I’ve been writing a post for this blog every day since December of 2012. That’s more than 2,400 posts so far. One thing that didn’t occur to me when I started all this is that a great deal of my life experience is now on record. All my opinions and memories and reactions and interests… they’re all out there for the world to see (should the world be extremely bored on, say, a Sunday afternoon).
Any chance of my running for public office has been destroyed. (Not that I have any aspirations along those lines. I’d probably be the first person voted off the island in Survivor.)
This archive of my personal points of view can be convenient if I’m trying to remember something. I’m sure my friends and family get sick of hearing me say, “Oh, yeah! I blogged about that once!”
But it can also bite me in the butt, and has on more than one occasion. Memories can change. Opinions can change. When you write about them, they sort of get cast in stone. “Oh, is that what you think, Barb? Well, that’s not what you said back in May of 2013…”
That certainly makes it hard to waffle, hedge, or equivocate. The more I write, the more my life seems to be black and white. The shades of grey are fading away. That’s great when my memory fades, but not so great when I want to hide in the mist like most people can.
Blogging is a double-edged sword.
And by the way, I’m well aware of the dual meaning of this post’s title. It was intentional. After all these years, sometimes I feel both ways.
A successful politician cannot be honest. Honesty, you see, alienates as much as it includes. To get elected, you have to avoid alienating people as much as possible.
I could never get elected. Not in a million years. I am an extremely polarizing individual. People either love me or hate me. Mostly, it’s because I can’t keep my mouth shut. If I think something, I tend to say it.
For almost 6 years, I’ve put my opinions out there, every single day, on this blog. Anyone can read these posts and know exactly where I stand. The hate ads against me would be full of direct quotes from my blog, most likely taken out of context. I am the political third rail personified.
And that’s a shame, too, because I’d make a great public servant. I’ve got loads of integrity, I’m intelligent, and I’d be extremely committed to improving things whenever I detected a problem. I’d stick up for the underdogs, and I’d speak up for those who don’t have a voice. That’s the type of politicians we need, now more than ever. But people like me couldn’t serve if our lives depended upon it. We would never be invited into the clubhouse. We’d never be given the secret handshake.
I wish there was some way to separate the politics from the public service. I wish there was a way to make changes without selling your soul. I wish all our voices could somehow be equally heard and taken seriously. I wish there were a way to navigate the cesspool that is Washington DC without having to boil oneself in bleach every single day as a result.
I’m glad there are people out there who are willing to try. I just wish their motives were pure and their moral compasses were pointing them in the right direction. It takes a certain someone to navigate a flawed system. Honesty, unfortunately, is not the best policy under the current circumstances.
Recently, two different people have chosen to pass judgment on one of my major life decisions. Their opinions were neither solicited nor appreciated. I’m struggling to get past my hurt and resentment toward these people.
That got me thinking about how often that happens in life. It’s always a grave mistake, and can sometimes damage relationships beyond repair. So, for your edification, dear reader, here’s a nifty little decision tree that I created that will help you decide when it’s best to shut the f*** up.
This isn’t rocket science, folks. At least, it shouldn’t be.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that made you question reality? Sometimes two people can draw such different conclusions from a situation that it makes you wonder if you come from the same planet. I had one of those recently.
A friend said, “You just called me an (xyz).”
I replied, “What are you talking about? That word never came out of my mouth. What I said was (abc).”
My friend repeated his assertion. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Especially since we were communicating via text.
So I said, “Dude, scroll up. Where are you seeing (xyz)? Where? Show me.”
Then he said, “I just talked to (mutual friend E) and she agrees with me. I’m not an (xyz).”
Me: “Wait a minute! Where is this coming from? What are you talking about? I never said you were!”
Him: “It really hurts my feelings that you disrespect me so much that you think I’m an (xyz).”
At this point, my feelings were kind of hurt that he would think I was the type of person to say such a thing. So I said, “On my life, I never said that! I don’t know where this is coming from. If I struck some sort of a nerve somehow, I’m sorry. But I’m not responsible for the nerve being there in the first place. You’re pulling facts out of thin air, so I really think we should leave it at that.”
God, how I hate being misunderstood. Even worse, I hate trying to explain something that seems perfectly obvious to me, only to discover that the other person just doesn’t get it. “But… the sky isn’t lime green with purple polka dots! Look at it! Look!”
I would probably be easily sucked into a cult. Because eventually I’d just give up and I’d really want to believe the sky was purple and green, too. Anything to make the world make sense again. After a while, I might actually see a tinge of green. And maybe a spot or two.
I firmly believe in self-expression. I think every adult human should have a right to dress however he or she pleases. I just wish more people would put some thought into exactly how they express themselves.
I’m not referring to that annoying habit that some men have of wearing sandals with knee socks. (I think that looks absurd, but your fashion rights should extend to bad taste as well.) I don’t mean wearing colors that obviously clash or make you look like bozo the clown. (Again, your option.)
I’m talking about when your clothes send an ugly message about what you think about yourself and the wider world.
For example, in this day and age, you can order a t-shirt that says absolutely anything. There are customized print on demand companies that can take your self-expression to the next level. But just because you can wear something doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
For example, the t-shirts above definitely send a strong message, but it might not be the one the wearer intends.
I don’t care about other people’s feelings.
I’m an idiot.
I enjoy upsetting people.
I have a really warped worldview.
I don’t see how wearing a shirt like this benefits anyone, including the wearer. It makes no sense.
And then there are these jeans, which apparently are quite popular at the moment.
Here’s the thing. Most women like to put their best foot forward. At least that has been my experience. So if you want to wear jeans like these, I assume that you think your most redeeming quality is your body. And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of your body. I vaguely remember what that’s like. But these jeans (or the lack thereof) say to the wider world that your sexuality is your primary selling point. It would be much classier, in my opinion, to walk down the street naked.
Hyper-sexual clothing makes me very sad. I know a lot of amazing women, and what makes them amazing is not their physical form. It’s who they are. It’s their intelligence. It’s their kindness. It’s their abilities. I bet the model above is a very nice person, but I’m quite sure most people who look at that photo aren’t having that thought.
If you are wanting to draw people to you with your self-expression, you might want to ask yourself what kind of people you will draw to you if you’re wearing these jeans or those t-shirts. First of all, you’re going to intimidate a lot of really amazing individuals. You’ll disgust and repel others. And the ones you attract with those jeans, especially, will not be interested in who you are inside. None of these garments say, “Take me seriously.”
I’m not suggesting that women should cover themselves from head to toe, revealing only their eyes. (Unless, of course, they wish to do so, in which case more power to them.) I’m not saying that no one should voice their opinions. And I’m definitely not telling you to be ashamed of your own body.
I’m merely saying that showing the world that you have dignity and respect, especially self-respect, and inviting them to learn more about you through civil conversation will be, in the long run, a great deal more appealing to those who will be most likely to treat you decently.
And when all is said and done in this insane world of ours, decency is what we all deserve.
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Rest assured that when your government starts compiling lists, it generally does not end well for the people therein. Just ask the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Muslims in Trump America. Lists are to identify people you plan to treat differently.
This could be bad for writers in general. Especially when the current administration hates the media so intensely that it openly encourages violence toward them. Not good. No bueno.
One particularly chilling part of this database is that they plan to indicate one’s “sentiment.” That’s kind of arbitrary and subjective, isn’t it? If I criticize the government in any way, do I get a black mark? If anything, I should get a gold star for exercising my right to free speech like any American has the right to do. But I’m not going to be the one compiling the list, and I suspect I won’t see eye to eye with whomever they choose to do so.
It’s not in my nature to censor myself. I’m not even sure I have the capacity. That’s one of the many reasons I’m not a journalist. I can’t just state the facts. My opinions are a big part of my writing. That means some people will agree, and others will not. But it never occurred to me that my government had to agree in order for me to keep blogging. If it truly gets to that point, I don’t suspect I will fare well.
It occurred to me recently that before you can be a writer, you must first have something to say. You have to have opinions and thoughts and ideas. You have to be good at explaining and/or describing things. You can’t be hesitant to speak your mind.
I’ve always had something to say. No doubt about it. Even when I would take those tests at school that are supposed to help you decide what career path to take, mine would always come out “writer” and nothing else. I mean, seriously, while my friends would have 5 or 6 suggested career paths, all I’d have was writer. (I strongly suspect bridgetenders are not even on the list of careers for those tests. Most people don’t even know we exist.)
My whole life I’ve been told that I have very strong opinions. But that was meant as an insult. As in, “Shut up, female, and leave the thinking to the rest of us.” People rarely accuse men of having strong opinions. And I would get that criticism from men and women alike, because a lot of women don’t realize how complicit we can be in our own oppression.
Well, I thank God for my strong opinions. Without them, this blog wouldn’t exist. And I’d be a heck of a lot less interesting.
Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who expects everyone to share my opinions. People like that are insufferable (in my opinion). I don’t think I’m very good at pointing that out, though. It’s definitely something I need to work on. It never occurs to me that some people view opinions as coercion.
I don’t see opinions that way. I also don’t think of them as being right or wrong. Opinions are simply points of view. No two people will see things from the same angle. The world might be easier to live in if we did, but it would sure be monotonous.
If you want to be a writer, I urge you to get out there and experience life, and, yes, form opinions about those experiences. Listen and learn as much as you can. Be open to unique people, places and things. And most of all, don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if the whole world tries to shut you up.
I once stayed in a 16-year relationship because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. Like most women, I’ve been trained since childhood to put everyone ahead of myself. And I’m good at it. Too good.
Some things never change. I came across this article about a school in Utah where the little girls have been instructed that when boys ask them to dance at a school function, they cannot say no. (We wouldn’t want to hurt little boys’ feelings, now would we? Even if it makes the girls uncomfortable in the process.)
I had a visceral reaction to this story. Girls need to learn to say no. They need to know it’s okay to say no. They need to trust their gut instincts. And boys need to learn that no means no.
Without these lessons, you wind up with 53-year-old women like me, who prize integrity above all else, but still tend to sacrifice it to smooth things over. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep your opinions to yourself.
It’s really kind of funny. I’m always told I have a strong personality. (Like that’s an insult—and one that’s never directed at men.) People have absolutely no idea what an inner struggle accompanies my ability to speak up.
Speaking up does not come naturally to me. Not at all. When something is bothering me, I generally have to agonize over it for days on end before I can take action. And during that whole process, my stomach is in knots. I lose sleep. I grind my teeth. I rehearse what I want to say over and over again in my head. It’s not a pleasant experience. But I’ve found over the years that not speaking up is even worse.
I’ve been working really hard on standing in my integrity lately. Speaking up more promptly. Agonizing less. Saying, “No, that’s not okay.” Figuring out why doing what feels right to me is such a torturous undertaking.
Integrity should be the place where I reside all the time. It shouldn’t be some thought balloon that I pull along behind me. It should be my natural habitat. And the fact that I was ever trained otherwise is outrageous. That there are still girls in this day and age that are being spoon-fed this crap is disgusting.
Just the other day I got told I have a strong personality. I get that a lot. The observation usually comes from a man, and it’s not intended as a compliment. I’m also often told that I “speak my mind” or am “opinionated”. (Uh, isn’t that an opinion?)
I can’t deny any of those descriptions. I’ll often speak up when others are afraid to. And if you ask me my opinion, I assume you want to know what it is, so I oblige you. I’m baffled as to why these qualities are supposed to be negative.
Yes. I have opinions. Everyone does. Never once have I insisted that anyone agree with mine. I’m not a bully. I never have been.
I also refuse to be bullied anymore. I was bullied half my life, and I’ve had it up to here. I stand up for others just as often as I stand up for myself. Again, tell me why that’s a bad thing?
Recently I’ve started considering the source of these criticisms. These people never make the same observations about men. Or if they do, they’re transformed into compliments. That’s interesting. And they are usually people who are, or would like to be, in positions of power over me. I’m quite sure that they’d prefer that I simply shut up and do as I’m told. They don’t want me to think, or have an opinion, or be strong, or even have a mind to speak. I’d be so much easier to deal with if I were soft and compliant.
Sorry to disappoint. Not gonna happen.
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In the extremely polarized world in which we now live, I often suspect that I am preaching to the choir. I write this blog every day, and I’m usually discussing things that I feel very strongly about. Lately I wonder if this is turning into one long political rant. I fear I’m starting to sound shrill.
Have I changed anyone’s mind about anything? I doubt it. The very people who need to read this blog are the very ones who never will. That frustrates the hell out of me.
But there are a few things that give me comfort. I have been told that I sometimes approach topics from unique angles. This gives people a new perspective, and another way to support their own arguments.
I’m also told that I occasionally voice opinions that others are hesitant to speak out loud. I’m known for sticking my neck out when others will not. That often gets me into trouble, but just as often I am privately thanked for it.
More than anything else, I like the idea that many of these blog posts will be floating around cyberspace long after I’m gone. People in the future will read them with the benefit of hindsight. They’ll either think that I was on the right side of history, or that I was very misguided. Either way, they’ll know that I had convictions, and that I stuck to them.
I’m proud of this blog, even if you’re not reading it! So there!