for taking a step back and taking care of other interests. But I hope if you do take that step back, you can rely on the talents of your other contributors, and just run it at a low simmer for a while to see where it goes instead of letting the great 10ttF experiment end.

    I say this mostly for selfish reasons. 10ttF has been a big part of how I got involved in this community. It was my portal to the greater community at a time when I found the time and the interest in my life to get more involved in the City I had been calling home for a while. I hope it inspires others to get involved, and with our population growing, it surely will.

    And with civic elections coming, where else are we going to go for our info? I’m hoping we can do a social cocktail night with City Council Candidates, mush like we did last Federal Election…

    1. Aw shucks Pat, you have such nice things to say! I've got a bit of a blog-crush on you too. Green New West should be required reading for anyone remotely interested in the intersection of politics and the environment. I'm totally on board for another social cocktail night during election season, by the way.

      I like your suggestion of allowing Tenth to the Fraser to 'simmer' for a while. In addition to all the stuff I shared here about external circumstances affecting my ability to write, I've also felt like there's a bit of writer's block happening. It's not that I can't think of things to write about, it's that I can't muster up the motivation to sit down and write. I think the problem is that TF filled a need I no longer have. I have to figure out how this blog fits into my life going forward.

  3. Can you wait until after the election to wind it down? Some of our local politicians are going to need lots of help to get re-elected and you have done such a great job in the past! Maybe the N.E.X.T. group could take over?

    1. Hi Keith, I'm not sure if you meant to imply that NEXT has anything to do with politics in this city, but just in case anyone else is confused: it doesn't. NEXT is a social club, and is explicitly non-partisan. Is purpose is to help people make friends and support local New West businesses. The group hosted one all-candidates' forum, which included representatives from all major federal parties, and it was run as a social event, a chance to shake hands and bend the ear of the candidates. There might be some individuals involved with NEXT who would be interested in writing for TF, but I doubt the organization has the time & volunteers to manage TF too.

      I do hope that volunteers will step forward to write some posts around election time. As always, the invitation is open to anyone regardless of political leanings to share why they are voting a particular way. I'm seeing a number of people bringing politics into the comment threads, so maybe someone will step up and submit a guest post too. I'm not worried about the fate of individual councillors, though like everyone I have my personal favourites. Our primary goal around elections has always been to encourage people who don't normally follow politics to learn about the issues and hopefully motivate some people to vote who might otherwise have stayed at home.

  4. Funny, this thread almost comes as a relief to me. A reassurance that we are all human and that circumstances permit us to do more, or to do less. I've felt similarly helpless in my volunteer commitments….those that I care about at least.

    I face the same balancing act of child-minder, up-start freelancer, and community engager. One or more usually takes a back seat; in my case my ability to contribute more with the NWEP. I can see now why some take a long sabbatical from volunteering when young children are in the mix. I have contributed two posts for TttF and I feel guilty that I have not written more! So Briana, I've got a boatload of understanding to the dilemmas you are facing. Take as long a break as you need and the rest of us will get off our collective butts.

    1. Thanks Matt – I am hearing similar comments from others too. I think a lot of people struggle to balance their obligations with their passions.

  5. Promises Promises.

    And I wasted all that time filling out your survey. Were you bought out by Postmedia too ?
    For everything there is a season, a time to live and a time to die.

    The place lost its Mojo. Might as well pull the plug and lay some sod over it.

    SHARK !

    1. Yet somehow, you can't stay away, Herr Trollmeister? I suspect you would miss 10ttF more than anyone else.

    2. Hey Rick, I thought I might hear from you. I haven't made up my mind yet what to do, but I felt I owed people an explanation. You're right. The blog has lost its mojo, and this post explains why. The real question is what to do next.

      You are part of the problem. You may take that as a compliment, but I think it's a tragedy. The fact is that your relentless negativity has caused a lot of people to withdraw from public commentary. It's not the reason why I'm not participating as much (I can, and have, taken worse jabs than yours). But it is why many others who I have spoken with are not commenting and guest posting as often.

      If I do decide to carry on, I think I will have to take a harder line with trolls like you. You poison the internet with your caustic criticism. I have always defended your right to criticize so long as it is within certain boundaries (i.e. no personal attacks, etc.). Now that I see the toxic effect on the community of your dogged criticism, I think I made a mistake. You have a right to speak your mind, but you do not have an intrinsic right to say anything you want on my blog. Clean up your act, Rick, and show a little kindness, or consider yourself banned.

      1. "You are part of the problem."

        From my perspective I can say the same of you. In the past YOUR blog has had many political and community related issues as postings and it was those topics that drew the people to visit and participate on YOUR blog. You chose to take YOUR blog into a specific direction, rather then diversifying or creating open forums as are popular on virtually all other SN platforms.

        It's not true when you say that I "say anything I want" because on YOUR blog it has to be on-topic ! How about this "Hot as Hell" issue that won't go away ? Instead Jen posted doggy fun days ? Ya, that makes moderating comments really easy. You clearly don't want to chastise those involved because you call them friends, let alone permit political smearing like the real-world paper media is engaging in with an audience thousands of times larger then YOUR blog.

        I'm sorry that you need to be coddled for the neglect you have shown to US and how both written words and the truth hurt you. The internet is a media and the message is freedom. In some part of the world I would be sought after by governments for "speaking my mind". Congratulations on joining the ranks of these oppressors with that all to familiar rhetoric that censoring criticism is to the benefit of the whole. You won't have to ban me because I have no interest to comment on such topics, and it's been painfully obvious to watch how few do.

        Clean up my act ? How about those weeds ?

        The real tragedy here is your sodded over garden because that exists in the real world.

        1. Hi Rick, I'm sorry for losing my temper. As I said earlier, I have tolerated your comments so far because I felt that I could take the criticism. I didn't get angry because you attacked me. I got angry because you're spoiling the fun for everyone else.

          I think your rebuttal here is essentially 'if your blog was more interesting, more people would comment.' I agree with you. We are always going to get more comments in response to very controversial issues than those that are about local events or niche interests. But it isn't my mission to be controversial for controversy's sake. I'm not afraid to publish controversial posts but it's not all I want to do.

          I'm not concerned about lower numbers of comments on uncontroversial posts. I expect it, and although no one may comment here, I do hear from people offline that they appreciated hearing about those topics. What does concern me is hearing from many, many people that they wanted to comment or guest post here, but chose not to because you're just too mean. If I have to choose between them and you, guess who I choose?

          All I'm asking is to show a little kindness, Rick. These people are your neighbours. Some have actually invited you out to meet in person in the hopes of finding some kind of reconciliation or common ground, but it looks like all you want to do is fight. If that is the case, please take your fights elsewhere.

    3. Rick: Wow, you are a bit of an ass, aren't you? Whatever happened to "if you can't say anything nice…" ?

      Briana: I feel kinda bad, I have been enjoying and loving this site so much and haven't thought much about how much work must go into it. I have lived in New West for 25 years and I have never felt as much a part of the community as I have since I started reading TF. I have introduced myself to a couple of people that have come to my attention through this site (Hi Jen and Matt!) and am inspired to be more involved. I wish I was a better writer so that I could pitch in a bit and help out. I would be sad to see it go, but I understand too.

      1. Thanks for the kind words Belinda! It's so nice to hear that Tenth to the Fraser has helped you feel more connected to the community. It's funny, having 'confessed' like this, I feel a lot better about everything. Hearing comments like yours helps too! I think I will take Jen's advice and keep the site on a simmer for the next few months. I'll post when I can, and I invite anyone who wants to post to do the same. After giving it a little time (and asking for a little help) maybe things will work themselves out.

        As for contributing, there are lots of ways to pitch in even if you don't think you're a great writer. We're always looking for people to help keep the event calendar updated, and posts that list events, places to go, etc. are also good. I'm interested in photo 'tours' and other less text-heavy posts as well. And of course, if you have an idea for something to do, you're always welcome to suggest it!

  6. Letting it simmer might be a good idea.The fall may bring more activity. I'll be honest, I don't feel the urge to post as much anymore when I know there is an anonymous troll just dying to tell me how wrong I am about everything single thing I've written. I am sure he will feel more smug knowing that, which will be lovely to experience. The truth is, I have a fairly thick skin, but I tire of biting my tongue.

    1. I hear you Jen. You are right on! All the good we do in a decade can be wiped out in one swipe of a negative tongue.

  7. A very honest post Briana. Instead of blogs being something we should expect to live on in perpetuity, maybe we should be treating them like television shows. Some go on forever, some have a lifespan. But since you've built something great here, there may be people that want to take it over. Who knows.

    But no matter how often you post, I have always enjoyed reading, linking, and being part of the community here. Thanks for making your community a better place to be.
    My recent post What’s Up in the Tri-Cities: Hiring Fair, Little River Band + More!

  8. Hi Briana,
    I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work with this blog.
    And Matt is right, the onus is on more of us to post more often. I'll start working on something. 🙂

  9. As many have stated, I honestly thought that the lack of TF posts lately was due to summer FINALLY arriving.
    My vote is to keep TF going in one form or another. I’ll gladly post something here in October (my wee contribution).

  10. I'm all for letting it simmer, things that are simmering are easy to bring to a boil. : )
    But in all seriousness, you have created something special with 10th to the Fraser. I was so happy to find it, am always happy to read it and have been happy to contribute to it and hope to do so again in the near future.
    Though I hope you don't grass it over, no apologies are necessary for letting it lie fallow: ground often gets more fertile when you do that. (To extend your gardening analogy.)

  11. Hey Briana, __You've started something. You planted the seeds, and guess what, it's sprouted. It won't come out like you (or anyone else) expects, but TTTF has a life of its own – even if you think it's only a little life right now, the Ricksters of the Interwebs notwithstanding. I think there's enough interest out here in the community to make sure this doesn't sink into nothingness, are we all in on this folks? __And fer god's sake, don't feel guilty!!!! These things go in phases. Kids – especillay little ones – take a LOT of time, and you will prioritize in a way that's best for you. I know my own community involvement goes up and down – sometimes I'm hot, sometimes I'm not. ____Oh, and please don't ban Rick. He's so predictable it makes me laugh. Every garden needs a gnome!__
    My recent post Inconvieniencing Drivers

    1. Thank you! I have seen so much support since writing this post, and I think it's just what I needed to press on. I've had a bunch of guest bloggers step forward, and that's been a huge help too.

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