Category Archives: General Internet

Fighting, flying, climbing, doubting

Trust is a social brick. Trust is welded together by the fires of its own torch. Trust is the walls, foundation, and roof of the house. Break trust and the house blows away like leaves preceding winter. Sure, you can reassemble it. Have you ever chased leaves down the street? All of them? I have. It is so much easier to keep the house standing in the first place. Trust is hard to build, harder yet to rebuild.

If society is unraveling, it is because of lost trust. A few days prior to the election I realized I had, unknowingly, buried my own trust that the things I hear are true. News? Well. Activists? Maybe. Politicians? Depends on who. This election sucked. Too few felt obligated to accuracy. Lots of outlandish things happened, and lots of people claimed outlandish things happened which never did. I’m already overrunning my bandwidth keeping my life together, and now I’ve got to fact check everything I hear? Yeah. Sure. Doubt seeped in, slowly, like water through an old house only to be discovered when winter transforms a wall into ice. That ice is my trust’s grave marker, and it’ll disappear come Spring. “Somewhere, over there, I buried trust in society,” I’ll think, as its memory fades away.

Younger me did some stupid things. Younger me also learned. I learned that it was far better to treat my feelings as points of information than it was to regard them as truth. Being anxious just means I do not know as much about what is going on than I prefer. Feeling comfortable does not mean the circumstances are right – just that they are easy. Being in love tells me nothing about the potential quality of the relationship or character of the person, just that about being into someone and prone to distraction. One of the best bits of advice from my best friend is, “Don’t believe everything that you think.” Don’t believe everything that you feel. That is not to say don’t respect it. It is information. It is part of you.

It is easier when the feelings are mild. I went to a meeting of a group at a point in time. We were all trying to discern how to keep the world from burning more. I could not focus through my own flames. My frontal lobe belittled my amygdala for firing off fight-or-flight when a long-buried skeleton unearthed their self. A skeleton, who I am pretty sure, cannot do further harm to me. Listen. I thought Shadow of My Past moved. To be fair: they did. They just, well, returned. Why cannot I calmly note it in the semi-indifferent manner that I note, let’s say, new graffiti on Chandler Street?

Confession: I favor my frontal lobe. I like how she thinks. She cannot run the machine single-handedly though. So instead, amygdala and frontal lobe go back and forth, the fear to “Fear is the mindkiller.” That is the toolset I have with which to work.

In this gathering I look upon the fortuitously vast mob before me and recognize a few friendly faces of loose acquaintances, a few people I will deliberately avoid, and a sea of strangers. Speakers talk about fortifying ourselves. Remember that we all love one another. Some nod. This is their tribe.

Uh.

I am not from around here. I understand the language even as my proficiency reinforces this tongue’s unfamiliarity. I feel like I climbed over a wall to show up. That’s exciting, right? I bother because I believe in the effort. Despite this, claims of community resonate with me like bad pennies hitting the bottom of a dry well. There likely is community. I think I can guess which members of this crowd belong to it. Oh hey: the people I am avoiding are apparently liked a whole lot. That love talk is more like a marker drawing a border that I feel like I know is a demarcation of an in-group.

Did I mention my amygdala has a preference in these situations? It’s flight.

Whatever, I thought for the longest time. Petty shit. Feelings are not truth: they are information. Besides, I am not here to make friends. I have so many other places I belong. These problems we are gathering about need work. I need to work. I need to find space enough to do that. I have been staying in the mode of translator. I am uneasy with some of the people but I am down with the ideas. Everyone acts like those should effortlessly fuse – listen: they don’t. But! I know people easy with me who are not yet down with the ideas – maybe I reach them. Maybe that is the role I am supposed to play, and all of this anxious discomfort is here because I can tolerate it well-enough.

Seriously. All you need to put out a fire are a bunch of people with fire extinguishers who are willing to coordinate well-enough with each other – they don’t have to like each other. So I thought.

Later I realized this: they do have to trust each other.

So I am laying on the muddy grave plot of my propensity to trust the unfamiliar listening to my frontal lobe and my hypothalamus argue about primacy and effectiveness and hey – temporal lobe, could you stop remembering absolutely every awful thing in such vivid detail? There is so much to be done, and I am being undone by basic human foibles, what the hell is with that? Every time I wish I were above something, I find myself on the ground next to it. The only things I am above are the things I inadvertently killed.

These are the machines we are all working with, are they not?

I keep picking up that wrench to fasten the ladder to the wall, scaling it time and time again. I always question if it is worth it. What else to do? Do I give into the feeling that the community is more balanced without me? Is society more about what it does, or what it is? What about smaller groups? Do I slither back into the space I came from like some snake expanding well-worn trails? How important is that need to belong to getting stuff done?

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It feels like death but it is also very very freeing.

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I wrote those words in my journal (and then copied them with a steadier hand so I could take a picture). It feels like death. Obviously, I did not die. Mortality is on my mind with a milestone birthday in less than two months.

The thing with death is that it’s a when, not an if. And it’s not just me, it’s not just you, it is everyone, and it is every thing. My spouse, parents, children, friends, coworkers: everyone I know is going to die. Everyone you know is going to die. The world as we see it now, it’s only here to us now. And then time passes and circumstances shift and everything’s different and some things are gone. This is the way it is, this is the way it has always been.

I had a few things happen in the past year where I decided I would prefer to be in the memory of the people with me at the time, rather than accessible later on. I wanted to approach my ideas and presence like it was a gift to those with me then. So I did it. I deleted all the Tweets that Twitter allows (turns out, you can only access your most recent 3,200 of them), my tumblr posts prior to January 2016, and I marked all but the most policy-wonky posts on this website as private if they were posted prior to 2015. It felt like a death – one’s online presence is their content, after all – but it also felt very freeing, and very proper.

We do not take videos of our every moment and relive them later. If I want to think about the times I went with Jude to Diva Espresso, I need to go into my memories. I talk to them about it. I use social media as a conversational medium more than letters, and I wanted my presence to have that same wispy quality. I was inspired by how Jude uses tumblr (with an easy trigger-finger on the delete key). I read on Anil Dash’s Twitter that Prince often deletes posts after a few days. I have no idea if this is true, but I loved the idea.

So I deleted the tweets and posts and spent the rest of the day wandering around with my breath tight, like I just did something. Like I broke up with a boyfriend who was holding me back, or like I secretly acquired a passport. Like I did something so reckless, but it felt so proper. Yet, of course, no one cares as much as I do about my online content. No one is reading my twitter, over and over, now missing the absence of old tweets. And so it is with our lives too – our life is most important to our own self, a gift to be intimately savored. Our lives are uniquely ours, and no one else experiences it the same way.

I suppose I wanted my social media content to be more like me – mortal.

I am turning thirty in a few months. I am OK with it, happy even. My life has been very full, and overall I am content with the growth I have done and the experiences that I’ve had. Not everything worked. I had some very big failures. Life went on, and I went on with it. A colleague told me that she met a former student of mine and she described me as, “Intense.” I can’t dispute the description, though I never thought to describe myself that way. Generally, if I went towards something, I went all in, and experienced it for what it was worth. And when I chose to walk away, be it from graduate school, veganism, a few failed friendships, it was with a lot of hard-earned lessons.

Thirty brings a lot of consternation to a lot of people, though all my friends who reached the age say they prefer it. I am approaching it happy – I love my life. My husband and I have a fantastic, loving relationship. Our kids are wonderful, even beyond the much appreciated fact that they exist and are healthy. I feel like I have the job I am meant to have for this phase of life, and it’s a good one. When I look back on the last decade, I feel like I can say I tried a lot of things, I tried them fully, and learned so much. I feel like I belong- I belong to the universe, I belong in this era, I am supposed to be here doing the things I am doing. This is a feeling I would not have if I did not approach everything with my all and experienced the consequences accordingly. I am grateful for what has been a wonderful life thus far. I am thankful not to approach thirty with the sense that I am old, but the sense I am here, that life is a privilege that I get to live.

Life is a fleeting privilege.

And my social media now has an expiration date. I’m only going to keep the previous calendar year’s posts unless they are really policy wonky. And my tweets will delete after three months. I am going to sit with this way of internet existing, for awhile, and see how it goes. So far a few people on Twitter have mentioned a preference for expiring content. I wonder what other (your?) thoughts are.

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