Cold Open

Hello, Internet. I am an average person who writes about average things. I write about head colds and depression and failed writing attempts. Sometimes I dig deep and write about parenting or the military or I really reach and write about how much I hate social media (yes, Alanis, that is irony). I hear Charlton Heston in my head yelling Internet is people!, but I’ve been disconnected of late, so rather removed from the humanity that apparently resides in my computer. I’m also old-ish, so I can only make obsolete references to old songs and actors that you will have to Ggoogle (thanks to Dreyer’s English, I’ve been sorted on the whether or not to capitalize neologisms).

canstockphoto14303156It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written. Anything. I have a lot of excuses – I was sick, my daughter’s orchestral season has kept me on the run, I’ve had to make some lifestyle changes to counter encroaching health issues. They’re solid excuses, except that they’re not the reason I haven’t been writing. I simply didn’t want to. I got tired of the sound of my own voice. It turns out that my introversion extends to even myself. Shut up already, self.

I’ve spent a lot of time saying nothing and even more time reading, walking, and doing chores. I’m psyching myself up to get ready for a more dedicated strength training program, as well as pushing through novel edits. And as soon as the #@$% snow melts from our April blizzard, I’ll be getting back to work in my garden. So I return here, to warm up my writing skills and re-connect with the many lovely people who apparently live inside my computer. Nano-people.

41048099I’m in the middle of reading Matt Haig’s Notes on a Nervous Planet. It’s one of those books that tells you what you likely already know, but feels reassuring when someone else says it. After a long winter of anxiety, depression, and sadness, I have found my way out of its shroud. I disconnected from those places on the internet that fueled either depression or rage. I’m limiting my intake of news. I’m focusing on the things that feed me – reading, exercise, being outside, staying in the moment. Listening. Not talking. I still have work to do. Even now, as I write this, I feel a modicum of anxiety. It seems that periods of silence sometimes reset my discomfort in engaging publicly.

I’ve given this blog some thought – the why, when, how of it. It remains, after deleting Twitter and just using Facebook to manage a nonprofit page, my only public voice. Who do I want to be on the internet? How do I add or detract from this space? There is nothing in particular I will change here, except to clarify to myself what I want it to be – a slow, calm place with gentle conversation, some humor, and a chance to counter toxicity with thoughtfulness. It’s not faddish or viral or cutting edge. As much as being a replicated contagion seems to be desirable, I am too much of a tortoise. Slow, steady, unwilling to give much shrift to my knee-jerk reactions.

canstockphoto50415411It takes some will and personal stamina to downshift one’s life in a rapidly accelerating world. I resent being hurried. I resent being cajoled or berated by advertising. I’m tired of the perpetual dissatisfaction that saturates a capitalist society. I’m tired of self-criticism. Of criticism in general. I’m tired of being bludgeoned by breaking news and shitty Twitter journalism. I’m tired of reviews and stars and thumbs and smiley faces. It’s a system designed to feed insecurities and fears. It’s fantastic if you’re immune, but most of us, I believe, are not.

One must make a deliberate choice to go slow in this world. And it’s not even really that slow. I’m the driver who stays within five miles of the speed limit while I’m being tailgated by the impatient, the entitled, and the dangerous. I must resist the pressure, drive safely, stay as far away as possible from other drivers, and ignore the rude hand gestures. That seems like a pretty decent metaphor for my life at the moment.

Getting Warmer

This little writing session was all it took. I now have a few post drafts for the next week. It’s a reminder that always surprises me. When you’re stuck or silent or uninspired, all you have to do is start. It might be the shittiest start ever, but giving yourself permission to start where you are can be the beginning of something amazing. Not this post, of course. But something.

37 Comments on “Cold Open

  1. Yes! Making a start. It’s so obvious, yet SO hard to remember to do it whe one’s hit a low patch. But that said, the fallow – seeming dead and dismal times – have value too – also SO hard to remember this too. Sometimes it’s easier to have others/circumstances dictate the ways we conduct our lives. Endless self-management can be so energy-draining. And with regard to that you’ve also put your finget on the other essential key here: self-nourishment. If you don’t tend ourselves well, how can we expect to produce 🙂

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    • Life is ripe with gardening metaphors, isn’t it? I think of fallow times like sleep – your brain needs that time to process and integrate all the information you’ve acquired along the way, as well as having time to drift aimlessly. I was reading a book about how humans often don’t make big changes without crisis moments. After freaking out with health issues, I’ve been really thinking about how I don’t want to wait for some big trauma to put me on a happier path, because what if that moment never comes? Or if it renders me someone else entirely? Self-determination is, I suppose, a practice like anything else.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is the second post I’ve read recently (relatively) that has chosen ‘slow’ to describe the pace the person has chosen. I’m not convinced it is slow—I think it might simply be a more natural, healthy pace for humans. And I dislike the notion that there’s something wrong with healthy. So good for you and others who have chosen to do what works better for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt Haig would agree with you. Perhaps it is just to say slower than the current pace of modern life. Part of this is driven by a society dependent on consumerism – you can never be allowed to feel mentally or physically healthy or content. Once that happens, “want” is over and so are one’s shopping compulsions. I’m still finding my way – so much still to learn!

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  3. Yes. Go slow. Unplug. Less capitalism. I remember being force fed Milton Friedman in high school, and even then, as an ignorant kid, my instinct was saying, seriously?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes you get so far into something that getting out of it seems like a novel idea. It just goes to show how much we’ve normalized the less healthy tenets of capitalism that not buying things or listening to advertising seems like rebellion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, to a degree. But what are the ‘healthy’ tenets of capitalism? What good has come from capitalism itself, as opposed to the good coming from the good hearts of good people remaining good despite having been eaten alive by the beast of capitalism? I realize I sound argumentative here, and I don’t mean to be argumentative with you, personally, Michelle, or anyone else. But I don’t want to sugarcoat things either. We’re in this mess because we are capitalists, and there’s no sense in treading lightly while knee-deep in the muck. We need to wake up to our collective disease.

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        • I’m not versed well enough in economics to be able to engage in vigorous discussion. At minimum, I recognize that the system eventually feeds on itself, leading to income inequality, corruption, and excess. In terms of changing the world, I always think I need to start with me, my attitudes, and behaviors, because that’s where my locus of control is.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. “When you’re stuck or silent or uninspired, all you have to do is start.” Wise counsel for so many endeavors. Good to hear your voice again, Michelle!

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  5. Michelle,
    I’m way ahead of you in slowing down, and I highly recommend it. I still have all those programmed self-criticisms swimming around in my head, but they are quieter now that I’ve been retired several years. It feels like stagnation and that I’ll never get over it, but taking the first step, as you suggested, is a good start. Amazing the power of the cultural expectations to “be productive,” or “do something, even if it’s wrong.” What did I “accomplish” today, yesterday?

    You continue to be an inspiration, even if wordlessly. Plants and gardens don’t rush, and can be very soothing that way. Happy gardening.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re leading by example, Katherine. It’s hard to get around that programming that “busy-ness” is the same as being relevant and doing meaningful things. I have been wrestling with that for the last few years. While I have changed the meaning of productivity in my life to being what is meaningful to me and what helps me thrive, I’m still challenged in practicing it. It means cultivating awareness and asking oneself a lot of questions. Perhaps it is enough to say that I’m doing the work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michelle,
        Thanks for the compliment. I like the idea of being a leader in laziness. It’s also part of a conscientious effort to age gracefully, such that slowing down becomes an art form.

        Patience is not easy. As my body begins to limit what I can do, I lament all that lost ability. But doing things in a hurry leads to mistakes and ultimately costs more time than if I’d paced myself more slowly and carefully. I may accomplish more by being more efficient, but it seems like less because it is unhurried.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I have been retired for 10 years and still struggling with how to be retired. I struggle with how to live with integrity now that I am not striving and being super productive. Is it really okay to slow down and just enjoy life?

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      • I think about the idea that if everyone did that, how much happier and healthier would this planet be? Each person who does that contributes to movement in the right direction. You’d just be doing your part!

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      • Pat,
        Relaxation is a learned skill in today’s climate, or so I believe. There’s an enormous amount of guilt associated with “doing nothing,” “wasting time,” or otherwise “being unproductive.”

        However, in a rush-rush, multi-tasking, noisy, frenetic, time-pressured society, the leisurely-paced may be the soothing forces that the world needs. Who knows? Watching the clouds float by may be the healthiest thing you can do for your own and others’ sanity.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. So glad to see you pop up in my reader again. You always make me think and reflect in a positive way. I hope you are well and I look forward to what else you have to say and write – about anything!

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  7. Sounds like you’re a living human. 🙂 Walking, being sick, getting better, getting older, reading, parenting, cooking, gardening. It’s life. Not Life is materialism, consumerism, technology. The internet and the online world is, probably, Anti-life. And, even, no law says we should workout. Until recently, people didn’t workout because, well, we worked. We worked, physically; why would we “workout”? And no law says we must write.

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    • Yes, it’s true, I’m constantly rediscovering the obvious. I have a long learning curve, though.

      While I do physical work, getting exercise counters the side effects of being a writer and sitting a lot. Also, I come from a long line of humans who suffered from mental illness, so exercise helps keep my brain chemicals in check. The rewards I reap from working out drive me on more than any expectations about what I “should” do. Of course, the watch words these days are “functional fitness” – staying fit enough to be able to do the things you love to do as long as you can. For me, that’s gardening and running.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Editor…I love your comment..I’ve been trying to somewhat disconnect lately…not easy.
    And I love not having to workout!

    And Michelle…I love your writing style. It’s the style that makes what you write meaningful. You have a gift.

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  9. Where in the Official Rules does it say you must blog predictably? Sometimes you have something to say, sometimes you don’t. I’ve learned to accumulate notes and have a few things ready to say. (I have a few things to say which are seasonal, and so are ready for next year, when the season recurs.) It doesn’t matter when you write, or how much, dear Michelle, it matters only that you write when you have something you want to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It depends on what purpose your blogging serves in your life. It’s different for everyone. Blogging tends to serve as a warm up for my offline writing (hopefully that doesn’t sound insulting to readers) . Generally if one isn’t happening, neither is the other. I wish I could divorce the two, but after 7+ years of blogging, it’s a hard habit to break. But your perspective is dead on for blogging in general – your schedule is your own.

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  10. Go as slow as you want but please keep this blog going. I read it. Almost always late but I read and listen and then usually I end up writing something or reading something you have written about. Keep on. Please.

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  11. Thanks, really nice to a real story. They always told to write what you know. Thought was a great piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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