That Time I Got Distracted Talking About Distractions

(I posted a slightly modified version of this post at my bullet journal site too. I’m sorry if you follow both. I AM CHEATING AND DUPLICATING CONTENT.)

I am trying to get a handle on the choas in my life right now. I don’t feel like it’s permanent chaos or else I’d make some changes to remove some of it, so I’m just trying to figure out how to adjust so that I can keep all of the balls in the air without dropping any of them or losing my sanity during this temporary time when chaos is reigning.

I went to a work retreat recently where I heard a speech referencing Time Blocking. This is the idea that you should block out certain times/days to do specific things so you don’t get

I was in the middle of that sentence there ^ and I thought, I have to pee. So I went upstairs and I thought While I’m up here, I should bring down that stuff that needs to go to the street since it’s garbage day. And while I was carrying that stuff to the street I saw the recycle bins from yesterday and thought I need to put those in the back of the house. And while I was back there I thought I need to wheel this one bin to the street too. I did that and then came inside to finish the sentence.

distracted or lose focus.

Let’s all pause for a minute to consider the beautiful timing of that series of events. LITERALLY, all of that happened RIGHT AS I WAS ABOUT TO TYPE THE WORD “distracted.” It suddenly became very meta around here.

ANYWAY. My point? I feel like there’s too much constantly needing to be done in my life and I’m not always focusing efficiently on those things. So I’m trying to start blocking some time. I thought this would be easy at first…so I just mapped out the “ideal” weekday thinking I’d have time leftover to play around with.

HALF OF AN HOUR IS ALL I HAD LEFTOVER. THIRTY MINUTES! And then after staring at that for a bit I realized: Um. I put NO time to write on that schedule. And I like at least an hour of every weekday set aside for just writing. SO, OBVIOUSLY that was not the place to start. I obviously put the cart in front of the horse in terms of Time Blocking. I realized I needed to wrap my head around my life a little more before actually trying to block things out.

So I thought I’d start with listing out the “categories” or so of time that I need make sure gets scheduled.

These are the categories I started with. I’m leaving the list open because even as I’ve been writing this I’ve thought of other “categories” – like “communications”. I want to be more disciplined about setting aside time to touch base with people with personal texts/emails/messages. I also want to give myself time to “get ready” in the morning. I know it sounds silly, but that is SUCH a low priority in my life and I think it shouldn’t be. I think I should take time to look at myself and dress/style in a way that makes me feel good about myself and not just in a rush to get to the next thing. My appearance is often proof that I prioritize myself very last on the List Of People Who Need Care in my life. On the days I take time to put on jewelry or mascara I just feel so much better about myself! So I want that to be a “category” too. I called it “Self Esteem” time.

I think I’ll leave the list open for another day or two to REALLY get a feel on the “categories” in my life. I’m also going to try to log my time to see how long it takes me to do things like grocery shop and meal prep.

AND THEN…THEN…armed with categories and time logs I should be able to build a time blocking schedule that makes sense.

On Viral Content.

1 million years ago – before Facebook gave the average person an online presence – I wrote a blog post that got linked to from a very popular blog. At first I was super-excited about all of the new traffic to my blog. But then – something weird happened – people started going through my archives and basically just commenting on anything and everything. Now, this was not a HUGE deal, they were mostly nice comments. But it was weird. Someone linked to that one entry and now people were going through some stuff that was more personal, less edited, less thought out.

And then a few – THANK GOD ONLY A FEW – asshats come by. But they dug through my archives and just found random crappy stuff I’d written to comment on. For example, once I wrote about how sometimes my kids and I skipped bathing for a few days. It was partly truth and partly me trying to be humorous about parenting. But I got one comment that was basically, “You are a terrible Mother and are unfit for parenting. God is giving you miscarriages to keep you from having more kids.”

AND THEN! Then a hate-blog wrote about me. That was a thing then (It probably still is now, but I refuse to investigate) – hate blogs that existed solely to write terrible things about the popular bloggers like Dooce and Pioneer Woman. One of those sites wrote something about me and how gross I am for not bathing myself or my children.

I was devastated. I almost took the whole blog down. Jenny Lawson (of The Bloggess fame, but before she was EPIC-level famous) reached out to me and game me some encouraging words. I’m sure people like her were used to seeing their names on those blogs, but she knew it was a first-time for me. And it was TERRIBLE.

And this was LONG before Facebook, so the “going viral” thing only had a short reach. It basically only extended to people who read blogs. That was it. It faded fast and I went on with my life. It never happened again to that degree. A couple of years ago someone from a bigger/national platform asked if they could republish something I wrote about Thanksgiving and I said, “NO! NO! NO! NO!” Because I had NO desire to get anyone over here digging for dirt on me again and tearing up my personal space.

And again…A few weeks ago a political post I wrote and made public on Facebook so people could share started getting more shares than I expected and I got one asshat comment and CLOSED THE WHOLE THING DOWN. Nope. Not me. Please don’t let me go viral.

I got a TINY taste of it long before social networks existed and I do not want to see what that taste would be like in the days of Facebook and Twitter.

Because what happens is people start digging into your every word and online presence and while that one thing you might have done was nice, you might have said/done other things that were shitty and THAT shit will get dug up too. And the people who didn’t like that thing that went viral, will find something you did that is terrible and will try to give that the spotlight.

I tell you ALL of this because I want you to know the reality of it. Most of these “viral” things are not started by people who are web savvy and who have made sure to keep a perfect online presence. Most of them have said or done things they might do differently if they thought their lives would be put under a microscope. There was the Mom who wrote that weird letter on her blog that was something like, “Dear Girls Who Will Date My Sons” where she basically told all of these girls to quit dressing like whores. Everyone dug through her online life and found all sorts of evidence of shittiness and brought it out into the light of day for the world to see. There was that guy with the red sweater at the debate (Ken Bone? Something?) and people dug into his online life to find out he had posted some really shitty stuff on Reddit. There was that video of that Mom and her cute kid talking about Star Wars and they found the Mom’s Star Wars fanfiction/smut and she lost her job.

And then they fade. And we forget about them all. But…I’m still thinking about that ONE terrible comment, and that ONE terrible blog post 10 years ago. And I’m betting those people who were not prepared to feel the wrath of the internet feel their 100s and 1,000s of terrible comments every day. People who live their lives in the spotlight – celebrities and politicians – know not to read the comments. But the average person? Is so excited about going viral that they soak it ALL UP. They’ve not been media-trained to understand that there are millions of trolls on the internet who LIVE to upset sensitive people. I learned the hard way on a REALLY small scale.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as the backlash aimed towards the lady who just started a Facebook group for Hillary supporters…Pantsuit Nation. That’s all she set out to do. But she hadn’t been trained with media and it looks like she suffers from white elitism (based on her selectiveness on what comments/posts were deleted) and now she’s got a book deal and PSN has turned against her. I’ve seen 5 different articles alone this morning picking apart the way she moderated that page and turning her into the Face Of What Is Wrong With White Liberalism. And maybe she is. I know I see a lot of the same attitude in our more local PSN group. But she didn’t ask for that. She just started a Facebook group that got really popular really fast and she wasn’t trained and didn’t know that her online life would be torn apart. She was probably just basking in the excitement and the spotlight. And now? Now people are leaving the group in droves and refusing to let her use their stories in her book.

I haven’t read one article about it. Because while I do believe her story is important in recognizing the effects of the Fragile White Elite Liberal and the damage that can do, I can’t be part of the wave of negativity washing her way. Whenever I notice something like this happening to an unsuspecting person, I refuse to link to any of the websites tearing the person apart, or even link to the original source. Mainly because I just imagine if it was me…and what if I just wanted off the Viral Train already. Maybe I take it all too personally.

But I do think it’s important to remember the PEOPLE behind the viral content. My post didn’t even blink compared to stuff that goes viral now, and it was TERRIBLE just because of the tiny wave of negativity. And since then I try to be conscious of everything I do online in case it ever happens again. But not everyone has been online since 2003. Not everyone knows how deep people are willing to dig to find trash on you.

I’m not buying her book. I’m not joining her Facebook groups. But I am grateful for the few days of love that FB page gave me when I needed it most. And I will hope that she finds the good criticisms in all of the anger and really takes to heart some of it. She was allowing tone-policing to women of color and that is the most subtle – but SO DESTRUCTIVE – way white people can thwart the delivery of important messages. If you don’t like the tone? Ask yourself WHY. Don’t challenge the tone. Don’t tell someone how they’re supposed to talk about the things that hurt them. Don’t expect someone to consider YOUR feelings when expression their own. Instead, look at YOURSELF and find out why you are so hurt by the tone.

I worry she’s getting so much backlash she may not even soak in some of that discomfort to find the lessons underneath it. She’s defensive because some of the criticisms have nothing to do with anything of substance. I actually saw a, “Ugg. Did you see the picture of her? She’s super ugly.” comment the other day. So how do you filter through that asinine commentary to find important lessons? I don’t know if she will. And maybe there’s no hope for her. I don’t know her.

And that’s the point, I guess. Let’s not forget there are people behind these viral stories who we don’t actually know. And while I think it’s important to find lessons in some of this stuff, I also can’t separate the BIG PICTURE LESSONS from the single person who got caught by a wave she wasn’t prepared for.

But I also hear the voices in my head that say maybe we shouldn’t spare the creators of the viral content. Maybe we shouldn’t be too gentle to people who jump on the Viral Train so easily. I’m not sure I would have done the interviews she did about the group in the first place that took away it’s “specialness” – maybe she should have known better. I don’t know.

It’s just hard for me to watch every time. It’s difficult to watch the creator of something that goes EPICALLY viral, get trashed in every corner of the interwebs. Maybe I’m too sensitive, either way, I just don’t think it hurts to remember that the person behind the content was probably not prepared for the negative backlash that heads their way. And while we will all forget the waves of negativity that hit her shores as we move on to the next person…the original creator will carry that will them for much, MUCH longer.

PSA: Not Everyone Who Parks Shitty Is An Asshole

I know this is my second entry for the day but something that keeps popping up on Facebook HAD TO BE ADDRESSED. This is a very self-righteous buzzkill, but I have to go on record saying it:

Why are we so quick to assume everyone that parks poorly is an asshole that needs to be taught a lesson? What if that person just found out their Dad was dying, or that they just had another miscarriage, or that their Mom had an aneurysm? And they had to run errands dealing with that stress and they parked shitty because they had a lot on their mind? (I wrote about that terrible situation here in 2009.) What if you’re “teaching a lesson” to someone simply so distraught by grief that they don’t realize they didn’t park correctly.

Signed, the girl who parked terribly in all of those specific situations mentioned above and would have been devastated to come out to her car blocked in by shopping carts of people who knew nothing about her or her sadness.

(Yes. I’m aware most of those people probably are assholes, but is it worth the “lesson” if there’s a chance they’re not? Can we give strangers the benefit of the doubt and maybe just say a quiet prayer of thanks to the universe that we’re not suffering some life-changing trauma that could cause us to park erratically? Is it worth teaching 20 assholes a lesson if you traumatize ONE person who might be having The Worst Kind Of Day?)

The Gray of Winter

Alabama weather is strange. It was unseasonably warm yesterday and this morning I’m writing this on my screened-in porch wearing a winter coat and covered in a blanket. I’m not sure why I’m sitting out here. I think the rain is bringing in the cold weather and is leaving a strange energy in the air in it’s wake; and I wanted to bask in it while I wrote.

2016 has been a strange year. I finally got the help I needed and found a therapist that guided me in sorting out the pain I was in. This has been an overall improvement and had wide-reaching positive effects from my parenting to my marriage. But, I feel like that by clearing out the clouds from my personal scope, I have cleared my vision to see the world around me more clearly…and I’m not entirely sure the view is that great.

I have set down on the road to understand systemic racism and the ways our society has continued to hold down people of color. This started rooting in me a strange feeling of hopelessness as I realized how little I knew and that I am just one of millions of unaware white people sitting in a ruling majority in our country. I’m seeing the boundless efforts by certain parts of the country to limit the control a woman has over her body. I’m becoming more and more aware of the delusion that we all have the same opportunities to success, that our country (and especially my state) does not actually allow all people the same potential to succeed and that the trauma of poverty is not being addressed in families across the country.

The election did not help that feeling, the campaign trail and this age of “live” social media showed that on top of the systemic racism I’m just learning about, blatant racism still exists as well and I’m now feeling overwhelmed on top of hopeless.

And don’t even get me started on the sorrow that eats at my soul when I see the world at war outside of the United States.

There’s also this strange thing happening – where our society is now documenting charitable actions on a daily basis. And while a small part of me celebrates the power of good, a much larger part of me is feeling like a lot of this stuff would not be happening if there was not hope of a “viral” response to the action. I used to not be that jaded. I used to celebrate good deeds simply for good, but now it all seems to be tainted with a feeling of desperation as people are trying to win the award for Most Commendations From The Internet.

So while I’ve worked to heal my own depression, I find I’ve also learned a new sensation of hopelessness and distrust of humanity.

I bought a coffee mug from DFTBA records a few weeks ago. It’s designed by Hannah Hart, a wonderful YouTube voice of positivity and charity. It was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing as they were on sale and I liked the idea of it. I drink out of it at work every day and I find it’s become very useful in shaking this new pervasive hopelessness from my spirit. I want to buy a second one to drink out of at home.

I don’t like the feeling of hopelessness. I don’t like the realization that our society is filled with people who have no desire to open their minds to systemic racism or white privilege. I’m discouraged by the widespread notion that children living in poverty have the same chance for success as those in middle class America. I feel overwhelmed that so many people could so easily overlook Trump’s terrible rhetoric and attitude. I’m heartbroken that so many people hated Hillary Clinton so much, considering the decades of amazing work she’s done in this country. I’m just saddened by the state of things and I don’t like this weird change that I feel seeping into my soul. The year I finally start to work through my depressions seems like it should be the year I see the world in a brighter light.

Instead, it’s like I was so overwhelmed by personal sadness, that I couldn’t even see the world around me. Now I’m seeing so many things every day that eat at my soul. And this is just me focusing on US politics and government. If I allow myself to watch news from places like Aleppo, I struggle to shake the weight of the darkening despair.

So I sit out here as the cold weather rolls in. My fingers find it hard to type as they’re the only skin showing through my blankets and jackets. I feel the freezing rain and the gray outside and I feel it reflects the strange new pervasive mood that I’ve developed on the inside as well. Hopefully the despair in my heart will be as temporary as the winter and the Spring will come and lighten up the cold gray skies.

Until then I will practice relentless optimism as a way to combat the despair.

Or at least I’ll continue to drink out of the mug that tells me to do just that.

When All Else Fails – Talk Dumb Movies.

It’s another night before bed and I realized I hadn’t written my blog post for the day yet. This is the blessing and the curse of NaBloPoMo. I have to force myself to write but sometimes I’m just not focused enough to write anything coherent.

This is one of those days.

I’ve been really busy trying to catch up at work and try to organize a calendar and newsletter for our local Progressives (I know?! RIGHT!) and I’ve been trying to think a lot about faith and religion and how it relates to the future and fear (I had a good lunch with a friend today which got my brain traveling down that path) and I’ve been thinking about activism and complacency and I’ve been thinking about friendship and family and all of these ideas are just nuggets of blog posts but nothing really hashed out and I’m basically just staring at the screen and thinking: Maybe I’ll tell them about the amazing movie I watched last night?

The kids and I had a movie night since I didn’t see them at all over the weekend. We decided to watch the critically acclaimed: Central Intelligence.

AND IT WAS SO FUNNY. It was PG-13 – so it had a little bit of “adult” humor but it was basically mindless and goofy and it made me laugh and that’s what I needed. To laugh.

Anyway – I have a lot of seeds of profound blog posts, but nothing sprouting yet…so you just get my 5-star review of the dumbest, most awesome movie ever: Central Intelligence.