Category Archives: social media

Self-care, or donning my own oxygen mask first

I saw this image on facebook the other day and laughed:

I realized, some hours later, it was the first time in a very long time that anything on social media had made me laugh.

That’s a problem.

I wrote a post way back in 2009, when I first started using twitter, titled Creativity, Laughter and the Element of Surprise. It was about how unexpectedly and delightfully fun twitter was and how important the fun of play is to my creativity. In it, I wrote:

“So for now at least, Twitter has become my place to play. I’d forgotten how much I need that, how imperative playfulness is to imagination.”

Twitter stopped being fun or playful a long time ago. It has morphed into a place where information is shared– and that’s a good and helpful thing, as much of that information is about writing and publishing. But increasingly, it consists of information and opinion about world events and politics and civics. My feed is currently a stream of unrelenting rage and despair. For good reason.

Facebook isn’t quite as depressing and people do still post entertaining tidbits, but it has become something I almost dread, never knowing when I’ll read something that simply enrages me. Again, for good reason.

The thing is, feeling this rage is neither helpful nor productive. For me. It doesn’t change anything for the better. I’m already doing all I can, in my own small ways, to improve the world. Getting angrier and feeling more helpless every day doesn’t change that.

In fact, the constant onslaught of rage and despair is, slowly but surely, destroying my imagination and my creativity. Destroying me.

Am I being too sensitive? Probably. But I consider that sensitivity an asset. It’s certainly not something I can turn off and on at will.

I’ve tried cutting back, limiting my time on social media to small bites. It has been less than effective. So I’m stepping back, making a clean break. Taking a hiatus, if you will, for the month of July. Maybe August as well.

I need to focus exclusively on my offline life for a while. And on my writing. Because stories are one small way I can contribute, to provide a brief respite when those who struggle mightily take a much needed break to escape into fiction. Perhaps one of the stories that entertain will be mine. But that won’t happen if I’m too outraged to write, as I have been recently.

I’ll leave you on a positive note, with a few daughter-approved pictures of A Most Adorable Granddaughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Take care of yourselves while I’m away. Be strong and brave and thoughtful. Be kind if you are able, especially to yourself. And laugh, without reservation, every chance you get.

 

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Filed under creativity, deep thoughts, health and well-being, social media

And sometimes, it feels like you did just fine

As a parent, I have a constant low-level anxiety running through my head, a nagging persistent combination of dread and hope. And guilt. I think all parents do. This is completely separate and different from the constant worry that your kids will get eaten by BEARS.

It’s the worry that you have managed, somehow, to completely screw up your kids in spite of your best efforts. It alternates with the somewhat desperate belief that maybe you haven’t done too much damage, after all, in their journey from infancy to adulthood. This has nothing to do with any evidence one way or the other. It doesn’t mater how happy and successful and well-adjusted your kids seem to be. It has no basis in reality, unlike that whole BEAR thing.

It just is.

But every once in a while, your kids do something or say something and the constant cycle of dread/hope/guilt pauses and lightens for a moment. The sheer relief and welling of emotion are almost overwhelming.

I had two such moments recently.

My son and I were texting back and forth the other day. He was sending me funny (and slightly inappropriate) pictures of various internet memes. He shares my dry irreverent sense of humour and I was laughing (and groaning) at all of them. This was probably the least offensive:

IMG_4713

Me: “LOL. Yes, my hermit self agrees with this sentiment.”

Him: “You’re so weird.”

Me: “I can’t believe you’re not on twitter or facebook.”

Him: “You can’t? I think that shit is stupid.”

Me: “But FB is great for that kind of thing.”

Him: “I just like laughing at these funny pics. I don’t care if anyone sees that I think it’s funny.”

What a refreshing attitude, compared to the people I see online whose sole intent seems to be getting ALL THE ATTENTION. Ahem. Yes, mea culpa. And I realized that my son has a very level head on his shoulders. Plus one hell of a lot of self-confidence, to enjoy the things he thinks are funny or interesting and not care whether other people “like” or “favorite” everydamnthing he says.

It was impressive, all the fucks he did not give.

Did I teach him that? I don’t know. Not intentionally. Maybe I could stand to re-learn that lesson, myself.

And then my daughter (who lives in Boston) posted these before and after pics on facebook yesterday:

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

Yes, of course, I was proud of her for tackling that impressive accumulation of snow. This wasn’t the snow from last week, when they got 20 or so inches. They’d already dug out from that, thankyouverymuch. This was new snowfall, more than a foot of it, that fell on Monday.

Thing is, I know she’s physically strong and mentally tough. She’s more than capable of shoveling snow. I certainly shoveled enough of it myself, growing up in Minnesota. So I know it’s hard work, but I also know it’s manageable for someone who is young and physically fit.

That’s not what had me all choked up. It was the hashtags she added to her caption:

My lunchtime activity today: snow shoveling. Pre and post pics. ‪#‎likeaboss ‪#‎likeagirl

Yeah.

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, our kids turn out to be pretty damn impressive people.

Sometimes, you just hope you can live up to their example.

 

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Filed under parenting, social media

I didn’t know you, then

Ten years. In some respects, it seems an eternity. In others, the blink of an eye. So much reflection and remembrance has been perpetrated on this inauspicious anniversary that I hesitate to add to the cacophony. But I’m a writer and I write about things. Sometimes, I write about things like this.

I don’t know what it was like to be in New York City or Pennsylvania or Washington, DC on that day and I don’t want to write about that. I do know what it was like to be in my town on that day and I don’t want to write about that either. Nor do I want to discuss terrorism or politics or a costly decade of war.

We all know, and probably will never forget, how it felt to be wherever we were on that day, how it felt to see the things we saw. We don’t need anyone to remind us.

What strikes me as worth noting, as being different now from what it was then is the degree to which events have become personal despite the barrier of distance. The degree to which we all have become intimately connected, known to one another, familiar. How the internet, more so than radio or television or print media, has intensified not just our perception of events but also our regard and concern for each other.

Because even as we remember that day, we know full well there have been other days, memorable days. Days seared into our mind’s eye with indelible laser-like clarity. And yet, those were days that for most of us were graced, if you will, with a certain distance. A distance that is becoming increasingly negligible.

I will never forget the day I watched coverage of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

I will never forget the day I watched televised images of massive earthquake-loosened sections of freeway pancaked down onto cars and people in California. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

I will never forget the day I saw pictures of the bloodied bodies of slain school children in Colorado. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

I will never forget the day, after day after day after day, as I watched news reports of Hurricane Katrina and the stunning neglect of our government ravaging the city and people of New Orleans. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

And I will never forget the day, ten years ago, when I watched commercial airplanes used as weapons. Back when blogs were rare and twitter didn’t exist. I had not yet met my friend who works in DC. I did not yet know my friend whose family lives in PA. I had not yet conversed in 140 characters with people who live in NYC. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. If you’re reading this blog, I didn’t know you, then.

Now I do.

It makes a difference.

Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe it’s wrong to imagine being more deeply affected by distant tragedy due to a personal connection. It certainly makes it no more or less tragic to those directly involved. But that’s human nature. As horrible and gut-wrenchingly painful as it was to witness those events from a distance, it would have been so much worse had I known, then, the people I know now. And I can’t help but think that if more of us were connected on a global scale, if more of us were personally known and, by association, accountable to each other, we’d have less tragedy and loss of the man-made variety over which to grieve.

Or maybe we’d just have more reason to regard each other with contempt and distrust.

No. I’ve resolved to be more positive. Sorry, easier said than done.

On this day of remembrance and looking back, I choose instead to look forward with cautious optimism at a world that is gradually becoming more connected. And to offer my sincere hope that, wherever you are, there will never come a day, a memorable day, when for whatever unspeakable reason I will find myself wishing, however fleetingly, that I still had the selfish luxury of saying, “I didn’t know you, then.”

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Pass the syrup, I’m waffling

After a month with minimal exposure to the internet, it seems as if I should be able to make some profound observations. And yet, I don’t have any. Maybe this would be different had I denied myself ALL access to the internet. But that’s not what I did.

I still checked email and read news stories. I browsed a couple blogs intermittently, but mostly ignored the comments. I (finally!) started using an RSS feed, which was extremely helpful in terms of deciding which blog posts I wanted to read and when, as well as removing the temptation of wandering into the comments.

Mostly what I denied myself was the time-consuming interactive aspect of the internet. I didn’t comment on blogs and I didn’t “tweet,” nor did I read the comments and tweets of others. For the first few days, I really did feel like something was missing — well, obviously, something was. But once I got used to the different routine, I didn’t miss those things. Maybe because I was too darn busy with other things. In fact, it’s hard to believe it has been a month already. It was a busy eventful month.

Now I’m feeling ambivalent about resuming that interaction. I commented on a blog yesterday and wrote a few tweets, but was surprised that it felt as awkward to do those things now as it did when I was doing them for the very first time. I’m not sure what to make of that. Or whether I want to continue with the effort.*

Certainly, it all would feel comfortable and routine again fairly quickly. I’m adaptable. But I wonder whether I want to engage in the same ways. Or at all. Some people would say, “If it’s fun, do it. If not, stop.” Yeah, well, sometimes it is and other times, not so much. It doesn’t seem clear-cut to me.

What I’m pondering is whether those things are truly important to me and what benefit I derive from them. Are these activities enriching my life or merely distracting me from it? Am I investing time or procrastinating? I don’t know. I have no answers.

Maybe I just need some more quiet time to sort it all out.

*Please note, for the purposes of this discussion, I am not referring to the CB blog. That’s different.

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What is this platform of which you speak?

Platform. Seems you can’t delve deeper than three paragraphs into the internet these days without someone telling you how important it is for writers to have a platform. I’ve been thinking about this lately and it has me more than slightly worried. Because I don’t have one. I’m not even sure what it means. Sounds like something from which one could get pushed.

But the experts are insistent. Writers need a platform. Agents and editors will want to hear about your platform. The time to build your platform is NOW, before you’re published. Building a platform takes time. If you wait until your book comes out, it will be too late.

There are a lot of writers who have pretty clearly defined platforms. Some form a group blog with other writers who have something in common — usually they’re all published in the same genre, or by the same publisher. But I’ve never been much of a joiner and can’t really see myself doing that. Not to mention, you know, I’m not published. Sort of a prerequisite. Yet everyone says a platform should be established before the product.

Some writers are experts in a particular area or have an interesting day job or unusual background. But I’m really just sort of . . . average. I’m neither old nor young. I live in suburbia. [yawn] I have two kids and a dog and a cat, but so do a lot of other people. The day job is drier than dust and involves mostly confidential financial stuff. No one wants to hear about that. I’m an excellent cook, but others are better. I don’t have an advanced degree in metallurgy and haven’t travelled to the ends of the earth. Or even Europe. There just isn’t any fascinating subject about which I’m knowledgeable.

I’ve written a few blog posts lately that have apparently been of interest to writers. But that feels awkward as a platform, since I don’t have all that much to offer other writers in the way of experience or advice. I’m delighted if other writers want to read my blog but, in general, they’re not who I’m talking to when I write blog posts. Except lately. But, you know, not always.

Can you tell I’ve been agonizing about this? Well, I have been. To the point where I’m not sure what the hell to write over here anymore. Sure, I do an occasional post about writing, but I’m just as likely to write about the cat. And anything in between. There is no consistency, no common topic, no single thread that binds it all together. Who is my audience? What do I have to say? What is my platform? I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even started building. But I need to build it NOW.

And then today all this angsty indecision came to the boiling point of ridiculous when I realized I’d pretty much convinced myself that, lacking a platform, I shouldn’t be blogging at all.

Um, wait a minute.

The fact is, I’ve been writing blog posts here and elsewhere for more than three years. I think I’ve gotten to where I don’t completely suck at it. Three or five people keep coming back to read them, anyway, so I must be doing something right.

I’m a writer. My job is to connect with readers. My audience is anyone who wanders over here and decides to come back, for whatever reason. What I have to offer are my words and my voice and my outlook on life. And that’s it.

That’s my platform. Well, my definition of it, at least. It’s not fancy or impressive or even particularly original. And I’m fine with that. Right now, after years of building a thing I didn’t even know existed, it feels pretty solid to me.

It’s going to have to be enough. Because probably the next post is going to be about the cat.

Unless anyone has a request . . .

[Don’t you just love the virtual snow? Enjoy it while it lasts.]

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