Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Back up the Rabbit Hole

Life is sometimes about hard decisions. Sometimes you have so many things that you love that you can't do them all. That's not a bad problem to have. I mean, I'd rather have to deal with that then find myself falling into ennui or apathy. Still, lately I tried to take on too much and didn't know it until it was too late. I fell. Flat on my face. So then I had to reevaluate. Let me tell you about the rabbit hole I found myself in, and what I'm going to do about it.

I wrote a book. Well, I wrote two. They were both published by publishers who did not comport themselves in the best of manners. So, when the second one went south, I decided that I may not be the best publisher. I didn't, at the time, know much about the process, but I knew that I would never give up on the people who had trusted me. I would never quit. Also, I realized that I was the only one who would work as hard for me as was desired. So, to become a better author, I became a publisher.

And I loved it. I do love it still. There's nothing like helping get good books seen, helping make dreams come through. Well, then we grew. And we grew. It became clear that I couldn't grow more without dedicating more time to it, and I didn't have enough time to give. At the same time, my then-husband said that he didn't know how I could expect him to dedicate time to our marriage with him working full time. My sadness with our marriage made me short with the kids.  So, to become a better publisher and a better wife, and a better mother I became a Rennie.

And I loved it. I loved it so much. I loved the people. I loved the travel. I loved the pride and the community and the long days in the sun. The books were doing well. However, between royalties and restocking we were making quite a bit but not quite enough. So, I came up with the idea of the absinthe business. I came up with the recipes and found the sources and made up some business cards and I became an absinthery to be a better Rennie.

Then my marriage imploded. So, I had to get a real-live house and put the kids in public school. My daughter's health got significantly worse. I fell in love. I tried running the absinthe business remotely.I tried working faire and then going back and trying to keep up my house. I found that I wasn't doing any of it well. It was too much. I was letting people down. I felt stretched thin, with one foot in too many worlds.  In other words, being an absinthery was taking away from being a mom, and a wife, and a publisher. Weird how that worked. I love being a publisher. I love being a mom. I really hope that I'm a good wife. I loved being a Rennie, but it doesn't fit right now, and of the things I love, I loved that the least. Given the choice between pride and travel and doing what's best for my kids, well that isn't a choice at all. And the absinthe. I never liked that. I liked the money. I liked that I had done something to support my family. But teh business itself. Meh. So, I've found a new direction. I've rededicated myself to the things I love the most. I'm not sure how it will work, but I feel better having made the decision at last.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Defying Gravity

It's been a hell of a year, and it doesn't show any signs of letting up anytime soon. Some things are good, and some things are bad, and some are incredible. Either way I'm going somewhere new, and exciting, and a little bit scary. So, I'm discovering some things about myself, about what I think and feel and like, about what I can achieve and what I cannot, and about what I really want. I'm going to share some of those things. Not because I'm looking for either pity or accolades, and not because I'm looking to villianize anyone. I'm going to share because I feel like there are thoughts and experiences that people need to hear, because these things affect me as a writer, and because I need to get this out. Is that okay? Are you ready? Will you come with me? Here goes.

I watched Glee yesterday. I'm watching it now, in fact. This is a big deal for me. Not because I'm overly attached to television shows. Except for one. And really, how often can you watch 14 episodes? But, you see, I've only watched one and a half episodes before this. Which is odd, when you think about it. I mean, pithy lines, ensemble cast, great music, and the art nerds. If ever there a show that seemed me, this was it. But, you see, it wasn't allowed. I couldn't watch Glee because, as I was told, it was contributing to the Overton window effect on our society and the kids would see it and what message was that sending them and so on and so forth. I didn't agree. I don't now. Not about Glee and not about the deeper issues behind it. I was allowed to not agree and to have my own opinions, but only if I followed the rules, you see. But I love Glee.I love musicals.  I love being an ally.

It goes deeper than a TV show, though, as fabulous as this show is. A couple of months ago, I got to baptize two of my kids. They asked me to, and I don't know if I've had many prouder moments than that. I was terrified, though, and sought a lot of guidance. You see, I wasn't allowed to baptize my kids because I was a woman and that wasn't a woman's role. That's what I'd been told, anyway. But I did, because I could, and a whole slew of fellow Christians cheered and shouted. Mostly for my children and what their commitment meant, of course, but I like to think that a little bit had to do with being happy for and proud of me.

Also, extracurriculars. I get to take my kids to those. That wasn't ever forbidden, not that one. It was just that I would sign them up and get them to practice and then . . priorities would change  Because, you see, sports were a waste of time. They didn't benefit anything and it lead to adults who were "stuck in their high school glory days." So we'd miss practice and then I'd get all anxious because I know it is important to be consistent and I felt bad and well, Duncan would see that he didn't HAVE to go and it would be a fight and, well, we'd end up fading out. But you know what I think? I think group activities are important. I think they teach kids how to work within a community and how to follow rules. I think they teach kids how to be consistent and dedicated, and follow through even when they don't want to.

I wrote this morning. Not one of my big project. Just something that got stuck in my head that I wanted to play around with. Now listen, there was support for my writing. I'm not saying there wasn't. But I was once told that I looked "vaguely retarded" when I was writing in my head. Another time I was told that artists were expendable. That it wasn't understood why actors and such got paid so much, because what they contributed was completely unnecessary to society. So, every time I wrote I felt self-conscious, and guilty. Like there were better things that I should be doing. But I wrote today.

When the divorce was filed, and especially when it was final, people told me I was free. But, I never felt free. I had to go off the road, and felt really bogged down by the minutiae of having a house with all of the obligations and time that goes with it. I had to enroll the kids in school, and that left me feeling even more trapped. No more random trips, being told when I could and could not pick them up and so on. Anyhow, I didn't feel free. Then, I realized the other day, all the ways that I am. It's not about where I can go. It's not about what I can do. It's about who I can be. I can be me. I can think what I want and I can say what I think and I can tell people how I feel. I can have my passions and not have them belittled. That, my friends, is freedom. That is flying. That is defying gravity.

Friends, don't let anyone clip your wings. Listen, people make comments sometimes that hurt. Even when they love you. Especially when they love you, because truly if you don't care about the person what they say doesn't that have much of an impact, right? It's important, once apologies are made, to move on. And in any relationship, rules and standards are important. But, if someone is making you feel badly about being you, if you find yourself not being allowed, or being scuttled in your attempts to do things that you think are important, that's not okay. That's not love. And you deserve more. Me, I'm going to try flying. After this episode. It's the one where they do ballads.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Headlines. They are designed from their very inception to grab your attention, to compel you to feel one thing or another. “British Scientist Cures Aids!” “Brad Pitt Devastated at Abuse Allegations.” “Hillary Clinton Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease!” I mean, look at that right there; elation, sad indignation and shock respectively. Maybe you want to find out more. If you care enough about the people and the issues. If you have enough time between all the minutiae or even maxutiae of your life, that is. If nothing else draws your attention more. Otherwise, you move along, content with the somewhat cathartic experience that was having felt something about a statement.
And listen, there’s nothing wrong with that. Sensationalism sells and clickbait is a thing and as long as no one is getting hurt then go ahead. Hit that headline. You know, I wrote for a while for a “multi-source online news aggregate.” It hurt my soul every time, but I did it because money is necessary and all of that. But you know, the more sensational the headline, the more clicks I got. It’s human nature, for better or worse. I don’t even feel like there’s anything wrong with that short burst of catharsis, either. We sometimes need to feel little, fleeting bits of something. It’s a nice change from the larger, real emotions that come with dealing with reality. Except. ..
Except that people have started speaking in headlines, too. Facebook. Twitter. Whole conversations that are nothing but summarizations of an event with added emotion and an exclamation point for punch. Except, that with that people have stopped looking deeper. And that’s where the problem lies. I have an ex-husband. He used to say that one of his favorite parts of being a soldier is that it made for better headlines. You know “United States Soldier Imprisioned for Not Fastening Seatbelt.” Or “National Guardsmen Left Unable to Serve Due to Dishonest Mechanic.” “Deployed Soldier Victim of Usery.” He would say this often and while true, it exemplifies everything that is wrong with headlines.
1.       While technically true, headlines are not the whole story. The proof is in the pudding. The devil is in the details. Use whatever metaphor you like, but we all know that an incomplete truth is a lie and that’s what a headline is. It is a snippet of the truth. If you don’t read on, you don’t know the whole story. To go back to the beginning of the post, we don’t know that in reality the first member of a trail group has gone through their first test since treatment and is showing negative for the AIDS virus. We don’t know that Brad Pitt is going along with anything and everything suggested by the professionals in order to show that he is not abusive and to help his kids. We don’t know that the doctor who “diagnosed” Hillary has never actually treated the woman. We don’t know. And that’s not on the one who wrote the headline. That’s on us. It’s on us to care enough to inform ourselves and not be content with catharsis.
2.       They are INTENTIONALLY spun to make you feel something. You are being manipulated. You are. Chemicals and endorphins are being caused to flow and if you don’t take a minute to step back, if you just reply with a headline of your own, then more chemicals flow without facts. And more. And more. And we as a society have a tendency for “topping,” which makes it all that much worse. It becomes all feeling and no facts.
3.       Than, after all the feeling is done, and the half-truths are told, these things are then passed on as truth. Without any of the research being done. Because at the end of the day we are emotion junkies and we want to be important and the only thing better for some people than getting juicy news is GIVING juicy news. And sometimes, people take these emotion-driven half truths and act on them. They actually take action based on a headline that is now fourth hand information. 

But folks, there are PEOPLE behind those headlines. That’s twofold. There are people writing the headlines, and they have their own intentions. You deserve to have something real. A real opinion. A real emotion. Based on the real story. YOU DESERVE THAT.  The person writing the headline is probably serving themselves. Which isn't a problem, as long as there's an article that follows. Except ever increasingly there isn't.  More importantly, though, there are people ABOUT WHOM YOU ARE WRITING THE HEADLINES. Those people? They deserve for you to take the time as well. You are ruining these people’s reputations. You are hurting their feelings. You are making their life more difficult and if you think it doesn’t matter you’re flat wrong. It does. And if you care enough to use them for your own little emotional high, you should care enough to fact check a little bit. Otherwise, you’re just hurting them for your own thrill.
Harsh? Maybe. But I’ve heard about a lot of headlining going on about me, some from people I respected. Were the things they were saying true? Technically, yes. Sometimes. By the thinnest of margins. But was it the whole story? Not even close. Was there anything to be gained by their actions? Not really. Did it suck? Wholeheartedly. While I understand the wisdom of never arguing with a fool, for the reasons that people wiser than me have said, and while a dear dear friend pointed me towards Exodus 14:14 and I've been clinging to that, and while Dr. Seuss that "those who mind don't matter and those that matter don't mind" or something like that, it's hard. And frustrating. 

So, as you move about your day, sometimes in 140 characters or a talk to text Facebook message, please consider if you are headlining or being headlined.

Because we all deserve more than that.