I was excited to start this blog as an outlet and a place where I could keep my former life as a writer slightly alive, but I’m met with endless frustration over the one million posts I’ve written in my head but never seem to find the time to spit out on the computer. Between my online store and the blogosphere, I feel like I’m slowly cultivating a life that is entirely separate from the one where the laundry needs to get done and the dishes need to be put away, and while I want so desperately to hang out in the cyber world, the real world is just too important to ignore. In the meantime, I’ve had the sentence “My sister came home with a new face today,” running though my head for the last two months in which I’ve been trying to find a second to write that story.
I opened an online store because I don’t have the startup capital to open a brick and mortar one. On top of finding the time to make the products I sell in the store, I wish desperately I had the real money to hire a cyber employee to push my virtual shopping cart. But what I wish more than anything lately is that I had the discipline to carve out some time to write. In addition to the story about my brother-turned-sister and her new face, there is an entire newsreel of reflections and life moments passing me by at lightening speed and all I want to do is record them. This year was the first Christmas that my son actually had a clue what was going on, and as a consequence, all sorts of unexpected confusion arose for me surrounding the entire concept of Santa Claus. I would love to share the details of all our holiday family drama, or the adventure I had watching a football game in Yankee Stadium prior to leading a pack of seven Iowans through all the touristy landmarks in NYC to kick off my New Year, but so many blog entries have piled up in my head, I’m not sure if I should start with the most recent or the furthest back. I was going to attempt putting my creative writing portfolio on the blog, but I still haven’t decided if I want to include all that on a page here or start an entirely new blog for that endeavor.
It doesn’t help that I broke my own rule about not getting political and allowed myself to get sucked into the black hole of the blog political sphere the week before Christmas of all times. Like most people, I have political opinions, but I decided when I created this blog, I would try to keep them separate from this space. I don’t actually think that my politics these days are terribly interesting or should be in any dramatic way provocative. I tend to be fairly close to the middle of the road on most major issues. Ironically, my political opinions were far more radical when I was a young idealistic lefty, and yet, my rather boring and relatively more traditional outlook on the world has drawn more contempt and derision in the last week than all my years as a far left winger ever had. I happen to have this crazy idea that people should be able to disagree on political issues and still be civil, even be friends, and I generally surround myself with friends who can tolerate such differences of opinion. Still, people are funny when it comes to politics, and political opinions can be incredibly divisive, so I decided if I wanted to go political, I would have to find another outlet for that because I didn’t want to bring that kind of energy here into this space. (I even abandoned my scathing review of Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, although now that it seems I’ve opened Pandora’s box, I may go ahead and publish it anyway).
So how, one might wonder, did I get drawn into the muckity-muck I tried so desperately to avoid? Well, a Facebook friend whose politics are pretty much a 180 from mine posted a link to a blogger who went on a tirade about something a prominent political figure said. I don’t even want to go into the details because I don’t want to recreate the whole scene here. It’s enough to say that I don’t even have a strong opinion one way or another about what the political figure said, but the reaction to his statement was so overflowing with animosity and so oozing with the same overtones of divisive politics I mention earlier, it moved me comment. My God I didn’t realize what I was stepping into when I did!
While my comment may have contained some good-natured sarcasm here and there, it wasn’t by any means malicious, and it so paled in comparison to the tone of the original speaker, I was surprised it drew any attention at all. I felt my statement was generally benign, open, and honest, and completely void of the extreme animosity and downright hatred expressed by hundreds of others who commented on the post, both supporters and critics alike. The next thing I knew, I was drawn into a full on back and forth with people I had no desire to be communicating with at all. I found myself repeatedly pleading with people to set aside their anger, to re-evaluate their own assumptions based on shallow stereotypes, and to engage in a conversation rather than just hurling personal insults.
The few people I did encounter who actually seemed interested in sharing different points of view, I haven’t actually had the time to respond to. I realized that I could never comment on another blog ever again, and I could still easily spend all year trying to express my point of view just commenting back and forth on this one blog entry. Unfortunately, a good chunk of that time would be spent trying to bat away the hateful hecklers who aren’t interested in sharing points of view and are really just there to spew nasty comments towards people who don’t fit into their world view. While I was trying to ignore the long stream of emails coming off this one blog entry over the holidays, I couldn’t help but contemplate how I wanted to respond to the people who were addressing me personally. After a couple days of back and forth with a nasty woman who called me “spiritually ugly,” I was relieved to have received comments from people who didn’t necessarily agree with my point of view, but who seemed at least reasonably interested in having an actual dialogue.
I was absolutely astounded by how much mental energy this virtual conversation was sapping out of me and how much of my focus was being directed toward it during the holidays of all times. I successfully began to ignore the urge to engage in what was beginning to feel like a useless battle when the nasty emails began coming through again. One individual in particular made three separate comments, each one more antagonistic than the last, in an obvious attempt to bait me into another time-consuming back and forth. Not only did I have no desire to engage, but it was Christmas for Christ’s sake (no offense intended). I was trying to have positive compassionate thoughts, not angry malicious ones. There were people I still hadn’t found the time to respond to, who I actually looked forward to responding to, and this heckler was last on my list. On top of all that, we had out of town friends and family (not to mention Santa Claus) coming out our ears, and I didn’t have time to sit down at the computer even if I wanted to. Apparently the heckler either didn’t celebrate Christmas, or wasn’t old enough to realize that for some people, Christmas obligations last well past Christmas and into the New Year.
It was fairly easy to dismiss the heckler because his (or her?) comments made it obvious he (or she) didn’t even read most of what I had written. I figured I’d get around to commenting back after I found a minute to respond to the other individuals I actually hoped to have a real conversation with. Apparently, however, the heckler was waiting by the proverbial phone like a teenager who slipped a boy in class her number and decided to let me know a few days later that she did not at all appreciate being ignored. At that point, of course, I fashioned a response that took all of my will not to include the phrase “you fucking idiot” in it because I was really trying to avoid personally insulting people. But this is where the story gets kind of interesting …
This whole time I’ve spent in dialogue with people on this other person’s website, I’ve been aggravated because my time is so very precious. I have an incredibly tiny fragment of it that I can use to write, and as I’ve mentioned, I’m at no loss for subjects to write about, only the time to write them. Every moment I spend in a petty argument with someone who isn’t even interested in hearing a point of view that doesn’t gel completely with their own is time I could be spending writing about other things, and that is why I stay away from the political blogosphere in the first place. But as a former journalist, there’s that small part of me that hopes if I am brave enough to walk into Yankee Stadium wearing a Mets hat in the middle of a Subway Series, maybe, just maybe, someone who spots me will be inspired to open themselves up to a different point of view. So I put myself out there hoping some open minded person just might re-examine their own point of view as a result.
As a veteran, putting yourself out there in a personal way instinctively feels incredibly dangerous. The Army does a pretty good job of instilling in soldiers the dangers of putting personal information of any kind out on the internet for the world to see. We are not oblivious to the fact that in spite of the much appreciated support we often receive, there exist just as many people who hate soldiers and wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to harm one. So starting any kind of public blog at all has been something I’ve tip-toed into, and joining a controversial conversation is not something I enter into lightly.
The heckler never responded when I finally commented back (not yet anyway. There’s no telling of the future of course). But I did pick up a new email follower on my blog who appeared from my stats page to have found me from the comments I left on this other blog. At first I thought maybe I succeeded. Even though it seemed the people commenting on that blog for the most part basically hated me, maybe, just maybe, someone following the conversation actually took in what I had to say. The email address of my new follower didn’t link to a profile or a blog or appear at first to belong to anyone who had commented on any of my strings, so me being me, I thought I’d Google it (only because of the recent attention I attracted in the forum. I don’t typically Google new followers). Not much came up for the email address, but I did find my new follower’s blog and a couple comments he had left on other people’s blogs. This was one of them:
“Anybody dumb or indoctrinated enough to sign up for soldering gets what they deserve. Why do people worship solders? They are murderous thugs teamed up to destroy, kill and polute. America does not need any solders overseas. America needs to pull back to its own borders. Average people around the world don’t need or want your police state.”
To say that it was a little disconcerting to discover that someone following my blog expressed this point of view would be an understatement. This is the reason why I use a pseudonym. It’s not that I encountered someone who holds this point of view that troubles me; it’s that they actively decided to follow my blog. I can’t imagine it being for any good reason. So I have to say, it begs the question, is putting myself out there worth it?
I have had the experience of finding out, sometimes years later, that someone found something I wrote inspiring or insightful or sometimes just plain old entertaining, and that, I have to say, is always rewarding. But unfortunately, the critics are always profoundly louder than the supporters. I have less than a dozen followers reading this blog. I know I don’t update it frequently, and that doesn’t help, and lately my entries have been incredibly long winded. I’ve never been very good at ringing my own bell, and I don’t go fishing for followers, so I know I can’t expect too much. So far I’ve just been happy to have a space where I can write again. But when I’m reaching so few people, and now it seems attracting all the wrong kinds of people and energy, I have to ask myself if it’s worth it.
I want so badly to write about what I witnessed on 9-11 and what I experienced in Iraq, but there’s so much holding me back. I still can’t visit Ground Zero or even watch something about 9-11 on T.V. without reliving it all over again. Every time I attempt to write about Iraq, I worry that it will sound like I’m glorifying the war or overstating my experience when so many other soldiers endured so much more. So I tip-toe back into writing, sharing trivial bits and pieces about the present, and try not to worry too much about if I’m revealing too much personal information or if I’m opening myself up too much. These last few weeks make me wonder if it is too much though, and the thought of chronicling these other experiences seems almost impossible right now.
I feel like I should wrap this entry up with some random New Year’s resolution about finding time or forging a writing focus or running virtually naked through cyberspace, but really I just feel kind of at a loss right now. Historically throughout my life, when I found it wasn’t working, I’d just walk away from it. I was the queen of starting over. When I was 18, I got on a plane and flew out to live in a desert I’d never even seen before. I never even visited the one and only college I applied to. When journalism was wearing me down, I quit my job and went into physics. When I missed feeling like I was making a difference, I walked away from the entire life I worked so hard to build for myself in one of the hardest cities in the nation to survive in, and I went to go fight a war no one I knew supported. But being a mother changes everything, and it takes the option of just walking away right off the table. So I reach for the only other thing that has always been my salvation: I write. But lately my writing just feels like rambling, and I’m not sure how well it’s serving me these days. Maybe my New Year’s resolution will be to try and figure that one out.