In Real Life (a guest post from Sarah Dunning Park)

In Real Life (a guest post from Sarah Dunning Park) April 25, 2013

I love that Sarah Dunning Park is here today. Believe it or not, though Sarah is all over the blogging world, I didn’t first meet her online. She went to high school with my husband and we met at their ten year reunion. So, you understand, it has been a thrill to rediscover Sarah here in the interwebs and realize we have a shared love for poetry. Today her book of poems is released on Amazon and we are celebrating with a reflection, poem and giveaway. Give her a great big welcome, friends!

I had a vision for my life with children that was built on a foundation of intentionality. Every day would be a patchwork of pleasing contrasts — loud tickle-time balanced with quiet reading, curled on the couch. Walks outside, and then later, family meals around the table. Familiar rhythms would mark the progression of each day.

I didn’t take into account, though, that the end of many days would be marked by tired, contrary kids and an irritable mother. Or that on many mornings I would wake up feeling grumpy and ill-prepared for the day, after staying up too late the night before, on my computer.

I also didn’t foresee how much I would long for connection with friends, or how much easier it would be to find that online, rather than in real life. My natural urge is to feed my craving for instant contact by zoning out on my phone or laptop — which takes me away from the humans who are here, right now, in my life.

When I do experience something beautiful or profound in the here and now, why do I immediately want to share it online? Somehow, strangely enough, life events feel more real if I’ve posted something about them on Facebook or Twitter. Why is this? Is it the reinforcement of memory through repetition? Is it that the act of writing about something helps me to meditate on it and interpret it? Is it that sharing with other people imbues an experience with more meaning?

I think it’s all of these things, and they all have their place. But how do I know when I have become too dependent on the feedback of Facebook friends for my own ability to appreciate or evaluate an experience?

I don’t know. I do know that the richest connections occur face-to-face. I haven’t forsworn social media, and I haven’t figured out how to maintain a perfectly healthy and balanced relationship with it. But I am trying to remember that, regardless of how present or intentional I am, my “real life” is happening right now, in a colorful and unpredictable patchwork.

I write about this struggle in my poem, “IRL,” from my newly-released-on-Amazon book, What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children ( Comment below for a chance to win a free copy!




On days when the kids are bored,
they drag themselves to me
on feeble legs, staggering
under the load of their need
for something to make them

feel alive.

So I kick them outside—
not for the exhilarating effect of nature
(though there is that), but because
the effect of being followed
by a small, whining person
is enough to unhinge
my tired mind.

I close the door with relief
as they run off to the sunlit grass,
and then I take my mind by the hand,
and limp with it to the nearest

I, too, am starving to feel alive,
and so to take the edge off this hunger
I guzzle a stream of 140-character
blips and blurbs, and then move on
to the meat of e-mail
and blog posts.

Afterward, though,
part of me is still not satisfied,
so I try to re-enter real life
by tidying up the house,
my eyes scanning the pieces of my world
to find what is lovely and worthy
of gratitude.

Sure enough—
late afternoon sun is filling
the window over the kitchen sink
with a golden warmth that hallows
those dry garlic bulbs sending out
withered sprouts on the sill.

My first impulse
is to post a picture
of this redemptive beauty,
for all the world to behold and enjoy—

but I’m rescued
by the racket of the kids
bursting in the door
to announce the unexpected arrival
of our neighbor and her daughter,

who have walked over—
on their feet—
to spend time with us
this sunny day.

© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012, from What It Is Is Beautiful ( All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Do you struggle with finding balance between your real-life world and your online one? Have you found any ways to achieve this balance? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of Sarah’s new book. 



Sarah Dunning Park is the author of What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children ( She lives in rural Virginia with her husband and three daughters. Visit her at

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