Tuesday Morning Press 17 — Vulnerability in Real Time

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I just shouted at one of our cats, “YOU WANT TO DIE TODAY, DON’T YOU?!” She was on the kitchen table, padding toward our butter. Cats live a long freakin’ time…

Good lord, I’ve been going about this post, this is the third edition, all the wrong way.

I started out feeling sorry for myself and being embarrassed about it. So what did I do when I feel embarrassed? I lash out. I blame other people and pick at their faults.

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“snap the chain of our own disbelief.” -me

I will say this: some of my fault picking is appropriate.

I’m grossed out by the Internet lately and its warehouses of data of peoples’ appeals for attention, all the things people are willing to do for a “like” and all the stuff that’s out there — have you looked sometimes? I mean, there’s a lot of stuff out there. And here I am adding myself to the pile.

Specifically, I found fault with a blogger who posts insanely staged photos of herself and her children and her spouse online. And yet, right now, as I try to “be OK” with it, I can’t help myself, I’m sorta grossed out and envious, truth be told. It’s like a toxic mix of all the rings of the inferno. I’m grossed out because I’m a traditionalist: “Keep some of that private!” I shout at the monitor, as I click at more pictures. It’s not illicit or in bad taste, it’s just a sentiment of “really?!  who cares?!” and yet here I am. It’s so odd…

Then there’s a blog contest. I steer away from those things because they aren’t my style. What is my style? Apparently standing in judgement of other people. But that’s cool; I voted for my friends. I admire their courage.

Then I think some more. I have been doing that lately instead of actually acting. My SIL has two published author friends: hardcover, actual printing houses and everything. One is on her third book, the other wrote a memoir, which I loved. She gives me free copies; by way of inspiring me and being a great marketer for her friends. I am authentically grateful.

So I take the books graciously because I really enjoy them and I appreciate the generosity and I even say, “Hey! Maybe my name will be on one of these sometime…” and we all smile and nod and then I curl into myself and I say… “Nope.” And then I make excuses, “Naaaah. I’m gonna go the self-pub, eBook route, because traditional publishing is a rat race… and it’s evolving, you know, the whole publishing thing.” And then my inner Hilter-mustachioed Oliver Hardy part says to me, “With what? Your three-ring binder? While you cruise the web?”

And then I feel all Stan Laurel about myself and cover my whimpering mouth with my tiny tie, waddle in place, scratch my crazy hair with my pale fingers and say, “Mmemonononominionommmooooooo hoooo…nonananynonommmoooooo hoo.”

I make me sick sometimes.

Ouch. Hot plates.

So the reason I sit all judgey is because I would rather do that than take a chance, than get the book done. So I go online because it’s a TOTAL WASTE OF MY TIME and I cruise stupid stuff and I don’t edit my book.

Why? Because yet again, as I said before: I am afraid of failure.

And here is the moment of truth: I know now, how my mother felt all those years ago, and she didn’t have the Internet: terror. She believed what she was thinking, and she stayed there sometimes.

Why?

My pulse is quickening as a type and I know the fear is real. I am not an anxious person; I am very comme ci, comme ça (“like this, like that”) about life. I’ve read many books about tending to mySelf; I’m writing one. It’s the one I have, the one I won’t crack, the one that sighs from my book case that needs the most attention: the ones on vulnerability. The one by Bréne Brown, Daring Greatly, that I need to open, drink in, nod to, argue with, highlight, read and apply.

Good God… I’m not really jealous of all those people on the net with their photos and their specialness; but I am grossed out by their apparent need for approval and acceptance, and that’s the part that sounds like it’s afraid of vulnerability. Because when we think of vulnerability, we think of neediness, of kowtowing (I did NOT know it was spelled that way!), we think of obsequiousness, of which I must admit I am incapable. Not because I’m brawny and heroic, but because I don’t find much virtue in that either. It’s too familiar to me. ‘Nuff said there.

I’m just afraid of doing what they are sort of doing: putting it all out there, in the sun for people to pick apart. But how do you pick apart perfection? You find someone like me… and I’ll be only to happy to show you how you are demonstrating only your perfect life. Because: You will not see a picture of me fresh out of bed without so much as a sleepy heavy hand swiping my rubbery face, without protest or threat of imminent injury to the person who posted it. But I do get the idea of vulnerability, in which we find strength.

But I am digressing, rationalizing. “Feel the feelings” they say; don’t walk away. Listen to what the feeling, the vulnerability, is saying. What is it saying? Don’t think of something pithy to share… feel the feeling and write what it says. Close the eyes and type.

The feeling says:  

You aren’t good enough. You can’t do this. Taking chances makes you hurt. Falling down is nature’s way of telling you to stay out. Don’t bother. You are not one of those people. There is nothing unique about you. Don’t risk it.

And yet, here I am. I open my eyes to see what I type. I correct the typos and I don’t edit.

Here I am… sitting just two days after my 200th post when I said to live without regret, take a chance and be present. Oh, I’m being present alright. But doing something different is the only way out of this rut. And I don’t stay here for long, in this bowl of self-pity soup, because I know part of what I’m feeling is due to being home with a sick child again, Thing 3 this time, and just feeling frustrated. With all of it: with his being unwell, with my not being able to go to yoga, with the Internet.

But I won’t rationalize it away, because it’s real, the vulnerability, and I’m in my own way. Constantly. I swear, if this were a paid gig, I’d be a millionaire and I wouldn’t give a toot about the Internet and all the souls out there trying to be something.

I wrote a book. It’s time to stop avoiding it. It really is. It’s time to do something with it. I don’t know when I’ll be back next. All I know is that when I’m posting, I’m not editing or writing. I’ve got to unload this book because it’s really holding me down. It’s like a purge and it has to go. Somewhere.

Thank you.

11 responses »

  1. For some reason this reminded me of what I learned in alateen and alanon years ago. We often get focused on other people and the way to sanity is to focus on our own stuff. When I find myself getting frustrated with people on the Internet or emotional over other people’s problems…people I have never even met and maybe rarely even talk to (or even people in my real life), I tell myself, “Eyes on your own paper.” I can only control me. All of the obsessing over other people is often a way for me to avoid dealing with my own stuff. It’s just a stalling tactic. When I get back to focusing on what I want to be doing I find I care less and less about what other people are doing or not doing. All of the spectatorship, speculation, “picking apart” and worrying over the other person doesn’t help me or that person. It’s just a way to keep me from facing the things that scare me. It’s a distraction. This is a pattern I will likely repeat throughout my life, but I am getting better at recognizing it and putting a stop to it sooner than I used to be. It’s helping me reduce my anxiety and maintain my equilibrium a little longer.

    Good luck with your book! I am happy to see you turning your focus to something that will be amazing for your life. Sending vibes of success and freedom your way. 🙂

    • Thank you, LC, for all of what you say. I remember a little of it too, and as you mention those lessons from Al-anon, you are so right. It’s got all that stuff written all over it. I appreciate your insight more than you know. Articulating the issue, facing it is important and I know this, but thanks to your pointing it out and reminding me: YES. I know how to do this — all of it: the spectatorship for sure, but I also know how to do the other thing: the building up and building out. It is time. Thank you, so much. xoxo

      • I love these comments – so wise! One of my biggest challenges since I started blogging the past year has been finding the line where these online activities fuel and encourage me, and where they start to distract and weigh me down. Sometimes you just gotta step away from it all. I’m rooting for you!

      • thank you BananaWheels! it’s all good to practice some self-awareness and rattle the chain every now and then. I knew in my heart what I needed to do. But what was causing me strife was the illusion of codependency, that I gave people meaning. I love the people I’ve met; I enjoy them immensely and if we were all together in the same neighborhood, we’d be inseparable, but FB is like an addiction for me. I didn’t get the twitches when I wasn’t online, but it was close. And then the anger at the envy knowing it was all manufactured. I’m dealing with a child right now who badly wants to have a YouTube account because he wants to create content to be LIKED and APPROVED OF and have “hearts” and “shares” so he will become famous. So I can’t very well say it’s no big deal and still do all this. I’m 45. He’s a child, but I must model for him.

  2. Molly: I can relate to every word you’ve so honestly and brutally shared. I agree that the Internet and social media is a distraction. Generally speaking, the cluster of B.S. out there is a waste of time and energy. It doesn’t help us reach our objective. I’ve had a book in the works for the last two years. Ever since I got on this social media whirlwind (which I’ve tried to control), I’ve spent zilch time working on it. Thank you so much for the slap in the face I desperately needed. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. You are MORE than good enough. I can’t wait to read your book. You have your REAL group of writing friends that know you’ve got this.

    One final comment: I want to share with you something inspirational that happened for visualization and motivational purposes recently. One afternoon I was writing in the Barnes & Noble coffee shop. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman and her friend being guided around my the B&N staff person looking for a certain book. When the woman found the book on the shelf, she told her friend, “Oh my gosh, here’s my book! On the shelf, can you believe it?” I felt her moment. I knew that moment was for me to witness. She was a published writer. Think of your shelf, full of your book (or maybe just one copy left).

    Peace.

    • And this is why I adore you. You are so so so so SO supportive and encouraging. We will do this, Kristal. We will write these damned books and then get on the train. The Social Media experience is a circus car. Designed to keep us on it and dependent on it. I don’t need it; I am GRATEFUL, completely, for the allies and kindred spirits I’ve met, without a doubt, but the rest of it… yecch. Distraction.

      Today, I went back to the Hirshhorn to show some friends (real-time, boots-on-the-ground, flesh-and-blood people) the Ai Weiwei exhibit. Although we couldn’t touch anything, just getting out, into a car, on the highway, into a parking garage, walk to the museum, check our bags and into the exhibit was … “Yes.” We must do these things. We must.

      The “call” to beg off FB and the rest has been with me for months, the true nag, the “mom can i have a cookie? mom can i have a cookie?mom can i have a cookie?” moment came with such confidence, yesterday, I knew I had to heed it. I began thinking of my life as status updates and wondering if my mere comments and experiences were worthy of “likes” and “shares.” My soul, my creativity, my essence (sounds weird, I know, but I think you get it) was sort of becoming this strange amalgam of “Fleshandbloodbook”; the two were becoming oddly entwined.

      I could not shake the feeling that none of it mattered; nothing on FB mattered. And it doesn’t. This isn’t a call to better parenting (because I believe I’m a good one), it’s not a call to better presence (because I’m pretty good at that), but a call to reality, man. I am sort of tired of being a part of that FB machine, giving them my time, my art, my craft and them giving me nothing in return. Sure… I have “fans” on my page, but we all know that means really… 65 out of 458 people see a post. Then maybe 12 of those click on it. Maybe. I get it. Doesn’t matter… it’s affecting my reality and diluting the quality of my work.

      So we will see how it shakes out. Interestingly I have heard from a few people, one a complete stranger, an intern at the Hirshhorn actually, who told me they have deactivated and are better for it. I don’t know if I’ll deactivate, FB is important in marketing, but … well: who knows.

      Thank you for your visual. Yes. My book next to yours at a B&N. I Love it. oxox

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