I believe in the good things coming.

I believe in the good things comin’, comin’, comin’ comin’
I believe in the good things comin’, comin’, comin’ comin’
Out of darkness lion heart pumpin’, pumpin’, pumpin’
Into white light all things runnin’, runnin’, runnin’ runnin’
Who have I been, who am I becomin’?
Come in, come in, come in
Deep breaths for a young man learnin’, learnin’, learnin’
Take a walk with the cedars hummin’,
Cityscape, pink sunset stunnin’
Every empty space is fitting’, every fire kindle burnin’

The San Francisco morning today is glorious. Truly, the kind of morning that gives a person pause and makes you wonder how a sky can really be that blue. It is cold and quiet and still (not always the case in my neighborhood) and I am warm in my tiny apartment surrounded by cats, light, music, and the smell of strong coffee. I feel rested (pretty much), and healthy (mostly), and interested in what another new year might reveal.

The New Year always brings with it the collective desire to reflect, recall, project, plan… hope, I suppose. Or at least for me it does. I love the new year like I love the start of a new school year, (and the upcoming lunar new year as well, if I need a quick opportunity to have a 2015 mulligan… and if that fails, there is always Songkran) because there is this sense of a fresh start and yadda, yadda, yadda. The funny thing is – the reality (because reality IS funny) – is that this sense of a fresh start is available anytime, right? I mean, every spiritual teaching, 12-step program, life coach, preacher, teacher, whatever… has been saying this forever (maybe Buddha didn’t, but he probably knew it.)

Still, there is something culminating and bigger about the turning of the calendar year that I know I will always choose to embrace.

This year feels very different to me. I get it on some levels… Last year on New Year’s Eve I said a forceful goodbye to the Cowboy – now #6 – and had a lot of alone time in the transition from 2013 to 2014 to consider how it was again that I found myself in such an unpleasant predicament. (Yeah, yeah, yeah… lessons not learned… I know.) But I am unclear (in an optimistic way) about what it is about 2015 that feels so different. Maybe it is, as Jung said, that “life really does begin at 40, up until then you are just doing research” and as the traditionalist that I am, I had to complete a four year program of study to work shit out. Regardless, it feels different.

In some ways I played a lot of the same mental games this year that I have long been working to overcome – fretting over not being good enough at work, body issues, looking for love in all the wrong places – how fucking banal. But I do feel like these particulars have been less significant, or at least I have been able to look more objectively at the ridiculousness, and walk away.

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In other ways this year was devastatingly different than years past. Perhaps it is related to age, perhaps it is a consequence of the life I have lived and the experiences I’ve been offered, but this year was colored with loss in ways I was not prepared for – if you ever are.

In May Stuart died. This touched me in surprising and important ways. It was also a catalyst to halting another relationship I had come to depend on in (likely) unhealthy ways. It was a transformative experience to be judged for my honest and deep feelings around this loss, and it taught me that authenticity matters more than reception, and that was immeasurably cathartic. Nothing good gets away.

This November, while at our fall student retreat in the Marin Headlands, I was talking with my team and noted that my life since returning from Hong Kong had been so uniform in its distribution of loss: I had lost someone very significant in every school year since I had come home. My first year back I said good bye to my grandmother. My second year, a person who had been a sister to me in some ways because her brother – also no longer with us but will always remain the Hunter to my Thompson, was violently taken from us in a story that still rings incompatible with the ideas I hold about my life. In my third year back, I lost a cousin in literal ways, although he had left us metaphorically years before, but whose death in its mystery and isolation cut deep. Then there was Stuart. I said to my colleagues, not lightly, that it gave me pause to think about what this school year would hold.

Less than two weeks later, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I found out a college classmate and friend had died suddenly leaving a wife and three young children behind, a long time friend from Lamma had died – home and alone, and my friend Sue, someone I considered a kindred spirit in so many ways during my Hong Kong transformation, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was stunned as I sat with all the news in my parents’ kitchen in Petaluma.

So I suppose it is not without reason that I sit quietly at this new year and wonder what will come.

Suddenly, maintaining something – anything! – simply because it is how it’s always been done, or it is safe – or, god… the most horrible adjective I heard this year to describe a life: it is sustainable – seems not just uninspired, but… terminal.

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I am ready for big changes, while knowing nothing comes easy. I am ready to let go and really see what is on offer. Because, really what other choice is there?

So what of 2014? Well, according to Facebook it was something like this:

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I guess that captures a lot of it: LIFE. LOVE. FEAR. REMEMBER. ACCEPT. FEEL. AMAZING. BETTER. SOMETIMES. WORK. SAY. SOMETHING. CHOICE. PEOPLE. YOGA. FRIENDS. STUDENTS. TEACHER. GRATEFUL. CARE. TOMORROW. PERSPECTIVE. EXPERIENCE.

According to Instagram it was something like this:

And truly, I am – to a degree – a sum of these parts. But like everyone you meet… I also am more than that.

I am more than the solitary girl taken by surprise as I found myself again on my own on the eve of 2014, and although so relieved and happy for it, deeply sad. January got into dark corners as I emptied what I hope will be the last storage space I have to deal with for a very long time, took me back as I pawed through old photos and had two new years in one month as the lunar new year fell on the 31st. The symmetry was necessary.

I am more than the girl who went home to watch her coach in his regular season finale on the home court all these years later, with one of the best friends a person could ask for by her side, reminding her all the while that everything is only what it is. February was brief, dark, busy with field trips and shitty professional evaluations, papers to grade, cats to pet.

I am more than the girl who had to bust some of her favorite students for smoking weed at our overnight retreat and only wanted to retreat herself. March, as it does, brought with it the promise of spring break… if we could just get through. There were moments I was unsure of the outcome and in my struggle I recalled the words of some of my heroes… HST, Bukowski, OkGo… This too shall pass. And it did.

I am more than the girl who took an extra spring break – first going to the Pacific Northwest and catching up with a traveling companion from Europe ’93 while melting into my second family on Fox Island, and second, heading to Indio to return to Coachella. April seemed like a reward I was unsure I deserved for something I was unsure I had done. This precariousness would manifest with a vengeance in May.

I am more than the girl who sat with the news of the death of the man who had asked her if she would “stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back?” And warned her to stay clear of pirates though he was one… and shook with grief. May showed me that there are those who will always be there for you regardless of time or distance, in the best or worst times, and there are those who will not. And when things seem worse than you can imagine, there is always another music festival to go to in order to restore your spirits: De La Soul is not dead.

I am more than the girl who got out of another school year alive, and with some noteworthy successes along the way. With June came the euphoria of another summer break. Yoga, the Petaluma fair, Oakland A’s baseball, time with mom, and gorgeous weather all served to remind me that great rewards will only ever come from concentrated effort, and that is okay.

I am more than the girl who knew at the core of her being that it was time to return to Hong Kong, to Lamma, to the family who had taught her that she was a true citizen of the world and launched her into a previously unknown realm of possibility. July found me in other roles I was unaware I would take on but was glad to be available for friends and family in deep and important ways… and ever grateful that they were there for me too. I was definitely feeling Fancy from SF to Hong Kong-o.

I am more than the girl who made the most of her last weeks before returning to school at Outside Lands and in the wild outsides of North Idaho, places I had not visited since 2010. August was healing, and familial, and musical, and fun-sicle. Unless you were a young black man. There were bikers, unicorns, beers, sunsets, earthquakes… and police shootings. I went back to school with a great manicure, without a principal, and in the wake of another young black man dead at the hands of the state.

I am more than the girl who got to add one more year to her life repertoire as the fall equinox arrived. September is a month I always love – and not just for the birthday it brings with it – but I love the segue into fall weather, the ever-optimistic return to school. In some ways it has an appeal to me in the same way January does. This September I had the chance to have lovely dinner dates; to be reminded of the beauty of Tahoe – a place I called home for nearly a decade; to witness the unprecedented demise of my much loved baseball team; to garner my 15 minutes of fame as a featured educator on television for my work integrating technology into the classroom, to see more live music, and to watch the Umbrella Revolution unfold in Hong Kong. It was a full month.

I am more than the girl who remains optimistic about love in the face of ridiculous disappointments. October was incredibly full with festivals and field trips, fleet week and sailing on the Bay, and of course the total destruction of my lovely neighborhood (again) as a response to the SF Giants winning the World Series (again.) I took 20 students to see Anita Hill speak truth to power, I saw Lena Dunham speak, met up with friends and one of my bebe cousins at HSB in the park. The month was punctuated by meeting someone seemingly transformative at TIMF. I suppose he was transformative really, though hardly in the way advertised.

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I am more than the girl who was asked, “are you the one? are you the one? and will you wait for me… to see if my life is sustainable?” November brought the hope of the holidays along with this other strange element of hope. But as one of my yoga teachers, Samrat Gupta, warned long ago: beware the euphoric highs… they will be met with equal lows. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Elections (low), field trips and class speakers (high); connecting with someone in a truly unique way (high), being devastated by news of the loss and suffering of dear friends (low); being called to speak about the Ferguson decision on the radio (high), the Ferguson decision (low). November was the penultimate teacher I would face this year… and she was tough. But December would be even more challenging.

I am more than the girl who, in some kind of symmetry – found herself rocked by the male of the species again at the end of the year, but quickly saw the insignificance of that as cancer took one of my soul sisters on the Winter Solstice. December, always frantically busy, was next level for me this year, which is not necessarily a bad thing – but it certainly is a tiring thing. Getting out of school by the skin of my teeth, saying a long goodbye to dear friends who will set sail for places unknown in the very near future, art exhibitions, concerts, parties, Vegas, family, family, family, friends, my hometown. It was so full – and my responses to this fullness were not always right, or healthy, or wise… but I daresay they taught me a thing or two.

I am more than the sum of my parts.

I am all of this along with the gifts left by those gone too soon, the legacy (and lunacy) of my extended family, the strength of my body, the unknown trajectory of my professional direction. And I am more even than the clear intentions I am taking into this new year with me:

Some people say we should not look back, only forward. I am not sure. Maybe it is the historian in me, but I think acknowledging the past is crucial for our ability to make sense and purpose of our present and future. I go forward with hope and clarity that I’ve not felt in a long time, and for that I am grateful for the rather harsh lessons that 2014 brought down upon my head somewhat like a certain silver hammer.

I am ready for you 2015.

 

This is for Stu and Sue and all the rest we lost too soon. 

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More pages more words to my story, more grace, more meaning unfoldin’
Take a drive rain park cascadia
Feel the warmth in my cold hear radiant
Two shakes and I’m feelin’ weightless
Heart aches but its actually painless
Take a vow in the Pale moonlight, moonlight, moonlight
Take a look at myself through my third eye..
Everything’s already alright, always alright, always alright…

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How I suck at “Social Media” and how this allows me to use it prolifically.

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Let’s start with full disclosure: I blog (which is a poncy way to say ‘I have a blog’), I have a Facebook (again, a ridiculous way to say ‘I use Facebook’), I have an Instagram (I actually think this is how everyone says this), I have two Twitters (one is for work; my students use Twitter for current events via KQED and it is a good format, and I have a personal account which is my only truly locked down and private outlet within the social media sphere), I used to have Myspace (two of those too – one for me and one I allowed students on – I do not do this with Facebook now, I just say no until students are out of school, then if they still care, I will accept their friend requests), and I have a Google+ but I have no idea what it is – although it seems public. Oh, I have a YouTube account too, but I think if you use gmail you have this because of the pervasive trend towards conglomeratization. I do not have a Linkedin – and I wish people would stop inviting me because it is a totally useless concept in my field. I do not have Flickr, DeviantArt, Tumblr (although I had a school one for a year), a Bebo (don’t even know what that is), and god help me I do.not.SnapChat.

Basically, I have a fairly visible digital footprint. Regardless of this, I still suck at social media. And I am totally fine with this because I think it is why I am able to use social media so prolifically without becoming angry and insane.

Here’s why: I do it wrong.

It turns out, I am just not really that “social”

I have always known this about blogging. I like to blog (look at me go!) but I don’t really read other blogs. I do occasionally come across blogs that I read because I am looking for something specific – like research for work or personal interests, and then I will read them, but in general, in the same way I look at my blog as a way to be hugely self-indulgent, I am not that interested in reading other people’s self indulgences. Unless they are about me or something uniquely related to me. The blogs I write that get attention get it from small niche populations. Thus it is no surprise that a blog I wrote about my cat remains to this day the blog that got the most hits out of anything I have ever done in any internet capacity. When I write about friends from home, my friends from home read it. When I write about being a teacher, my teacher friends read it. When I write about events and adventures, the people who shared the experiences read them. And there are a few exceptions here and there, a clever tag that gets others over to the page or something, but really the audience is terribly limited. And I am okay with that. I don’t interact with commenters (oh, I will get to them in a minute) and I don’t comment. I do very little to engender interaction or interest in my blog. I harbor no illusions that I am telling stories or illuminating ideas that no one has ever considered. In fact, mostly I feel like I am just adding validity to the reality that our shared human experience is far more similar than it is unique most of the time. And in its own way that is kind of cool.

I use Twitter for news. I love it and scroll through it regularly, occasionally retweet things, favorite things I want to come back to, and mostly leave it at that. I originally got it as a way to text for free from overseas, but now I use it primarily for information and as a way to measure the social temperature around said information. I like Twitter and it is very handy for my students to use as well.

I use Facebook (which I keep private, although I do not consider private in the way my personal Twitter is because there are people on my Facebook that I would not share certain things with because it would be weird and inappropriate) a lot. Although, it is getting harder to use it the way I would like. But again, it turns out I am not that “social” on FB. I post a lot of things. Things *I* think are interesting, important, funny, relevant, whatever. Again, I am under no illusion that these things are “interesting, important, funny, relevant, whatever” to other people. I am not posting for other people. I am posting for me. That is why I put the stuff on my Facebook page. If it is interesting to other people, that is cool – and I generally can predict with nearly perfect accuracy who will respond/comment/reply to the things I post. That is a benefit of having people who you actually know on your Facebook.

But I don’t get really interactive on other people’s Facebook pages. There are several reasons for this. First – Facebook is making this harder and harder as they only automatically show you the stuff posted by people you “interact” with regularly so it is easy to see how that circle gets inadvertantly smaller and smaller. Another reason I am not super active on Facebook is that there is a lot of stuff that people I really like post that I don’t wanna see. This does not mean I like them less, or do not want to be their friend in real life, or on the internets, it just means I am not into seeing stuff like that and so I don’t look at it. Going to the page of a person, like my friend D.M., a guy I have known since the first grade, and really like in a ton of ways, is not fun for me because we hold diametrically oppositional views on politics and a lot of social issues. Telling him how I disagree would be stupid – or having the audacity to tell him he is wrong or should not be posting something because it bothers me is just inappropriate. He is not posting that stuff for me – he is posting for him, so why do I want to go there and get all fired up – or worse, get involved in some comment battle where I am trying to convince someone that their opinion is “wrong”. Opinions – like feelings – cannot be wrong. They can be in disagreement with my opinions, and certainly wrong for me (or you), but telling someone their opinion is wrong is a waste of time, and really offensive. So instead I leave comments and “likes” on his Instagram where we have much more common ground.

I do believe there are times and places to help someone perhaps see that their opinion does not match data/history/science/facts or something, but I would suggest that would be like in a teaching situation, or as a parent, or an actual conversation among friends. Not really apropos for “social media.” I mean, it’s like the rules that govern polite conversation at dinner parties. People used to say ‘do not talk about politics and religion in mixed company.’ And this was not because people didn’t think about that stuff, or should not hold different opinions – it was because it was a “social” situation and being a dick by telling someone that their opinion is wrong is not very social. Remember when we were taught that if you didn’t have anything nice to say to not say anything at all? If social media is as it claims to be [social] – maybe that is a good rule…. I mean treat other people’s pages as their dinner party and use your own home(page) to say what you have to say. If people don’t want to hear your opinion they don’t have to come to your dinner party.

Facebook in all its deficiencies does allow for a couple great ways to deal with this. First, you can straight hide someone’s posts from your news feed (either by unfollowing them or selecting certain posts.) I have done this. A lot. If someone whose posts you enjoy following generally posts something you cannot deal with, you can had that specific post. A friend in HK who is super active in animal rights posted a super awful photo of an elephant, which I assume was attached to a story about how disgusting people are to elephants, and I could’t take it so I hid it, but not her. I hide all the silly fantasy sports stuff one of my former students posts – it is clutter and useless, but I love hearing about him and his family. I posted a misogynist rant that came out around the Isla Vista shooting on my page and one of my really good friends in HK who I discuss almost everything with, was like, ‘I can’t take this, I’m hiding it from my feed.’ And I totally get that. She didn’t feel the need to tell me how my posting it was wrong or that it was somehow not appropriate – she just said, I don’t want to look. That is what I would call solid use of the comments section.

Which brings me to the commenters. OH.MY.GOD. There is a seemingly growing population of people on the planet that have infinite amounts of time to dedicate to some sort of personal calling to comment on internet activity. These are trolls. I have had a few trolls. I know who one of them was, and I think I have finally blocked him enough that he cannot comment on my blog and Instagram (my only public pages) and his deal was just that he was (is?) a weird little man who thought I rebuffed him inappropriately. But it was still really annoying to get shitty comments from him. Another one I had was a former coworker who was convinced I was subliminally writing about him in my blog, which I was not, but his misunderstanding was illuminating. I am always surprised at how bad the (poor grammar and spelling aside) words of a total stranger or someone I could really not give two shits about can make me feel when it shows up on my stuff. Do the trolls have their own pages? Agendas? I have no idea, but they freaking should because that would be the right place to vent. Venting on the pages/posts/comments of total strangers just to spread vitriol is so bizarre. And it is like they get a certain kind of joy from just being awful.

Says a lot about society.

While I cannot even begin to grok why you would spend this sort of energy being a dick (and far worse) to total strangers, I am even more mystified by people who would do this to people they know – unless they just don’t want to be friends anymore, which is fine, but “breaking up” on Facebook/Instagram/blog seems pretty lame.

I am grateful for the ability to see what my friends – from near and far – are up to in their lives. It is really fun to see who has gone somewhere amazing, had a new baby, got a new job, and be able to be a spectator. I realize email could do the same thing, but that is a much different interface. Do I want a whole email every time for all these events? I think I prefer being able to look through the “news” feed. It works for me. I also have a growing appreciation for the vastly divergent attitudes and opinions my friends hold around religion, politics, social issues, and life in general. That I am friends with such a diverse group I think says a lot about me and my friends. I don’t need them to change for me, that they are who they are is what I love about them. And I do like having conversations with my friends about our thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but this does not happen in the comments. This happens in a pub in Hong Kong, at a secret diner party in SF, poolside in Vegas, on a phone call from Paris, or in email exchanges from Dubai.

In the end “social” suggests being with people and so while social media does endeavor to so this – it is not them same.

And I am okay with this.

The way I choose to use social media works for me. And if it doesn’t work for you, then there are lots of ways to handle that…. (like why are you reading this?) But whatever you do, if you want to remain hopeful for humanity and maintain your sanity… trust me on this: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.

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[First image from HuffPo, cartoon from unknown source.]

 

108.

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The Summer Solstice was yesterday. Most hours of daylight all year for us in the Northern Hemisphere, and we were not disappointed in San Francisco, that is for sure. It was sunny and warm, even at Ocean Beach. And the light did last long. It was a pretty day and lots of people did lots of super spiritual things to emphasize the day and the significance of the day. I imagine there was much thought to new beginnings and letting in the light, and doing innumerable sun salutations, and getting in touch with one goddess or another, or preaching about the right way to live (don’t eat this, don’t drink that, believe this, do that, be like Me to be happier, be like him to be happier, look at me look at me look at me)to achieve a higher self, or better understanding, or… something.

I am not absent a good sense of irony here. After all, yesterday I planned to write about how I have begun a yoga challenge (108 days of yoga) and I felt like I wanted to go on this big explanation of the significance of the number 108, which of course I investigated when I started wondering about all these people obsessed with doing not 30, not 100, not 365, (all numbers that held more obvious logic to me) but 108 days. I was planning on writing about this and how it was all spiritual and coincidental and (self) important. The significance of the number is interesting, but like so many things the meaning it takes on depends on how you might be feeling at any given moment. [The individual digits comprising 108 represent one thing, nothing, and everything (infinity), representing the belief that the ultimate reality of the universe as being (paradoxically) simultaneously one, emptiness, and infinite.] It suddenly seemed overly self-conscious, and  totally cliché.

My writing has become more and more self-conscious is this medium, which for me compromises authenticity. I cannot tell you how many people have gotten on my case about things I have written, or even considered writing about, here. Everyone has advice, an opinion… an accusation of motive. But really, when I started blogging and was very aware that no one was reading it, I was writing for myself. For catharsis and, frankly, more often than not, to make myself laugh. Maybe to record my version of a memory or story that I didn’t want to forget, which also usually cracked me up. I treated it like it was just about me, it is my blog after all. Following lots of instances of critique, criticism, and actual hurt feelings, it turns out, even the most self-indulgent writing a person can do – blogging – is not really an individual activity. It has an effect on others. One – nothing – everything.

The temporary nature of things is an interesting conundrum – after all it is what might compel me to tell a story here (which, by the way are all true insofar as I remember them… so we can say, all based on actual events) because I want to remember something inherently temporary. The temporary nature of things also offers us the chance to remain sane: nothing lasts forever. Thank fuck for that. The temporary nature of things also allows us an excuse for lots of things that should not really be excusable. Example, my constant mental debate: I will just throw away this recyclable item this one time because I really want to dispose of the trash and I don’t feel like finding the recycle receptacle. No, if you throw one recyclable item away, and everyone on the planet throws one recyclable thing away, then where are we? But it is just this once, I will recycle forever more. And on and on it goes, generally until I take the shit to the recycling bin. Throwing away trash, while momentary, seems much less temporary somehow.

But, with the nothing lasts forever, and everything is temporary attitude, no one seems really concerned with long-term stuff. Live in the moment, people say. Do what makes you happy, people say. Embrace the now, people say. And in so doing, relinquish responsibility for the future we face. Rather than consider that there may be consequences to things, even if categorical proof is absent, people say, No. No, that is not a problem. It is not a problem because it is not a problem right now. And if it is not a problem right now, why should I believe it will be a problem then? [A more animal brain based instinct would say if there is a potential to cause catastrophe, that should be enough to avoid something….]

Because after all, you keep saying nothing lasts forever. Even you yoga challengers… after 108 days, then what?

Temporary. (One)

Everything with an expiration date. (Nothing)

But not. (Everything)

Regardless of the temporary nature of anything, there is some logic to the infinite nature of things. Would doing 108 days of yoga change you definitively? Lorentz would say yes. If every person on the planet stopped littering would it make a difference? If we chose to consider that it was possible that our influence on the global climate could potentially cause us great harm and therefore we tempered all our behaviors contributing to said change, would it make a difference? Is it worth it?

When you look at it like that, it is pretty clear that the ideas tied up in the spiritual explanation of 108 are getting at something pretty important. It goes like this:

  • In separation from ourselves we achieve unity.
  • So, why can’t we just take care of our own selves and then its all good? a student asked me.
  • I mean, it is logical to say, I’m doing the right thing, so I’m fine.
  • But we are not fine, even if you temporarily are – just have a look.
  • Well, this problem is not mine, it is not me, I am not doing that.
  • It is their fault. I blame them.
  • I dont’ kill sharks, abuse animals, poach endangered species, allow fracking, overly depend on fossil fuels, throw trash in the ocean, blow second-hand smoke in people’s faces, support the international drug cartels, endorse unfair labor practices, purchase inhumanely produced food, GMO food, use plastic. I am not homeless, in debt, obese, greedy, myopic. I recycle, reuse, reduce, buy organic, contribute to charities, give money to those in need when I can, spay and neuter my pets, spread awareness of issues, vote. I do the right things.
  • But everyone says that.
  • And we are not okay.

Which seems like the best evidence that, in fact, the paradox is true in our separateness we are united – like it or not – tied to each other. And while change happens and everything good or bad may be temporary – this connection is a dynamic reality.

I am still going to do the 108 days of yoga (today is day 9), because it will make a difference, possibly temporary, maybe not, in my life. I probably wont think about it being about the paradoxical relationship between separation and union, or nothing and everything, but it you never know, it might show me something about myself or the universe that is super important. I am also going to continue to recycle and try to act conscientiously – even though every day it seems harder to do anything at all while trying to do the right thing. I mean, really what can I buy to eat that is not killing me, the planet, a far off indigenous culture, the habitat of endangered species, wantonly destroying farmed animals by the cruel millions, supporting labor exploitation, dependence on fossil fuels, contributing to economic injustice, gender inequality, social violence, social stigma…. it is paralyzing on a good day.

well informed vs sane

And maybe thinking about all these things will help me to be more gentle in my life. Then again it might not.

But the possibility seems worth respecting.

What is underneath it all?

A “friend” of mine has made the decision to end her blog. I don’t know why I put friend in literal quotes, suggesting air quotes. I actually know Lauren, though only because of the web of social media. When I read last night that she is ending her blog (a quite successful travel blog at that) I was surprised. Not that something would end, but that she had the commitment to kill it.  And I loved her examination and explanation of it. “I’ve outgrown my own blog.”

It got me thinking about how lately I have been writing as much as ever but blogging far less frequently. I also had an uncharacteristic  lack of motivation to deal with sorting out how I would mitigate the limits of the free WordPress platform, which I had come up against. For months I have been unable to decide what to do about that (ultimately deciding to commit to this noncommittal second free page, which will require a redirect and blah blah blah.)

On top of that I have been watching with interest how the blogging intercourse has been changing of late. I count among some of my most significant friends people who I met only via the web-based world of writing (Hello iDriss, Daniel, Clare, Michelle, Ruth, Stacy). People who came across my blog, or me theirs, or who I wrote with, and all of whom traded commentary, suggestions, questions, insights, and support surrounding our writing, and sort of by default, our lives. But this, like all things media based, seems to have changed, and quite dramatically as of late. Take for example the phenomena of “liking” something.

There’s times where I want something more
Someone more like me

When I was first writing publicly in a regular way, I had a clear and specific audience – I was a recently expatriated teacher and was recounting my experiences to my students as well as writing for my family. Of course , my audience grew as it is prone to do when one uses categories and tags in an effective way, and with this I got more and more interested in the audience factor. Still, the growth was slow. During this time, people would leave comments on my posts. Like real, thought-out comments. They would ask questions. They would offer their parallel stories and emote in logical ways. It was completely clear that they were reading the blog.

In contrast, two days ago I set up this new page. It has only a couple of not terribly profound pieces on it. Yet, in less time than it took to set up the page, I have been subscribed to, followed by, and ‘liked’ by more people than (outside of family) I garnered in the first year of the blog’s predecessor. Now, do not misunderstand me, I am still me and find the attention totally validating (falsely, I know) and satisfying (the ego is a tyrant) but this is a really different experience from the dialog I had with people surrounding my posts of yore.

But, all things change. Another friend of mine from the world of the interwebs reminded me that to like/follow/favorite something on the Internet is so much easier than other forms of interaction. And of course Ken is totally right, but the interaction is so different. Or is it? If the object of Internet intercourse is actually to draw more interest to your own work, then the interaction was never what I thought it was. Now, I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that I misunderstood the motivation for webversation in the past. This belief that the best way to get attention is to get your self out there like crazy (self-promote I think it is called?) then to go out and “like” several hundred random postings is a good plan. Right? I mean, at least in my own experience I almost always go and check out my random “likers”, which means that at least their primary objective (views? contact?) is being met.

I think.

But I am not sure that is my goal. However, having said that, it seems pertinent to identify a goal. And of this I am no longer sure. Was it to meet people? I am not sure though it certainly happened. Was it to inspire my creativity? Unlikely. Though, it may have. I think a much more honest admission of intent would have something to do with showing off a bit, whether experiences, accomplishments,”talents”…. There is even a word for this sort of thing now [facebragging]. There is also the thing about blogging in its immediacy and individualistic nature that encourages the confessional, which for me brings up all sorts of questions, not the least of which being the one I hear constantly from my friends and family: why did you write about that!?!?

Sometimes I write because I want to vent about things. This usually draws a lot of feedback, so I  imagine some of the things that make me insane must get to other people as well. I have blogged about specific people because I know they passively aggressively track my blog, but that is frustrating, because then you have to suffer though their crap to see how they responded, so really, who suffers most in that case? (Some of the shit those librarians posted made my eyes bleed, and they were shockingly poor writers for literary folk.) See what I did right there? Yeah. Some blogs I have seen are really, really bad. But not for their self-indulgence, I allow for that (obviously). A lot of people out there just can’t write. Or they are painfully derivative. Frankly, I’m unsure what is worse. But maybe they started out strong and just lost their mojo.

There’s times when this dress rehearsal
Seems incomplete

And this brings me back to looking at the lifespan of our social media selves. Maybe we do just outgrow things, even ourselves. They say even the magical empire of Facebook is waning in the face of even more abbreviated formats like Twitter and Instagram. If we keep on this trend pretty soon entire posts will be punctuation and then… *

Maybe the lack of inspiration to share things is less about not having things to share than a realization that some things aren’t served by this medium of self-indulgent immediacy. Maybe as we get to know ourselves better we realize that it is less important to explain ourselves to others. Maybe there are just better things to do with our time.

So many moons that we have seen
Stumbling back next to me
I’ve seen right through and underneath

For now I will keep blogging. For the same reasons. To talk about work, about travel, about funny stories that I know will make certain people laugh. Maybe because I like the idea of some sort of personal archival record. Maybe to meet more interesting people. Maybe. I am not even a good blogger like that in terms of interacting and reading other blogs… I go for months without taking my head out of the sand and then I binge and see what all my friends are up to. But I will miss Lauren out there in the blogosphere.

And I will be more aware of that niggling feeling I get sometimes when I just feel like maybe there is something more substantial, or at least more relevant, underneath it all.