So, Emma remarks on her Facebook page. "It makes such a weird sound when the carpenter bees repeatedly fly head on into my lab window." I think, we must annoy God in much the same way.
I'm not a church going person, but I do have an abiding faith that what I do is of passing interest to some force greater than myself. I refuse to call this force a name or a gender personally, because I consider those identifiers to be human, and as I said, this force is greater than my humanity. I have to believe it is greater, because otherwise, I would argue with it all the time. Instead of arguing, I ask for help and then, misunderstand or disregard the help and bang my head into the same things over and over.
I'm not the only one. Whether it is a solitary committee of one running a life as best they can, or the collections of individuals organized as families, neighborhoods, villages, towns, states, countries, and unions, we seem to find a mistake we like and keep repeating it. We all know we do it. Change is more powerful and harder than the huge sins or acts of violence and war that they eventually lead to - the simple act of recognizing the crazy and making a different decision is what is going to save the world. Or maybe the day, or the essay.
Right this minute, I am sitting on a stool, typing away with my laptop perched on an ironing board in my closet. WHY? Because three days ago, I didn't listen to my own voice yelling STOP DON'T when I unplugged the router on the second floor of my house - the one that jumps the signal from the other end of the house into my bedroom, where I prefer to write. Now it won't work and I keep forgetting to ask for help to put it right. This is the only place that I can pick up a connection. Can I stop and move to a more comfortable location? NO, because I will lose all I have written. So, here I sit, getting crankier by the minute, with no one to blame but myself. Like ripples in a pond, this will affect my whole day and probably someone else's, as it spills over on to other things, and by mid-day, I will feel frustrated and defeated, mentally ticking off the list of similar things that prove I am a failure. All the while, writing about why I do this. No wonder I piss off that force.
One of the things I do over and over again which never leads anywhere is join writer's groups. It starts with this running commentary by the itty bitty committee: "You should get some opinions from other people, on your writing. Your friends love you, they know you, but they are biased. You really need some complete strangers who will give you input. Complete strangers are always experts and worthwhile listening to."
So, I sign up with a writing group and eagerly share. I start getting emails. Eventually, one comes in like this, as it did the other day, "i have plenty of poems i would like to be published i just dont know how to go about it help is needed desperetly" (errors intact.)
Now, if I was a fish, this would be the biggest, fattest bait worm in the history of chum. It has grammatical errors, punctuation errors, spelling errors and perhaps most heinous of all, a cutesy lack of capitalization that says, "You can't pick on me because I lack ego enough to type a capital I." No wait, maybe even more egregious is the presumption that they can write an email that badly and expect people to help them become a published author. No, wait, that the person who sent it feels it is that easy! YES! That is what bothers me. I spell check everything, try my hardest to be grammatically as accurate as my voice will allow, the voice it took me decades to resurrect from my bowels as honest and true, then, I read and re-read and re-re-read, and, as beads of sweat and blood form on my forehead, send my writing off to the universe to be judged, with the certainty that it is, despite my best efforts, flawed and imperfect. By flibberdegibbets like this one. But the wiggle on the worm that sets the hook is the plea for help. I can not resist.
In seconds, I dash off a reply, "That red line that appears under a word means it is misspelled. Desperately. If you want to be taken seriously, use proper capitalization and punctuation. Heed your spell-check. "Don't" is a contraction. If you send an email to a publisher or a magazine with this many errors in it, they will not even look at your poem.
Also, follow directions.
Now, don't get insulted. You asked for help."
I honestly believe, at the moment I send this, that it is a good, helpful and correct thing to do. Well, that is, I have convinced myself that it is, and shushed the protesting of the itty bitty committee who are pantomiming head banging into walls and slicing of wrists. They just don't understand the gift I am giving - like the thirteenth Fairy Godmother I am giving a gift of honesty - one that could be the help this writer desperately wants.
In seconds an indignant response comes from someone on the list. "You just got the smack down layed (sic) on you with the Paddle of Passive Aggressiveness. . . holy shit." (errors intact)
And the race is on. I fume, I stew. I have arguments in my head with this one and that one. This is a WRITER'S group. I start compiling the list of things that irk me about this defense. A! It is spelled LAID! B! The Paddle of Passive Aggressiveness may be clever but I was NOT passive aggressive. I was pretty up front aggressive. No, I wasn't. I was HONEST. I start looking up the definition of passive aggressive, just to prove to myself I am right.
And then I get a private email: "Your email was awesome, I was thinking the same things myself!"
Oh, really? Then why didn't you respond to the whole list? When did stupid people get loud and brave, and smart people get quiet and frightened?
Another list wide email appears: "Same rules apply: It's cell phone."
This refers to the PUN (a literary device used to convey several layers of meaning) I use in my signature - sell phone. I'm a Realtor, for God's sake.
My brain sparks and my spirit is galled and I find sympathetic ears to listen to my drama. I figure I just proved myself right about another writer's group - I don't belong.
I joined this group to be judged. Now, I am not liking it, because I don't respect the judges. Head Banger? Oh my, how many times I have done this, the pattern to each micro-drama exactly the same: !. Join. 2. Submit 3. Get insulted 4. Argue 5. Feel Martyred 6. Quit.
Beyond the issue of the judging/quality of judging issue is the more disturbing idea that I do this ALL THE TIME. It's just the most minor of all my constantly repeated idiotic, non-productive, constantly looping same old songs. What ails me?
I wonder if I find comfort in these same old stories? I know that life brings troubles. I have endured pretty horrific unexpected, drop on you like a comet troubles, but many many more of the same old same old troubles. Chagrined, I realize that maybe I am hoping that the same old troubles will squeeze out the unexpected troubles, as if there is only space for a certain amount and I get to pick. I am reminded of another old hackneyed truism: God will only give you what you can handle. My choices are the currency of a bargain I think I can make with God. If this is true for me, is it true for committees, nations and continents? Could the answer to all our ills, global and local, be just waiting to be chosen, instead?
The Bickers: Decision Time - "Where did he go?" "Down there. Down those steps." "Okay. Wait. I have to take these pumps off. Shh." "Don't shh me. He was watching us. He was takin...
6 years ago