Hits

Good God. I’ve become the blogger I didn’t want to become… again. I suppose it’s a natural thing, like going back to what you know, but I didn’t expect it to take hold this fast. I am literally a slave to my post views, as if I’m expecting to explode overnight. I’m like one of those people who constantly watches their stock portfolio, instead of concentrating on the overall picture.

I’m also constantly thinking of new things to write. I make mistakes because I’m trying to get content together. The true Catch-22 of blogging is that if you don’t pay attention to your hits, you will wind up in obscurity. That’s because every time you post, you give the Google bots a chance to find you. Other people come in and leave their contact information. You visit their web site and leave your URL. More hits.

If things go right, you’ll end up like Dooce. Dooce has been my hero since she first started blogging. The blog starts with writing about struggles with her Mormonism, her job, and her life in general. The blog started to explode nationally to the point where she was able to support a family just by posting, taking great pictures, and talking about herself.

Man that seems rude, talking about yourself.

Until you realize that you can’t write about anything else, because writing something else would never satisfy the need to communicate with your soul. It’s the need to express the things going on in your life so that your friends and readers can come along and say, “Oh my God! I felt exactly like that when…” The trick is to write well, and to open yourself up to both criticism and praise. If you don’t, then you’ll get down when the trolls attack you and your hits are exclusively created by bots and not readers.

Writing well is about taking an experience and making it universal. With some things, I just can’t do that because the situation is so weird that you can’t equate it to anything else. But with almost everything else, you end the post with an invitation to action, even if that action is as small as a smile of remembrance.

Because smiles of remembrance lead to sharing, building more than a web site. Building an online space where people can come to commiserate, laugh (often in spite of themselves), and leave comments that will interact with me, but more importantly, allow my readers to interact with each other.

If your blog can’t run independently of you, you’re not doing it right. Because these are the same people that will read you over and over again, not because you’re that great a writer, but your web site is where all their friends are.

At first, I thought Facebook was the way to go. I have a built-in audience of over 600 people there. However, with Facebook, you really don’t have the design control that you do with a real blog. At this point, it is more crucial than ever to create hits, because unless I’m missing my mark, most people get their “friend news” on Facebook and rarely venture out into other areas of the web.

That’s why Dooce is so special. She was before Facebook, and she grew this web site into such a juggernaut that she’s been a Jeopardy! question.

I can only hope that I can create that kind of safe space on my own web site, where we can get together and start talking. We’ll share and share and get through life together. Thank you for making me part of your life.

I need the hits. :P~

entropy

In a space where life is disheveled, you have to create your own structure. For someone who is ADD, this is not all that easy. I cope with it by having a writing schedule. Without fail, I am at my computer by 9:00, and I am writing… whether it’s crap or not.

Sorry you have to suffer through these posts. I know they’re kind of scattershot, and so do you, but you’re willing to read me anyway until I get this whole posting schedule thing down. Because right now, I don’t have the luxury of a back stock of entries. I can’t just tell the web site to post something incredible on a schedule, because I’m starting from scratch (and by that, I mean cron jobs, not that the computer can post for me. My computer is a moron).

It’s as if my body is saying that it doesn’t care whether I’m tired or not. There is new content to be delivered and t-shirt graphics to be fixed and the house is a mess and nothing will get done if I think of everything I have to do as one large mass.

I get overwhelmed and panicky, as if the nuclear bomb is already set and I’m just the guy standing next to it. I’m not even quick enough on my feet to be MacGruber.

My one saving grace is Google. I’m not kidding.

If you let it, Google will save your life. Their calendar app alone is worth signing up.

For truly heartfelt instructions on how to set up an .ical feed, leave a comment. I’m not typing up all that stuff for my non-nerds. 🙂

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is hard.

Forgiveness is so, so hard.

Forgiveness is hard because it has its own therapied vocabulary that, in the end, does work. But it doesn’t erase the questions around why you had to forgive in the first place. Those are the tabs that stay open in the Firefox of my mind.

Some of forgiving and being forgiven is about learning new words for it. There are three outcomes to a conflict, and they rarely change:

  1. Both people are happy
  2. Both people are miserable
  3. One person gets what they want, and the other person doesn’t

The first two are easy. The last one will keep you up at night. Both people being miserable might seem hard, but you can go to sleep knowing that both parties are in equal pain. Only one person getting what they want is damned unsatisfying.

However, if you’re the person that got what you wanted, there’s really no reason to go over and re-negotiate. Why should you? You got what you wanted! The other person may still have unanswered questions, but it’s ok. Your part is over. Go drink a margarita and celebrate your victory. Good job! You’re done.

If you are the one who didn’t get what you wanted, no margarita for you. Because you have more important things to do. You lost. You’re covered in loss soup with loss croutons on top. You have been beaten, and it hurts.

Time to pick a therapist. Mine is a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt (Today is Free Cone Day), but do what works best for you. Preferably both. Get a therapist to think about your grief, and get the ice cream to forget so that you can put down an impossibly large mind worm.

If you’re on the right track, though, the impossibly large mind worm is going to start with yourself. Taking credit for what you did wrong seems counter-intuitive, but it’s not. By admitting your side of the story, you are releasing yourself from a situation “that happened to you,” into a situation in which you have some control. You may think that someone is withholding information from you, but really, you’ve just missed the signs that have been cropping up all along. In our humanness, we have a tendency to just stop communicating because we have no idea how to say what we need to say. Often, when the truth is what’s necessary, it’s avoided and covered up to save someone’s feelings.

It’s a human trait to try not to hurt people (or, at least, I hope it is). It is also possible for passive aggression to lead to thermonuclear war. The longer you lead people on, the harder it gets to extract yourself. Waiting to tell someone the truth morphs with the lie until you believe it, too. But the other person doesn’t know that. Doesn’t see the way you pull away because they aren’t aware of the possibility… aren’t prepared for the possibility.

If there’s anything we as humans hate, it’s to be caught off guard. It makes people angry because it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to think of how much time you’d been doing something wrong and been denied a chance to make it better. It’s embarrassing thinking about how long this person must have been “putting up with you,” because no human wants to be an obligation. When you call someone on something they’ve been doing for a very long time, they tend to respond like a wounded animal because they didn’t know there was a problem in the first place. It’s injustice. It’s more painful than the explosion that would have happened when you were angry, because it would be over.

Carrying around a grudge against someone is like accepting their resume and never calling them back. They’re hanging on to the hope that they still might get an interview, and you’re concentrating on your anger so much that every day that resume sits on your desk, you’re adding more wood to the fire.

Passive aggression is kindling for emotional destruction. Send a response, even if that response is “I hired someone else.”

Dark

I always get those memes that ask questions like, “tell me something that I don’t know about you.” Sometimes, answering those questions are hard, like, “I have to pick just one?” Today, that answer is easy.

Because I grew up as a preacher’s kid with very specific instructions on what I could and could not say (self-imposed, being the oldest child), I am an avid fan of cringe comedy. My heroes are Jim Norton, Bill Burr, Bob Saget, Lisa Lampanelli, and the list goes on. Before you go through my list of comics to hear them, let me warn you that Bob Saget is the dirtiest motherfucker you will ever hear in your entire life. He’s not the “safe one of the bunch” just because he played Danny Tanner on Full House.

Actually, come to think of it, I think Bob Saget is as dirty as he is for the same reason I’m as dirty as I am. It’s a rebellious phase. It’s lasted a while. Maybe we should see a doctor.

This has caused no end of hilarity and confusion as people realize that I am funny, perky, innocent, child-like, etc, and at the same time, when playing Cards Against Humanity, the black card was “How did you lose your virginity?” The white card I put down was “African children.”

I’ll wait while you gather yourself. Yes, I am that dirty.

I only have three or four friends who can go down that rabbit hole with me who I know for sure won’t disown me, because they know that I’m just going for the cringe and I don’t mean anything harmful by it at all.

It’s just the one time that the mask comes off, and I’m not pretending to be anything other than who I am… a middle-aged white woman who is tired of being a middle-aged white woman and all the implications that come with it.

Cringe comedy is a way not to be invisible.

The Scary Gays

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article. It creates a thunderstorm of emotion for me, because it is an exact description of the kind of crap I’ve lived with my whole life. The good thing is that now I have better answers than when I was a teenager.

When I was in middle school/high school, the gender roles “wave” hit hard core. I wasn’t sure I was a lesbian, but I for damn sure didn’t want to be a “woman.” By that, I do not reject the fact that I am female. I reject all the bullshit that is required to be “a lady.” I dress the way I dress and talk the way I talk (and write the way I write) to expand what it means to be female. I do not, in any way, want to feel that I am for sale. I do not want to dress so that men look at me that way, that tantalized look that says “I want her, and she’ll give in eventually.” I genuinely enjoy male company when it’s just “being one of the guys,” but when the same guys turn around and look at me differently because I don’t have the same parts, I’m out of there. In short, I dress to protect myself, and it confuses me. I don’t want to be part of the weird gender-assigned roles that argue I should be submissive to men, and I don’t know enough about myself to judge whether that’s totally weird or not. Stay tuned.

It’s hard to step out of my comfort zone, because to me, dressing up is putting yourself out there. I turn on the charm and flirt with everyone, male or female… also in protection because I think if I’m funny enough, people will focus on that instead of the outward shell. If I punch you with humor, you’ll be laughing too hard to notice anything else… like my baseball cap with REALLY short hair underneath. If I’m lucky, you won’t notice I’m gay.

It’s true, and I didn’t even put that together until now.

Growing up in the South taught me that I wasn’t normal at an early age, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since. I just wanted to be me, and it seemed like everyone had an opinion on whether I should be gay or not. Never mind that I could change my sexuality as easily as I could change my eye color. Actually, I could change my eye color easily with contacts, and that would turn out as real as “being straight.” It’s a mask where authenticity should be.

Moving to Portland and out of the Bible belt allowed me to start asking who I really was, because Portland doesn’t have a problem with gay people being affectionate in public. I do.

I friggin’ remember all the gay bashings in the Montrose. I remember getting royally hassled at High School for Performing and Visual Arts- a school that would lead one to believe I’d be safe(r). It’s a good thing that when bad things happen, it makes for good writing. I wrote a lot.

I come by it honestly, and I’m still working on it. In the meantime, though, I have to believe that I am hilarious.

everpresentlovingkindness

The following is a repost from Facebook on Feb. 1

Dear Joan,*

There is no easy way to say this, so I will try to put it as gently as I can. If you are gay, God cannot help you right now. What I mean by that is not to say that God can’t help you later. As scary as this sounds, you’re on your own.

I do not mean this in the absolutely terrible way it sounds. You have been harmed by religion and told that you are less than perfect. You have been told that these feelings for women will go away, but you haven’t seen any evidence of it. You think you must be celibate for the rest of your life, never experiencing the joy of a really great marriage. The constant messages that have been drilled into your head have made you feel the fear that comes with thinking that God doesn’t love you.

Walk away. Leave that where it is. Give yourself time to heal from those wounds, because you need time to work out what you really think. Trying to undo years and years of indoctrination is going to take time, especially if you want to reach out to a more liberal denomination and keep church in your life. Stop going to church, and don’t go back until you’re ready to, in a sense, take it on. Knowing God is bigger than you think. It can and will absolutely change your life. But right now, you need to rest.

You need to rest in the same way that a church gets what they call an “interim pastor.” After a beloved pastor leaves a church, an interim is there (for lack of a better term) to take all the bullets. The congregation can be angry and upset~ why shouldn’t they be? The person responsible for teaching them things that change their lives emotionally and spiritually is not going to be one of those people that leaves without incident. The interim is a time to take a breath so that the congregation can welcome a new pastor, having resolved the issues and conflicts that came before.

In the same way, I think you also need the “peace of interim.” Leave God where God always sits on your heart. Fill the time that you used to fill with church with something else. Join a soccer team. Learn to make beer. Go to concerts and read books. Stimulate your senses in a way that you haven’t done before. Think about something else and let God fade into the background.

Eventually, there will be a time when you can think about God and not the hurt that you endured. You will see the everpresentlovingkindness. You will want to pray for your friends and family. You will see the amazing clarity that comes from getting your thoughts organized enough to speak to God one on one. There is no specific order to prayer, but in my own life, I find that if I have some idea of what I want to say, the answers come more easily.

And when that everpresentlovingkindness has arrived, you cannot nurture it in isolation. Christianity is not a solo endeavor. You’ll want to reach out to a group of people that will hold you accountable. Pray with you in pain and ecstasy. Give you the opportunity to give back to your community and feel the uplifting feeling you get when you’ve helped someone else. Allow yourself to feed your soul… that part of you that is your still, small voice.

But in order to feel that level of joy, you have to work through that level of pain. That’s going to be the hard part. In order to make yourself open to what God has to say, you have to work on yourself, first. Get a therapist. When I pick out a therapist, I go through the directory listing and write down all the names that sound like New York Jews. It’s profiling, yes, but it tends to yield the best results. My current therapist, for what it’s worth, is absolutely friggin’ brilliant and could pass for Larry David. But that’s my system. You’ll have to find what works best for you.

The point is that in order to receive God, you need to give attention and love to yourself so that you are able to recognize God when you’re ready. Again, you need to separate your old relationship with God and give yourself space to create a new one. Give yourself permission to protect your heart, because you are about to go through a tremendous loss.

The friends you currently have that are not enlightened enough to let go and love you for who you are will drop you in a hot minute. It’s going to be lonely, you’re going to be more scared than you’ve ever been in your life, until you realize that friends who don’t love you for who you are aren’t really friends. You’ll find new ones, and welcome the old ones back into your circle as they finally realize that they were wrong. And not only that, but embarrassingly so.

Your former friends won’t know what to say when they realize that they’ve been acting like segregationists in the Jim Crow south. Worse than that, they acted that way toward you, their old friend, the one that despite their condemnation, you’ve loved them the whole time. Despite their brazen attacks on your personhood, you still remember the time they stuck a glue stick up their nose in second grade. You will follow this path over and over as more and more people seek you out to tell you just how terrible they feel that they made your childhood so much more difficult than it had to be. It’s a good time to pull out that glue stick story.

You are going to be fine, because you are already sitting in the perfect white light, the everpresentlovingkindness of the Holy Spirit. Turn inward, and see what happens. Knowing yourself is knowing God, knowing what you are capable of giving and receiving in this absolute abundance of joy. But take your time. Don’t try to accept all of this at once. It is a journey, and not a race. I am here to walk beside you. I do my best thinking while mobile.

Grace and peace from the everpresentlovingkindness of that Holy Spirit, both now and when you decide to put the first foot forward and step down on sacred ground.

Amen.

Seasonal

I’m sitting here with my laptop after practically having eaten my weight in junk food. It’s only 6:00 PM, but it’s dark. Not dark as if it were night. Dark as in there’s plenty of daylight and it’s overcast to a startling degree. It’s Portland, where the state motto should be “meh…” at least from November to June.

I never understood what Seasonal Affective Disorder was until I came to the Pacific Northwest, particularly because in other areas of the country, the lack of sun isn’t drastic enough to cause it. Because I take depression medication, anyway, SAD doesn’t affect me as much as it does others. However, I know it when I see it.

The gloom affects the flow of conversation around here, as if the “looking inward” aspects of Advent and Lent (which together are only about two months) are now an ever present metaphysical state of being. Portland is extraordinarily unique. There is an ebb and flow of communication to weather. Bright blue skies and the yellow moon create a mood of giving, sharing, joy… Rain does not make people mentally ill so much as it prevents them from having enough energy to get outside their comfort zones and imagine that they’re having the kind of time they’d be having if it wasn’t raining. It makes sense, really. Heat makes things expand; cold makes things retract. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s the same with mood and behavior.

I know that I feel stronger when it’s sunny outside, that there’s something welcoming about the climate that makes me want to be there. My happiness spills into others’ happiness and communication comes easier.

When it’s grey and raining, I feel the urge to nest. I don’t want to talk to anyone besides a few close friends, and sometimes that is pushing it. My lack of want to get outside or in fact, leave the house, diminishes. In the Portland spring, I only have enough energy to care for myself and my family, because every interaction requires so much more of it.

In other areas of the world, spring is highly regarded as being the bringing forth of the warmth and other stupid crap like that. I’m in love with the stories, but I am unconvinced with evidence. In Portland, the weather uses spring to stop taking its medication. The beginning is cold and obnoxious. It’s raining all the time, and a little harder than normal. The temperature doesn’t get above 45. Then, as March starts to unfold, we get a couple of sunny days and there’s a collective sigh of relief as the grey starts to lift. March doesn’t like it when we’re comfortable, so she just starts throwing random days of batshit crazy to make things interesting… or grateful, I don’t know which. Either way, I am not fond of March and April. We need to send those two to Hopworks and get some Zyprexa in their beer. Who am I kidding?

ZYPREXA BEER FOR EVERYONE!