I haven’t been publishing here on WordPress for several months. In fact, I haven’t even written anything anywhere for over a week now, and lately that’s downright unthinkable. I spent some time on another writing platform, name unnecessary, and anyway I am NOT going to bash. The platform is fine. Even excellent. My work was improving because of it. I was writing daily and I was interacting with writers and I was learning. I was even venturing out of my comfort zone and I am notoriously bad at that. So why did I jump ship? The answers to that question are significant to me and to my journey. They may be irrelevant to the folks on the other platform and maybe even more so to the eight people who might read it here, but I’ve gotten into a habit of exploring these questions through my writing and it’s been more than a week and I need a hit.
The answer is threefold.
- A good deal of the people I was reading/admiring/interacting with were survivors. Rape survivors, abuse survivors. People who have to fight marginalization and oppression daily. People with honest-to-God-I-earned-these Scars. I was unprepared for how intense those interactions could be. I’m a privileged brat. My life has been safe and secure and full of love. Admittedly, I lost a significant part of that love with the death of my beloved husband, but, in the main, I made it to mid-century without ever feeling the kind of trauma, hollowness, betrayal, or mistrust I can only imagine these folks feel. And, in that I am white, educated, middle-class, cisgendered and heteronormative, and have maybe one funny story from 1994 to tell about a boss not taking me seriously because of the size of my [eyes, yeah eyes, he said; and they are rather large and dewy, brownish-yellow with a hint of green when I’m feeling impish] the reality is I am a walking talking (always talking) living breathing example of the Clueless Privileged Person. I’m not an ally. I’m not a Sister. The people the survivors are always having to tell to shut up because they don’t know what they’re talking about? That could easily be Me, yeah. Now. NOBODY told me to shut up. They’re not like that if they don’t have to be. But I shut up anyway because I didn’t want to be That Person. So this one is all in my head. I decided it existed; I feared becoming something I abhor, and I stopped myself. Nobody else’s fault.
- Now, privileged as I am, and trauma-free, I still have depression and complicated grief. (The candy-ass mental illnesses. First-World Problem-level mental illnesses.) At the core of my Nordstrom’s-variety mental illness is a terrible fear of being arrogant. Showing off. Being a know-it-all. And that’s not exactly unwarranted. As I said, I’m educated. Maybe even over-educated, but that’s a debate for another day. But Being Educated and Annoying People are the only two things I’m really good at, and while neither of them pays very well, “educated” at least has a grudging acceptance in some places, like colleges, and so rather than suppressing my annoying tendency to Know Everything, I actually have to practice that tendency by teaching people and correcting their grammar. Criticizing their thinking. Calling them out on their fallacies and factual inconsistencies. For a long time I have justified this awful, smug superiority by claiming that it is Good for The Students’ Learning. Maybe, but hella it doesn’t belong on a social media platform where people are grown-ups with real honest-to-God Scars. Now a couple of pleasant souls told me reassuringly that it was Good I was keeping them on their toes and calling them on their clarity, logic, etc. (and spelling of a French expression that, because of a missing “t,” can sound like someone is complimenting the mammary gland of a female gorilla). Excellent; I hope I helped. But a couple of people casually remarked that I probably secretly enjoyed it, and that that was OK, wink. And I went nuts. Bonkers. My worst fear realized. I’m an Arrogant Bitch and I Like It. And they were all, it’s OK, you don’t have to pretend that you don’t want to be like that. But I’m not pretending. And the more I try to tell people I’m not pretending, the more they wink. Oh, it’s OK. Just own it. Own your sass. Own your bite. Only I can’t. If I have a trigger, that’s it. I know. It’s a weird trigger. And candy-ass (see above). But it’s mine. And before I “protested too much,” I decided to back quickly out of the conversation and go hash it out with my therapist, which I have been doing unfruitfully for sixteen years, and not because of any lack in her skills, but because I am a candy-ass. And, not incidentally, not everyone was so tickled with my “sass” or my “bite.” One person, a survivor (see #1 above), on having my online behavior explained to her in the third person without any names, and out of true sympathy for the pain I caused the person complaining of my behavior, suggested I should be slapped. And I’m pretty sure she was right.
- I need to get over myself. That’s the big one. There are people wrestling with serious questions about society, and feminism, and rape culture, and oppression. There are movements meant to address the most serious situations we face in the modern world: climate change, disease, terrorism, racism, poverty, brutality, totalitarianism, fear, xenophobia, religious persecution, the trampling of civil liberties and human rights. I know that, and the best I can do is tell stories about my dog? (The one about her bonking her head on the screen door was, redeemingly, funny, but still.) The most important study I can dedicate myself to is Criticisms of Utilitarianism in the Works of Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle? I’m a lightweight. An ivory tower lightweight. Other people were writing to save AIDS patients’ lives, to call out misogyny, to empower victims. And I was writing in quest of approval of my lightweight analysis of Melville’s Use of Catholic Symbolism in Benito Cereno. (Subtitled, or, The Oakum Pickers in the Monastery.) Or, Benjamin Franklin Did Not Actually Eat Friendly Marine Mammals. Simple fact is, I can’t play in the big leagues. I found myself getting impatient with the deadly seriousness of those who could, and that’s when I knew I had to get out. My stuff is only suited for a flower-covered journal with a little lock and key, where My Precious Thoughts can receive their Due.
So here they are.