A Virtual Book Club - What are YOU reading?!

Tag: social commentary

“Real”

“Gifted women, even as they reclaim their creative lives, even as beautiful things flow from their hands, from their pens, from their bodies, still question whether they are writers, painters, artists, people, real ones. And of course they are real ones even though they might like to bedevil themselves with what constitutes “real.””

“…a tree is real when it is still a seed in the pine cone. An old tree is a real living being. Real is what has life.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves – by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

There is some amazing stuff in this book. I’ve questioned my “real” myself. “Am I a real writer?” only touches the surface.

If I live simply. If I ONLY read, write, clean, cook, raise my children, love my husband, cherish my close friends, is that a REAL life?

Yes. It is.

Discovering Small Spaces

There are spaces built into our lives, small stretches of time between tasks where we used to take a breath and think. I started to re-discover these spaces this past month when I deleted Facebook and then Instagram from my phone.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you probably know that I’ve had a long-term love/hate relationship with social media. I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve written about it a lot. Honestly though, I have a love/hate relationship with just about everything. How much I love it or hate it depends on my mood of the day (or hour), but in the long run there is little that I truly abhor.

Ultimately, I love the concept. I love being able to stay connected through the internet with friends and family. I love being able to share pictures, books, and articles I find interesting with whoever wants to listen. No more losing addresses or phone numbers. No more having to print and send pictures of the kids. No more photocopies of articles tacked to the bulletin board.

But there are downsides, that’s for sure. We all know them well.

With all the hubbub in the world, I found myself needed to put a little more distance between my home and the online world, so I decided to take the apps off my phone so that I couldn’t just unconsciously scroll. I didn’t leave the platforms, I just limited when I could interact with them. That’s when I discovered the spaces.

Once the apps weren’t at my fingertips, I found myself daydreaming more often. And it’s so nice. As I finished my coffee, caught my breath after a walk, waited for the dryer to finish; whenever I had a moment, I sat there thinking instead, staring out the window, or doodling on a piece of paper. I found a few epiphanies to write about. And I relaxed.

Over the course of a few weeks, I realized that, with the apps right there in my hand, I had been filling those quiet spaces with other people’s thoughts and I was losing mine.

I’ll admit, I have considered leaving social media completely, but I just can’t seem to justify it. I can’t think of a convenient way to stay in touch over long distances. I want to be there so that my people can find me, so I stay.

I now have two social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, I get on the computer and share a few things each morning. Depending on my mood and my availability, I chat with a friend or jump over to a friend’s page and see what’s up. You, my sweet reader, can “follow” me there if you like. I post many things publicly.

Instagram is different. You can only post to your page from the app. I can still follow interesting pages and comment from my computer, but I can’t post my own. I tried having the app on my phone and self-limiting my time there so that I could post, but I kept inadvertently filling in my spaces, so it had to go, at least until I can develop a stronger habit of not scrolling.

My social media use has evolved once again.

Speak. Because You Have Something to Add.

You guys!

It’s so important to live out loud and honestly.

Speak.

Tell your stories. Show your pictures.

Share your ideas, your thinking, and your passions.

You may never get positive feedback. You may never gain followers or an income. It may feel like no one is ever listening or learning from you.

But they are.

Someone is out there and they need to hear you, whether they know it or not.

So Much is IN DEMAND Lately

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Thank you, Writers Write, for all your brilliant help!

What exactly is in demand these days? Toilet paper (for some reason I still don’t understand)? Fabric masks to wear at the grocery store so the people around you aren’t afraid? Patience? A positive attitude? Honesty? Common sense?

It’s been a rough month for me, and that’s putting it lightly. I’m not coping with the stress nearly as well as I would have hoped I would, but I am learning. I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest month I’ve lived through. Being arrested for armed robbery and attempted carjacking and then spending a year of time and money getting my life back was slightly more upsetting. My arrest through me for a loop. By the end of the whole process, my entire worldview had changed. There was no going back, no return to my naïve way of thinking. I was a different person.

What was in demand then was faith that everything would work out fine and some patience with the criminal justice system. What I really wanted was patience from my friends and family. I was going through a traumatic experience, life was completely rearranged, and I was looking at the possibility of losing at least ten years of my life in jail for a crime I did not commit. Could they allow me some leeway and forgiveness if I lashed out in fear and anger, or just felt like being alone?

Somehow this crisis is different. It feels more permanent, more world-changing for everyone around me, instead of just myself and my immediate family. And it feels so unnecessary, like it shouldn’t be happening, not like this. I’ll admit, I’m not dealing with it half as well I would have hoped I would. All this self-help shit isn’t putting anywhere near the “Let it Ride” feeling I wanted to have during a crisis, but I’m learning quickly. I’ve always been one to react badly at first and then re-think and adjust. I’m moving into the re-think phase at the moment.

What’s in demand now? Bravery, for one thing. Fear makes us do the ugliest things to ourselves and others. We can’t run in fear of a virus, not like this. We can’t hide in our homes forever, afraid we’ll catch something, afraid we’ll accidentally pass it to others. We can’t tear each other apart on social media over what we believe we should and should not be doing.

Understanding and space is something else in demand. Less judgment would be nice, too. What if instead of insisting that those around us do what we believe is the right thing, we just did what was right for ourselves? What if we allowed the people around us, in our towns, counties, and states, to decide for themselves what was right for them? What if we automatically assumed everyone around us was making the best decision for themselves with the information they personally have, instead of demanding that they follow our lead?

What else? Let me see…maybe some patience with others when they question the choices we each are making? How about when we question science or what our government is doing and why? What if instead of ridiculing and belittling those that question authority, we listen to them and allow them to speak? What about those that are worried about the financial future of our country? Could we give them a voice as well? It is important, by the way, just as important as your health. You may not get the virus that is going around, but when inflation starts, companies close, jobs and food become scarce, it won’t really matter, will it? Yes, your Grandma didn’t die of the virus, but now the whole town is threatened with starving. It is a legitimate concern and something we need to weigh in the balance when making decisions.

It seems there are a plethora of things in demand at the moment, huh?

And the worst part is that it’s being demanded of all of us at the same time. Not only am I struggling with these shutdowns, so is everyone around me. It’s hard to ask for bravery, understanding, and patience from my friends and neighbors when they need it just as much; like the toilet paper, there just isn’t enough on the shelf for everyone to buy a two months supply at once.

Maybe I’ll have to supply it for myself, retreat a bit and not add to the chaos, or create something here at home to replace it.

Complete Out of the Box – No Accessories Needed to Play

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Photo by Robbin Wong on Unsplash

You know how some toys are kind of boring if you just buy one part and so you have to keep buying accessories? The car, the clothes, the house, the spouse, the kids, the career. It just goes on and on.

There are video games like that too. Sure, you can download it and play for free, but you only get two levels and then you have to pay to upgrade. You play more but now you see that you have to buy a couple extras, charms that help you rack up the points and levels faster.

Humans aren’t like that at all. We’re a whole, functioning human being right from birth. We do need a bit of extra care at first, but we learn and grow quickly with good support and before you know it, we’re out in the world on our own, doing our thing whatever that is.

But lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people that look like they are searching for their missing piece. They wander from job to job, adventure to adventure, and relationship to relationship, never really getting anything from the experience and lamenting that the whole thing even happened while they transition to the next. They proclaim loudly that they won’t give up, they’ll find that career, place, or person that will complete them and make their lives better. That job wasn’t right for me. This place doesn’t have what I need. This person didn’t give me their all and left, so they suck.

I don’t think you need any of that to be complete. You do have the power inside you to live on your own terms, for your own ends.

Every time we start a new job, try out a new location, or enter into a new relationship, we could be learning more about ourselves and the world around us. We could be using that information to make our lives more interesting and more comfortable for ourselves and for those around us. It doesn’t matter what the job is or how long the relationship lasts. It doesn’t matter what kind of a relationship you have: long or short term, purely sexual or platonic. It doesn’t matter if you buy a house and live there for ten years or rent out a basement and live there for three months. It doesn’t matter if you go to college right out of high school, wait until you’re 45, or ever go at all.

What does matter?

It matters that we learn something about ourselves and that we connect with other humans in as many ways as possible, that we live every day no matter what’s going on.

The Stoics have a decent idea, “Memento Mori.” Remember, we die. We don’t live forever and (as far as we know) we only have one life. We need to stop wasting time.

Nothing is a waste of time if you learn something from the experience. That one night stand you had with that hot babe you met? Not a waste of time if you enjoyed it and look back on the moment fondly. That two years you spent at an expensive university, only to drop out and work at an amusement park? Not a waste of time or money. You gained experience, you met people, and you had fun in ways you never knew existed. And money? You can always make more. Money was created to spend. And what about that “failed” marriage? Did it “fail?” Or did it just serve its purpose and now you’re both moving on to something else? That job you spent five years at and then switched careers gave you fresh insight about your abilities and a set of skills that you can use anywhere.

What exactly do we think we’re working toward? What are we stockpiling for the future? What will we do with all of this shit we’ve accumulated? We’ll die. That’s it. And all your stuff will be redistributed.

So why not stop working toward anything and just enjoy what you have? If you don’t like the job you are in, find another one. If you don’t like the area you live in, move. If you don’t like the relationship you’re in, move on. Stop collecting things and start experiencing things. If you have no friends or family to experience it with, do it alone! Maybe you’d find it more fun or fulfilling if you had someone to share it with? Then blog about it and post pictures on Instagram! Or start dating…anyone, right off OKCupid! Or join a club online or in person!

You are a complete package all by yourself. You don’t need anything to start living and experiencing the world around you. Just live, damn it! Why not?

Worship the Idol

Science was better than religion until we made a god of it too; infallible, omnipotent, and unendingly good.

Both are only mankind’s reasoning of the world in which we are living, only a process of nature not outside of it.

Has Someone Changed The Message?

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This picture made me think, but probably not in the direction you imagine.

It immediately brought me back to the movie. Rowdy Roddy taking off the glasses, staring incredulously, and then putting them back on. It’s a family favorite here and has become code for “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” I love the movie because it fictionizes common human behavior, groupthink or “community.”

I personally don’t think any group is trying to deliberately control the people, but I do believe there are in individuals who want the power to move things in the way they believe is best for everyone. The trouble is there is no “what’s best for everyone.” What is best for everyone is simply allowing people to the freedom to take care of themselves without infringing on the people around them. Just about everyone can agree with that. The trouble comes up when we try to define how. The devil is in the details, as they say.

I liked seeing this movie reference on Instagram because it highlighted something I had just started to notice all over social media and news outlets. These were the words we were passing back and forth to each other the past month, but recently something has changed. This week some are beginning to say something else. Has one of our cue cards changed?

Humans are such community-minded beings. We have evolved in ways to help us fit in and work together. When something changes we generally all adapt and do the same until one person questions it and then some follow that person until there are enough behind him that more feel safe and then we all do what he suggests until someone else questions it.

It reminds me of that “People Are Sheep” video going around a while back where people were in a waiting room, instructed to all stand at a sound. Then when a new person came in they saw it and did it too, not knowing why. I didn’t take it as a negative. It’s just what our instincts tell us to do.

What is it that does that? Are there some people that want to follow and stay with the group, some that are more likely to see something others don’t, and some that simply don’t want to be a part of the group?

Sometimes it does feel exactly like subliminal messages are being sent to the community.

Should I Stay or Should I go?

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This graphic was posted on a relationship group I follow, but it hit me in such a way that I felt compelled to share it here today, right now.

Why?

Because it’s true for any relationship you may have: a friend, a career, a school, a book, a romance…tequila. At some point in any relationship, we all ask ourselves, “Is it worth the effort to continue? What am I receiving from this?” And then we have to make the decision for ourselves.

And here I sit at one of those crossroads.

Now you’re really wondering, right? Is her marriage on the rocks? Or…is she considering giving up writing this blog?! God, please, no! Not now, when we need her wisdom and wit the most!

Don’t worry. My husband is the rock my life is built on. He’s going nowhere…even if he wanted to. And this blog? Stop writing? Oh, hell no. You, my affectionate reader, are the lover I will never kick out of bed for eating crackers.

I’m talking about the dreaded, the lovingly loathed…SOCIAL MEDIA.

I know. I know. I’ve extolled the virtues of it in the past. I’ve told you how much I enjoy what it has brought into my life. I’ve waxed poetic about how we should try to grow as human beings and learn to use this fabulous new tool in our lives instead of shunning it like Luddites. But I’ve come back around to the corner of “stay” and “go.” And here I sit listing out the positives and grumbling about the negatives once again.


Over the weekend, I’ll be spending some time apart from my second favorite distraction and, hopefully, I’ll be able to articulate my feelings better on Monday.

Catch ya later, friends! Love on!

Are Words Magic?

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Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

“I’m just doing what I want to do,” he said. “Don’t call it by any other name. I’m just doing what I want to do – and that’s all my mother ever did, too. Just what she wanted to do.”

-The World According to Garp (p155)

I’ve heard a lot about “identity” over the last…oh, man…twenty years?! The two things I’ve discovered and decided to stay with until I find evidence to the contrary are these:

  1. What you do is not who you are.
  2. How you feel is not who you are.

I will not “identify” as anything but a human being. My “tribe” is human, as far as I can tell. There are so many facets that make up who we are and even if you had the same interests and background as I do, the odds are we still wouldn’t see the world the same way. We’d still interpret events differently because we are different people.

What’s the danger of defining your “identity?” The moment you start thinking of yourself as one specific thing, as part of a group, you put yourself in a box. You limit yourself.

Christians don’t do this. Mothers don’t act like that. Introverts don’t like these things.

The statements can go on and on forever until we’re chasing our own tails trying to be what the consensus of descriptions say we are, but who we are is not any of one of these things or any combination of them.

A personal example? If a homeschooler is what I am, what happens when I am not anymore? What am I when my child expresses an interest in going to school, my child’s father doesn’t want to homeschool, or I just find myself unhappy homeschooling? Suddenly, I have to change who I am. My whole worldview has to be adjusted. “I am homeschooling my children right now,” gives me more flexibility.

Michelle, that’s just semantics. You’re nitpicking about word choices.

Am I?

In my opinion, words have magic in the strangest ways. Even when we think we know what we really mean when we personally use a word, the culture we live in, the meanings that other people in our social groups give things, tend to creep into our thinking.

It reminds me of a witch’s spell and magic incantations. Ancient cultures believed that words could do magic. From Pagan rites to the Bible’s Genesis, words are powerful. We think we are beyond all that superstitious nonsense, but maybe we’re wrong. Words are potent. They can change how we perceive the world.

We should use them wisely. Instead of naming your group or identity, just do what you want to do, what feels good to you, and be honest with the people around you.

I am Michelle, a human and I’m on a path of my very own.

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