Blogging Truth

If you write a post many of your readers will assume that you are obsessed with the topic. After all, they would never bother taking the time to write a post unless something was burning through their brains and blazing out of their fingers.

If you use social media to toss out casual complaints about your life, people will remember you as a complainer who is never satisfied. Things you do not remember years later will be the first thoughts that come to another’s mind upon seeing your avatar.

If you flippantly take a strong personal position in a comment section, people will likely have it in the back of their minds years later when you post about your new reality which just so happens to be precisely what you previously argued so strongly against.

If you put the word “blogging” in a title of the post, and then mention social media more broadly, your readers will know you truly have nothing to say.


A Tale Of Two Blog Posts

I spent four hours awake in bed today. I was still except for the movement of my thumb on my phone and occasional rolling of my eyes at the inevitable on Twitter. After an hour I had caught up on everything ever written by anyone I’ve ever heard of, and then the really wild reading began.

Something truly astounding happened: I found a decent writer and after 1,500 or so words I thought I knew her deal. But. Suddenly I was reading words I’d never encountered outside of my head. She shared a truth I’ve never been able to explain and then she raised her eyebrow at me as if to ask whether I was going to make her same mistake.

There was no way to thank her, so I simply continued reading, wondering what else I might encounter in this miraculous world of posts that contained actual thoughts.

Soon I was back to a familiar blog with a guest post from another stranger. It was so another lengthy person essay intended to convey a very specific message. I almost held my breath waiting for more truth to seep out. It never came. Instead, after the writer glided over her clouded memories of past obsessions, she finally tossed out a few lines completely undercutting any value in the supposed purpose in sharing her story. Dear God, please don’t let this be me in another ten years.

I don’t think I actually finished the last paragraph, though I somehow think that my eyes must have seen it all.

This is, of course, the way it is with blogging. You have know way of knowing which writer you are to me. I have no way of knowing whether my heartfelt thoughts will pour over your wounded soul like so much salt and vinegar. And yet I post because I know that “hurters gonna hurt” regardless of what I do or don’t say. Both of the women behind the posts that struck me today ultimately wrote for themselves. It is somewhat shocking that the first post helped me so much, but it is not at all surprising that the second post served simply to remind me that people are usually too selfish to really love when writing about how others should live. The truth is that if the last post hadn’t slightly offended me I simply would have kept reading until something else filled that space.

Be honest, how often do you see posts that bother you? How often would you guess that your posts hurt others?


On Man Colds

Two weeks ago I was struck down by a cold.  At 6:00pm I was feeling fine.  At 8:00pm I had the worst pain in my throat, and then things progressed from there.  I tried to explain it to Josh.  He was just recovering from a week of the flu, so I knew that I had to explain the evil of it all quite carefully if I wanted the full sympathy that I deserved.

I put it in the simplest way which required me to cough out the fewest words: “I have a man cold.”

I find the ridiculously sexist term somewhat amusing because none of the men I’ve ever known well at all have been remotely close to “man coldish” types.  Hence the whole concept strikes me as ridiculous, and thus rather funny.

Unfortunately, Josh had never heard the term and I lacked the energy required to explain it.

I’m too sick to see clearly, does this look like a good herbal remedy to you?

By 2:00am Josh had apologized multiple times for making me mad, and shaking my head desperately wasn’t cutting it, so I resorted to grabbing my phone and typing out an explanation:

I’m not mad at you. You’re wonderful. It just hurts so much. By the time you hear me bark anything out, I’ve usually said it several times and it hurts. So much. I’m sorry.

Or something like that. In any case, he got the point that I really am a super-wimp and did not take it personally.

The next day I needed to warn my sister that I was possibly contagious. She is a somewhat normal adult who has spent years of her life on Facebook and YouTube when not in feminist theory classes. I told her the crazy funny fact that Josh had not heard of the term “man cold.” Of course it turned out that she too had never heard it either. Dear sick me, how was I to explain that one?!

Thankfully the worst part of the cold only lasted for 18 hours and I could soon control it with painkiller. That’s right, I was reduced to taking painkiller for a cold. I told Josh that the only time I’d ever felt something remotely close was when I had strep throat and coughed up blood. I wondered if for years and years I’ve simply not noticed the pain of colds because it was nothing compared to my regularly scheduled feminine suffering. Perhaps the pill destroyed my ability to cope with the slightest pain?

I did my best to contain my germs and warned Josh to stay far away. He laughed it off because clearly I had finally succumbed to the flu he’d fought for a week. Apparently it did not matter that my symptoms were so different, it was just the woman-man-cold version of his flu.

Three days later Josh lay on the couch quietly moaning that this cold was so, so much worse than the flu. The only thing that came close was the pneumonia he’d had so many years ago.

I nodded with genuine sympathy as I brought him some tea. And then I thanked God that I had gotten the cold first. If Josh had acted this way without me first experiencing the pain I would have been upset rather than supportive. I would have assumed that he was really depressed about life or something and using the cold as an excuse. Not that he would do that on purpose, but really, who gets completely knocked out by a cold?

It seems that I needed yet another lesson in the reality that pain is incredibly difficult to understand. As far as I know we didn’t pass the cold on to anyone else, so I celebrate that as a major victory, even as I nurse my sinus infection two weeks later.

Now, will  someone please have sympathy on me and tell me that Josh and my sister are odd and I am slightly sane in expecting that they would have heard of the term “man cold?”


Cookies!

Some things in life must be shared.

Of course I am talking about things such as pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that really are cookies rather than mini cakes.

I just made these, and I suddenly found myself facing the choice of either eating the entire plate of cookies or else posting about them in order to distract myself.

I wanted pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, but all of the pictures I found online looked too much like little cakes. Of course cake-y cookies have their place, but if I wanted that I’d probably just go for two-ingredient cookies. As I looked at the recipes it occurred to me that several were basically a traditional chocolate chip cookie plus pumpkin. Which is funny because if I were adding pumpkin to something like that I would feel the need to use it as a substitute for something like the egg in order to not change the consistency. Oh wait!

So I followed my typical half-batch cookie recipe:

1 stick of butter

1/2 cup brown sugar (really closer to 3/4 cup in order to balance out the pumpkin)

2Tbs. real vanilla

1 egg 1/2 cup pumpkin

1 cup flour

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking soda

6oz chocolate chips

Since I was terribly impatient I put the dough in the freezer to cool for an hour before cooking rather than patiently waiting for it to magically improve overnight in the refrigerator.

And they are amazing. They don’t have that classic autumn pumpkin flavor that I thought I wanted, but they do have a wonderful caramelly depth to them. And the lack of crazy in-yo-face pumpkin is fine since I used the rest of the giant can to make a more typical pumpkin bread along with a pumpkin (non-sweet) yeast bread.

Thank goodness I got over my two-week sickness of avoiding baking in favor of only cooking healthful foods!


Thoughts of Death and Life and Almost Understanding

I nodded in silence as my friend continued talking about her feelings, but I was several steps behind, trying to fit together what she had said. I had not been at all surprised by my friend’s serious depression and surrounding issues, but I was stunned to hear that this was the first time she had ever thought of ending her own life. She had made it to her 20s without ever once thinking of killing herself, and now a significant part of her turmoil consisted in processing the fact that she had thought of what was previously unthinkable. If it had not been so serious to her I would have smiled and patted her on the head. Oh honey…

It happened again a year later. Someone else confided that she had thought of suicide and I was shocked. I knew enough of her background to be beyond baffled that this was the first she had ever had such a thought. How on earth had she made it through so much without ever thinking the obvious? I was somewhat distracted by the action required to get her help, but whenever I thought of how horrified she was by the thought, I would puzzle over how it could be. How can some go through so much and remain so innocent?

Eventually my confusion was replaced with tremendous deep pity for these people. Their immediate psychological suffering was so much worse because they were horrified by themselves for having thought of death. One was filled with shame for her thoughts, and both were so consumed with self-analysis because they were unable to process the fact that sometimes thoughts of death can simply be part of life.

I do take these things seriously. From a medical standpoint both of these cases were well-controlled, and much simpler for me to respond to than situations such as one in college in which a fellow student needed help, but would likely have to leave school again if I forced her to seek it. I have known six people whose deaths were clearly caused by themselves, and others where the question lingers. I know far, far better than to lightly dismiss concerns of self-harm.

Yet I also know better than to allow myself to be consumed by the horror of another as she waits for a needed change in medication. I know darkness, and I know that it can simply be a part of some lives. It comes. It goes. There are truly horrible things about this world, and most of us will encounter at least a little at some point. Perhaps it is in some ways a sign of health to think clearly enough to consider many possible outcomes.

When fuller understanding came for me it was more than a little heartbreaking. You see, it is so, so terrible for people to be faced with emotional pain when they were never prepared for it. This is true with the lightest suffering, and it is true with the pain which can ultimately cause one to end one’s life.

It took the most severe cases to help me understand something which I had struggled with so much in watching how others suffered desperately with situations that I knew I should have been able to understand due to shared experience, but somehow I simply could not understand their pain. It seems that not everyone was born to suffer. Some can undergo continuous difficulties with barely a shudder. Others  live for years with only the most minor scrapes and thus drown at the first wave of real pain. And it does not matter what causes it, there is nothing livable about lungs full of water.

Now, if only I can remember this well when it is actually needed.


Summer 2013

Two weeks ago I swore. More precisely, I said the word “hell” in a “what the hell” sort of way. I can’t remember precisely what caused it, but I know that it wasn’t that bad, and that Josh laughed harder than I have seen in a long time. He doubled over completely as I attempted to explain what had happened: I had been searching my brain for an appropriate word since I don’t say things such as “heck” and somehow while I was searching “hell” came out.

I later asked Josh what was so excruciatingly funny about my swearing in that context, and he said it was that he had never heard me do so before. I told him that that was because I had not ever done so before. I use words such as “hell” in writing when I mean it, or when necessary to accurately quote. I have cursed a few times aloud since that first not-so-fateful August day in 2002, though I’m not sure anyone ever heard me.

. . .

I am exhausted and angry and happy and it is all quite amusing when my head is clear enough to reflect on reality.

In mid-August I flipped through pictures of the summer and realized that I did not remember the times they were taken, even though I was the one who took most of them. My sister seemed to think I should have expected as much: “of course memory is lost when one is beyond exhausted and stressed!”

. . .

Only recently did I realize that it is rather unusually morbid that I walked around knowing in my head what the “worst thing” was that I might experience in life. I suppose I shall blame it on a misunderstanding of my mother who was probably trying to instill some Carnegie resilience into those around her. In any case, I have often shushed myself by assessing a given situation and reminding myself that it would not even fall into the top ten worst things that might happen. This summer, I have been continually threatened with the second worst thing on my list. It is infinitely less terrible than the worst thing, but I had no idea that I’d ever approach one of the Top Five in my personal list. So, yes, stress. But the funny thing is that it is sort of like extreme pain: you can’t really feel it because you so quickly lose consciousness. So the worst things are the worst things, but they can’t actually be felt as the worst things because they are beyond the point of feeling.

. . .

I celebrated my birthday by going to the gynecologist. I told her that I did not want to have surgery again for another six months. She suggested Lupron. I told her that I was scared of Lupron and would like to try something milder first. She wrote me a prescription for a 90-day pill where even the “placebo” pills actually contain a small amount of estrogen. I paid $216 out of pocket for the generic version and decided that I was just going to have to be well in 90 days in order to avoid paying that again.

It took me a while to realize that my newly found anger was directly tied to when I started the pill. When I told my sister about it she laughed and declared that my anger is truly pathological in the primary meaning of the word. I told Josh about my sister’s joke. He told me that I was very good at hiding my anger and I almost burst with pride.

We once heard the queen of knowledge of fertility explain that anger and depression are the same thing in terms of hormonal disorders, it is simply a question of whether the emotion is directed out or in. Josh and I agree that this outward-turning thing is so much easier to deal with than the depression. But what do you call a stifled external expression of hormonal confusion? In any case, it seems that the start of the summer was merely some very mild foreshadowing of what was to come.

Or maybe it is all a mechanism of self-defense. I now see that everything is so much clearer with eyes clouded by anger, and that can feel safe compared to overwhelming uncertainty and self-doubt.

. . .

 Alternately, perhaps the anger is due to the fact that I started eating meat. I talked with Josh about everything that I have not yet tried in an attempt to be well. The list included:
  • LDN
  • Eating meat
  • Finding a new religion with a god who gives health to all the faithful

Since the first is scientifically crazy and the last isn’t emotionally possible for me, I focused in on the second option. I estimated that there is less than a 5% chance that it could help, but I’d go barefoot for 90 days for a 2.7% chance at increased health. And I certainly don’t want to admit to suffering from the Naaman’s disease (you know, the deadly disease of being willing to do crazy things but balking when a simple solution is offered?) so I decided to try the thing normal people do and eat meat for 90 days after half a lifetime of skipping it.

. . .

I suppose that I need to update everywhere I’ve used the term vegetarian. After all, you can go around worshiping yourself and still call yourself a Christian, but one willful bite of meat and you’re no longer a vegetarian. On the other hand, I will probably be skipping all animal products by the time I get around to updating social media profiles. So much for trusting what you read online!

 


5 Years

I am backdating this to the day that I wrote most of it. Because I can.

This month we celebrate five years of marriage.  I have spent the past month or so thinking about our marriage in terms of the concept of flourishing (yeah, yeah, MacIntyre got me in the end. Whatever. This is my life, and I remember nothing directly from MacIntyre, so now he’s free to eat my mind out).

Anyway.

I made a mistake when I married Josh five years ago.

Sometime about a year or so ago Josh kindly explained to me that I am unusual in my eagerness** to admit mistakes.  According to Josh, normal people are disinclined to admit their mistakes, and almost never do so when they have gotten away with the mistake. Apparently in Normal-People World, if one lucks out and does not suffer the just consequences of one’s mistake, then one is allowed to assert that no mistake could have possibly been made. Strange, strange stuff, this normal world!

I love to admit mistakes, because it allows for hope. If I made a mistake, then it means that there was an alternate path where I could have done better. And that means that perhaps I can make correct choices in the future that will allow for a previously unthinkable good life. If I messed up, then perhaps there is something that I can do to make up for what I did. Perhaps I cannot improve my own life, but I can at least serve as a conscious warning for others. Or something.

So I easily admit that in marrying Josh when I did I made a mistake. A beautiful mistake.

It is clear that I will not be able to coherently explain why it was a mistake, though goodness knows the hubris that goes into one thinking that one can defy the stats on young marriage and divorce in our culture. Stats and coherent explanations aside though, evidence of a mistake comes back to the concept of flourishing, or the absence thereof.

I have observed early*** marriage in general to be contrary to flourishing and that was certainly the case for Josh. By marrying the man I claimed to love too early, I reduced his potential quality of life significantly. I do not dwell on this fact for the joy of the pain. It is necessary for me to realize reality and remember the past in order to clean up the present and make space for a healthier future. If getting married five years ago was not best for Josh, does that mean anything about being married today? What do I need to do to make shared life good for him today? What can be done to build on the first too-early years to infuse value into the future?

The answers are scattered. Some things I need to do are trite, some are impossible.

On the very practical, uuuuuuuughhhhh side, I have been working on organizing the apartment. One day I happened to check Twitter and it was full of links to Organizational hacks for the rest of us. While I realize that the author is trying to be funny while posting something that builds traffic etc. etc. I had a punch-in-the-gut serious moment. The very un-funny truth is that much of that post reflects the reality of my approach to our living space and it simply is not okay. The “hey, I’ve got ADD and better things to do than maintain a physical space conducive to human flourishing” attitude results in surroundings that tell those we live with that they are not worth the effort of a clean and organized environment, even when such is within our control. At least in my life, this is pretty much the same as telling Josh that he simply is not worth enough for me to bother to change my life to improve his.

I have not yet succeeded in any of my attempts to make things better. Correcting mistakes is not that simple, even five years later. But I am aware, and regularly making feeble attempts at improvement. I do not know where redemption hides. Perhaps I will stumble over it as I celebrate the gift of five years that should not be.

**Granted, it may take quite a bit for me to realize that I have erred, but when I finally do realize it, then I tend to admit it readily.

**”Early” is, of course, a relative term, but perhaps that is part of the issue. Josh and I were married 4 & 6 years younger than the median age for first marriage in the state where we first lived together. Community wisdom is often found in averages, and we did not live in an Amish community with Amish expectations and Amish support for marriage that would have made our age rather perfect for marriage.


I am thankful 8/18/2013

For music. As a rule there has been very little music in my life. Three and a half years ago I posted about not singing enough, and the well-intentioned reassuring comments made me realize that it was worse than I thought. The fact that others couldn’t comprehend how completely absent music was from my life made it clear that I was not living well in this way. That has largely remained true, though it is 10,000 times better now thanks to living in an area where I am blessed routinely with wonderful music at church.

Recently I have taken to playing songs on youtube through our TV since that has better speakers than the computer and we have nothing specifically designed to play music. Unsurprisingly but still unexpectedly, this has increased my happiness tremendously. I have finally given myself permission to be completely naive with music not only because it is best to live with the truth, but also because maybe, just maybe, humans are meant to enjoy many types of music, and being a music snob is inherently unhelpful for most of us. Yeah, yeah, ask me about Country Music later. I didn’t say that I like everything, just that I’m trying to get over any pretense of being a connoisseur of fine music or some such thing.

Eden’s Bridge – Sanctus
This is an old favorite from my teens when I had two of their CDs.

str8voices – Far over the misty mountains cold – Hobbit Soundtrack

This is the first I’ve heard from this group and wow.

Anastasia- At The Beginning
Another favorite from my early teens. I had it on tape. Yup. I always thought that if I were to get married it would be fantastic to marry someone with whom I’d be happy to go through life endlessly. And no, I hadn’t seen the movie. Instead I’d read a huge biography of the Romanovs that included a few pictures like this. But still, loved the song.

J.S. Bach – Complete sonatas for violon & obbligato harpsichord Rachel Podger Trevor Pinnock

I’ve been listening to hours worth of sonatas since I discovered that putting in that one little word could lead to hours worth of lovely music per selection. I found out last week that Josh hates the harpsichord (what?!!) so I’ve been listening to this while he is traveling for his brother’s wedding. Not sure that the harpsichord or Bach balances out missing significant family events, but I’ll take what I can get!

The Hobbit – Concerning Hobbits(Dubstep)
Josh says that this is the best dubstep ever, though he isn’t entirely pleased with the mutilation of one of his favorite songs.

Celine Dion – The first time ever I saw your face
I’ve long loved about 90% of Celine’s music and will continue to insist that if you can’t appreciate her at all that, well, your life could be better. Interestingly enough this is one of the few songs that I didn’t appreciate from her All the Way CD that I borrowed from my sister from maybe 200-2004. But recently rediscovering it I wonder how I could have missed it before. Age or something?

Avalon – I Don’t Want To Go (legendado)
Another long-lost favorite form my teens. I happened to sit down on the couch while this version was playing and thought the images chosen were ridiculous. Then I kept watching and laughed at myself for watching the entire thing.

P!nk – Just Give Me A Reason ft. Nate Ruess
This one deserves its own post. The first time I heard it on the radio I had a rare response of finding it to be perfect. I confess that until someone pointed it out I didn’t pay enough attention to the odd video to even notice that her husband is in it.

Any suggestions for what I should listen to next?


Old and Familiar

Y’all, I need some information on marriage.

This is one of those super-annoying posts that seems to be directed at married people, but containing questions probably best answered by single people with open eyes. :-)

What exactly do you do to get to that point where everything is old and familiar?

I read just about everything about marriage before I got married, so I know that at a certain point you are supposed to feel all cozy and comfy and fully informed about everything without ever trying. People talk about this right after they talk about the spark being gone. They say that it is so much better than anything else, even if they do miss the zing! of the early days.

They way in which people talk about this frequently sounds very sad in a sour grapesish sort of way, but the underlying concept of familiarity and comfort sounds lovely.

In some ways I suppose that I have always had this, this comfort. One of the things that stunned me about Josh was how instantly comfortable I was with him. I was not a physically affectionate person–and the entirety of our physical contact at that point was shaking hands–but I could have melted into him if only I had been able to come up with a sufficiently good explanation.

Our relationship also shows signs of familiarity in the sense of efficiency. We still have precisely the same fights as always, but it now takes us about 1/10th of the time that it used to to work through the same fights when we were dating and engaged. Now that I think about it, it is rather stupid that we don’t fight more since we’re now so good at going through everything so quickly and passionately!

Recently I have been beyond grateful that we have had the chance to understand each other well enough that we can communicate quickly and precisely in times of crisis. So I suppose that I do know Josh well in some ways.

But. But we don’t have, or at least I don’t have that old and familiar thing that everyone talks about. I am beginning to suspect that it is not simply a matter of time as some have implied. Or perhaps it is a matter of time, but the amount of time is highly variable? Or perhaps it is time, but only in the sense that time is required to undergo the experiences required to gain this worn comfort?

Of course I am not really complaining. I suppose that in some ways I need the underlying awareness of not completely knowing Josh, the nagging otherness, the alertness that comes from knowing that I don’t know. I can’t really believe that I am doing anything wrong when I am so much happier being married than any other married woman I know.

Yet. Yet I would like to know what it is that I am missing. It may not be possible to have it all, but more information is better, right?

What do you think about relationships, familiarity, contempt and comfort? Is marriage unique in this case, or just one variation of closeness that applies to all friendships? Should I just make Josh sit down and tell me everything about himself?


Thoughts on Anger

Sometimes I think that the more I feel, the less I understand others’ feelings.

I have known for at least a few years that I do not “get” anger in the way most of my peers seem to experience it. Anger only makes sense to me under very specific circumstances (involving, among other things, the sense that one rightly expected better) and those circumstances rarely occur in my life. I have generally found that angry adults in real life are immature and it is best to remove oneself from the situation until they can calm down enough to have some chance of possibly communicating.

Since I remove myself from anger in person, my main opportunity to understand it comes from reading blog posts etc. That has never worked. Instead of “getting” it, I have sometimes had to reread multiple times to realize that someone is serious and not writing a parody of others who respond like petulant 4-year-olds rather than someone old enough to handle getting what they want, never mind deal maturely with situations they do not like.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself angry last week.

Since irony is the only way to be (don’t correct that line, it needs to rhyme more than it needs to be grammatically correct!) I found myself angry with a situation facilitated by someone whose anger I was not able to understand mere weeks before. In her anger she tried to reach out and inadvertently (perfectly innocently, I imagine) created something incredibly self-centered and quite likely harmful to others.

And I was angry. I carefully explained to Josh just how wrong the whole situation was. I could tell that he did not “get” it. He said that he expected such things and that adults should expect to be hurt in such situations, so what was the problem?

I wrote an email to a friend. I justified it by including details that would help her not make similar mistakes. And then I made myself deal with the fact that there was no chance that she would make these mistakes anyway, and that I was clearly angry and trying to share my anger with someone who might respond with more sympathy than Josh’s blasted maturity. That was far more pathetic than ironic, so I stopped myself and just thought about the layers of emotion and what was going on with me. People mess up. Good-hearted people plan things that hurt others. This is typical. Why was I expecting more? Why was I… oh, wait. That was it. I was expecting that the anger of others would cause them to not do the very things that aroused their anger.

But anger does not work that way. Anger blinds us to all reality beyond the burning within ourselves. Anger can be channeled in such a way that the passion is productive rather than destructive, but it is still the productivity of soldiers who burn an entire village down in order to stop terrorists. Of course you can be angry without burning down villages, but I have never seen someone carefully rebuild a village while anger rages on inside of her.

And for the briefest moment, I understood.

I deleted the draft email. I am not angry anymore. I do not know when I will be angry again, but I hope that the next time I am filled with rage I will immediately be filled with loving pity for those who experience this emotion frequently.

It turns out that there are many things I do not want to understand. I would so, so much rather help than understand.


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