The Next Five

canstockphoto5233804It’s been five years since I wrote my first blog post and I’m feeling a tad somber about that. Since then, I’ve written on a wide range of topics, mostly in regards to personal development and writing. I wrote an angry political post yesterday and it was a lesson as well, getting chided by a couple of commenters. I expended a lot of energy trying to be measured in reply and not devolve into personal attacks. I lay awake last night and decided it’s not worth it, so I am making a slight adjustment.

The idea of writing a public blog is both grand and petty at the same time. There are a million plus blog posts published every day on the internet. That I would presume to be one of those voices, after a lifetime of flying under the radar is pretty amazing to me. When people respond, you start getting the idea that what you say matters. Until you realize that you’re in the middle of a rancorous crowd, whispering read me, read me.

canstockphoto16878678I don’t want to write about little things all the time. But I don’t want to spend my time arguing. No one has ever argued me into changing my mind, so I don’t expect to do that for someone else. I change my mind slowly, on my own terms. Arguing just makes me feel the need to either run away or get unnecessarily aggressive. While I’ve been reading about how to be rational and reasoned in those situations, when push comes to shove, my frustration wins. I know it’s something I have to work on, but I’m not going to do it here. There’s better places to have conversation.

Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time, knows how I feel about the current state of politics and about our new President. So, I’m learning to become an activist. I’m learning more about my government and how it works. And I will use my writing skills to protest, persuade, and make my voice known.

canstockphoto6393530There’s a question of complicity. If I don’t use this established platform to raise my voice, am I failing in some way to honor my values? There is a particular flavor to the internet. I don’t think minds are being won over here. It is the mindlessness, the reactive nature of political commenters. No argument is advanced, but the same old tired back-and-forth memes are recited until eventually they’re calling each other stupid. It’s pointless.

It is unlikely that I’ll endear myself to the public at large, anyway. I’m not a believer, so I don’t care for religion. Any discussion usually lands me in hot water. I’m an unrepentant feminist and don’t have patience arguing about what it means or why some whackadoodles in the club have done what they’ve done. I don’t claim responsibility for anyone but myself.

I don’t watch TV. I don’t enjoy sports. I hate shopping. I don’t actively use Twitter or Facebook (my posts robo themselves over). I don’t like crowds of people, recycled sound bites or hugging. I can be quite bad-tempered when pushed. I like to spend loads of time alone. And I read indiscriminately. In short, I have very limited appeal online and in person.

With politics, I don’t see the advantage of starting dialogue with people who are dug into their trenches. It takes much more effort on my part than theirs to engage, because I don’t always assume I’m right. I have to critically think about and counter my intemperance. I’d rather engage people on other things and not go head-to-head on politics all the time. This is the only way we can remind each other of our humanity.

I get a little sensitive to the accusation that I’m intolerant and not open-minded, because those are held up as virtues. I’ve decided to get over that. We’re all intolerant and close-minded about some things, just not the same things. This is my blog and I should make a conscious choice how I engage and how responsive I want to be. And if a reader prefers all engagement, all the time, I’ll get over that, too, because there’s 999,999 other blogs that they could comment on.

canstockphoto5307402From here on out, I’ll continue to write what I want to write, but on hot button posts will turn off comment sections and Like options. I appreciate engagement, but with some topics there’s just no way it’s going to be enjoyable. I don’t enjoy squabbling and being told how stupid I am by total strangers. Who does? I enjoy reading editorials with no engagement, no Like button. I like to mull things over without the social media tug, so maybe some of you do as well.

My writing, when it comes to politics, needs to take on a more journalistic bent. As I engage in editorial writing to papers and magazines, the up-close-and-personal perspective that I write from at The Green Study will be absent. I’m great for blurting out my flaws and vulnerabilities, but I am also capable of a different kind of writing. And it may be more useful than me calling someone a douchebag here.  Although perhaps not as satisfying.

I don’t know how things are going to play out over the next five years. But I’m going to keep typing along in the hopes that something worthwhile emerges. canstockphoto10829751

An added comment policy can be found here.

54 Comments on “The Next Five

  1. In addition to WordPress I have also been blogging twice a week on Huff Post for about six or seven months. Some of the comments I’ve gotten there take my breath away. To some degree it’s my own fault because I express my opinion freely (although respectfully) and that does poke the tiger. But why people can’t disagree while still being civil I don’t know, but some just can’t.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m not sure I have a thick enough skin for all the vitriol. I have to really think about that. I’m not sure there really is anything to gain by engaging people who are already hostile and it’s an emotional drain. One needs better skills than I possess. Sounds like you’ve got them!

      Liked by 3 people

      • I enjoy OpEd-style writing; and, like you, I want to do more editorial, journalistic writing. The people who have something valid and interesting to say usually out-number those who feel the need to be nasty, rude and insulting. I won’t lie — It’s not easy to dismiss or ignore the ugly comments but I appreciate the others very much. We have good conversations and it is satisfying to know that something I said resonated. So I stick with it. There may come a time when it becomes too much and that’s when I’ll pack it in.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Too bad the comment thing got you down. I can understand that, though I’ve gotten pretty lucky on my blog and haven’t had too many slug trails. I also don’t get very political, so there’s that. And the Nietszche quote about looking into the void, and the void looking into you: there you go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know if it really got me down, but it got me thinking. There’s clearly a stake for some people to “win” an argument which leads to those ever-shrinking columns of comment back-and-forths. The comments that I got weren’t even particularly stabby, but they got in my head.
      Over the long haul, I have to decide how to balance having an opinion and being willing to be attacked for it. It’s going to happen, but I want to think it through and prepare for it a little better. Underneath my crunchy exterior, I’m a sensitive slug and I can’t forget that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks and congrats on nearing your 2nd anniversary as well!
      Thanks, too, for reading when you can. I’ve gotten a little loose with my writing lately, but feel encouraged to keep improving, knowing that some people enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have a fabulous blog and are a talented writer. I read often, comment rarely. I disagree with turning your comment section off for sensitive topics. While you feel strongly on your position, others may as well (positive and negative). It seems unnecessary to completely tune that out due to a few respondents with no couth. Although it’s technically YOUR blog, you’ve put it in a public space and welcomed others to read and share. Without the feedback, it’s just an electronic journal. Don’t crumble in the face of opposition. Stay strong. Hoping today’s post was simply a knee-jerk reaction to the jerks. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your kind words. I feel compelled to weigh engaging others on hot button issues against the emotional cost of being attacked. I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty sensitive at times and will spin a comment in my head for days on end. Often it taps into a tendency for depression.

      Knowing that about myself, I have a choice to make. Remain silent on things that I care about, write without engagement, or read the comments, risking making myself completely and utterly miserable.

      People forget that there was a time when writers just wrote what they wanted to write. And if people got angry at them, they sent off missives to the publication or wrote their own editorials. This on-the-spot, instantaneous feedback is a different kind of animal. We’re less likely to be thoughtful, more likely to be misunderstood and have the safety of distance from each other as humans, so the rhetoric tends to be less civil.

      This is less knee-jerk, than a realization that as I wander further afield, I’ll have some issues on this blog that I didn’t before.

      Thanks for your input. I have to think about things more and take it on a case-by-case basis. I wonder, too, about allowing myself space to write without obligation.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. “…keep typing along in the hopes that something worthwhile emerges” That sums up pretty much every creative endeavor. Do what you do. You’ll get no argument from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats on being a blogger for this long. Most people give up after a month or two, so you’ve done great. I, too, am not a person who lives and breathes main stream ideas, so I’ve never found a niche in which I fit 100%. I like what you have to say here, and the conversations that follow are interesting to read. Blogging is what you make of it, so if this is good to you, it’ll be good to everyone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I hope you’ll continue to share your resistance tactics and the thought process behind them. I bookmarked your post right after the election because you offered cogent steps forward while I was still shaking and in denial. Sincere thanks for that — you pulled me back from the edge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read a discouraging piece this morning from a former congressional staffer about how ineffective much of the communication is that comes in from citizens. However, like every step in this process, learning what is effective can be hit-and-miss. I’m a fan of workarounds and when I come up with some, I’ll be sure to write it here. Many of us are standing on shaking legs, but we’re standing. Glad that I could help.

      Like

  7. Looking forward to the next five! Always something thoughtful here. Congrats on your anniversary, Michelle!

    Like

  8. This is a brilliant plan (as Maggie said). I know how compelled you feel to respond to comments and how much time/energy/Work it steals from you. I’m RELIEVED you’ll still be distilling the world for me through your keen mind. I’ll be out here reading and cheering instead of hitting “Like.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know if it qualifies as brilliant, so much as a need for self-preservation. Funnily enough, answering comments got even more difficult this week, because my WordPress functionality took a dive (it was fortunately replicated by WordPress and they’re working on it). I took it as a sign that I need to put some policy in place for myself.

      Thanks for the kind words, Sandy. I hope that I can live up to them!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So, I’m learning to become an activist

    Sorry Michele, but activism is the problem, not the solution.

    All activism gradually gravitates toward dogma because by nature, it rewards the loudest and most extreme voices and is defeats itself in the end because of its unreasonableness and refusal to compromise its values.

    Robespierre lurks in every movement.

    If one were to provide any value as an activist, it would be to dedicate oneself to the goal of combating these tendencies in any cause in which you believe.

    Like

    • Since I’m neither loud nor extreme nor a dogmatist, I may fail your requirements to be an activist. But I’m not going to get hung up on semantics. The word activist has a very literal meaning to me. Get off my ass and take action.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Of course you are not loud or extreme, but unless you are a lone voice, sooner or later you join a chorus where the loudest and most shrill singers end up leading the choir.

        There is a trap in action too. Too much action comes under the heading of, “we must do something, this is something so we must do it.”

        Like

  10. Happy anniversary, Michelle!
    And thank you for sharing your process here. I understand the conflict (ambivalence) between expressing with or without engagement. We cannot control what other people write, and we also have to own our own roles in ‘inviting’ their reactions (and so often they are reactions rather than responses).
    In the end, you must do what works for you, and that will likely evolve over time. As a relatively new blogger, I really appreciate knowing that other, more experienced writers have similar challenges. We can all learn from each other! Write on! 😊

    Like

    • Thanks, Cathy. The idea that we need to own our role in inviting reactions – I’m not sure how I feel about that, except that I think people should be held entirely accountable for themselves – reactions and all.
      Perhaps, too, I’m a little weary of the pointless conversations I’ve seen around the internet and I don’t want to set up a scenario where readers are attacking each other, where everything spirals into seething hatred. However, silence does not seem an option. I have more to think about moving forward, but it is an individual decision and no matter what I do, someone will gripe about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe we can all take a page from Brene Brown’s playbook. Here is what she posted on her Facebook page yesterday (I understand if you want to remove it, but I thought I’d share):
        —–
        Truth! I don’t do crowds but when duty calls I have to get my patriotism on.

        WHY I MARCH: I was raised to respect the office and public service. I don’t know Donald Trump so the most respectful thing I can do is take him at his word. And, when it comes to women, immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, and our Muslim sisters and brothers, his words have been threatening and dehumanizing. I march to say that’s not acceptable or American. That is not the heart of the country I love.

        Have I expressed my concerns over policies proposed by Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush 1 or Reagan? HELL YES. All of the above. Since I was 17. I most recently sent a heated letter to our local city government about their decision to stop recycling glass. I’m an active, participating citizen.

        Do I pray for Trump and his ability to lead us in a united, respectful way that acknowledges the importance of all people? YES. I’m on the plane. Why would I want the pilot to fail? I will pray AND hold him accountable to defend the rights of all people.I will make sure my voice is heard. That’s my responsibility as a citizen.

        One of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt (after the Daring Greatly quote, of course) is, “To stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

        Did I support every speech at the rally? No. Madonna’s comment was completely out of alignment with the spirit of the march. You can’t choose love and talk about how you thought about “blowing up the white house.”

        Did I support 95% of what I saw and participated in? Yes. I was proud to be there with my daughter.

        Do I support reproductive rights for women? Yes. Do I think there should be room at the table for women who are pro-life? Yes.

        So, if you disagree with some or all of this – that’s 100% okay. You’re welcome to unfollow, block, or share your ideas and opinions in a respectful way. However, any shitty or hurtful comments will be deleted. I won’t let this be one more place where cruelty and putdowns reign. Again, that’s not the heart of this country. We’re better than that.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Michelle, I always look forward to a new post from The Green Study. It’s not just that I agree with what you have to say (though I generally do), but that you have an authentic voice, you write with elegance, and you make me think and question. Yours was one of the first blogs I followed when I started blogging two years ago. I saw you as a mentor and source of inspiration. I still do. Happy 5th anniversary. I look forward to many more.

    Like

    • Thanks, Donna, for your kind words. I have so much to learn still, even after five years. Especially as I move into tougher territory. Sometimes it is exhausting to live an examined life, but I’ve finally accepted that this is who I am and there’s no going back, so I might as well keep writing!

      Like

  12. That’s the beauty, isn’t it: it’s your space and you can do what you damn well like! As they say down where I grew up, give ‘er, buddy!

    Like

    • Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who analyzes everything around me to death, including and maybe especially, my interactions with others. I’m feeling like a very tiresome person to be around these days!

      Like

  13. It is nice to see more people focusing their energies toward constructive ends. I work for a nonprofit in Detroit which does great things for the community. If you could be so kind as to check out my blog and tell me what you think.

    Like

  14. I am so glad you are doing whatever works for you. The key is that you keep getting that voice out there. You are a sensible, thoughtful woman with a clear message. Women as political activist is what our culture needs now so I am very pleased with your choice.
    Onward through the fog!!! It’s going to be thick and you are needed.
    Thank you for being my voice, too.

    Like

    • Thanks – it’s good to hear I haven’t gone too far off the deep end. Angry posts are good for clearing the pipes, but I’m not sure of their usefulness. Hope to be a little more measured going forward.

      Like

  15. I like your “angry” posts (of course, it helps that I agree with you). But even if we didn’t agree, you’re a good writer, and I admire how you seem to question and examine yourself. I have to disagree with one commenter above who warned that activism leads to dogma. Not necessarily. Activism doesn’t have to mean a closed mind. If enough people remain alert, the shrillest voices needn’t be so shrill. We’ll keep fighting for what we believe in, and remember that you can be intolerant of an individual’s behavior and actions without being intolerant of the individual…at least…that’s the way I see it.

    Like

    • Thanks, Pete. I think I understood Greg’s point, though. If we become so fierce in our beliefs with no room to listen to the opposition, then how do we find common ground? What you say is something that I remember from my parent education classes. When your child acts up, it’s important to focus attention on the behavior and not make it a universal statement about the child. I don’t see how it would be any different with adults. Unfortunately, civil discussion is becoming a lost art, not at all helped by our current president’s rhetoric. People are very quick to defensively attack. I’m guilty of that on occasion and am trying to work on it, because it is definitely not helpful!

      Like

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  17. Well said. I think we’re both pretty good writers, and I don’t know about you, but I find it real easy to ratchet up my rhetoric with certain “vehement” conservatives who can’t write or express themselves as well. It’s tempting to be witty or run rings around them, but it serves absolutely no purpose! So I need to work on some things, too.

    Like

  18. Everyone has their own opinion and it is fine – it is when other try to enforce theirs upon yours that it can become an issue. I enjoy reading your posts and your perspective. It is good to read and see things from other perspectives – it helps to open your mind. i feel a lot of vitriol is directed online because of the anonymity it can provide – people can hide behind their avatars and computer screens as they type away.

    Most people won’t understand until it happens to them or affects them/ someone close to them. Each to their own and it helps to have a thick skin at times. I’ve had to learn that too. Sometimes writing can be cathartic to help you process something for yourself and that is ok too.

    Like

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