Tag Archives: What the hell are you talking about?


When I went out East in August, I was beginning to feel lighter.

I felt invisible at BlogHer, but that was mainly because you have to work so hard to be visible at BlogHer, and I’m not much good at doing that on my own behalf. Having my son in tow and my liveblogging shifts, I didn’t have much energy for it. Meanwhile, my email inbox and east coast conversations bustled with unexpected work possibilities — things to consider or do when I got home and Declan started going to school full time. I was looking forward to this hard and glorious autumn full of work and schedules and cool air and time for coffee with friends during the day and possibilities.

But when I came home and started following up, my emails went out like arrows, got stuck in the wall behind the people I was trying to reach and weren’t returned. Or minds were changed. I searched for new possibilities and found some really promising ones, but the same thing happened.  It’s been frustrating. The more I try to advance, the more I feel like I’ve been checkmated.

So I’ve been doing invisible things. Like spending time in places I usually drive past with the windows closed. Places that have been invisible to me. I’ve carried household things my mom or friends didn’t want to an apartment complex that used to be another blur on the side of freeway. Now it’s home to a friend who is restarting his life with little more than what people have seen fit to give him.

I’ve sat next to a hospital bed, trying to keep an ear on the medical staff as they tended to a person who told me she loved me the first day we met. Another person who has shown me that you can lose everything, that your whole life can turn over, and you can come out of it better than you were before.

I’ve spent time inside of an urban church so humble you could barely distinguish it from an old used furniture shop. I sat on one of its folding chairs and stared at its plastic purple flowers. Just like the old urban church that is now a Buddhist temple that I frequent, I have found that it’s a place of extraordinary grace.

And there’s so little I can say here beyond that about these things, which are the things I can feel in my chest the most right now, I wonder that I should be writing here anymore at all.

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The fideicommissum of my achoo

I’ve been prone since Friday afternoon, when a nasty summer cold walloped me into bed. I missed a birthday party, a couple of nice days and a dog festival, but I saw a lot of television. I watched Olympic synchronized swimming and the movie Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. I think the synchronized swimming was the more surreal of the two.

Obama picking Joe Biden was slightly surreal, but only because I had a fever when I got the text message. In reality, I find this decision so logical it borders on Vulcan, and I say that with confidence now that I’m so well hydrated. And I’m not the only person who has thought about the virtuous connections between Obama and Spock.

Really, yay for Joe Biden. For at least two years, he’s been one of the only politicians I could listen to talk about Iraq without pulling my hair out. And I’m an Ohio voter who went for Hillary (head vote) over Obama (heart vote) in the primary. Put that one on your cafeteria lunch tray, punditface.

Today I’m dry coughing so horribly, I think tumbleweeds might come shooting out of my mouth. And my son just told me that he wants to be the solar system for Halloween, which means I probably need to take a sewing class or three.

This week I have a couple of little deadlines, but right now, most of my job involves looking for more work, which always feels like a lot more work than working does. I should be more unnerved about this than I am. I have a couple of prospects out there that feel like long shots, and yet, I feel like Tony from West Side Story singing “Something’s Coming.” I think I know better than to let Riff and Bernardo fight at the rumble, but I guess there’s no guarantee I won’t be shot down on the tennis court.

Phew. I’ll leave you with this parting thought:

“Your love is like 1000 caucasian carnivores playing mumblety peg with an eggplant. ”

Courtesy of the Surrealist Compliment Generator , which I have been drawn back to every seven months since I first found it in 1997 or so. It restores my sense of balance.

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Karma bombing

I believed in karma long before I knew the word. I imagined it as though it was a cosmic superhero, capable of righting all injustices. It’s also known by the grandma wisdom that spills forth when you’ve been hurt by someone else: “don’t worry about it, he/she will get what’s coming to them eventually” or “what comes around goes around.”

Maybe because the golden rule was the rule of law in my childhood home, heaven and hell made less sense to me than the idea that at our life’s end, our soul would be momentarily shattered by a karma bomb. It would be one thing to be presented a list by St. Peter, another to realize fully who we’ve been and how our actions hold up. Every piece of a karma bomb’s brilliant shrapnel would fill us with an empathic experience that would help us vividly understand the joy and pain we inflicted on others during our lifetime.

This belief has been a salve I’ve used on my ego in painful situations, particularly when I’ve needed to accept defeat or, really, reality. It was there when I needed a way to cope with feelings of powerlessness in the face of infinity, or, more often, in the face of one of the world’s big mean jerks. I sometimes went so far as to let it keep me from promoting or defending myself, instead thinking that this cosmic force was going to somehow let the real me, my real intentions, be seen, appreciated, and especially understood by whoever was that I needed to have understand it.

I’ve spent too many wee hours searching for the components to construct my own small karma bombs – usually words. I’ve searched for some kind of truth in language that I hoped would suddenly bring another person to a full-bodied understanding of how their mistreatment of me, or worse, of someone I care about, truly felt. It would let them know all about the parts of the story they don’t know, or fail to look at, powerfully and instantly. And for all of that time I’ve spent laboring, these letters are largely unwritten and unsent.

Some of my journalistic peers say things like “our readers aren’t interested in reading about X,” because they have marketing data that they’ve come to trust beyond their own, far less limiting, human instincts. And X is almost always something that illuminates a social concern, something that asks the reader to consider life outside of themselves. I’ve seethed over our lack of faith in people.

I have heard morally questionable actions repeatedly excused with “it’s only business.” I’ve also seethed over this regularly in my karma bomb-making quarters, because in my mind, business doesn’t get to exist without people. Business is people. Period.

But I’m guilty of trapping ideas about other people under glass myself. Once we grouse about a friend or family member or colleague as thoughtless or incapable or difficult or uncaring, it’s hard to back off of that precipice and learn to see them any other way. The late Randy Pausch has a simple-sounding remedy for this in his Last Lecture — he basically says that every person has a good side, we just have to wait for them to show it to us. And that good side is always, always worth seeing. I believe that, whether or not I can find the patience or the time or the desire to do the searching that uncovering that thing may require.

The more I’ve learned about karma, the more it’s come to mean something else to me… something that’s not about righteousness or judgment or berating myself for being passive or mentally bombing people with my version of reality. My karma is what I do with it. It’s about being loving, taking responsibility for my own actions, sowing what good I can in the world and seeing people if not for what they are, for the way that they ask me to see them, if only just to know what that might be. My karma bombs are useless on everybody but me. Or maybe everybody, including me.

What about you? Do you make them?


By now, you’ve probably guessed that this is little more than a pointed pep talk meant to help me convince myself to stop mentally swearing at bullies, editors, politicians, queen bees, unpaid bills, the life I thought I deserved and mosquitoes so often.

Now back to deep-fried garlic mashed potatoes on a stick.

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