We are curators. Each and every one of us who writes a blog, shares Instagram photos or posts to our Facebook wall is choosing what and when to publish. Nothing appears there by chance.
We control the content — every word, every image, every YouTube video, every comment that we allow on our social media sites.
And the result? More often than not, it’s an endless stream of feel-good moments and milestones. We celebrate births and birthdays, weddings, graduations and milestones.
We share photos of where we’ve been, whom we were with, where we ate and what we ate.
Less often, we interrupt the bliss to write about a death of a family member or beloved pet, about the loss of a job or other personal setback.
Soon we’re back at it, posting images of sunsets and mountains, cocktails and casseroles.
So what if the curated version of our lives represents a selective scraping and molding of those experiences?
So what if that version offers a distorted representation of our daily lives, untethered to reality?
In a new and wise book, Portland writer Kate Carroll de Gutes cuts through the facade and delivers a bracing alternative to the happy-face fantasy.
The result is a compelling, entertaining, inspiring collection of short pieces presented under the title “The Authenticity Experiment.”
It’s a slim volume of 166 pages of 47 posts, essays and blog entries — essentially the product of a 30-day challenge she gave herself during what she calls “the best and worst year of my life.”
Could she be more honest on social media following the deaths of her mother, her best friend and her editor-mentor, all occurring within a few months of each other? Could she share the duality of her life — both the light and the dark — in celebrating the praise lavished on her first book (“Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appears’) as well as mourning the loss of loved ones?
Yes, she could be and, yes, she was. Each page crackles with the authenticity of someone who has laid aside pretense and ego in favor of honesty and heartache. The essays undulate from sad to humorous, self-deprecating to self-reflective.
The chapters are organized by the season — essays published during the summer, fall, winter and spring — and the entries draw you in with such titles as “Dear Mom” and “Death Is Like This” and “Wiping Clean Regret.”
In a prologue to the book, Kate says:
“The essays you’ll find in this book are raw and filtered through my lens as I think on the page and try to understand the journey I’m on and how my own privilege and power plays a role in what I think about death, class, self-worth, perfectionism, and other topics we usually keep to ourselves.
“I don’t offer any answers, and I don’t always find my ways to conclusions, or to better thinking. It’s like hacking a path through the forest: you can’t always see where you’re doing, and you can’t always see how far you’ve come, but you know you’re on your way to somewhere.”
I loved the idea of the book and admired its execution. It felt especially real having just met the author just three weeks earlier.
I didn’t know of Kate or her work until a friend invited Lori and me to a book launch event in Northeast Portland.
Read the blog post New space, new author here.
Kate was charming and witty, and stuck around to autograph the many books she sold that night, including one to Lori. They connected over the fact that Kate had spent several years living in the North Beach neighborhood of Lori’s hometown, San Francisco.
I picked up the book on a quiet weekend at the Oregon Coast in early October, but didn’t finish it until sometime in November. I’ve mulled about it since then, wondering when to write about it and what to say.
Read the blog post NaBloPoMo here
As a fellow blogger who once also challenged myself to write daily for a month, I tip my hat to Kate. She’s done a wonderful job demonstrating how we can fully share our whole selves in this era of the “digital back fence.”
B/W photograph: katecarrolldegutes.com/