Category Archives: baby steps

In Defense of Spirited Abandon and Cosmic Trust


I live in an area close to Washington, D.C., however I spent my early youth, of which I recall a great deal, in Buffalo, NY.

We have received a fair amount of snow here, in the DC-burbs this winter. Nothing like 2010, however, and absolutely nothing like what the northeast has endured this winter as well.

I learned about a weather phenomenon, “the ice line” a few months ago. It’s aptly named. It’s what causes a shit ton of emotional and vehicular chaos in these parts whenever the air and surface temps drop below freezing but the substance falling from the clouds ain’t so sure it’s not in Florida. The result is ice. Sometimes it is ice covered by snow.

The issue is the unfortunate confluence of inexperienced drivers on ice and a southern state transportation department which has begrudgingly had to adapt to climate change.

Surely it snowed and was icy when George Washington was president, or before Vespucci found this continent. People, fauna, bears… They coped. They didn’t freak out, wring their dry hands and wonder about school closings, road conditions, Twitter updates and Brian Williams.

They just dealt. They looked outside their huts or caves, they said (in whatever language they uttered) “ok, different from yesterday. The elk skin will be most appropriate for the day along with those muskrat boots… and hand me my pashmina while you’re at it…”

Sometimes (most always) we know what we need to do. Most times, in an increasingly complicated (über-connected) world, it just means we retreat, we go inside to our inner wisdom, and decide for ourselves. Put down the familiar bottle of chaos we subconsciously looooove to stir up and cool our jets. We simply let go, leave it all up to the Fates, God, the Universe, whatever it is which gets us through dinner, and deal, knowing 1) it’s out of our control and 2) it’s nothing to freak out about.

I’m suggesting we do that now. Just breathe, assess and deal; go with our thimble-sized needs and address them accordingly.

One breath at a time.

Thank you.

What I Will Gain by Quitting Facebook for Lent — 3: Resisting Urges, Feeling Left Out


So today is Day 12, but I journaled on Friday about it.

The first thing I said in my entry that day was this: “Woke up in Status Update mode,” which really bummed me out. I closed that sentence with, “rats.”

The thing is, I didn’t wake up in SU mode today and I’m glad. I went to sleep last night after playing around on my iPad with a new app using my new stylus called “Ink Writer” and it’s a great extension of creative energy — it’s described as a replacement for paper and ink. You can doodle, trace an outline of a photo, all sorts of things for active minds like mine and it wore me out, in a good way. So today, I woke refreshed, not thinking about Facebook.

Here’s what I did last night on the app. I outlined a photo of myself with my 83# lap dog, Murphy:


Here are some things I’ve learned in the last 12 days of being almost entirely (save for the fiction group and the fundraising groups I launched) off Facebook:

When I went on FB Friday for the fiction group, the first thing to show up was my home page newsfeed, and what was the first thing I saw? A meme. But this one was about Pistorius not being a flight risk. Pistorius is that double-amputee Olympian who shot his girlfriend three times because she “surprised” him.

Reaction: this isn’t funny. It’s tasteless. Does the fact that this is showing up on my newsfeed show more about me and the online company I keep or does it show how depraved people can be? Answer: yes.

But below the meme, I saw my FB community: their beings digitized and reduced to 1″ avatars and I sensed a quickening in myself, not unlike the sensation I feel when an ambulance goes by. That sounds morbid, but I don’t mean it that way. What I mean by it is to suggest that I feel disconnected, that I am observing, not necessarily voyeuristically, because I also felt no interest. The avatars reminded me of “TV Mike” from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the only good one, starring Gene Wilder) when he was broken up into millions of little bits and his mother freaked out that he was the size of a coffee cup when he landed in the TV on the other end of the transportation or “broadcast.”


Most of the content from this post is coming from the journal entry, that I wrote in hand, on the advice of a friend. My second post about this lenten hiatus was also generated from my journal entry. I am glad I’m doing it this way, on paper first.

I don’t deign to suggest that this experience will be of vast importance to anyone but me, but I am getting feedback from both of my readers that they are encouraged by these posts and the fact that I’m sharing how I’m doing.

When I went on Friday to correspond with the groups, I had 78 unread notifications. I also got a couple emails from Facebook telling me they missed me, and that they’d noticed I hadn’t updated my fan page “in a day” and suggested that I might want to update it then. A day. Well, that’s about right. That’s what I mean to Facebook I guess. For someone who was not a super-heavy user, I was mostly an uploader and content sharer (news posts, etc.), I mattered that much to them. By this point, 10 days later, they missed me as about I as much as I missed them.

But 78 notifications in 10 days. That red 78 over my little monochromatic blue globe made me feel important for a moment and it made me feel as though people wanted me to know they were thinking about me, so I did feel that rush, that draw to go see! but I didn’t look at the notifications — that’s obviously how they get you in. I reminded myself that I don’t care about what I’m missing, despite the fact that I woke that morning with the concept that people needed to hear what I thought first thing. This is a sick trap… for me.

But writing this all in pen on paper gives me a connection with my content; it makes my thoughts indelible, not part of the internet (even though they are now), despite my conflicts.


I wrote six pages that night. Don’t worry, it’s a 5″x7″ notebook. I feel like Gulliver when I use it.

My life has opened up considerably since logging off and having to stare at my own neediness for approval and my estimation of self import. I’ve gone to museums, I’ve met with eldercare consultants for my parents, I helped out my son’s class with their bread making and then took my son to a food bank the next day to donate the bread… I’ve participated in life, but I found myself not necessarily sated by those acts because something in me, a years-long conditioning is impelling me still — despite my consciousness, awareness and reluctance — to share it on FB, to earn the Likes and the so-called approval for posts that compete with cat memes and glib someecards.

Egad, that sounds really snobby. But it’s true and this is hard for me. I’m truly being candid and am risking sounding like a jerk because I’m processing. It’s a little-known fact FB peeps, that FB has some sort of (another) creepy algorithm to determine what of yours gets seen first by your connections, in your newsfeed. I do know this: images win out. I also say this at risk of sounding completely paranoid and conspiracy theorist-y, but I wonder if FB is intentionally contributing to attention deficit disorder to keep people online; it’s like gambling … I’ve written before about dopamine rushes and pleasure centers and Facebook.

I continued on that thought,

It wasn’t enough to just do it and to document it and share it in a blog post. Something truly bizarre and I thought foreign to me is that urge from deep within that wanted the affirmation yet I know it’s completely pointless as well as soon forgotten once consumed. Do I remember anyone else’s status updates? For 99.829% of status updates I see, the answer is no. What’s more, do I remember any of my own? Do I remember my last one? Well, yes, because that one is when I said I was taking my leave of Facebook, but it’s sort of assholic of me to think that anyone would remember it; it’s an ego thing for me to think that anyone really cares about my status updates; but then I must remember not to be uncool to myself because then that opens up another rabbit hole …

The thing that feeds this concept for me as being an important member of my own Facebook community is that I’m a writer. And the publishing paradigms are shifting: self-publishing abounds, eBooks are all the rage (even though I really want to publish on paper), and the all-but-skywritten pronouncements that traditional publishing is on a DNR.

I hear time and again the need for writers and other creatives to develop a “platform” which is based on the person’s accessibility and social media “persona” and well, my “persona” is me. So that means, as far as the social media platform standpoint is considered, that I keep up with the Joneses, or more likely, the Hausenhaufers and Nardletters and Fingleworths — other completely unknown writers and trust me … there are a lot of us. I lament (quite ironically, by the way) that if I were just a regular person (I KNOW!), then leaving FB would be so much easier… but like Joan Crawford, I have to consider my public, dahling.

Don’t worry — I get it.

I stated in some posts leading up to my eventual decision to abandon FB that I’d had some epiphanies about living life when I was sick with Norovirus. Exhaustion, dehydration and vomiting does wonders for existentialism by the way. Another reason I had was one I don’t talk about very often (great line from “A Few Good Men,” “Because in places you don’t like to talk about at cocktail parties …”) is that I felt left out. That’s hard to admit. It makes me vulnerable and yes, real blah blah blah… but it’s true.

For a long while, when I first joined FB in 2008, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone else’s status updates. I recall going to someone’s wall (and I was a total noob about FB at the time, and I’m grateful that I’m still an FB / social media noob) and seeing what they had to say. I would just post my update or share an article and be off. But then something changed and I saw my friends’ updates and they were often about … well, themselves. And some mutual friends (this is where it gets sticky) and what they did together, with photos, without me. So I felt small, and unimportant and I would become sad.

So, I even did it myself a few times, just to make other people feel small and unimportant, thinking that would make me feel big and amazingly important and you know, special. I’d tag a friend or two in a status update and share it. But then I felt like a dick. So I’d take it off. I learned later to share my thoughts more generically, “A regular night is always nicer with good friends and a dinner served by a hot waiter.” That is a status update that anyone, anywhere can agree with. And you can borrow that status update free of charge.

I have an actual friend who has a rule (which I admire): Anyone she sees on a near-daily basis or who lives within 30 miles of her is not allowed on her FB connections list. (I’m not going to use the word “friend” anymore.) Her connection group is less than 100 and her bullshit ratio is controlled.

So there were also times when I was convinced (because I’m a deluded, self-entitled, paranoid conspiracy theorist) that some of these socially exclusive images were posted as a giant (swear alert) “fuck you!” to me and despite my weirdness, I know I’m right.

Why? Remember how Facebook first began: as the vengeful scheming of and public slandering by a jilted small-minded emotionally arrested boy at Harvard. It all started with his system of rating women based on their looks. Some women liked it and others didn’t; but guess what: they all got talked about and so did the women who weren’t included in the original idea. Facebook was founded on exclusion and rejection. So then that begat the question: do you want to be included in this or not?

Granted, Facebook has evolved (as I’ve stated on a previous post about this topic) or that’s what the marketing would have you believe. No… I don’t know about that. Would the marketing have you believe that? I have to say this, I’ve never seen a television or heard a radio ad or even seen an internet ad for Facebook. Why? Because they don’t need it: in the digitized, Internet-based world, Facebook is ubiquitous. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy or unhealthy; the more I process this, the more it comes back to my knowing myself and my limitations.

I have another human friend who recently shut down, completely deactivated her account as did her teenage son who will likely be followed by his teenage sister. Why? Because they decided that it’s a freakfest of self-promotion and for my friend at least, she found herself completely unimpressed by it all after a while. And she did it silently, no pronouncements, because she didn’t want to hear about it from anyone. She’s like that. I dig that about her.

And so, here’s me: feeling like after four years that maybe it’s time to graduate. Keep the yearbook, stay in touch an’ all, but you know… get a life. This break has been awesome for the most part, despite my feeling twitchy and needy at times about sharing my thoughts and experiences.

The drop in data and light in my face have helped me become more self-aware, more calm, my thoughts are cohesive and productive and I don’t feel bad about being “away.” Despite what happened Friday morning with the Status Update thought, I haven’t thought that way again and I don’t really feel like hearing about other people. That sounds selfish until I realize that Facebook doesn’t share status updates anymore the way it used to. Back in the stone age, when you had a status update, it stayed at the top of your wall and people would know you’d not been online in a while and that was cool. Now FB shares posters and pictures and ads and cat memes and someecards and other stuff that quite honestly: has done nothing for my life.

The problem for me: it can be fun to get a glimpse of what my friends and family choose to share. I really like to see how everyone seems to be doing. I am a social creature who loves banter and seeing friends and visiting and travel. That’s the social part of social media that I dig.

I remember that before Facebook, I didn’t not think about my friends, I just didn’t think about them not thinking about me. It never occurred to me that I figured that large in their lives. I think about the thought of completely deactivating and it doesn’t completely appeal to me. Still chewing on this; the key is to not be distracted by it.

Thank you.

ps – here is the next post about this:

babysteps and flinching


so i’ve been reading an ebook called “The Flinch” which talks about facing fears / reluctances and when you feel the instinct to flinch you are to not give up; rather to do the opposite. if you do nothing else, look at the cover art.

the author, julien smith, talks any number of goals that people might have for themselves: getting a new job, waking up earlier, asking someone on a date, trying a new food, having The Talk in a relationship, losing weight, training for a race; anything that requires growth and very likely hard change.

it gives homework. the first assignment is to daily walk into a very cold shower for a week. i presume without clothes on. the objective of this exercise is to know on a visceral level what a flinch feels like and to get over any projected fear that you might have about something that could be uncomfortable, but intellectually you know is completely harmless. i chickened out on that. i’ve had the sniffles lately. i mean, really… it’s december. the ground water temp is probably 45˚.  if i’m gonna subject myself to supah-cold water, it’s gonna be on one of those geriatric polar bear swim club things… and i’ve got time.

the second assignment is to take a mug from the kitchen and drop it to the floor / ground in hopes of smashing it. the goal is to show you that you gain more strength by letting go. if the cup was too easy, the author suggests smashing a smartphone. (“but i play Cut the Rope on that!” screams Thing 3; no worries, i won’t smash my smartphone.) i also won’t smash a cup because well, i think it’s a stupid thing to do and i clean up after enough ceramic accidents around here that the thought of cleaning up an “intentional” is uh, dumb. i don’t think the author has kids.

the third assignment is really up my alley. talk to a total stranger. i do this all the time. it’s not a problem at all. i tell people i don’t know they look nice or that i like their jacket or their haircut (usually a woman) is awesome(r). before you start getting uncomfortable, don’t worry. my comments are always made in broad daylight and in nice neighborhoods. one of my favorite times is when i saw a mature woman about a year ago who looked so beautiful i had to tell her. she said she was meeting someone on a blind date; her first since being a widow. whoever the guy was, he had better be hot, i told her and she blushed. i don’t flinch from speaking to strangers but i don’t take candy from them. public speaking is also not a big deal for me. i can work a room.

the fourth assignment is so @$&*^@_ crazy that i don’t know where to …  … the author proposes getting punched in the face. or putting yourself in a boxing ring and then allowing yourself to get punched in the face.

i decided at this point that the tome is self help meets fight club. but bear with me.

why am i reading this book? it was free. i read a lot of what turns out to be crap because it’s free. it’s the allure of the Kindle. download anything in less than a minute and see if it stinks. if it does, you just delete it and it just gooooes awaaaaay….. some of it i finish, most i don’t. but this book isn’t really crap and i’m reading it also because seth godin (a best selling author and a vocal ebook champion) recommended it, but i’m beginning to think that as much as seth likes to talk the talk about “doing The Work” and “changing the world” and “re-revolutionizing everything…” and his favorite, “poking the box” he also is basically a businessman who must cross pollinate and engage in partner marketing or he will perish. eh… he’s human and he’s got bills.

i truly dislike the work of “selling” myself or authors or artists having to sell themselves and play the game. it’s not that i’m so hot that my work should speak for itself; it’s that to me, it’s sorta … well, fake. i see some people on fb turning themselves INSIDE OUT for attention and it’s sorta pathetic. i’ll chat more about that in a later post. i need to do more so-called research.

back to the boxing ring for a sec. smith goes into as much detail as he allows himself to discuss the physical reactions of flinching and how if in a fight (club) the way to overcome the flinch is to actually step into it. hmm. so, step into what you fear. does the flinch ever go away? not if we’re lucky. i like and hate that. i suppose if it goes away, then we’re dead inside.

while the book is not bad, some of the ideas are a little wacky and it repeats itself a bit but maybe that’s part of the “therapy.” i honestly flinch when i prepare to read it because i know it’s right! i’m reading it because i’m really trying to get over my fear of writing for the sheer joy of writing “publicly.” y’see, every time i’ve written, it’s been for someone else: teacher, boss, client, professor… so it’s a new stage for me.  and i started this supposed “blog” about a year ago and i’ve written mostly about other people and i wonder if my randomness that i’ve allowed myself in this blogging capacity has sort of been my undoing; i have no “plan.”

man plans God laughs. that’s one of my favorite phrases of all time. perhaps i like it too much.

oh…. plans. i titled this blog “babysteps and flinching” because this is exactly where i am. i realized a few months ago with great relief that the term “babysteps” can apply to anyone at any stage. previously i had always understood it to mean just very small steps, on tippy-toes even. like those taken with archless four-inch feetpods within a very short distance between said feetpods and narrowly placed and slowly.

but upon greater reflection, i remembered that babies don’t flinch. they just go for it. and they fall down all the time.

so i always assumed that when adult people said “taking babysteps” that it obviously meant that whatever they were doing was probably mastered (because they are adults). they were just choosing to walk slowly to adapt.

well, what i hand’t quite fully appreciated (and i mean “appreciate” in the sense that it’s a gift) is that in order to take the babysteps and master them, one must fall down. a lot. i mean, like all the time. have you ever really watched a pre-toddler child navigate on foot? we used to call all our kids “drunken sailors” (no, i’m not making fun of alcoholic seamen, so all you pro-alcoholic seamen advocates better stand down, people can be so PC lately). a baby’s gyroscope is spinning furiously, his brains are firing synapses at a blistering rate and his enormous head (especially in the case of Thing 1… that kid had a HAAA-UGE head as an infant, almost like Charlie Brown) resting atop his fleshy one-inch neck is the supposed ballast making everything gonna be alright. right? well, not so much… look, there’s something bright and shiny.

>WHUMP< baby fall down go boom. and do they cry? not really… not unless we as observers gasp.

in my parenting i had the huge benefit of Dan’s older sibs who had kids already. they showed me to cheer when a baby lands on her puffy fanny from all of 10 inches above. so we cheered when our Things fell down and went boom as they learned to walk and so they never really cried unless they bumped their ballasts and if they did that, well truth be told: we usually waited for them to decide if it hurt or not.

if they did get hurt, we cuddled them until they started squirming like feral cats to get back to the business of falling down. Thing 2 for instance was nicknamed “Fling” from almost the moment he came home from the hospital by a dear friend (i preferred “der fledermaus” but Fling stuck) because he was constantly.on.the.move. he started walking on Inauguration Day for W; he wasn’t even a year yet. talk about “Mission Accomplished.” wooooo sorry.

so now i’m learning to not be afraid to fall down and also to be my own cheering section to get me back up. it’s tough. i flinch all the time. today as a matter of fact; i decided to send a friend a note to let her know i’m in the market for p/t writing work if she needs it. i was afraid to upset the balance of our friendship but then i realized that flinch flew in the face of my “you can’t win if you don’t play” mentality which embodies a lot of how i approach life — at least it’s the advice i give to friends…  so i sent the note anyway. i wouldn’t be offended if i received a note like that and it’s doubtful she would be offended. i have to learn on a cellular level (flinch-wise) that risk is its own greatest reward.

so what are you flinching from? are there things you’re trying to do that require babysteps? know that you will falter. guaranteed. but consider the question posed by Alfred to Bruce Wayne in “The Dark Knight“: “Why do we fall down Sir?” “So we can learn to get back up,” replies Bruce. Alfred never gave up on Bruce. so you don’t give up on you.

full circle moment: if we always cheered when wobbly kids safely fall down, why don’t we cheer ourselves when we try something we’re interested in knowing the risks needed for success and knowing we’re very likely going to fall down? for me as i said it’s about writing publicly, purposelessly and just for the joy of it. i know i’m gonna fall down, that’s not where the flinch comes in… the flinch comes in right before i even start and right after i click “publish.”

here goes…

thank you. have a wonderful 2012.

update: crazy but true department: i finished the book about 5 minutes after posting this on 12/21. i had no clue because i was at “35%” of the book which i’ve since learned includes samples of other books on the same seth godin train / imprint. the book is having a benign effect in that it’s getting me to think about how i do things and i suppose i’ll have a hard time ignoring when i’m flinching.