My Stupid Mouth

There’s a scene in You’ve Got Mail in which Meg Ryan’s character has what she calls a “breakthrough moment.”

“For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and I said it.”

But then later in the film, she makes a confession:

“… of course, afterwards, I felt terrible… I was cruel, and I’m never cruel. No matter what he’s done to me, there is no excuse for my behavior.”

Yeah, so about that post I wrote about Mr. Trump last night.

I have a good friend with whom I disagree about many things. Still, he’s often complimentary of my writing, and he told me two days ago that I’m good at challenging the extremes and asking the tough questions without being arrogantly opinionated. Today, though… today I received a single-word text from him:

“Yikes.”

I knew immediately what he was yikes-ing about, but I asked anyway: “What?”

“I just read your blog.”

Yeah.

Here’s the thing: Paul and I are on the same page. Often. I do what I shouldn’t, and I don’t do what I should. Even though I know better. Sometimes, I even go so far as to make a joke about Jesus thinking my mistakes are cute.

That’s simply not true.

I shouldn’t have used the language I used in last night’s post. I can’t stand it when an already marginalized group is pushed further to the sidelines and when vulnerable people are ridiculed and when powerful people misuse their influence to create division and fear and hate. All that emotion tends to short-circuit my brain, and I say stupid things. Righteous indignation is one thing; ugliness is quite another and, quite frankly, doesn’t get us anywhere.

I considered taking down the post, but I don’t want to be disingenuous. Instead, I’m going to say this: I’m decent at writing about Jesus; I’m mediocre, at best, at representing Him. So instead of pretending like I didn’t mess up, I’m just going to apologize.

I’m sorry. And I’ll try to keep it together going forward.

I’m praying for Mr. Trump and for our Muslim brothers and sisters. I’m praying for President Obama and for the news analysts who think it’s okay to use vile language in describing him. I’m praying for an end to psychological and physical violence—between individuals, between political parties, and between countries. I’m praying for answers. For solutions.

I’m confident the light will win.

Dear Mr. Trump, Part 2

Just in case y’all are wondering how I’m doing with the whole “feeling sorry for Mr. Trump” thing. . . 


Dear Mr. Trump,

Remember me? I wrote you a kinda-sorta nice letter a few days ago. Yeah, so this one’s not so nice.

Some people are wondering if the Democrats hired you to make the Republicans look bad. If that’s true, I commend you: you’re doing a fine job. If it’s not true—if the opinions and ideas you’re spouting are actually real—I beg you to pick up your toys and go home. 

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. In fact, because of my off-the-charts empathy, I often make excuses for bad behavior. (That’s the downside to my “And” theory of humanity.) You can see it in my first letter to you, can’t you? I point out a bunch of obnoxious things about you, and then I make excuses for you! “I think maybe you’re sad,” I said. “You’re okay,” I said.

Well, I take it back. You’re not okay. Not right now, anyway. Whatever’s “okay” about you is currently sinking to the bottom of an outhouse full of your ignorant, egomaniacal, abusive, brutish bullshit.

(I don’t think Jesus would dig that last paragraph. Except I bet he’s laughing behind his hand, the way parents do when their kids say something that’s horrible and hilarious at the same time.)

Listen, I know I’m supposed to love you. I’m know I’m supposed to pray for you—and not just that you’d get the hell out of the POTUS race. But right now I’m too busy loving and praying for my Muslim brothers and sisters whom you’ve stripped of dignity and who will undoubtedly suffer an increase in persecution right here in the land of the free because of you. The last thing we need is a leader who validates religious intolerance and incites hatred.

And to my Muslim friends who read my last letter to you, I recognize now that I’ve assumed benign intent for too long. I pray they’ll forgive my naiveté and know that I stand with them.

KH

Dear Mr. Trump

I’m not exactly a fan of Donald Trump. But this week, I’ve been seized by the notion that I don’t get to pick and choose whom I love. It’s easy for me to rant about how we should be caring for the poor and marginalized, but the truth is we should be caring for the wealthy and those in the spotlight as well. That doesn’t feel as noble, but concerning myself with “noble” is a clear indicator that I’ve made it all about me. Also, it’s important for me to remember there’s no hierarchy of humanity, other than what we’ve created. So, this letter developed from an attempt to see Mr. Trump as a person of value—as someone worthy of love and grace—rather than a villain. This doesn’t mean I endorse him as a political candidate; it only means that I’m trying to practice what I preach


Dear Mr. Trump,

I wanted to learn more about you this morning—other than what the media is telling me—so I went to trump.com and read your biography.

It’s long.

It includes words like acquisitions, purchase, holdings, and own. Paragraph after paragraph recounts your financial success and real estate prowess. I learned about your collections of clothing and home furnishings, your earnings from speaking engagements, and the stack of books bearing your name. I discovered that you collect golf courses, clubhouses, and luxury hotels. Nestled among the 26 paragraphs describing what you have, I found two describing what you’ve given. Of the 4,428 words I read, I found none describing your family.

Next, I went to your presidential campaign site, where your bio begins in the same way: “Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports and entertainment.” This bio is an abridged version of what’s at trump.com, although there’s an expanded paragraph about your philanthropic efforts for veterans, and the last bit is a cursory nod to your family.

I have to admit I’m beginning to feel sorry for you.

To be clear, “sorry” has not been my predominant emotion when it comes to The Donald. I experience the presidential-candidate version of you as arrogant, discourteous, careless, volatile, immature, misogynistic, and tragically culturally insensitive (at best). Admittedly, other than the one debate I caught, my exposure to you has been through drama-soaked television “news” programs and Now This clips. I recognize those aren’t the most unbiased sources available, which is why I went looking on your own sites for some redeeming qualities.

Here’s what I found: You’re skilled at making money. You opine with conviction. You certainly don’t lack self-confidence.

And… I think maybe you’re sad. Not the nice-word-for-pathetic sad. Sad sad.

I wonder if you established a persona over the years that brought you some wealth and fame, and now you don’t know how to get out of it. Do you wonder if your friends truly care about you—or if they like you only because of your power and money? Do you measure your worth by an applause-meter and a bank statement? Do you invent “facts” because you’re desperate for the approval of your tribe?

I can’t find any information about how you serve other people, other than through money—and even then, your generosity is relatively limited. I suppose it could be argued that becoming POTUS is an act of service. Except you seem bent on serving a select group of people, not humanity in general. Or even Americans in general.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental. It’s your money and time and life, after all. I’m just learning how free it feels to give myself away. When I don’t, I get sad. And I wonder if that’s happened to you, too.

It’s possible this isn’t entirely your fault, anyway—all this acquiring and holding and chest-beating and such. If you’re actually “the very definition of an American success story,” we have a bigger problem to tackle, don’t we? It’s possible you’ve just bought into the lie that we should love things and use people, instead of the other way around.

I don’t want you to win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency; your ideology is wonky bordering on dangerous (and you’d say the same about mine). Still, I’m done poking fun at you, and I’m going to stop telling my husband that a vote for Trump is a vote for divorce. I’m going to skip over 45-second video clips gleaned from 30-minute speeches, because it’s not fair to form an opinion based on 3% of what you said.

And maybe I’ve misunderstood you, Mr. Trump. Maybe you’re the happy-go-luckiest guy around. But I don’t think so. I can’t help but wonder if, deep down, you’re asking the same question we’re all asking ourselves: “Am I okay?”

Well, you are. And you can stop trying to prove it now.

Kindest regards,

KH

UPDATE
I used the phrase “tragically culturally insensitive (at best)” in an attempt to avoid name-calling. And then I came across this Washington Post opinion piece, and my stomach tied itself in knots. It’s incredibly difficult to be reminded of all the nasty things Mr. Trump has said and not edit the hell out of this letter. So let me say this, because I don’t want any misunderstandings: Mr. Trump, by virtue of his humanity, is okay; many of his words and much of his behavior are not. I’d like to believe his heart is good—there’s evidence of that, actually—but there seems to be a disconnect between his heart, brain, and mouth.

And I’m not talking about “political correctness.” It’s not “politically correct” to choose not to mock someone with a disability. It’s not “politically correct” to avoid sharing completely fabricated statistics that denigrate African Americans. It’s not “politically correct” to treat women with respect.

But here’s a bit of irony for you: “tragically culturally insensitive (at best)” was, embarrassingly enough, my attempt at being politically correct. So, I’m going to use a bit stronger language: Trump offers hateful, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic commentary, and if he’s elected POTUS, he will lead our country through those filters. That is 100% not okay with me.

AND YET. He has a spark of the divine; so how can I not extend love to him? It’s so freaking complicated. I blame Jesus.

On the Occasion of My Forty-Fifth Birthday

As luck would have it, I found myself sitting next to the ocean on my 45th birthday.

Typically, the sound and smell of the ocean unravels the knots in my belly and brain; it does a better job of easing my anxiety than any pill or beverage I’ve tried. Not on my birthday, though. Nope. Not even the ocean could push through my pondering of this question:

How do I want to spend my 46th trip around the sun?

Possible answers to that question turned into a sort of resolution-ish thing, which I did not enjoy one bit. Let me be perfectly frank: I don’t have a terrific track record when it comes to resolutions. Or even a halfway decent record.

Eat better. Fail. Exercise. Fail. Write something every day. Fail. Lose 15 pounds. Succeed for a little while; then fail. Get published. Fail. Make progress toward minimalism. Fail. Keep current on my YouVersion Bible reading plan. Fail. Help develop a tiny home community for people without homes. Fail. Save more; spend less. Fail. Train for a 5K. Fail. Read at least 12 books this year. Fail.

You get the idea.

As I sat on the beach, wrapped in my favorite, falling-apart quilt, I endured several torturous minutes of “I suck,” which, to be clear, is not a nice way to spend a birthday. But then, as the sun crested the horizon, an entirely new resolution came to mind. It’s a good one, too:

I’m going to cut myself some slack.

There’s a fair chance I’m going to fail at this one, too, but it’s by far the most liberating idea I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe ever.

I haven’t worked out all the details just yet, but I know one piece for sure: No more scale. I have a bad habit of weighing myself every morning. If I’m a pound or more up, I get super-sad and eat like hell. If I’m a pound or more down, I celebrate. By eating like hell. This is clearly not doing me any good at all, so I’m done with the scale and its stupid, judgmental numbers. When my clothing choices become limited to either the black elastic-waist pants or the gray ones, it’s obviously time to take better care of myself. I don’t need a scale to tell me that.

This is not, by the way, mutiny against the American culture’s absurd standards of beauty (although they are absurd). I just want to feel comfortable in my favorite jeans again. Plus, having a stroke isn’t one of my life goals.

(I don’t really have life goals. But if I did, that wouldn’t be among them.)

(Ugh. I’m 45. Shouldn’t I have life goals developed by now? What the hell is wrong with me?)

(I’m not great at cutting myself some slack.)

A Complaint

Dear Washington, DC:

I’m blaming you for my current dissatisfaction with my living conditions.

I have two too many toilets, a giant tub that’s used maybe three times a year, and two unoccupied bedrooms. My family’s cars are too numerous to easily fit in our garage and driveway. We own three pianos and an embarrassing number of books. Last week, one of our dogs was nearly buried alive by the mountain of towels, blankets, and unused pillowcases that erupted from our hall linen closet. We don’t have a surplus of televisions, but our computer to human ratio is approaching 2:1. There’s a space heater next to our fireplace and a neglected shuffleboard table in the basement. We have a garage and kitchen full of just-in-case items, and while only three people currently live here, we have 32 places to sit—not including the floor.

What’s my complaint, you ask? It sounds like I’m living the American dream, you say? You’re surprised I haven’t mentioned a white, picket fence and a pony in the backyard?

Yeah, I thought I was living the American dream. I thought I was supposed to purchase and consume and hoard and build our little empire right here in the suburbs. But then YOU, Washington, YOU didn’t post a warning sign on that horrifying exhibit at the National Building Museum in which you featured some lunatic woman living in a 200-square-foot “home” in someone’s backyard. And suddenly, I found myself malcontent with the size of my house (too big) and the amount of stuff I own (too much) and it’s all your fault because until I visited your stupid museum, it didn’t occur to me that this consumed-by-consumption lifestyle isn’t actually necessary.

In very few places in the world would this be someone’s complaint: “I have too many things.”

Since I visited your museum, I’ve been intermittently obsessed with the concept of minimalism, and yet I’ve been unable to make much headway toward getting rid of things because there are so many of them. I began cleaning out our storage closet (which is not much smaller than that woman’s whole house), got quickly overwhelmed, and our basement is now a rising surge of memorabilia, wall hangings, books, photographs, and toys I’ve saved for my someday grandchildren.

I’d love to sell this house and build a little one, but I definitely can’t have potential buyers tripping over the Little Tikes grocery cart and piles of board games we’ve played twice. Which means I have to shove all that stuff back in the damn closet. I asked Jack if we could put a dumpster in the driveway and use a backhoe to clear the place out; that’d be much faster and easier than a thoughtful distribution to places or people who could put it all to good use. But then I started worrying about the landfill and greenhouse gases.

Which is also your fault.

Sincerely,

Consumed

List Three

Beaver

Beaver” by Lois Elling is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

My brain and I would be excellent contestants on Let’s Make a Deal. Remember that show? At the end of each episode, the polyester-suited host challenged crazily costumed women to produce random objects from their purses. Really random objects, like yo-yos wrapped in aluminum foil, a miniature rubber elephant wearing a top hat, one of those green, nose suction thingies hospitals send home with infants… that sort of thing. If the contestant could come up the object, she’d win a prize.

If Monty Hall were to walk into Starbucks this morning (my office du jour), and invite me to play a slightly modified version of his gameshow—one in which prizes were awarded for the most cluttered, random thoughts—I’d be sitting in a Brand! New! Caaaaar! in a hot minute.

Following are eight things that’ve crossed my mind in the past hour or so:

  1. I’m drinking a skinny vanilla latte, so I’m reminded to offer you my semi-annual PSA: Some vanilla flavoring is partially derived from beaver anal gland secretions. Yep. It’s true. It goes by another name, castoreum, because “Now with juice of anal glands!” isn’t the sort of thing you want to see on a package of “all natural” cookies at Whole Foods. Admittedly, each of us consumes less than a millionth of a pound per year, but is there such a thing as an acceptable amount when it comes to this sort of thing? And even if you’re not eating the stuff, you may be dabbing it behind your ears, because castoreum is used in perfumes. Have you any idea how many beavers were chased down and stripped of their dignity so we can smell like the contents of their anal glands? I may need to start a GoFundMe campaign: Justice for Beaver Butts. Or something.
  2. Have volleyball players always worn spanx as shorts? Or were spanx modeled after volleyball shorts?
  3. Speaking of sports, I don’t understand the appeal of watching two people beat the stuffing out of one another—let alone paying to watch it happen. How do we explain that to kids? “Never use violence to solve problems. At least not for free. Make sure you get paid to beat someone into a bloody pulp.” It’s a miracle we haven’t created an entire generation of professional hitmen.
  4. If your church does a “meet and greet” or “pass the peace” or “hold hands across the pews and sing kumbaya,” guests who are introverts hate you.
  5. I once stole a handful of candy from a Brach’s Pix-a-Mix display and stuffed it in my purse. We were at a Woolworth’s or something at the mall, and I tripped as we were walking out of the store. Every single piece of Neapolitan coconut and assorted flavors of Milkmaid caramels went skidding across the floor, landing at my mother’s feet. I don’t recall what happened next, but that was the last time I shoplifted.
  6. I cheated my way through my high school Government class. Our teacher used the same 10-question, multiple-choice tests every year, and that was back when I could actually memorize a list of ten things. This may or may not explain why I can’t recall who succeeds the Speaker of the House as POTUS and why I had to rely on School House Rock to explain how a bill becomes a law. (This is a world-premiere level confession; I’ve never said it out loud. I’m still afraid Mr. Barelman’s going to show up at my front door and strip me of my high school diploma, which would subsequently void both my BA and MA. I guess that doesn’t really matter, since I’m using neither of those degrees.) That was my one and only episode of cheating. My guilt is my consequence. Please don’t tell my dad.
  7. I should drink more water, but bathroom breaks are terribly inconvenient.
  8. I’m worried about how many of you are questioning my character because of #5 and #6. And I just remembered my dad reads my blog.

All right, that’s enough of that. Thanks for indulging me some random and a bit of silly. Sometimes it’s nice to pretend like all is well with the world and write pure drivel.

Peace.

Refugees

Three summers ago, my family took an epic road trip to Washington, D.C. In the planning of the trip, each of us chose one, non-negotiable stop on the tour. Mine was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I’m sure Jack was expecting me to drag him around some “art” museum (those are his air quotes, not mine); you see, I’m not exactly a history buff. (My dad just laughed out loud. I heard him from 58 miles away.) I actually loathe history museums. Typically, while Jack takes his time at each and every exhibit reading every.single.placard., I flit around the displays, thoughtfully nodding my head on occasion so I look more interested than I actually am. Which is not at all. So, my DC non-negotiable came as a bit of a surprise. Honestly, I chose the Holocaust Museum because I’d been told it would wreck me, and I appreciate an occasional wrecking.

I knew, of course, the basics of the Holocaust—concentration camps and gas chambers, Anne Frank: The Diary of  a Young Girl and Elie Wiesel’s Night. What I didn’t remember—or, more likely, what was conveniently left out of my junior high school curriculum—was the United States’ response to the Jewish refugees.

My memory’s a little sketchy, but it seems like the museum was bathed in a sort of dim, grayish-blue light. It was packed with tourists, most of them silently sliding their eyes across the displays or whispering to one another, holding their children close. After spending several minutes in the audio theater listening to Auschwitz survivors tell their stories, I got myself together (wrecked, indeed) and worked my way through the crowd to a corner of the room I’d not yet explored.

I began reading… and stopped. I shook my head, as if to clear away the confusion, and began again. As I read through the end of the placard, a hot flush of shame made its way from my chest to my neck. I turned to Jack.

“We didn’t let them in?”

He nodded.

“Seriously? We didn’t let them in? But what about that poem? The ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free’ poem! The one at the base of the Statue of Liberty! We didn’t let them in?”

We’re not going to do this again, are we?

Yes, I’m nervous about terrorists posing as Syrian refugees. Yes, I’m nervous about the extreme differences of opinion regarding our ability to adequately vet them. But I’m also nervous in movie theaters and about the reality that our kids have “intruder drills.” (And a whole bunch of other things, too.) I’m not convinced that one fear or another is more reasonable. For those of us who are Christ-followers, fear shouldn’t get a vote, anyway. Jesus said a lot of confusing things, but His words in Matthew 25:35-40 aren’t among them.

I’m a pretty simple girl, and I know this situation is profoundly complicated and messy and polarizing. But I also know these Syrian refugees are human beings. They’re people of worth and value—no less worth than you and I. They’re not the enemy. If we could look them in the eye, we would see ourselves.

Please. Let’s not do this again.

Namaste

A few minutes ago, I drafted a ridiculous piece called, “What the hell, social media?” Fortunately, I decided that is the exact wrong way to begin a week, so I’m going to take a different approach.

I don’t remember when I first learned the word namaste, but I remember feeling instantly transfixed by it. Namaste is a Hindi word derived from Sanskrit, and it translates literally to, “I bow to you.” In Hinduism it means “I bow to the divine in you,” and it’s most often expressed with a slight bow and with palms pressed together near the chest, fingers pointing up. I’ve also heard it explained as “the God in me sees the God in you.”

Now, before I go on, I need to address cultural appropriation. If I understand the phrase correctly, it describes situations in which one culture adopts and uses certain aspects of another culture. More specifically, it involves people from a dominant culture swiping bits of culture from the people they’ve oppressed; think white folks wearing dreadlocks or cornrows. (This is a really simple explanation; I encourage you to read “What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation” by Maisha Johnson. It’ll answer the question that I’m guessing just popped into your head.)

By bringing up namaste I’m not suggesting we run to the mall after work and pick up a sari or kurta from Earthbound Trading Company. I’m not even recommending we add the word to our vocabulary or walk around bowing to everyone.

However, I am proposing that we adopt the namaste posture—the interpersonal one, not physical one. What would our families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, communities, and countries look like if we were able to recognize the divine nature of the people with whom we share space?

Namaste isn’t bound by a particular faith system or culture; we can see the “divine” in multiple ways. When I say I see the divine in you, I’m saying that I see you as a person of inherent worth, one who carries around a tiny piece of God. But your divine might look totally different from that; yours might have something to do with nature or metaphysics.

The point is that by adopting the namaste posture, we’re committing to look past the junk we display out in the open, and we’ll keep looking until we see the healthy, vibrant core of every human being whom we encounter. Of course, this is more or less difficult depending on who’s standing before us. Close friends? Easy. Family members? Depends on which one. Neighbors? The one who keeps parking his truck directly across from my driveway? He’s pushing it. Same with the guy who turned on his Christmas lights yesterday.

What about people with radically different political views? How about those who are unkind to the people who are dearest to us? People who’ve wronged us in the past—over and over again? Refugees? Someone who’s taken something—or someone—from us? Muslims? Christians? Atheists? People who say terrible, awful, hateful things on social media? Someone who flies a Confederate flag? Someone who supports gay marriage—and is extremely vocal about it?

What about a terrorist?

Can we find the divine in a terrorist? 

I don’t know about other faith systems, but Jesus was clear about loving our enemies, and I can’t think of a stronger enemy than those who’ve brought such horror and grief to people in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and countless other human hearts. I don’t want to bow my head to someone who has slaughtered even one person. I don’t want to see the divine in him.

And yet, Jesus says to love him. The only way I can possibly do that is by searching deep for the spark of the divine. The one that looks just like mine.

Namaste.

Don’t Make Me Make This Face

So, I’ve discovered another reason for my wrinkles. It’s this facial expression right here:

Wince

This, my friends, is the face I make—a whole, whole lot—when I’m dumb enough to peruse the comments sections of politically charged Facebook posts. 

It comes with a sound effect, too. It’s a short, gaspy, between-the-teeth intake of air… sort of like the one you make when you get up at 3 am because your stupid dogs have to pee and you run your big toe into the corner post of your bed and you can’t yell any obscenities because you don’t want to wake your partner. (And maybe also because you’d rather your kid not yell DAAAAAMMMMMMIIIIIIITTTT when he runs into a slide pole during recess the next day. And maybe also because Jesus probably doesn’t approve of out-loud obscenities.)

So, yeah. This scrunched-up, I’m-about-to-get-a-flu-shot-and-I-know-it’s-going-to-burn face happens (in no particular order):

  • when privileged people question the existence of privilege.
  • when white people tell People of Color how they should feel about, or respond to, their experiences with racism.
  • when people suggest rape culture isn’t a thing.
  • when middle- or upper-class people offer simple solutions to poverty (which often begin with, “Well, if they would just [insert idea that makes perfect sense to people of privilege but is largely unavailable to under-resourced or marginalized people]…”)
  • when people assume someone’s differences are wrong or when people make fun of that which they don’t understand, such as the LGBTQIA community.
  • when conservative evangelicals declare that one can either be a democrat or a Christian, but not both.
  • when any of the following words are applied toward any human being on any “side” of any argument: ridiculous, idiotic, stupid, retarded (don’t even get me started), worthless, or gay (unless the person to whom they’re referring is actually gay and it’s not being used as an insult). Incidentally, I also struggle with labeling people as racist, sexist, and homophobic—but only because I think those are learned attitudes and behaviors, not core character traits. Plenty of people will disagree with me, and that’s all right. Having this perspective is a sort of coping strategy for me; it allows me to deal with people’s ugliness while also remembering they are people of inherent, sacred worth. It’s not easy with some personalities (I’m looking at you, Trump), but it helps me keep judgment at bay. Usually. I’m still working on it.
  • when people write things that are simply naive, and I’m certain what they meant to say is different from what they actually said, and I wish I could jump in and rescue them before any of of the above labels are applied to them.

So, I—and my poor, wrinkled face—have an idea. How about if we impose a two-minute waiting period for social media posts/responses? Like, take 120 seconds to ask ourselves some questions:

  1. Am I being overly harsh or judgmental?
  2. Will my words hurt or further marginalize a particular group of people?
  3. Am I putting people in a box, working from a stereotype, or too broadly applying an observation?
  4. What’s the purpose behind my post? Is it to offer an alternative perspective? Or is to get a, “Damn straight!” from people who already agree with me?
  5. Have I tried to see this from another point of view? Have I had a face-to-face conversation with someone who thinks differently than I do about this? If so, did I try to find points of connection, or was I just building my case?
  6. Have I reminded myself that just because it’s not my experience doesn’t mean it’s not a real experience?
  7. (Here’s a good one…) Have I confirmed that what I’m sharing or commenting on is actually, ya know, true?
  8. Would I be okay saying this to or in front of Jesus (or your moral compass of choice)?
  9. Better yet, would I be okay saying this to or in front of my grandmother (or your favorite, cookie-baking, elderly person of choice)?
  10. Is this worth a response? Or should I be like Bill?

Seriously, y’all. Social media is becoming a wasteland of hostility. Let’s be different, okay? My face thanks you.

Recombobulation

It was early 2011, and I’d accidentally become a consultant. I’d just come through security at the Milwaukee airport, and I was attempting to shove my computer back in my bag while simultaneously juggling sundry pieces of attire (shoes, belt, jacket). Cursing under my breath, I dumped everything onto a metal bench so I could get myself back together. As I laced up my shoes, I looked up to see which hallway would take me to my gate, and my eyes rested on a sign that read, gloriously, Recombobulation Area. I barked out a flustered, exhausted laugh, snapped a quick (and therefore blurry) photo, and went on my way.

I’m thinking about driving up to Milwaukee to sit under that sign for a couple of days.

You see, every once in awhile, I feel a Big Sad sneaking up behind me. I try to trick it into leaving; I dazzle it with my everything’s-okay smile, I laugh in its face, I burrow under three or four blankets on the couch, hoping it’ll think I’ve left the room. But eventually, it catches up with me. And then it says mean things:

  • You’re too old to do what you want.
  • You’re incredibly annoying and no one really likes you.
  • You’ll never find your people.
  • You’ve been eating cookies again, haven’t you? It shows.
  • Your kids are successful in spite of you, not because of you.
  • Your husband is secretly disappointed in you and bitter about your inability to pick a career and, you know, do that career for more than three or four years at a time.
  • Your friends are all together today–without you.
  • You say you’re an advocate for marginalized populations, but when was the last time you actually did something?
  • You have nothing useful, insightful, or important to say.
  • You’re a fake.

These mean things, which on a good day I recognize as lies (or at least exaggerations), do a great job of completely discombobulating me. I drop all the balls I’ve been trying to juggle, and, instead of spending time in fruitful activities like exercising or writing or cleaning the house, I get caught up in largely pointless activities–like reading through page after page of Facebook posts that only serve to discombobulate me further. Which is why, on Tuesday night, I decided to break up with Facebook for “a while.”

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to do that? 

In the last 36 hours, I’ve snuck back on Facebook a couple of a handful of several times (I’m such a disappointment)—but only to make sure no one’s posted something on my wall that requires an immediate response. Which hasn’t actually been helpful, because some people have posted things, and I can’t respond because I was dumb enough to put up a gone-fishing type update, so I can’t be caught online, so I’m feeling doubly bad because now I know people posted things and I’m ignoring them. (Wouldn’t you like to live in my head for a little while?)

ANYWAY. Here’s what I’ve learned in my brief time of (mostly) not being on Facebook: Much like the old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are” (attributed to either Confucius or Buckaroo Bonzai) I will not get recombobulated by putting my fingers in my ears, closing my eyes, and singing, “La la la la laaaa la. I can’t hear you.” The world is what it is, and people are who we are. All I can do is keep my head above water, put a muzzle and a leash on the Big Sad, and try to love people well enough that the world begins to change.

And instead of driving to Milwaukee, I think I’ll designate a small space right in my home office as my very own Recombobulation Area. It’ll be sort of like a time-out corner.

My family’s going to love it.