45 days past

times som

So over six weeks ago, I took a long break from social media. I was really busy with work and needed to focus on it. But also, I wanted to avoid all the holiday hubbub that had absolutely nothing to do with me, even with a Christmas birthday.

Bah humbug, basically. It does make me wonder if Scrooge was a Capricorn.

Ultimately, this has been something I’ve been wrestling with for years–what is social media’s use to me, besides making me feel like I’m not enough and too much?

I’ve reckoned with the looming fact that as much as I have been online for my entire adult life, I don’t really understand social media anymore. And maybe I never did.

It makes me feel competitive and jealous over appeared differences, and that makes me feel ill–mainly the humblebrag that isn’t humble, just bragging. I imagine if I was in a face-to-face conversation with someone, telling me about great their life is…well, no one wants to hang with that person, and very rarely do people talk like that. But on social media, it’s totally OK!

Recently, I was reading posts like this on Instagram and Facebook and it made me punchy. It’s not that I begrudge anyone of their successes, nor their celebration of them–even if for me, 2018’s only true success was that I SURVIVED. It’s just…I don’t know how this discourse became so braggadocious.

And maybe posts like that inspires or heartens others. And sure, I’m definitely in a place in my life that could use some inspiration and uplift. But somehow, when it’s said on social media, it doesn’t feel inclusive. It feels very impersonal, and like we’re competing for some unattainable prize of most awesome.

If you have even one modicum of dissatisfaction in your life, social media will exploit it. 


Anyway, it’s nothing new, right? We’ve all felt less than after reading someone’s post about how fucking amazing their lives are. And then the winter holidays make those albeit natural but very weighty feelings even more heavy. I felt both like Scrooge and Tiny Tim at the same time, even before Thanksgiving.

So, I mercifully logged off, because no one needs to feel even more alone during the holidays while watching people celebrate with friends and family (as they edit out all the tough conversations and heartache and grief), and you are a party of one–which there should be no shame in. 

So while I was away, I finally decided not to be ashamed of my life, which goes beyond the holidays. It’s not easy to not compare your life to someone else’s when you’re online, even when you know that so much of this fake or at least not the whole story. So logging off solved that. It may be something I do every year, no matter how awesome or awful my life is, because it really fucks with your head and your sense of worth, even if everything is OK.

What if life could be better? Why aren’t you having people around that love you? Why aren’t you financially successful? Why are you hashtag blessed? 

Well, the messy and complicated answer to these almost ridiculous questions is–well, there are a lot of reasons–many of them you can’t control, and some of them you will never be able to ascertain or perceive. 

I believe, I hope, I filled all those heart-holes that social media is always trying to widen and fill with resentment. It’s probably going to be a process because part of me is like, whoa, how did I get here? I used to not give a flying fuck about this stuff. And in that way, social media isn’t necessary the root of that problem. That’s just my life sucking. 

But here’s the difference for me–I remember back in the 90s turning to social media when my life was sucking. I found a lot of amazing people to be friends with. There was no competition or bragging or curating or branding or selling. It was just people talking about each other’s lives.

So back then, social media was a savior and a beacon during a long bout of clinical depression. But now, social media has become completely the opposite. And I’m not even talking about harassment. That’s a whole separate topic, which thankfully, for now, I have rarely experienced. 

Whatever deeper connections I was looking for online, like I found in my youth, I don’t really believe they are there like that…anymore, like ripened fruit dropping from trees. Now, I tend to just luck upon them, and even then they don’t last very long.


So one of the biggest things I’ve had to come to peace with is the age that I live in now. It’s not the 90s or the 20th century anymore. We are well within this millennium and century and decade, and for me, it’s too impersonal and transactional for me.

Also, there’s a generational shift. I’m not millennial enough to get this social landscape anymore (although it’s arguable that some Gen Xers created this mess we’re). And although there are probably plenty of Gen Xers killing this game…well, that’s the thing. This has never been some game for me. If social media is just a popularity contest, then I will always lose. I’m fine with that since I understand that is a game. In 1997, it was just me talking to people about stuff. Now it’s commerce and buying fake followers and YouTube views. 

This has been the longest time I haven’t been on social media, and I finally feel like I fell out of step with the emotional tone of this…place. For example, I was lurking a couple of days ago, seeing people I know and love rage-tweet about something that just didn’t seem to be worth the energy. If I had been on there all the time, I may have been more into this, but it just seemed almost like a privilege to sit around and bitch. I could be wrong about the topic, which I will not mention, but it was something that wouldn’t really directly affect me. 

And maybe that’s something I should digger deeper in, too. Maybe I get caught up in rage storms just because I’m there, like I’m a piece of driftwood. It’s not like what matters to me is rage tweeted by others, either.

That speaks to the cult of personality that I have never been into or never will be. My personality doesn’t really invoke a following, but that’s how you make it in the world today–which, whatever, I’m opting out.

So I suck at this, hardcore. And yet, I didn’t used to. The landscape has changed. And I’m tired of being frustrated about it because that’s what social media now is designed to do. It’s like one long commercial provoking you to hate yourself and other people. It feels dirty and gross.

I mean, clearly–it’s not the only way social media works. At least one of you reading this right now found me through social media. So I’m not completely terrible at it. But in a numbers game? After 10 years, there should be more to show for it. Allegedly. And I don’t even need to invoke quantity vs. quality here. Twitter, for example, is a very transient place. Lots of people I knew who were on more regularly have gone.

Still, being myself, being “authentic” doesn’t work in the way I’ve “marketed” myself as a brand. What “value” am I adding? Who the fuck knows?

All those truisms work for some people, but not everyone. Yet everyone gets on this mindless treadmill to get to this unreachable place of popularity because that’s what all those stupid likes and retweets force us to do to be allegedly relevant.

To that end, if you haven’t watched the holiday special Aggretsuko: We Wish You a Metal Christmas on Netflix, you should (here’s a review from io9). 


My “game” has always been to connect and I saw the internet as a way to connect to people I otherwise wouldn’t AND as a way to keep in touch with people I rarely saw. But, at least on a metric level, I just can’t do this here. I can barely stand that it’s OK to tweet to someone and not reply–and this person can be your friend. I still find that to be rude because there’s no way that would fly offline (although it’s happened to me offline, too). Yet somehow, if we’re online, it’s OK to (pretend to) be distracted.

It makes me just ask: so…why are you actually here? 

It’s not to say that I still don’t have some good people in my life from the internet. And the internet IS IRL. More and more, our lives are being reliant to being online. I couldn’t work without the internet. But it’s more that my offline life isn’t being augmented by my online life–like it used to be.

So maybe if I made connecting offline more of a priority in all ways, I can find what I used to find back in the happy, shiny 90s. Even connecting with myself more these past six weeks has been great, dare I say a necessity. I loved this story from over the holidays where this woman logged off for a week and tried to read 30 books in this time. She read 12, but good for her.

And, while I was away, I’d be remiss to not mention all the ridiculous news re: Facebook and how it handed our data on a silver platter to companies. Social media is a gotdamn shitshow.

Oh, one last rant about online life and then I’ll update you on my offline activities–people suck at email. For example, I’ve been trying to write a few stories and talk to my sources. I know it’s still kind of the holidays but seriously?! Maybe I should have taken off some more time.

I really don’t feel like I was made for these times. Maybe I was born too late, but that would make me an insufferable Baby Boomer. Ugh.


Anyway, so I’m back online now. And I feel like I’ve changed a lot, which I will write about later. It could be coincidental to having lived a life where I wasn’t curating my thoughts online, but I doubt it.

Here’s the running list of things I had to say while I was away:

  1. The Pet Shop Boys are perfection. I believe I started listening to them in earnest because I was listening to a lot of Robbie Williams, whom I also love and adore. He did a cover of their cover of “We’re the Pet Shop Boys” so I was intrigued. I listened to their whole discography and pretty much liked everything. It was great to listen to while I worked, but then I would get distracted. I really want this book by Neil Tennant One Hundred Lyrics and a Poem which is on my Christmas Birthday Wishlist if you want to get it for me. *wink wink*
  2. Australians have given us a lot of slang. The word “selfie” is an Aussie word. I learned that from this side work I did which took up a lot of the time while I was away from social media.
  3. Motown really is amazing. Another thing I learned from my sidework. I watched In the Shadow of Motown later and learned about the greatest bassist who ever lived, James Jamerson. I wrote about that for my patrons on Patreon if you want to read it. 
  4. I’m from Alabama and had no idea that Muscle Shoals was a thing at all. I watched the music doc Muscle Shoals and had no idea that Helen Keller, Sam Phillips, and W.C. Handy were from there. I also had no idea about the music studios and producers that helped to create iconic albums from the 60s and 70s. I honestly thought it was in southern Alabama, too, not northern Alabama. I once had a friend who lived in Florence, which is a part of that area. So basically, I had no idea where she lived.
  5. I listened to the top 2018 songs on Spotify and it all sounds the same. I decided on New Year’s Eve to listen to Spotify’s playlist and it was just variations of The Hamsterdance Song. I really wasn’t missing out on much except maybe the Black Panther soundtrack. My ears bled otherwise.
  6. OMG, the Chicago Bears are doing well! WTF? I really missed Twitter when the Bears were playing. They freaking beat the Green Bay Packers. And then I watched them play the Minnesota Vikings and win. I cannot believe we’re headed to the playoffs!
  7. The is macabre, but the Catherine wheel should have been one of those times God flood the earth again. I was listening to a Crowded House album, one of the deluxe versions with outtakes and demos, and they had some lovely song about the Catherine wheel, which I never knew what it was. I knew it was some 90s band that I never listened. It was a medieval torture and killing device which I still don’t even understand because it was so ghastly. I’m not even going to write about it, but man–Europeans have some fucking issues, and that is putting it mildly. That would have been an epic tweetstorm, but alas, I was offline. 

Anyway, that’s just a few of the things I almost wish I was online to talk about.


I tend to want to come to complete answers and solutions quickly, but my relationship with social media is more of an ongoing conversation. The conversation has changed over the past decade. So while I was offline, I mourned that this virtual place has become a place of longing and not lasting connection. It’s an early adopter issue, for sure.

So basically, I don’t know how to be a healthy, connected human on here like I’m used to. I can only do that by being on here less. I put way too much of my heart and emotions into something that has given my diminishing returns. That insanity ended last year. 

I just can’t take this place as seriously anymore, even though there are clearly serious ramifications from being online.

So when it comes to disseminating my own thoughts and feelings about anything online, I realized I was mainly speaking in a cold, dark room with very little light. Or, like a few years ago in grad school through a Facebook and blogging mishap, I was speaking to people who were insecure (just like I was). So at the very least, I’ll speak to people who want to listen.

If social media had helped me with my immediate needs, with poverty and loneliness, I’d be a lot more grateful. But really, a big lesson from this sabbatical was that I had to learn to deal with this stuff myself–at least this time, that’s what was required. And I’m really proud that I dug myself out of this hole. I feel less anxious, abandoned, and ashamed. I feel more like myself, more expansive, more like a real person with real emotional needs.

Social media isn’t really about my relationship to the rest of the world or American society, though–it just pretends to be that conduit. Yet it can be a very powerful distortion that unfortunately starts to affect society and the people in it. The past few weeks, I had to remind myself I had more control of how I feel and how I communicate with others–if at all.

This isn’t a zero-sum game. And it’s not even a game I have to play at all.

So my hope is that my life will look a lot more like it was in the early aughts than it does now–more balanced, more with people I love and who love me, and less concerned about people I may never meet offline.

This may be real life, being online, but it doesn’t have to be my whole life any longer.


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lucky blooms 💐

late bloomer SOM

Well.

First of all, reading that from poet Sharon Olds immediately pierced me, with some hope.

I come here lacking gratitude for my opening buds, and especially for the buds that have yet to be formed.

But I’m feeling a little chastened. I usually don’t do this much throat clearing before I get into a post.

(This post is brought to you by the pre-mid-life crisis transit of Pluto square Pluto.)

I don’t feel so lucky. I feel tired. I feel late. I have been planning my life my whole life. Hear the travails and laments of a tortured double Capricorn.

I thought I had some wisdom about this post, about how things were supposed to happen. It seems to have escaped me. I’m sure I’ll find some new wisdom as I write.

Things are getting better. I feel 10 years late on that, though. If I were 29 and finally starting my own business, that seems right. Why did this take so long?

I know why. It’s a lot of stuff, and here’s the timeline:

family upheaval caused by untreated mental illness ➡️ delay in attending and finishing college ➡️ finding my own emotional equilibrium ➡️ discovering I suck at college science ➡️releasing medicine as a future profession ➡️ picking up writing as a potential profession at age 30 or so ➡️ finally getting to do it on my own as a legit business nine years.

But that’s how the story was supposed to go. Why? Because it happened that way. This was my timeline at age 17:

college ➡️ med school ➡️ psychiatry residency ➡️ married and have my first kid by 30.

Look how tidy that is. I am pretty sure I was fretting about this with my 11th grade English teacher. Maybe deep down, I knew that this little neat timeline was not going to happen, which is why I was having legit panic about whether this was going to happen.

The delays, the diversions, the detours—at least I can say that it got me back to myself, to my first love of writing. I also thought that things like marriage and kids would just happen.

And, they haven’t.

I’ve gotten to this weird place of resignation that probably comes from going through very hard times for a very long time.

Sidenote: I hate that I have to care about this stuff as a woman, but I also hate that I hate that I care about any of this at all. Most men do not sit around fretting about marriage and kids. Maybe I thought like a dude for a little too long. Even beyond just stupid fertility, I’m socialized to want this thing that does not help ultimately make women happy.

I’m in this thing I can’t really speak of publicly, but it’s like this energetic holding pattern where I have to wait around to see what happens. In the back of my head, instead of anxiety, there’s just a knowing that things will work.

But the resignation makes me feel safer. I’m tired. Holding out hope for things you can’t control gets tiring.

And that’s probably the point, too, right? To let go already. There’s some weird alchemical thing that has to happen. You have to reach the end of yourself, to feel your fingertips to start slipping on the last threads of hope you have, and then something, Something, catches you, just in time.

I’m starting not to care anymore, though, like time’s run out. I should just be grateful that I can kinda be an adult that can take care of herself, that can see herself through crisis after crisis. And yet time probably hasn’t run out. Yet it’s easier to grieve and let go than to hold on. It’s doubly sad to think about. But hope is a very heavy thing and my arms are buckling…

And then the Universe will send a sign. It is not in agreement with me about giving up. It’s a cycle of despair and determination that I’ve gone through many times this year, not only with love, but just life in general. I’ve thought about how life would just be better if it stopped because the agony of living was not worth waking up to.

So, I was thankfully wrong about that.

Let’s go back to what Sharon said. Am I going to be one of the very lucky ones when it comes to love? I feel like my business had to be established before I’m released from whatever holding pattern I’m in. And maybe, you know, it’s not about me. It could be about the other person, it could be about other things that I had to go through that I don’t even realize yet. I’ve been told as much by probably tarot readers and astrologers. It’s hard to remember since the goons of poverty have been pummeling for a while now.

Patience. Oh, patience. I tire of you.

When I think about my friends who have all started families, looking at their curated pictures on Facebook, I stare back into the emptiness that engulfs me locally. Being down here so long, as I have said a few times here, I started to forget how to be human. In Libra season especially, it starts to look like something is wrong with me.

🗣Nothing is wrong with me.

Going back to Chicago this month to escape Hurricane Irma, I realized how easy it was to be myself there. I left a lot of heartache and betrayal there, too, but I laid it all to rest (almost 15 years of shit). When I move back, I don’t want to be thinking about any of that. This year, with a bevy of Aquarian friends, I’ve been able to find that wicked sense of humor that carried me through so much grief and loss, but also just made the room lighter.

Hey man, I’m back.

So looking into whatever *this* could be, it’s more than my 17-year-old self could have hoped for. That’s why I’m still kind of loitering in confusion. It would be worth waiting for, too, even this long, even as patience and temperance and perseverance try me.  That isn’t me holding onto hope, though. That’s me being curious about how things will work out, if at all.

Gosh, could it really be that good?

And here comes the grace…boy, it has been a time. I have had a time. Why would I expect anything good from people when I could write a series of books of all the heartache, betrayal, and just plain evil I’ve experienced? My track record with the human race is spotty. There have been some angels and demons, and then some people I can’t remember…

Scolding my skepticism seems silly now.

Despite wanting to join Facebook Nation and say, hey, I checked some other adulting things off of my to-do list, it’s the Pluto square Pluto thing (transiting Pluto is in my 1st house, and my Pluto is in my 10th house). I’ve been obsessed with legacy. What am I leaving behind when I die? I really hope it’s good people—my (now future) kids.

Nothing seems good enough yet. I have barely begun.

But whatever. I’m a double Capricorn who can’t plan that much right now. I feel like I’ve been benched. Put me in, Coach? I’m ready to play? Today?

Yet it does feel weird to just think—if this were meant to happen, it would have happened already. It almost sounds logical, but my life is strewn with late blooms…

Oh well. You tried. Good effort. At least you survived. Count your lucky blooms, girl.

Consolation prize: your very breath. *sigh*

Did I mention I was tired? If anything, if anything, this year, my ceiling was raised so high, it’s practically the sky. If I have to come back and try again, then I know what to aim for. And that would be a very big if at this point.

It’s also a sign of healing, though. Please let’s give myself some credit before I drag my sorry soul over more broken glass. My hierarchy of needs is not an inverted triangle anymore. Being able to support myself means I can support a relationship, and now I don’t feel as desperate for it anymore. And I’ve heard that desperation, shockingly enough, pushes things away.

During my years long time out with the Universe, I’ve watered and nurtured my spiritual roots. I’ve found amazing women that I am close with and love dearly. It’s the right ordering of things. As I told one friend: boys last. Always last.

But hey, it’s Libra season. I do care about the one-on-one, a lot. Where my Pluto is, also in Libra, also means I’m going to care about this topics in a big mushroom cloud sort of way. I don’t want to kid myself here.

I’m ready to live already. Unencumbered. I’ve waited for college, for grad school, for my career.  Even still, though: good news! The treacherous obstacle course of my life seems to be nearing completion. I’m not sure if this will be waiting at the end.

So I’m just going to close my eyes and run like hell to the finish line.

This song just came up in a Daily Mix I’m listening to. I hear you, Universe…

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A Lenten Season of Self-Kindness

Lent SOMSo I was gonna give up Twitter for Lent.

I never grew up with Lent being a part of my Christian faith journey. Non-denominational, evangelical churches are not about High Church/mainline church traditions, or the Christian calendar, except for Christmas and Easter. I was exposed to Lent while attending a Covenant church in Chicago. The Covenant Church–specifically the Evangelical Covenant Church–is a Swedish offshoot of the Lutheran church. Hello, mainline church.

One time, I gave up chocolate. It was the one year that my co-worker brought into the office Frango Mints chocolates from Marshall Fields. Assorted flavors. Yet I resisted. I have tried to give up cursing. That didn’t really work. I can’t remember how long I lasted. Although, I can say that it’s not necessarily about being successful. No, my inner perfectionist would love to wear a badge of honor that says that I made it through a chocolate-free Lent. From what I understand, it’s more about the forty-day journey of temptation and reliance on God’s power and strength while embracing one’s frailty and humanity.

Or something like that.

After a few years of giving up church of all kinds, I’m back in church, doing a bit of social media for an emerging not-church service on Saturday nights as well as the actual church. Oops. Probably can’t give up Twitter–’tis my (volunteer) job.

But I haven’t tweeted since Tuesday (Mardi Gras), which is fine, I guess. Right now, I’m working on some technical writing and I have to learn about some technology and read pages and pages of text just to write one page of text. And right now, I would be twitter-bitching my way through this, without any sort of response from my followers.

And that’s actually what I want to give up, for good–this need for a response.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008 (I think?) and it’s exposed some things about me. I have this human flaw, though: I want to connect with other human beings. I have another one: I want to share what’s going on with me. Twitter may or may not let those “flaws” flourish. Lately, I’d say it’s made my humanness feel like it’s a flaw altogether. It’s not.

Within the past six months, I have endured so many excruciatingly painful, dehumanizing events, with increasing intensity and insanity. The cliche of “the dark night of the soul” doesn’t even come close to describing what’s gone on and goes on. It’s more like camping out in the valley of the shadow of death. I’ll be grateful when this indefinite camping trip is over, and I’ll be grateful about how I’m even stronger and more resilient. Oh, I can’t wait for the glory of hindsight. I can see many silver linings which are almost enough to distract me like a toddler is distracted by a shiny object from the godawfulness of life. But I cannot give anymore public dispatches from my time there. As immediately accessible Twitter has been for sharing these things, what has not been healthy for me is taking the abysmal silence that my candor draws at all personally, or taking it at all.

This week, I read an excellent article in the The New York Times, “How to Be a Friend in Deed,” about how people are so godawful at helping people who are in crisis, and how not to be one of those godawful people. And there are so many people who suck at this, more than those who don’t. This confirmed what I experienced in grad school and afterwards. So maybe instead of insanely thinking that people will change their responses, can change. But I can only change so much.

As a writer, I was wondering why I couldn’t convey my suffering in some compelling, actionable way, even as I came to grips that I did need, and still need, help. It’s not just Twitter. It’s even meaningful Facebook groups that are created for this very type of support. I could deconstruct this, especially along racial lines, but there’s nothing that I can do about my melanin count. I could talk about the cult of personality, about popularity, about beauty about how all of these inane things that I have no control over and have nothing to do with me. I continue to drop my bucket into an empty well and hope that somehow, some day, I’ll draw water.

What can I do about it? Share the suffering offline, with way fewer people–probably with as many people that I can count on one hand. I have that many people and I don’t need to expand that number. Keep taking one foot in front of the other, even though almost every day, I see absolutely no point in doing so. Be my own best cheerleader, and be OK with being my own cheerleader, especially when I am alone.

So I’ll be back on Twitter in a bit, because I do need to to bitch about the minutiae and detritus about life, just not my actual life. The transparency that I’ve lead my life with has gotten me more enemies than friends. Transparency is valuable, but costly. And there really is nothing wrong with having a little more opacity, a little more mystery, a little more safety.

Social media can be the worst listener, the most inconsistent therapist, and the flakiest best friend. And it wasn’t always this way. I grew up with this medium throughout my whole adult life (since 1997). Throughout the past two decades, it’s grown increasingly fractured because there are more and more people using it. Sure, it’s an early adopter’s lament.  Still, all that means is that I can use this goofy medium for what it is good for in my life right now: livetweeting shows, learning about all sorts of things, breaking news, watching celebrities self-immolate by their own words, and shooting the shit.

Adjusting those pesky expectations–or not having any at all: this would be my nirvana. Instead of abolishing Twitter for forty days, I can just let it be what it is. I can use Lent as a way to start something new and healthy for myself, as a season of self-inquiry. How can I keep and better value my depth for myself? How can I engender true and safe reciprocity of sharing in healthier ways with better kept boundaries? How can I vanquish the overshare demons? Not to sound like Gwyneth Paltrow, but how I can be more conscious online, instead of just mindlessly typing things?

The past few months have been a long lesson in learning how to be less severe with myself, and then, being less severe with others. And that is good, so very good. It is a goodness I hope to continue to be lead and purified by. This censoring isn’t a deprivation, but a necessary practice and celebration of self-kindness.

If you do practice Lent, I pray it’s one of new-found self-compassion, self-love, and boundless grace.

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