Monthly Archives: January 2012

Picking a Fight

I don’t think a lot of people who know me in the real world would describe me as timorous, but I am. Sure, I will ask just about anybody a question even if it makes me look dumb and I will brace myself and dive into uncomfortable new social situations as needed , but put me in a conflict situation and all kinds of alarm bells and whistles go off. If I am in the conflict I rush straight to the de-escalation and defusing stage; if I am only observing, I try to take it all in (how are you doing that? how do you defend yourself so handily?) Part of my problem is that the stress of the interaction shuts down my brain so I simply cannot think of any of the arguments that would back up my position. I know you are wrong, I might think, but I can’t quite work out why with you standing there grinning (or snarling) at me. Although in my head it sounds more like Aaaaaaghh! Think dammit! Aaaaaghh!

Obviously this is not how a mature adult should function, or at least not how I want to function. I thought what I needed was practice, so one evening, while having a glass of wine with friends at their home,  the conversation turned (as it does,) to Guantanamo Bay and the treatment of suspected terrorists, and I thought, here we go. Why this topic, Lynnette? you might ask. Such a politically and emotionally charged issue seems like rather big potatoes, perhaps you should have started with something smaller, like whether consumers should be forced to buy fluorescent bulbs or whether wool or microfiber makes a better base layer when working out in the winter? Well, maybe. Here is what I was thinking: Guantanamo at this point was covered ground. The arguments had already been made many times in the media, and I was familiar with both sides. I also felt that both sides had valid concerns and that, to me, made it safer. A reasonable person would need to cede at least one “point” for opposing valid concern so at minimum, I’d have that, right? I am so silly sometimes. Anywho, my friend, who is conservative AND former military took the position of ” terrorists are trying to destroy us and we have to do whatever necessary to protect our country and our people,” leaving me with “if we are the bright light of civilization we had better act like it and torture puts our citizens who are outside our borders at greater risk.” Now don’t get all excited about this, I have political and philosophical leanings but for the most part I am all “jeez-o-pete there are a lot of good points here and I really don’t know what the right thing is.” This is another reason I suck at arguing, but I was TRYING. I guess I thought it would build character or something.

So instead of just letting the opinions roll over me as usual, I picked up the other end of the conversational rope and gave it a congenial tug. At this point, I am sure both Mr. Wordtabulous and my friend’s wife (who is also my friend) thought, “Oh, shit.” But I was all, this is fine, two adults respectfully sharing opposing views, we’re all friends here, cool. But one of us wasn’t cool. One of us was increasingly loud and ranty. I was increasingly uncomfortable, but after all, the purpose of this had been to push the envelope. I tried to keep things calm and conversational but that was a unilateral strategy that broke down when my friend shouted into my face, “I hope you’ll be happy the next time one of our soldiers gets killed by an IED!!” I looked at him in shock and then stormed out of their house, slamming the door behind me. He sent me an email the next day or so, saying that the episode was unfortunate and he didn’t feel arguments should get in the way of friendships. And we all picked up from where we had been BEFORE I began my little experiment.

My processing of this event has been in stages. My first stage was, “My friend is an ass.” Which isn’t true. He is a hard-working, loving husband and father who volunteers his time in the community and has genuine concern for others. So I got through that phase pretty fast. Next I thought, “I still suck at arguing, and now I’m traumatized, too. I guess I’ll never do that again.” I held onto this phase a really, really long time. But recently I was at State Services for the Blind, doing my thang of reading books into digital media and was assigned the job of finishing At the Oasis by Bill McDonald. It is a collection of essays by the Minnesota writer on a wide variety of topics. One of the essays was on his three “round tables” in which he and others engage in debate over events and ideas of the past, present and future. Tears are not welcome, he warns, but then says that all viewpoints are. The  more I read, the more I believed that lively doesn’t necessarily mean combative. Maybe, I thought, I’m not the only one who could use some pointers on argumentation (looking at you, argumentative friend.) Maybe I just need to find the right folks to disagree with, and establish the goal of fleshing out and truly understanding the subject as opposed to winning or losing a match. I am not itching for a fight, per se, but am starting to think that when the next one comes my way, maybe this time I won’t avoid eye contact. What could possibly go wrong?

I only read the last few of McDonald’s essays, so I can’t give a full review, but the one he wrote on whether the citizens of the US could ever vote away their democracy as did the citizens of pre WWII Germany was both thought-provoking and moving. Check out his work on Amazon or via the link at the title above if you are interested!

Blogger Awards-Taking a Stand

At the risk of revealing myself as a HORRIBLE person (said with a gutteral Germanic emphasis on the H and a rolling of the r’s,) and alienating everyone who has done or said anything nice to me, can I just say, “Enough with the blogger awards already?” I don’t know what’s worse, scrolling through a post to find out I didn’t win the nomination of a blogger I love or that I did. Not being nominated is like being the girl left out of the slumber party invite (why doesn’t she like me? what is wrong with me? I bet she invited that other girl because she has a pool.) Being nominated is like winning a spot in a pyramid scheme (oh boy, now I’ve got to find a bunch of blogs I haven’t already touted, make sure they meet some imaginary level of fabulosity and inflict  upon them this cycle of crazy.) If it seems that I am impossible to please, let me tell you that this is to some extent true, which only makes it more difficult to find blogs I like. I am REALLY picky. And arbitrary. I reject some blogs because too many other people already like them. And, I am one of those bloggers that really reads the posts. I read them, and I think about them and I comment on a lot of them. Because I am all about the relationships. Which is TIME-CONSUMING. And probably a little compulsive. Whatever, I have no time to deal with my mental health issues because of the aforementioned blogging. Ultimately every single blogger will win an award and I say, why wait for that to happen? Can we not all agree that every one of us deserves an award for getting one of these things up and running, having the confidence to say something out into the world that anybody else (including trolls) can see and possibly harsh on, and going forth and seeking inspiration, connection and relationships in the blogosphere? Even the porn people? Thank you, those who nominate me, but if you love it, share the post. That is what I will be doing.

The Matter of a Severed Finger

When I was a girl, about nine or ten years old, one of my favorite indoor activities was to rifle through the stash of books and other treasures tucked into a dresser and closet in our rec room. My younger sister and I spent hours sitting on the hard linoleum sifting through mom’s shelves of piano music, Reader’s Digest Condensed books, and tins, boxes and tubs of inherited and collected memorabilia. It was kind of like a cross between our own private flea market and an archaeological dig to a time before our memory. My older sister is eight years older than I, so all her outgrown stuff was fascinating to me, even if she was a little bit more into the horse stories than I was.

One afternoon I found an old paperback book of hers: “Clever Tricks to Play on Your Friends!” We lived in the country, about a mile from any friends I might have had, but my mom was upstairs and my little sister was around somewhere, probably out playing with the cats or talking to the horses. Following the book’s instructions, I found a small cardboard box with a lid and carved a hole the size of my finger in the bottom with a dull penknife. I poked my middle finger up through the hole, tucked some cotton balls around it and flexed it flat so the box nested in my palm. It really looked like a severed finger laying in the box, without the blood. Nice! I thought about finding a red magic marker to add to the illusion, but I had already been working on it five whole minutes already and had to show my mom this cool effect RIGHT AWAY. I covered the box, hustled up the stairs and found her in her bedroom.  I was bursting with excitement that my trick would really work, but at the same time that I was terrified she’d see through it. My face cramped with energetic smiling, I said “Mom! Look!” and she walked over to me, probably thinking, “What now?” Watching for her reaction, I lifted the lid off the box, and was honestly surprised to see her stare blankly at my lifeless finger, then look at me with an expression I’d never seen before. I would describe it as horror-struck. She looked like a crazy person. She grabbed me by the shoulders and screamed, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOUR SISTER!?!?”

??? I was disappointed and confused. What did my sister have to do with anything?  I looked at the box and then I realized, ohhh. If there was a part of a finger in a box, it had to have come from SOMEWHERE, thus the sister… I was exasperated; Mom was completely missing the point. I demonstrated that the finger was mine, and Mom turned an odd color and literally sagged. I guess when the crazy drains from your body that is what happens.

This is the kind of story that gets re-told at family gatherings, and I always thought it was pretty amusing, until about a year ago when, for some reason, I was able to imagine the scenario from my mom’s point of view for the first time and realized what a horrible, horrible thing I had done to her. I imagined looking from a dismembered body part to my own child’s maniacally grinning face. If one of my boys had pranked me with a severed finger, I am pretty sure my head would have exploded. There she was, out on the farm, with one daughter mutilated at best and the other a complete psychopath.  So sorry, Mom! Being absolutely unable to empathize with my mother’s experience then, or for the next thirty+ years could, I guess, define me as a minor-league psychopath. Is it bad to say that this makes it even funnier to me?

My Naughty New Tweeps

One of my new things in 2011, that didn’t quite make my list of Best New Things, was Twitter. I know I’ve said this on more than one occasion, but I am not a dunce when it comes to technology; I do the facebook thing, and text, obviously I blog and am all over my smartphone. I can figure out how to get most things done on my laptop and the computer at BRX and even on my mom’s computer which I can’t even see. So even though you still seem to be skeptical, let me assure you, I can function with the technology. I was slow in finding my way to Twitter, though. First, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted say that was worthwhile and could be expressed in 140 characters. Loquacious me. Then, I was intimidated by all the @ and # going on. It seemed important though, so I begged Kelly to help me out and she took my by the metaphorical/virtual hand and led me through the setup. Then I ignored it for a few months, because I was still intimidated. One more tutorial with Kelly and I was hooked. I was tweeting like a little bird hopped up on espresso. But no one was listening. Because it takes time (unless you are famous or super popular, alas, not me) to build a following. So following me I had only Kelly, and some people I knew through freelancing, a couple of friends and my cousin (YAY!) I was following all of them plus some famous and/or super popular people who don’t know or care who I am, but they say entertaining/interesting things once in awhile and make my world seem bigger.

I tweeted out into twitterspace, and tweeted @ people, and used the #, mostly for laughs, and to my surprise and pleasure, people started following me! It was so nice! Obviously my wit and brevity were appreciated and I was aglow. And then I started checking up on my new “tweeps.” And, ummm, most of them seem to be adult internet porn folk? Nearly ALL of them?! Their names look normal, but their websites, my WORD! Not that I went there–as I said I am not a dunce, but when a person’s website is named…let me find one that I can use without going to hell…topwhores, you can kind of infer the content. And these people don’t tweet, except for one who actually had me thinking she was for real. This particular girl/woman/businessperson had five tweets; four inspirational quotes and one funny one. Clever, clever, I expect she will get LOTS more hits on her oral sex pictorial website than the others who just randomly follow naive mom bloggers but don’t actually have any words on their twitterfeeds. So, I have had to come to the conclusion that these people do NOT think I am interesting, or want to be my friend, but are only hoping that somehow I will be persuaded to buy access to naughty pictures of them. What floors me is that this must work to some extent, or why would they bother? Not that this has been a total waste of my time. Once my delicate sensibilities shattered around me, some of the website names were kind of amusing. Still gross, but sometimes you just have to laugh.

I am not thrilled that my first post of the year is about twitterporn, but I haven’t been able to get past this topic as I sit here at the computer. And it’s been a GREAT day! Church and big dinner, and photo organizing and I am reading a new book…and this is what I bring here to share with you. I think we are both disappointed in me, and yet, in order to move on, I needed to work through this. In apology, at least let me offer you the first thing I did today; a picture I took of the first sunrise of the new year. Older, wiser, and more ready to handle the strange new world we live in, I wish you the best in the remaining days of 2012.