musings

The joy of writing…

Another week done, one more to go. A week from now, Bill will be home and I won’t have to eat my own cooking anymore. 😉 I’m actually a pretty good cook. I just don’t enjoy cooking for myself and eating leftovers for days. I used to be a lot better at cooking for one. In fact, I used to enjoy cooking, even if it was just for myself. I was even paid to cook at one point in my life. Nowadays, I can’t be bothered. Of course, I miss Bill, too. I live a pretty solitary life these days. I don’t mind being alone, but being totally alone gets really old after a week. We’re now starting week three, and I am definitely over it. Good thing I have my dogs to talk to and give me a reason to get out of the house.

I never got around to posting new content yesterday. I meant to, but I just couldn’t think of anything earth shattering to write about. Writing takes energy, and sometimes I simply need a day or two to regroup. Sure enough, I got inspiration last night. Something happened that reminded me of why I bother to keep writing these posts.

I spent most of yesterday watching old movies. One of the movies I watched was a 1990 classic called Misery. I remember seeing that film when it was new. I was then a freshman English major at Longwood College. My friend and fellow English major Chris and I dreamt of being writers in those days. I had gone to Longwood thinking I’d get qualified to become a teacher, just to have something to fall back on in case the dream didn’t come true for me. Chris had gone in intending to be a plain old English major. Back then, Longwood didn’t offer as many majors or concentrations as it does today. If I were a student there now, I probably would not have majored in English. I probably would have majored in creative writing or maybe even music… but I digress.

What ultimately happened is that Chris ended up becoming qualified to teach. Conversely, I decided to forego trying to become qualified to teach. I realized that I didn’t really enjoy literature classes that much and didn’t want to have to teach English for a living. I mean, I did like some of the books I read, but what I really wanted to do was create. I figured there are enough mediocre teachers out there who went into the field because it seemed like the obvious thing for an English major to do. I have nothing against English majors who want to teach. I just realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. And, having taught English for two years in Armenia, I think I made the right decision.

Anyway, as I was watching Misery last night, I remembered all the time my friend and I spent in the computer lab at Longwood, composing our short stories and reading them to friends. We had so much fun, and those times brought us a lot of joy, if only because some of our stories were hilarious. Then I noticed something that, in the several times I’d seen Misery in the past, I had not noticed.

The protagonist, Paul Sheldon, is a novelist who feels like he’s in a rut, writing the same wildly popular series about a character named Misery. Misery is making him miserable. He’s bored, and wants to branch into a new direction– find the joy of writing again. So he decides to kill Misery off and write another book with a different protagonist. But, before publishing his last Misery centric novel, he takes off in his Mustang during a snowstorm and has a car accident. He’s “rescued” by a psychopathic nurse named Annie Wilkes, who is a super fan of his Misery novels. She’s a great nurse, but she’s also batshit crazy. She torments Paul, forcing him to burn his manuscript because she doesn’t like it. Then, in a cringeworthy scene, she breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer when Paul tries to escape the hell she’s put him in.

While I was watching Misery, which I downloaded for a very reasonable $4.99 on iTunes, I noticed I got an email from WordPress. Someone had sent me a message through my contact form. The vast majority of people who write to me using the contact form are spammers, but I do sometimes get legitimate communications that way. And this one happened to be from the author of a piece I had read in The New York Times. I recently blogged about the piece, and the author was writing to thank me.

I felt compelled to write about Adam Barrows’ essay about falling in love with his wife, Darla, who had an eating disorder. I found his story fascinating, and I was dismayed by all of the negative comments he got from people who had focused on what I thought was the wrong part of the story. Commenter after commenter wrote about what a bad person they believed Adam Barrows was, because he evidently hadn’t encouraged Darla to seek treatment for her eating disorder. Many people were engaging in outright character assassination. I doubted that most of them had spent more than a minute thinking about what it would have taken to get Darla into treatment and the difficult position Adam was in, especially given that he was a young man at the time with his own psychological baggage to handle. It occurred to me that some of them also would have also criticized him for trying to force treatment on his wife.

As a fellow writer, I have a lot of empathy for Adam. Over the years, I’ve written about very personal subjects, some of which were controversial. Sometimes, it’s gotten me into trouble. I also don’t have a super thick skin. It’s thicker than it used to be, but I could definitely stand to develop more calluses. 😉 I commend Adam for submitting his story to The New York Times. That took a lot of guts.

I’ve noticed that, as our culture has become evermore enslaved to devices and computerized communications, people have become markedly less civilized. It’s very easy to sit behind a computer screen and judge other people. We’ve all done it. Maybe because I came along during an era when we weren’t always online, I don’t feel comfortable casually popping off sweeping judgments about people who reveal personal things about themselves.

It made me uncomfortable that so many people were calling Adam Barrows a narcissist, especially since they are total strangers and were basing their psychological assessments on a single essay he wrote for a major newspaper. I have had dealings with actual narcissists. The ones I’ve known would not have been capable of writing an essay like the one Adam wrote. Narcissists are notoriously shallow people, and they aren’t capable of much introspection or any empathy. Adam might have been guilty of being an enabler, and he admits that freely. But I didn’t think he was a narcissist, and last night’s thoughtful email exchange proved to me that’s he’s not one.

This isn’t the first time someone has sent me a note of appreciation. It’s always a thrill when someone lets me know I’ve written something helpful or encouraging, or even when someone thinks I’ve written something funny. Those kinds of communications are what keep me going, even if I don’t get them all the time. I don’t do this for money. I do it because life has led me to a place where I can be a writer. It’s something I feel like I have to do.

I’ve also gotten occasional nastygrams from people. For instance, a couple of years ago, I got a message from a woman who had lived in our previous house before us. She was upset about some of the things I had written about our living situation in our former house and basically insinuated that I’m a “bad person” for the things I wrote– which were really just my opinions and perspectives, along with some justified venting about the situation. She also mocked me for thinking of myself as a writer and for calling myself “creative”. She felt the need to defend her “friends”, not considering that I have the right to share my perspectives. No one was forcing her to stalk me, either. If what I wrote was that offensive or upsetting, she could have simply scrolled by, rather than trying to shut me up.

I couldn’t help but notice that she’d been reading my stuff for over four years, even though she’d apparently only been doing it to monitor and gossip about me with the ex landlady and her daughter. I suspect that despite her haughty, shaming comment to me, she wasn’t as “high-minded” and noble as she pretended to be. My guess is that she was upset that I’d figured out that she’s a liar and was upset that I wasn’t going to tolerate the abuse anymore. I don’t know if she experienced the same things Bill and I experienced. She’s clearly a different type of person than we are, and she claims she’s friends with our former landlady. What stuck out to me, though, was that she wasn’t willing to let me write freely.

She probably doesn’t know or care that what she did was very damaging and hypocritical. But that’s alright… because I survived, and again, she did consistently read for over four years. That tells me my writing must not have sucked that much. It clearly made a difference to her, and was obviously interesting– enough to compel her to send me a message, trying to censor me. It was a negative communication, but it wasn’t based on the quality of my writing. She was trying to shame and silence me. She wasn’t strong enough to leave me alone and simply let me have my say on my space.

Writing is an incredibly courageous thing to do. Making your voice heard is brave, because you never know how you’ll be perceived. I don’t know what Adam thought the reaction would be to his piece. Did he think it would be well-received in our super “woke” society? Or did he know that people would blame him for not trying to “save” his wife? Did he realize that many people would not understand or empathize with his situation? Was he prepared for the fallout? I wonder if he felt driven to tell his story. I’ve often felt like I had to tell my stories, even when they don’t go off well. I’ve taken some lumps over the years. I still write because that’s what I do– for better or worse. Some people don’t understand it or me, and they don’t appreciate what I do. I don’t write for them. I mostly do it for myself, but I also do it for those who are searching for something– information, validation, entertainment, insight… or whatever else that causes people to search Google.

In my original post about Adam and Darla, I related the reactions I got from people after I blogged about how my husband’s ex wife reminded me of Jessica McCord, a woman I saw profiled on Snapped. That post was up for months before anyone reacted to it. But when it was discovered, I got many negative comments from total strangers who had no understanding of our situation. It wasn’t the first time that had happened, but it was probably the first time I got really pissed off about it. I wrote a follow up post which was much better received. I even got a comment from a man who had known Alan and Terra Bates, Jessica McCord’s victims. He got it, and validated what I was trying to convey, which was really gratifying. He generously took a moment to try to understand my perspective and realize why I came to the conclusions I did.

We’re all in this world together. There are real people behind the computer screens. Most people who know me offline, don’t think I’m a horrible person. I didn’t get the impression that Adam is a horrible person. I don’t completely understand his situation because we don’t know each other. I appreciated his bravery in sharing his story. He and his wife are still happy together, and apparently, they’re both healthy. Ultimately, his story is a happy one. I simply wanted to point that out to those who were so focused on his wife’s mental illness and the way Adam handled it that they missed that their story isn’t a tragedy. Ultimately, what I think matters most is that they love each other and have made their marriage work. What other people think of how he handled things means a lot less in the grand scheme of things. They’ve obviously done something right. They’ve been together for decades.

Adam’s email made my day… I love hearing from people. Even the negative comments give me inspiration and material for the next post. I get joy from writing and learning new things. Maybe some people don’t understand it and think I’m wasting my time. Maybe some people think I should go out and get a “real” job. Maybe some people judge me for what I write and how I spend my time. I’m reminded, once again, that we’re all in the world living our lives from our own perspectives. Not everybody sees what I see, just as I can’t see what others see. So sharing that perspective is useful, especially for those who will try to understand and appreciate it. That’s why I keep doing this. And I want to thank everyone who takes a few minutes to try to comprehend my angles.

Incidentally, nineteen years ago today, Bill put an engagement ring on my finger. We were “engaged” a couple months before he put a ring on it, but it became real when he officially asked me to marry him. I wish he was here today to share some bubbly with me, and not just because I haven’t had any wine since he left two weeks ago. I miss him so much. Glad he’ll be back in a few days. When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog if not for him.

Happy engagement anniversary.

Standard
rants

“I think it helps us not to know each other…”

Tl:dr– Please don’t try to read my mind. It isn’t nice, and probably isn’t as interesting a read as you assume it is.

Back in 1993, James Taylor came out with his wonderful Live album, which was recorded during his 1992 East Coast tour. I was in college at the time, and a devoted JT fan, so of course I bought it as soon as I could. Over the past 27 years, I have gotten many hours of enjoyment from that album. I’ve seen James Taylor play live several times. One thing I’ve always noticed about him is that he truly loves to perform, even if he’s probably a more introverted soul when he’s not on the stage. Of course, I don’t know him personally, so I really don’t know how he is off stage. The truth is, even though I’m familiar with almost everything he’s done, we don’t know each other at all. I’m just a fan of his work, like many thousands of other people around the world are. I may feel like his biggest fan, but I’m probably not. There are most likely a whole lot of people who love his music even more than I do.

James made a quick-witted quip on his Live album, when an enthusiastic female audience member shouted out, “Love you!” to him after he sang “Something In The Way She Moves”.

You can hear Taylor’s quip at about 3:30.

His response was a deadpan, “Good.” Then he added, “I think it helps us not to know each other.”

I’m no “James Taylor” by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I make any assumptions that someone is going to declare their “love” for me at a concert, on a video, or in the comment section of a blog post. If someone ever did do that, it would probably really freak me out. I’m not comfortable with people who express that kind of extreme emotion toward me unless they are someone I know personally. And even then, it kind of freaks me out. I’m sure James Taylor has gotten used to those kinds of extreme declarations of love or disgust, though. Lots of people have told him they love him or hate him. That’s what happens when you put yourself out there. People tend to love it or hate it, and many of them have no compunction about telling you what they think.

Taylor’s wry response to his adoring fan on the Live album comes to mind this morning as I reflect on some of the feedback I occasionally get on my writing. Sometimes, I think people who are exposed to other people’s writing, music, art, or whatever else get the idea that they actually know the person who is presenting it. Sometimes they forget that an artist– for lack of a better word– is often a total stranger to them. They wind up projecting things on the person who presents their creative pursuits to the world. They make assumptions about what the artist is thinking or feeling at the time they created their piece.

This phenomenon was one quarrel I had with being an English major. As an English major, I was required to read different works of literature and write an analysis. I don’t think that was necessarily a bad exercise in that it taught me to look beyond the obvious. However, it always bothered me that I was supposed to look for things like symbols and hidden meanings as I tried to analyze a piece of writing, even though I could never really know what the writer was thinking or feeling when he or she wrote it. I got reasonably good at writing analyses of other people’s writing. I had to in order to earn the degree in English. But I was never particularly comfortable with it.

In fact, my discomfort with analyzing other people’s writing was kind of vindicated a few years ago, when I stumbled across an article written about the American author, Flannery O’Connor. The piece was about how, back in 1961, an English lit professor and his students were having trouble analyzing a short story O’Connor had written called “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”. The professor’s interpretation of the story was evidently pretty far off the mark of what O’Connor was trying to convey. He wrote this about O’Connor’s story:

We have debated at length several possible interpretations, none of which fully satisfies us. In general we believe that the appearance of the Misfit is not ‘real’ in the same sense that the incidents of the first half of the story are real. Bailey, we believe, imagines the appearance of the Misfit, whose activities have been called to his attention on the night before the trip and again during the stopover at the roadside restaurant. Bailey, we further believe, identifies himself with the Misfit and so plays two roles in the imaginary last half of the story. But we cannot, after great effort, determine the point at which reality fades into illusion or reverie. Does the accident literally occur, or is it part of Bailey’s dream? Please believe me when I say we are not seeking an easy way out of our difficulty. We admire your story and have examined it with great care, but we are not convinced that we are missing something important which you intended us to grasp. We will all be very grateful if you comment on the interpretation which I have outlined above and if you will give us further comments about your intention in writing ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.’

Ms. O’Connor, flabbergasted by the professor’s interpretation, wrote back to him. Here’s a quote from her response that kind of speaks to me as I write today’s post:

“The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

As someone who likes to write and used to do a lot of fiction writing back in the day, I never felt all that comfortable with some nameless person reading my words and making assumptions about what I *really* meant.  How can a person really interpret a writer’s true meaning if they don’t know the writer?  Sure, you can learn about history.  You can even learn a writer’s life story. But unless you are inside the author’s head, you can’t really know how he or she meant their work to be “interpreted” or even if such interpretations would even be welcome.  And if the writer was writing many decades before a reviewer’s birth, I would think the lens would be even more skewed.

Sometimes this phenomenon even happens to nobodies like me. Yesterday, I wrote about an experience I had with my aunt’s brother a few years ago. When I wrote that post, I was mainly feeling kind of amused. But I guess amusement is not what came across in my writing, because someone left a comment that indicated they assumed I’m still “mad” about that incident three years later. The fact is, I’m really not “mad”. I wasn’t even that “mad” when it happened. I would say I was frustrated and annoyed, but not necessarily “mad”.

When I think of someone who’s mad, I picture a person who is irate and seething with rage. That’s not an accurate description of how I was feeling then, or now. How I was feeling in 2017 was a combination of irritated, disrespected, and exasperated. But once that incident was over, it was over, and I completely forgot about it until yesterday.

I wasn’t feeling any of those negative emotions in 2020, either, as I recounted the story about my aunt’s brother in yesterday’s post. What I felt yesterday was mostly levity, particularly when I found that picture of the yellow truck with the words “Fuckin’ Hick” on it. If I recall correctly, that picture was taken by a friend of mine who was annoyed that the truck driver had parked his truck in her neighborhood. She was worried about property values going down because of the profanity. I was thinking about Bill driving on the Authobahn, being annoyed by another driver who not only was driving her own car, but apparently wanted to drive Bill’s car, too. 😉

Yesterday, I didn’t feel like writing about COVID-19 or politics or any of the other issues of the day. Sometimes, I feel like writing about something that doesn’t have to do with current events. When I was writing yesterday’s post, I was thinking of people who might read it and get something useful from it– for instance, the part where I wrote that “at some point, it’s got to be okay to be who you are“. That was meant to be a supportive statement for those who have felt that others disapprove of them in some way, and it was more of the main idea I was going for, rather than venting about being disrespected. But obviously, some readers missed the point. Perhaps that is my fault for not being more clear. Yesterday’s post wasn’t necessarily supposed to be a funny story, but I didn’t really mean it as a vent, nor was it an indication of how I feel right now or a sign that I’m still fuming at my aunt’s brother. The fact is, I don’t even think about him very much these days.

I will freely admit that I often hold onto some emotions for longer than perhaps some people think I should. I definitely hold grudges when someone is egregiously shitty to me. I think it’s because I was forced to endure a lot of bad treatment when I was growing up and there was nothing I could do about it at the time. As an adult, I’ve been learning constructive ways of countering that kind of treatment. There are only so many times a person can turn the other cheek before they finally snap back.

I used to be a lot more aggressive when I “snapped back”, but lately I’ve been trying to be more assertive. Assertiveness is not an easy skill to master. If you’re aggressive, you might be able to bully someone into compliance with your wishes. Assertiveness is a better, more respectful, more mature communication skill, but you run the risk that the other person won’t appreciate the respect and will either not respond at all, or will respond with aggression. I had initially tried being assertive with my aunt’s brother by politely asking him not to be a language cop on my page. That didn’t work, so I resorted to what some would consider “aggression”. Dropping f-bombs to someone who clearly hates them is probably considered aggressive by some people. On the other hand, acting like a language cop on a middle aged woman’s Facebook page is disrespectful and patronizing, and yes, that can cause a person to get “mad”.

While a Buddhist would likely tell me I would have more peace if I just said “fuck it” and let it go, that’s just not the type of person I am. I am a deeply flawed human being, just like everyone else is (including James Taylor). But I think it’s important for most readers to realize that they don’t know me personally, and it’s not helpful to project your interpretations of how you think I’m feeling. If you’re really curious about how I feel, you can always ask me and I’ll probably tell you. But please don’t assume you know and assign specific emotions to me. I consider that disrespectful.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like it when people try to mind read, particularly when they are people I’ve never met. It makes me uncomfortable. Or, if you do want to assign an emotion to me, kindly keep it to yourself. Assuming that I’m “mad” about something when you don’t even know me is more likely to make me mad at you. But then, maybe you don’t care if I get mad. Most people don’t, which is why I ended up in that situation with my aunt’s brother in the first place. 😉

Standard
complaints

Spies who love me…

A little mood music for this post…

Well… it seems that yesterday’s post about my disdain for the phrase, “please refrain”, was quite a doozy… It got lots of attention from some strange places. I’m also pretty sure that I’m responsible for teaching at least one German reader the word “minge”. Bravo to you for clicking the link and learning some slang!

It’s always interesting to see how people react to my posts, where my visitors come from, and what they click on. I have never made it a secret that I closely monitor who reads my stuff. I do this for a lot of reasons. The main one is that it helps me determine what is interesting to readers, which helps me come up with ideas for content worth writing. Based on yesterday’s post, I’ve discovered a few things.

Apparently, certain readers are especially interested when I “spill the tea” on me… They like it when I reveal things about myself. Some probably enjoy the irreverent nature of some of my writing. Some might genuinely wonder what makes me tick, and a handful may truly care about my opinions. A few folks like it when I write about women’s issues, true crime, and my disdain for Donald Trump. In fact, when people have asked me to write posts about specific topics, more often than not, it’s about true crime or women’s issues (in fact, I got one such request today). Most of the people who come back to read are here because they genuinely like the blog and want to read.

A couple of people are obviously just looking for dirt. I don’t assume that everyone who reads my stuff every day likes me. That was made quite clear to me about a year ago, although I knew it was going on well before then. I was just surprised by how boldly the offender came forward, how sure they were that they had the right to meddle in my business, and how certain that person was that their position was 100% correct (and it’s not). I was also amazed by their gall and hypocrisy, especially since I know they value their privacy, but they apparently have no respect for mine.

I think my book reviews are pretty cool, though I notice that I get less interest in those posts. Ditto to the rerun posts from my original blog. I won’t be adding all of them… just the ones that are “evergreen”. Quite a lot of my old content is no longer relevant– especially the stuff that was written before people started reading. I actually miss those days, when the vast majority of people who read my stuff were total strangers. That’s right… for the first few years of my blog’s existence, I didn’t promote it at all. It was simply a place to vent my thoughts. Now, to some people, I’ve turned into E.F. Hutton.

I’m flattered that people are interested in anything I write… although I know not everyone is reading innocently.

I’m glad to have real friends who read and appreciate my content, but I could do without the “looky lous”. I get that this is a public blog, so having “spies” and “stalkers” kind of comes with the territory. I have toyed with the idea of making my blogs private, but I see no reason why I should have to do that simply because of a few creepy people. There’s no need to punish myself and the people who don’t come here to fuck with me. It’s too bad that some people have no sense of decency or fairness, but I’m not surprised. Besides, life would be pretty boring if everyone liked me.

So now, I’m sitting here wondering if it’s worth my time, energy, and the personal angst to keep sharing this blog with the masses, especially since I know there are people out there who probably have this expression on their faces as they read…

Yeah… I see you lookin’… I see you hatin’….

Trust me. There are times when I wish I had turned out differently. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to write every day. I wish I had a knack for something more practical and less revelatory… maybe something that would make me some money. Writing can be lucrative. There was a time when I made $40 an hour writing from home– and that was years ago. I could probably make more today. If I had stuck with that career path, I could have had a very different lifestyle. On the other hand, there’s a reason technical writers earn so much. It’s not the most exciting writing to be doing, nor is it the most exciting reading for other people. But maybe if I hadn’t wound up married to a military man, I would have had a very different existence… and I would not be sitting where I am right now, pondering what I should do about the “eyes” who are obviously watching for drama and don’t have enough exciting things going on in their own lives.

I suspect the folks who have inspired this post feel that they know me better than they do, which I guess is natural enough, since there is a lot of content out there. However, I would like to remind them that we don’t actually know each other, and politely ask/warn them to stay out of my business (you’ll note that I didn’t write “please refrain”). If this seems like a cryptic request to you, then you’re not among those I’m addressing. I suspect the people who need to heed this request can self identify. I don’t think you’re going to find what you’re looking for in this blog anyway, so you might as well stop wasting your time.

My husband has an advanced degree in cybersecurity, so it’s been fun to share this journey with him. He’s offered me some insight into how this internet security stuff works. While I don’t have any desire to go back to school, I can see why people study cybersecurity. It’s a very intriguing field. Maybe it’s time I took a course or two myself.

Standard
musings

Too bad I don’t clean like I edit…

She was not the result of smoking; she was the result of timely fucking.

It always chaps my ass when I’m reading an online exchange that gets heated and someone writes something along the lines of, “Your an idiot.” Please know, it physically pains me to deliberately misspell words. I do make typos sometimes, but when I spot them, I am compelled to correct them immediately. Sometimes, my mistakes are caused by writing incoherently. Usually, when this happens, I’ll come back later and fix it.

When I see that someone has tried to make a plural by using an apostrophe, I get really agitated. The photo posted below was taken at an Italian restaurant in Rostock, Germany. The owner paid money for these little signs that read “steak’s & more”. Since the steak isn’t possessing anything, there’s no need for an apostrophe; the sign should read “steaks & more”. People who presumably went to elementary school make this mistake all the time. I might give the restaurant owner a pass, since he or she probably speaks at least three languages. Still, if you’re going to invest in a sign, especially one with so few words on it, at least make sure there aren’t any typos.

What the hell? Someone paid good money for signs that are wrong. It makes me stabby! I couldn’t bring myself to go into this place, mainly due to the signs.

Here’s another clue– if you just want to make your last name plural, you don’t need an apostrophe. Don’t write “the Brown’s”, unless Brown is possessive. If you simply wish to make the name plural, you write “the Browns.” You’d only write “Brown’s” if Brown was someone’s or something’s name and that person or thing was possessing something, such as “Brown’s bookcase” or “brown’s depth as a color”. But you shouldn’t sign your Christmas cards, “Happy holidays from the Brown’s.” If your name ends in an s, such as Jones, and you want to make it plural, you write “the Joneses”. It’s not “the Jones’s”.

I don’t know why I’m like this. Some people are fastidious about keeping a clean living space. Some people are obsessive about keeping themselves clean. I am hyper-vigilant about spelling, grammar, and word usage. I took grammar as an elective when I was in college. It was a required class for those who planned to become teachers. I had no plans to be a teacher, didn’t enjoy the class much, and didn’t even do particularly well in it. I took it simply because I thought it would be useful, and it was.

In the early 1990s, I didn’t know that I would spend so much time writing. In those days, we didn’t really have the Internet much. Email was in its infancy. I didn’t have an email address until the mid 1990s, and I shared it with several people. I didn’t surf the Web until 1997 or so, when I came home from Armenia. Now I spend hours every day online. It’s surreal, since over half of my life occurred before the Internet was a thing. Now, I find that I am daily confronted by bad writing. In fact, just this morning, I read this on Facebook:

Today — I lost a friend of at least 10 years. She was a neighbor. She was 80 —- and she was the end result of smoking since she was 14.

This was the beginning of a heartfelt post someone wrote about his friend, who’d had multiple health problems and died at the ripe age of 80. I’m sure his message was to warn his still living friends about the dangers of smoking and let them know that he cares. While I’m sure many of his late friend’s health problems could have been avoided if she hadn’t been a heavy smoker from such a young age, I’d like to point out a couple of things.

First, it appears that despite her health issues, his friend did live what most would consider a normal lifespan. They may not have been high quality years, and she might have enjoyed her last years more if she hadn’t been a smoker, but she did live a long time. Secondly, and probably much more importantly, his friend was not “the end result of smoking since she was 14”. She was the end result of two people fucking each other at the right time of the month. Her poor health and subsequent suffering were the end results of smoking since she was 14. Her poor health also affected people who cared about her, which is certainly worth mentioning. I won’t even get into the differences between “affect” and “effect”, which is another area where people get things twisted.

I am fighting the urge to leave a comment for the guy who authored the above sentence, because I realize that his heart was in the right place. I understand what he meant, even though when I read his post, the error jumped out at me like a flashing beacon. I’ve refrained, because I don’t actually know the guy that well. He’s one of Bill’s high school friends. I think he friended me because Bill barely posts on social media and it’s easier to keep up with him via me. It’s just that his post is a perfect example of what happens when people write from the heart and don’t proofread. I also know that people don’t like it when I act like a grammar cop, especially in public. They have a tendency to shoot the messenger.

I’m lucky that Bill doesn’t mind my grammar cop tendencies. He appreciates it when I catch stuff. He says it keeps him from looking like a “fool”. I don’t think he ever looks like a fool. It’s just that when people are too close to something, particularly when they’re writing, they don’t have the perspective of a reader. You know what you mean, but the people who are reading your stuff don’t necessarily. I remember getting into it with a guy I knew in grad school. We were writing a grant proposal and I told him he needed to include a brief explanation about the project for which we were requesting funding. He immediately got annoyed and said, “They should already know about that.”

My response was that the committee would be reading proposals from all kinds of people from many different groups. It’s a lot to ask them to know the details of every program they are considering funding. I think it’s best to make things as easy as possible for them. Explain it to them like they’re six years old, using language that is clear and easy to understand, properly punctuated and spelled, and with all of the necessary details. That means not writing something like “she was the result of smoking since she was fourteen.” Remember, she was not the result of smoking– she was the result of timely fucking! Poor health was the result of smoking. Use a few strategically chosen words to clarify, so you don’t write something that conveys something completely different from what you mean.

Incidentally, I’m also super fastidious when it comes to music. I tend to be a perfectionist when I make recordings, which is why I don’t often listen to anything I do on SingSnap beyond checking to see that the timing is correct. If I did listen to my whole recordings, I’d never do more than one a day. Perceived mistakes make me want to redo something until it’s close to perfect. I don’t keep a recording when my voice cracks or I veer off pitch. I don’t know why I do this with recordings, since I can’t do it with live performances. If my voice cracks when I sing live, oh fucking well…

But… I am not a fastidious housekeeper. I mean, yes, sometimes when I get into a cleaning mode, I can be very fastidious. But cleaning doesn’t come naturally to me and isn’t something I love to do. I have to be in the mood to clean with gusto, and that mood rarely strikes. When it does, I do like to take advantage of it. It’s too bad I don’t clean like I edit.

Standard
Ex, musings

On not being “nice”…

This morning, I was reading a post that I put on my original blog back in 2017. It was basically a top ten list of things that annoy me. I wrote it at a time when I was experiencing a lot of personal angst, which I explained after my vent. At the time, we were contemplating a move to Italy. Bill was asked to take a government job in Vicenza, but taking the position would mean significant inconvenience and a large pay cut. However, we both love Italy and it was an excellent career opportunity for Bill. Also, it would mean he’d have the chance to be a leader again and assume real responsibility. I think not having the ability to make decisions is a challenge for Bill, although it seems like that’s less of a problem now than it was a few years ago.

I was upset about the potential disruption, and feeling totally out of control of my life, so little things were irritating me more than usual. I vented about them in a way that probably made me look like a foul-mouthed, irrational nutcase. That’s my way of blowing off steam, and I do it often. If I had a therapist or a bunch of local friends, I might have vented to them. I don’t have those things, so I vented in my blog. Maybe that post and others like it aren’t “nice”, but writing them keep me sane and probably make some people laugh.

Anyway, as I was reading my top ten list, it occurred to me that some people read my stuff and probably think I’m a massive bitch. And, you know what? They might even be right. I’m not always “nice”. I admit it.

My husband, Bill, on the other hand, is almost always “nice”. He’s a very even-tempered, kind-hearted guy who very rarely gets upset. He almost never raises his voice and I could probably count on both hands the number of times he’s been visibly annoyed with me in the course of almost 17 years of marriage. Bill is naturally a very pleasant person, but he also places a high value on being liked. Unfortunately, always wanting to be liked isn’t always a good thing.

Last year, I got a pissy comment from one reader who tried to advise me on what and how I should be writing. She complained that I wrote “inappropriate” and TMI things, and that I came off as bitter and petty. She’s probably right, although she doesn’t know me from Adam and hadn’t taken the time to understand the context of why I write what I do.

I suspect she felt attacked because of some comments I made about my husband’s ex wife. She is herself a first wife, and I think she assumed I’m “crazy”, because she feels mistreated by her ex husband and his wife. I have a feeling she was projecting her situation onto ours, and assuming that I’m just a mean, nasty person without considering that our situations and the people involved are completely different. I’m sure a lot of people have read my comments about my husband’s ex wife and think I’m the whole problem. I can understand that, even though those people are wrong.

Sometimes nice people aren’t so nice. I’d rather people be kind, instead.

I’m not always “nice”, but I don’t go out of my way to screw people over, nor do I typically lie about major things. I may express unpleasant or unpopular opinions, but that’s pretty much all I do. My husband’s ex wife, on the other hand, has actively tried to ruin his family relationships, not just with his children, but also with his parents. She also tried to ruin him financially. Of course I’m pissed about that, although she was unsuccessful. I’m much less angry with the ex now, by the way. Now that one of Bill’s daughters is finally talking to him again, I find that I care a whole lot less about the ex.

One of the reasons Bill and I get along so well is because we balance each other out. I’m not always “nice”, but I usually try to be kind. People who get to know me soon find out that I have a big heart and empathy for other people. However, I have a low tolerance for annoyance and bullshit, and I tend to deal with it by expressing myself in writing. For a long time, that was okay, as very few people paid attention to the things I wrote. Now that I’ve become somewhat better known, people read stuff and jump to erroneous conclusions about my character. I totally understand that. I think we all do that to some extent. Everybody judges, since exercising judgment is one way to stay out of trouble. On the other hand, sometimes being judgmental leads to problems, particularly when that judgment is coupled with a lack of empathy.

I recently shut down public access to a couple of my older blogs. One of the blogs I cut off free access to is the travel blog, which I know has been useful and entertaining for a lot of people. Many of my regular readers are folks in the government or military community who are either already in Europe or are considering moving here. However, I also have a whole lot of readers from Cruise Critic, because I wrote a couple of very well-received blog series about Hebridean Island Cruises, a niche luxury cruise line that is not often sailed by Americans. Bill and I will soon be taking our fifth cruise with them, so people seek my blogs to read about our experiences in Scotland on a very unusual luxury vessel. If I had left access to the travel blog open, some people would want to read about our experience buying our new car directly from the Volvo factory in Sweden.

Unfortunately, I’ve been experiencing harassment from people who are interested in causing trouble for me. I won’t go into the reasons why they are harassing me. I suspect they feel completely justified, because they don’t think I’m a “nice” person and, because of that, they don’t think I’m entitled to privacy or freedom of expression, nor should I feel free to assert my basic rights.

I also think some people have the erroneous idea that I write to be popular. That’s not true at all. I’ve been a writer my whole life and I mainly do it to stay sane. Bill says writing is my “vocation”. I suppose he’s right, although I think music is even more my vocation than writing is. I am not writing for money or fame, but because it’s simply what I do.

Some people think I’m a no talent hack… or that I’m spewing nothing but nonsense or hatred or whatever. They are usually folks who read a few posts and jump to a conclusion. I know for a fact that I have plenty of regular readers who have gotten to know me beyond a couple of irate, profane, venting posts. Some people are also folks who know me offline and have actually taken the time and made the effort to get to know me personally, rather than just judging me. I write mostly for myself, but I also write for those people. They get it.

A couple of days ago, I proposed deleting my Facebook page for this blog. I have a few reasons for making that proposal. I don’t actually use the page that much for anything more than posting links to blog posts. A lot of the people who officially follow the page are my friends anyway, so they can see the links on my personal page. I was getting “likes” from creepy spammer profiles and was having a hard time finding out how to ban them from my page (I did discover how yesterday). But the main issue is that the page is wide open and allows people to monitor me without making their presence known. As I mentioned before, I know there are people who want to cause trouble for me, so I don’t want to make it any easier for them.

I was gratified to see comments from people who like what I do. It’s good to know that some people enjoy my writing and aren’t “out to get me”. I appreciate those who care enough to comment and want to read my stuff, even if it means “joining the club”. I hope that will be a temporary thing, since I’m now considering moving the travel blog, just as I did my original blog. It’s time for a more professional and secure platform than Blogger, anyway.

Although some people don’t think writing is a good use of my time and think these blogs are stupid, they do give me something to do. I know I could probably find something more “socially acceptable” to do with my time, but the fact is, I LIKE writing, and I’m good at it. I know I have written a lot of good stuff, even if I’ve also vented a few times and used language that would make a sailor blush. Nobody’s perfect. Aside from that, how I spend my time is my business. It’s my life.

I try to maintain perspective as much as possible, but I’ve found that being too “nice” and eager to please other people doesn’t always lead to fair treatment or equity. The fact is, a lot of people take advantage of “nice” people, especially when there’s money at stake. My husband is extremely nice, so I’m less so. It’s self-preservation. And… again, being nice is not the same as being kind or decent. A nice person isn’t always kind or genuine. Plenty of people have been taken advantage of by people who seem really nice… at least at first. I’ve learned that the hard way. You might not think I’m “nice”, but I promise you, I’m capable of being fair and seeing multiple perspectives, particularly if I am approached with basic respect. I’m also genuine. In fact, that’s one thing people who have gotten to know me have said they like best about me. You’ll always know where you stand with me.

Sometimes, people take advantage of Bill’s desire to please other people. It’s happened to him repeatedly, and I can’t bear to see it happen again. Rolling over may seem to be the easy thing to do in the face of confrontation, but it always comes back to haunt him. I think recurrent problems are karma’s way of showing you that you have to deal with an issue. Bill has turned the other cheek so many times and it never gets him where he should be. In fact, it only encourages more abuse. Sometimes, you just have to take a stand.

I mostly don’t write for money and consider my blogs my “home”. If I’m in my home and notice people casing the neighborhood, of course I’m going to take precautions to make my home more secure. So, for now, making some of my blogs private is one way to increase security and discourage harassment, abuse, and stalking behavior. But I do hate to do it… I won’t lie. It’s a pain in the ass to lock things down and, frankly, I don’t feel like I should have to, because I truly haven’t done anything wrong or unprovoked. And I’d rather not delete the Facebook page if people truly like it, even if a closed group would allow for more privacy. I’m not sure what else to do, to be honest.

I will keep writing, though, even if it means I go totally underground. So if you’re reading this thinking you’ve stopped me, think again. I’m going to keep doing what I do, even if I change the way I do things.

Standard