Unfriended

IMG_7543 (1)My Internet was glitchy so I thought why not snatch the wifi from Starbucks and indulge in a four-dollar coffee? I like the idea of writing here. Something about expensive lattes, comfortable chairs, Beth Orton music playing – although I almost never do it. Usually I write in my spare bedroom – incense burning, no cats bothering me.

Ever watch people at a coffee shop? You can usually tell what their stories are. Look at those two over there. Clearly not married – constant eye contact, conversation. Maybe I should pay attention people who are friends. It goes more with my story.

The other thing about Starbucks is when you hit a wall with your writing, you can get an extra espresso shot in your coffee, which really helps the creative process. A million thoughts flood your mind at once, you know? That and the pastries – a little sugar bump. You should really grab something from the pastry case. In any case, I should be working on the piece for my writing class – the one about living in a townhome community in a resort town? Except I’ve been twisted about something for days, so I’m cheating. I’ve got this sidepiece, you know like a side chick? It’s not the writing I’ve committed to, but I’m way more into it. It’s a writing affair.

Last summer my mom and I took a trip to Gettysburg and took pottery lessons. The pottery studio was advertised as “Christian oriented” which made me nervous. Technically I’m a Christian but when I hear that term it makes me think of Westboro Baptist Church. In any case, the studio was set up in an old warehouse. Inspirational quotes were painted on the walls along with little kids handprints and contemporary Christian music playing. The potter, I’ll call her Christy, didn’t try to save us or anything like that. I mentioned Cathy, my partner, in the first few minutes so if she were a homophobe, we’d be out of there. She didn’t blink an eye. As she taught us how to roll, coil, and score the clay, she was very patient. Mom was frustrated with how her “conversation piece” was turning out and Christy said that sometimes the mistakes make the piece better. Unlike writing, I thought to myself. Mistakes in pottery might make a piece more interesting, draw someone to the piece whereas in writing, mistakes distract the reader and push the reader away. Tangents may be a perfect example for this, but I digress.

On the way home, mom and I agreed we felt a connection with Christy. I want to say it was a spiritual connection – she did a lot of work with grieving kids and other community service. When I got home that evening, she had sent me a friend request on facebook, which I accepted. Since meeting Christy, I’ve bought ornaments from her, sent her a book, Jesus is Calling, at Christmas, sent a card when her father died, and messaged her a few times. Here’s the kicker – she UNFRIENDED me on facebook. It’s been eating at me for days. What does the word “unfriend” really mean? Either you’re friends with someone or you’re not. Isn’t “unfriending” someone like “unringing” a bell?

Once I realized she’d unfriended me, I nailed down the time period when she unfriended me. Then I checked my activity log to see what I had liked, or posted, or reposted that may have offended her. I liked something about being against AR 15s or any other weapon that can kill a lot of people quickly. Christy’s a gun person, her husband gave her a handgun for Christmas, and I saw the pictures of her and her daughter at target practice. Maybe she took my being against civilians owning assault weapons as an affront to her second amendment rights. Then I thought about what I’ve supported – like the Black Lives Matter movement. Did I show too much support for that or not enough? Is she a racist? What kind of a Christian is a racist? I should send her another book, Jesus is Calling You a Dick. I was so relieved when she wasn’t a homophobe it never occurred to me she could be a racist. I also liked the Blue Lives Matter pages – again too much or not enough? Then I’m thinking I have no apology for what I believe, why do I care what this woman, who’s really a stranger to me, thinks? Right?

Here’s what I wanted to say to Christy: You know who you unfriended? You unfriended a woman who buys $100 of raffle tickets from a little person who is in hospice; you unfriended a woman who stops her car on the highway to move a snapping turtle into the marsh; who picks up worms from the sidewalk because they’ll never make it across the pavement (see my autobiography titled, I am the Girl who puts Worms in the Grass); who for her 50th birthday asked her friends to donate to a homeless shelter; who breaks up fights at school, who teaches kids that kindness is the most important thing and no, I am not crying right now, who doesn’t believe in hatred and is hurt that you unfriended her — and maybe that means she lacks confidence — and who is willing to drive nine hours in one day so she and her mother can get pottery lessons from you, you who may not even like her. And she’s doing that because her mother likes you, truth be told, she likes you. That’s who you unfriended.

You unfriended someone who reached out to you when she thought her mother had cancer because she wanted your prayers, a woman who keeps the little worry stone, the one with your thumbprint on it, in her bag to remind her to have faith (since all turned out well with her mother, miraculous was what the doctor called it. But that’s another story – should I sidetrack with these stories?)

You unfriended a woman who participates in a peace march each year walking from one poor, black neighborhood to another in memory of a man who died by gun violence and she does this without carrying a gun. That’s who you unfriended.

So if you unfriended me because of guns, then know that guns are your only friends. If you unfriended me because you are a racist, please don’t allow me to make you late for your Klan meeting.

I tell the kids in my class that they have to be okay with who they are and not worry if people like them or not. I understand, I tell them, that being accepted is most important during the teen years but they have to have a solid foundation, be grounded, have a strong sense of self. If someone doesn’t like their post on facebook or doesn’t follow them on Twitter or God forbid unfriends them, they have to still be okay. They can’t be jumping off the bridge over these things. That’s what these kids do. They fall apart. I look at myself and think Christy is a woman I met one time, and yes we’ve interacted since then but what am I worried about? Why do I need this validation? Am I really worried because she doesn’t like me? Or am I worried because I think I’m losing a decent human being in my life? It’s not like she was in my life … so why am I so wound up about this? Maybe I’m just insecure. How can I preach to kids about being okay if someone unfriends them when I am not okay when someone has unfriended me?

 

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How to be a Writer

If you ever wish to have peace in life, do not do this.  This experiment is for fools, it is a lark and best dismissed as a symptom or possibly the result of a midlife crisis.

Specifically, don’t follow your dream to be a writer.

First, be honest with yourself.  It isn’t really your dream.  Understand that, being childless, you are trying to leave something that lasts.  They say to do something of importance, in the magnitude of greatness, you have three choices:  have a child, write a book, plant a tree.  How hard could it be to write a book?  At least if you fail, nothing will die on you.

Write about what you know.  Cats, teaching, family, life philosophy.  Write every little detail.  The cats were a Bengal/Savannah mix and they were embraced in their adopted home on December 27th of a very mild and disappointing winter.

Consider doing a study of something, then bag it.  If you chose to work for a summer at the Hopkins’ Dairy Farm, that experience would make for great writing.  No, cross that off the list.  It would take your whole summer and would be too many hours and you would smell like manure all the time.  You wouldn’t be able to wash the stink out of your hair.  People would see you at parties and as you approached would get a whiff of you and give you that face of stone that shows they are trying not to react to your stench.  When they release themselves from the Bell’s palsy grip, they make inappropriate expressions just to exercise their facial muscles to prove they didn’t freeze them on purpose.  “Really?” They’ll say with far too much surprise in their voices.  “You began drum lessons on Tuesday, hmmmm….” They’ll ponder biting their lower lips wondering how you could manage such an undertaking on a Tuesday and even more, how they will get out of the conversation politely.

Consider writing about something you already do.  Choose something mundane.  Cleaning toilets.  You have plenty of amusing thoughts you could plop right in your writing.  I deal with more shit teaching than I do cleaning toilets, you tell your coworkers on returning to school in September.  That’s some clever stuff.

Turn every experience into symbolism.  View every experience as some kind of metaphor for something greater in life.  That bug you are debating mopping over or moving out of the way, it could be your dying father.  It can’t help itself, shouldn’t someone in a better position help it?  Make these events existential.  If you free a bug from a spider web, were you being a champion among humanitarians or messing up the cycle of life? You freed the bug but fucked with the spider.  What about the Protestant work ethic?  That spider worked for that bug.  That bug was stupid to wander into the web.  What if the bug still has remnants on its little feet and will live a life compromised of quality and will stick to everything and never find a mate and possibly die a worse death than had the vampire spider sucked it dead?  What would Jesus do?  What would Darwin say?

Make New Year’s Resolutions that will force you to develop your writing.  Promise yourself you will write each night for at least 30 minutes.  No matter what, make time for it.  Tell yourself you are worth this time for reflection, to develop a talent, to indulge your creative side.

Start a blog with Word Press.  This will keep you on track and committed.  Don’t tell many people you know about the blog, as that will cripple your writing.  How can you complain about these people when you are inviting them to read your writing?  Celebrate the beauty of anonymous blogging.  It’s like you are invisible in a room and can observe and make comments but no one knows who or where you are.  First double check to make sure you are, indeed, not linked in any way to the blog.

Do your research.  Read the hundreds of thousands of other writers’ blogs and try not to feel inadequate.  Discover how they have so many followers.  How does Kelly Parker have over 7,000 followers?  Why does she continue to “like” your posts but never signs up as a follower?  Ask yourself if it’s a trick to get you to follow her blog.  Wonder if she even reads your posts.  Write one daring her to follow you.  Mutter, “Touché,” when she “likes” this post and still refuses to follow.

Solicit at least one of your literate friends to follow your blog and comment.  Sign up to follow hers.  Write comments that you tell yourself are insightful.  Continue to jerk each other off daily with comments like, “Favorite part…blah, blah, blah.   I can so picture the…    Loved, loved, LOVED the description of the waxy, papery…blah, blah, fucking blah.”

Try to imitate writing you admire.  Try to be true to your own voice at the same time.  Employ an avalanche of figurative language.

Convince yourself you are not a failure.  Especially if after 3 months you only have two followers and one is your friend.  Convince yourself that people have just not seen your blog.  Congratulate yourself for not stooping to the parlor tricks of others and “liked” unread and/or random posts of others just to guilt them into following you.  Do not allow yourself to wonder if you have disappointed your other follower, Geoff, who hails from London.

Do not give up.

Take a creative writing class.  Do not be intimidated.  Do not show up drunk like you did for swim lessons at twenty-three.  Do not beat yourself up for missing the second class after vowing not to miss any.  Try not to feel like an opportunist when you find yourself jotting notes into your Iphone as you sit by a dying man’s bedside.

Tell yourself that this will pay off.  Patiently explain that this is allowing you to live every moment to the fullest.  To actually experience life instead of rushing through it preoccupied.  Understand you are now a conscientious observer.  You notice things.  You are aware of your surroundings.  Because you are searching for words to describe these moments you are alive.  Accept that the process is as important as the end result.  Maybe more so.  Appreciate this.

Wrestle with the idea that you may never be published.  Ask yourself why you write.  Is it to be published?  Rich?  Famous?  Do you seek the accolades from others?  Do want to be seen as talented and wise?  Funny?  Is it that you simply seek a connection?  You hope that you will have a reader(ship) that say to themselves, “I get that.  I have been there.”  In turn you will not feel so alone, so isolated.  You will have shared an experience, a moment.

Destroy the delusion that you are an island and no one is like you.  Everyone is like you on any given day.

Understand that when your loved ones comment with, “Great voice,” what they are really saying is that you lack substance and organization and purpose but your bitterness is still evident and that maybe you really should talk to someone.

Envision your success.  You will be accepted into that unique, eccentric community you call writers and will make enough money to sit in the park, or at North Shores Beach or at Starbucks, documenting your important thoughts for all posterity with a five dollar mocha chino in your hand as a symbol your success.

Prepare yourself to be recognized on the streets and at local events like the Rehoboth Beach Film Festival and Camp Rehoboth’s Women’s Weekend.  Be humble when they ask you to teach a class or be a keynote speaker or even do an evening of stand up.  When you accept, be gracious and flattered and insist on doing it pro bono as it is for a good cause and really, you’re not that good.  Allow yourself to silently acquiesce as you redden when they insist you are.

Remind yourself that you can always plant a tree.