It’s horrible, of course. All of this “Trump stuff” (useful shorthand) is terrible. But I keep thinking about the thousands and thousands of people who have lived with this reality for hundreds of years but so many of us didn’t notice. We didn’t realize it was “this bad.”
I’m trying to imagine what it must be like to not only find the new realities we are facing — the corporate takeover of our Democracy — terrifying, but to also have to bear witness to the thousands of newbies just now waking up. The frustration must be enormous.
As we practice standing together, now that we’ve started listening, I hope that those of us who so recently realized “how bad it is” will dig deep into listening to those voices who have been telling us about it all along.
Here’s one powerful example: “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis” by James Baldwin
I don’t call it “real life,” I call it my “offline life.” The friendships I have with people I’ve known “only” online are Real.
The first thing I do when I wake up is look at my phone. Yes, yes, it’s not terribly mindful or spiritual, but it’s part of my routine. When I woke up yesterday morning, I had three emails. One from a college friend who I’ve only seen offline twice in the last 25 years. One from a friend and colleague here in Maine. And, one (a Starbucks gift card, no less) from a friend I’ve known “only” online for nearly 20 years.
Throughout the day, as Facebook told more people it was my birthday, there were notifications that Facebook friends had posted happy birthday wishes. In other online communities, I received birthday messages both light and heartfelt. My virtual mailboxes were overflowing with notes. It felt like I was receiving birthday cards like we might’ve received in the snail mail so many years ago. But back then, how many cards did we ever really receive? Certainly not more than 100, as I got in Facebook posts.
It’s easy to dismiss the “click and post” birthday wishes as shallow. They aren’t, though. For some they may be automatic, for some they may be deep, but in every case, as my 12 year old pointed out, “They don’t *have to* do it.” It felt like lovely attention sparkling across my electronic devices throughout the day.
Yesterday was perfect. My daughters started out the day right by letting me sleep in a bit (until my alarm). I got a pedicure (thanks, Mom and Dad!). I did a lot of modern day capitalist celebrating by spending money at “discounts.” I got a free drink at Starbucks, 20% off at Goodwill, and a free small cheese pizza (with a $5 purchase) at Portland House of Pizza. An offline friend took me out to lunch. My parents sang me happy birthday. I watched a movie with my daughters in the air conditioned room of our apartment. The three of us crammed into my (king sized) bed (we “crammed” because they don’t seem to know how to sleep with space between us) for an early bedtime.
The deeper friendships I have with online “only” people are just as real as those I have with people who I only know offline. There are still people, I know, who don’t understand the “virtual” relationships. I have to keep using “quotes” because the relationships are not virtual. They are Real, and I’m so grateful for them. Because of the online relationships I have, in all their forms, my offline day yesterday was richer.
It’s been just over a year since we moved into this apartment that now feels like Home.
Before that, we lived in “high density housing” (American for “poor people’s apartments”) where we were as happy as we could be. It wasn’t because my daughters walked in on a couple guys smoking not-tobacco and not-marijuana in the stairwell, or because of the dealer who camped out on the back stoop, or because of the unsupervised children so desperate for adult guidance their behavior was not always safe, or because the man who lived downstairs disturbed me so much that I told him if he spoke to my daughter again I would call the police—this is the same man who invites those same unsupervised and hungry children to his apartment for snacks after school. None of these are the reasons we moved. We moved because we could. My parents have money and they paid for our move. That move put our lives back on course and the course is good.
The last 4+ years have been difficult. Rocky. Challenging. Full of lessons. Any way I say it, it sounds white-washed. There were times I wasn’t sure I would make it. If you know me well, you’ll know that means it was really bad. Normally, no matter how bad things get, I’m like Pippi calling up to her mother in Heaven, “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll always come out on top!”
Just over four years ago, I was pregnant and our marriage was ending. Then, we had a second child, the very new baby, and our marriage ended. We declared bankruptcy. We moved (me to Brookfield/”high density housing” and him to Orono, a decision I supported). We began sharing custody of our children over the hurdles of physical distance. We readjusted from married-forever to being loving friends who co-parent. Add to all of this many other events, happenings, choices, and significant difficulties that all brought me to the content for my newspaper column, being “newly poor.” All of that also brings me to now.
I’m writing this because today I had a really good day. I’ve had a lot more of them lately. There are many reasons for that, but there’s a distinction for me between having a good day and having a day where the light at the end of the tunnel is so close I’m almost in it (and, I’m now sure it’s not a train).
This wonderful home, some outstanding help in my business (life-changing for me, though she won’t let me give her so much credit), high quality preschool for my nearly-four-year-old and an excellent public school for my nine and a half year old, a spiritual community we love, and heaven on earth (my parents’ summer place near Bethel) to visit in the summers. There are other outward expressions of how much better things are, but I want to keep this relatively brief.
So, I’m tired. I’m very, very tired. Despite my ex-husband’s incredible co-parenting and generous support, I’m still a single mother. Being a single mother is a job I could only understand after living it. I love it, but it’s not easy. At the same time, as I said, work is going well. The column is the job I’ve dreamed of since the 90s when I was writing, “It’s all about me! (the column)” on my website every week. I’ve made several new paintings (not shown on my website) and will be showing them at Bard in time for First Friday in April (they’ll still be there for First Friday in May, too!). My daughters are extraordinary. More and more often, my gratitude nearly overwhelms me. Life is good.
In the 90s, I wrote (online) my most intimate thoughts for anyone who would read them. The concept of personal boundaries was new to me. Back then, I called what I did “web columns.” In 2001, a friend of my then-husband called my writing my “blog.” I thought it a quaint term used by a computer geek (as it was). When blogs went mainstream, I resented and resisted the term. I’ve since accepted the label, but am now challenged by the content.
As everyone and her sister (and brother and cousin and step-son and grandmother and co-worker and politician and business owner and…) share their offline lives via the Internet, I find myself wandering in a bit of a daze. Or, shocked like a pinball being whipped around, slamming against bright lights and loud sounds. What do I want to share online? What is the point of it for me?
With the addition of the significant consideration of my family’s privacy—especially my children—and my growing need for a more professional public presence, most content feels inappropriate.
Then, I listened to Montaigne’s essays. I am reminded of the value of sharing my introspective fascinations. The richness of my inner life deepens when I write regularly about my thoughts. I also miss experiencing a response from readers.
Next week I will also publish an updated version of my business website. In the process of developing new content, I considered telling “the story” of how grantwinners.net came into being. That story relies heavily on my struggle to balance parenting and income production. It was too personal for my business site. I miss being “too personal.”
I’d like to return to “blogging” (writing!) here on serenebabe.net. The Montaigne essays inspired me. As I said in a tweet, “Comparing myself to Montaigne is so Montaigney of me.” I have no interest in publishing hyper-personal journal entries. I won’t take time to follow current events enough to dissect my opinions about many of them (and the BDN column provides some space for that type of content). It feels good, being attracted to using this space again to write about random thoughts and ideas as they occur to me. As I’ve said twice now, I’ve missed it. I’m not sure what will end up “published” here, but I know I want to find out.
“And taking upon me to write indifferently of whatever comes into my head, and therein making use of nothing but my own proper and natural means, if it befall me, as oft-times it does, accidentally to meet in any good author, the same heads and commonplaces upon which I have attempted to write (as I did but just now in Plutarch’s “Discourse of the Force of Imagination”), to see myself so weak and so forlorn, so heavy and so flat, in comparison of those better writers, I at once pity or despise myself. Yet do I please myself with this, that my opinions have often the honour and good fortune to jump with theirs, and that I go in the same path, though at a very great distance, and can say, “Ah, that is so.” I am farther satisfied to find that I have a quality, which every one is not blessed withal, which is, to discern the vast difference between them and me; and notwithstanding all that, suffer my own inventions, low and feeble as they are, to run on in their career, without mending or plastering up the defects that this comparison has laid open to my own view.” – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays