Thursday, February 4, 2010

Celebrate the Negative or How to Kick My Own Butt Before Someone Else Does (again)

When I started this project, 30 days of daily blogging about my financial condition, I wasn't expecting anything to magically go away. All I'm working toward is a bit more self-knowledge and writing is one of the only ways I know how to navigate my way through a fairly stressful time. Since I started this series, I've received some really wonderful notes of support from strangers and from long time friends and that has been lovely and very comforting. Like getting a slew of great reviews and then wham, the first bad one comes in. The thing about writing a blog about something is that it doesn't really allow for the old adage of never reading your reviews.  And I suppose I expected that I might get some disapproving comments that what I was sharing was too personal, or to "woe is me" in tone. It's part of the project and the process. And on this 6th day of "Water Flowing Underground,"  I'd like to celebrate that I have in fact received my first negative comment and it's a doozy! The comment came from someone we all know VERY well - Anonymous - and I'd like to use tonight's post to share it with you:

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for you but I'm curious why you feel this is everyone's fault but your own. Why can't you and your husband have full time jobs? Don't blame the economy 'cos its always been this way especially with your husband. Sell the expensive bikes you have and the expensive cameras. while its hard to sell in this market everything has a price. Tell your husband to get his job back at the Cheesecake factory. At least that paid the bils. Why do you expect people to give you any more money when nothing has changed. You have not exhausted all options, just the ones you want to do. If you sell the bikes & cameras for half of what u paid you'd have alot of money. Quite frankly, given your situation, why were they purchased in the first place? 

What's interesting about this post is the amount of really personal information being used in this flame. Obviously this person knows me, know my husband and has some very pointed ideas about both of us and our lives.

When I logged on today to check if any comments had come in from last night's post, I was happy to see that there was one. When I saw the above comment from my dear friend Anonymous, a different set of feelings emerged.

At first I thought, oh dear, what have I done? And not to myself, but to my beloved husband, who is very private and not at all comfortable about my writing about this particular time in our lives. And then I went through the comment over and over again, picking up the clues that this person knows us very well: the facts about Jack's camera and his bike, the fact that he waited tables at the Cheesecake Factory when the twins were babies and that our financial life has always been less than steady or secure. I spent a good part of the afternoon thinking, who is this person? I cataloging friendships from LA to NY to Colorado, those who have fallen off for one reason or another. The poster referenced money given - could it be someone we owe money to?

My initial response was to delete the post and save myself the humiliation of others seeing this person's overtly personalized attack. I felt vulnerable. But then I decided to respond and here's what I wrote:

I would love to know who anonymous is, especially since you seem to know so much about our particular situation. I take full responsibility for our situation and would ask if you choose to make such sweeping comments about us, that you at least show your virtual face? As for the camera, sort of the O.Henry story - since my husband is a photographer, selling his camera would be kind of like shooting himself in the foot. But thanks for your comments.

I have to admit, I was shaking as I wrote this. But I took a deep breath and continued, because I had a few more things I needed to say:

I'd also like to add that both the 'expensive' camera and bike were gifts, not purchases that we would have made, given our circumstances. I've been looking for full time work for a year now, after having full time work for my entire adult life. And trust me, being a part-time adjunct faculty member at any college is more than full time work, but thanks anyway for the job advice.

I'm happy to engage in lively discussions, but I'd like to encourage honesty, kindness and ask that you check your judgments at the door, unless you've been where we are.

As a note, I'll be asking folks who choose to participate in this blog to disclose their identities, rather than hide behind the virtual anonoymity of this contributor.

The point of this experiment is to open myself to support as well as constructive criticism, but online slamming is not going to be part of it. Author's discretion and all that fun stuff.

I proceeded to change the settings so that I'll be able to more closely moderate comments before they are published. And then I read the post one more time and the following sentence jumped out at me:

You have not exhausted all options, just the ones you want to do. 

I read the sentence over and over again and you know what? Anonymous had a point, even if it was bookended with nasty intent. I had to honestly ask myself - have I exhausted all my options? No, I haven't. Who has? I began to think about what else I could be doing to help shift the financial tide and I realize that this statement is prompting me to make an inventory of what I have that is of monetary value that I don't really need anymore and here's my starter list for what will be Craigslisted or consigned:

  • Our van that has been sitting in the back of the garages for about a year
  • Refrigerator (yes, Anonymous, we are getting a new one thanks to our weatherization audit - can't WAIT to hear your comments on that, but you'll have to have an identity to do so)
  • Books, books, books - here we come!
  • My chic, but now too big thanks to yoga, clothing to the local consignment store

And yes - big drum roll.....

  • The 'expensive' bike that was a gift? That will have to be the husband's decision, not mine. 

You see, Anonymous, despite the fact that last night ended and today began with tears, as many of the last few days also have unfolded, I don't stay down for very long. Sometimes it's the way the sun comes up over the eastern horizon while I'm drinking my coffee that starts the bounce back to good. Sometimes it's the sound of my kids' sleeping sighs that does the trick. And sometimes it's finding the good in a comment that is really only meant to cause hurt and shame.

Thank you, Anonymous. Your post made my day because it provided me with another opportunity to look more deeply in the mirror and find the nugget of help that was buried in your post. I was struggling a bit with what I'd write about tonight, so I'm always grateful for the content. Lastly, your post reminded me of why I keep the following quote by my bed and which I recite before going to sleep and upon waking:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know it is a wonderful moment.


I'd like to recommend a very moving post by fellow Naropa-alum Merete Heather Mueller entitled Holding the Moth: Notes on Helping Others Through Depression and Hardship, posted on Elephant Journal. Mueller's clear writing really opened my eyes to how one's own difficult circumstances can stressfully impact one's friends, family and colleagues. It was a gentle reminder that while it is important to be honest in how I live my life, I also have to understand the importance of giving those around me some space. As Mueller points out, our inherent response to those we care about who are struggling is to try fix and the realization that sometimes we just can't fix that which has to find its' own resolution. That realization can sometimes make us turn away. And there is learning in that turning away, as long as we eventually turn back.

Be good to yourself and one another. 

1 comment:

mukaramutara said...

i am a friend, an admirer and a believer that your truth and your writing is wonderful.
keep doing what you are doing. your unfolding is spectacular.
for all times,
president of MATRIXWORKS