As I blink in twinkling holiday lights,
Have I made friends with Guilt?
Have I welcomed her as the old friend she is?
Have I invited her to make herself cozy, have I poured her a cup of tea while she and I together notice how disappointing I am to others? Have we observed, with stark clarity, that I have not been, will never be, doing enough for my children, my parents, my in-laws, my spouse, my job, my friends, my self?
Have I thanked Guilt for her near-constant companionship?
As I stand in the kitchen, cookies in the oven, pots on the stove,
Have I been crying enough?
Have I let my tears salt the gingerbread? Spill into the pasta water until it’s as bracing and biting as the ocean, like my friend Maddy says pasta water should always be?
As I sip a drink here at a friend’s party,
Have I embraced my loneliness with the same gusto as I hug my friends?
Or is my loneliness lonely, another victim of unearned neglect? How can I make my loneliness feel loved?
As I wrap these presents, have I enfolded into the packages the sorrows of the year? The souls I miss so dearly? The disappointments I’ve caused, or been steamrolled under? The injustices I’ve borne witness to? The keenings of my heart?
As I tear sticky-tape off the roll, am I noticing all the ways my intentions are stuck on my fingers — entangled, gluey, as dangerous as the web of the garden spider outside my window — do I feel the viscosity of all my intentions stuck to my fingers, building up, obscuring fingerprints and whorls, never manifested on the page, or in the world?
As I set the table for fewer people than I’d hoped, or more than I can bear,
Am I asking myself if I’m getting enough rest? If I’ve seen the moon recently? If I’ve left space for joy?
As I turn off the lights, the only soul awake in the house, possibly the world,
will I remember
that I am a Child of the Universe,
Y'all. I wrote another letter to my legislators. I'm posting it to share, if you want to print it out and send it to your legislators. Feel free to download it and/or copy it. Make changes as you see fit, or use it just as it is.
Here are links to find the names and addresses of your elected representatives:
The President's address is The White House1600 Pennsylvania Ave NWWashington, DC 20500
Yep, it's an uphill struggle. But/and we're averaging almost 2 mass shootings A MONTH in the U.S. One voice, no matter how small, is louder than a thousand silent people.
A friend asked me to repost in a more findable place. I'm honored that it seems to have resonated with folks. Please feel free to share. Here goes --
Some thoughts on marriage, and cookies:
So I made cookies. (By which of course I mean that I baked the portion of dough that was not in my tummy.) And some of them came apart from cooking sheet to cooling rack, because they were so yummy/gooey. So I said to my hubs, "If you eat any, eat the broken ones."
And then I was like, Wait a second. This is my partner. This is the person who puts up with my ridiculousness every day, and makes me laugh more than anyone else on the planet, and is generous to me when I am a total shit. I literally trust this person with my life, and with my child's life. Why am I telling him to eat the broken cookies?
So I paused Netflix and told him, "You know what? You are my favorite person in the world. Eat the very best ones."
And I guess my Christmas (New Year's) Eve marriage/cookie message is this: We're all ridiculous people. We're only here a very, very short time. If you're lucky enough to find someone who wants to spend every day (and night) with you, and that person still manages to love you? Pause Netflix, tell them what a good egg they are, and by all means, let them have the very best cookies.
My 40th bday party. FOMO?!?
Truthy-ish transcript from the park, walking the trail while our kids level the playground, mid-August 2013
BFF: So, how's Facebook-free summer?
BFF: Have you truly, honestly been off Facebook?
Me: Yup, since the end of May. Although I admit: last night, I went on Facebook to grab a friend's email address for my newsletter. And I forgot to not get sucked in. I started reading the news feed.
BFF: And how did that make you feel? [Worth noting: BFF is a therapist]
Me: Honestly? Yucky. Left out. Immediately just ... sad. My friends had photos of getting together -- and even though these are people who live far away, and I never see them -- I still had an irrationally sad, left out feeling. I should be happy to see them. But it was the exact opposite.
BFF: I know exactly what you mean. That's how I feel from Facebook, too.
Me: I just read a study that said that the more people look at their newsfeed, the unhappier they are.
BFF: It's FOMO! I read an article in Oprah magazine about it.
BFF: "Fear Of Missing Out." It's a nation-wide phenomenon. I think everyone has it to some degree--
ME: [Interrupting, because I'm horribly rude like that] --And Facebook makes it worse! Because honestly, when was the last time I had that "left out" feeling? I'll tell you when. The last time I checked Facebook. And before that? The high school cafeteria. Worrying whether I'd be invited to the cool parties. Wondering if friends were making plans without me. Hoping I wouldn't miss anything on the night my parents made me stay home. Totally miserable.
BFF: [Laughing in a commiserating way, because she's awesome like that] Right! Before my birthday party last week, I figured a friend would post about it, so I pre-emptively posted, "Don't worry, you didn't miss out on anything good," so my other friends didn't feel left out.
ME: That was nice of you. Related: I think it's good I do Facebook-free summers, because that's when I tend to have big parties--
BFF: -- Thanks for inviting me to your big party, by the way.
ME: Ha ha. Of course. Anyway, AS I was saying ... it's good for me to be off Facebook, so I don't get sucked in to posting all these cool photos from my rad dance parties, and feeling socially competitive.
BFF: You feel socially competitive? I don't see you that way.
ME: [blinking rapidly] Girl, I love you so much.
BFF: Aw. I love you, too. So, the big question: are you going back to Facebook?
ME: I thought about just ... not. But, yeah. Honestly, I feel like I need to, for work. To network, and make updates about my new books coming out.
BFF: Yup, I need it for work, too. Still gonna take summer vacations from it?
ME: Mos def. And I'll be more mindful how I use it. I'm not going to reinstall the app on my phone. I'll only check it when I'm on my computer.
BFF: Smarty pants.
ME: Also, this is going to sound really selfish, and I worry that it might be narcissistic...
ME: But I think I might be happier if I stay self-centered on Facebook. Literally self-centered. Check my own pages, but not look at friends' stuff, or the main news feed very much. But if everyone did that? Facebook would be pointless. No sharing. Everyone would be disconnected.
ME: Then again, maybe everyone would be happier. The irony of Facebook: human connection is supposed to make you happy. So more should be better. But more, in this case, is worse.
BFF: So, to be happy, humans should stick to the old in-person walk-and-talks.
ME: Like this one. Brilliant.
(...except I am now posting this on my blog and Facebook. Oh, irony, you cruel, cruel temptress.)
You can read a fab summary of studies about Facebook misery, "Can Facebook Survive If It Makes Us Miserable? by Charlie Warzel for Buzzfeed, here.
And the great article on FOMO, "Three Strategies To Beat Your Fear Of Missing Out," by Martha Beck, for Oprah Magazine, here.
In the course of writing (**cough** procrastinating) my third novel, it has become necessary for me to list the rules of my home. As written by me. And I'm a share-bear, so here they are:
1. Take off your shoes.
2. Be kind.
3. Ask for help when you need it.
4. Don’t interrupt naps, work, or conversations.
5. Work hard, work well, don’t whinge.
6. Nightly family dinner: settle in, say grace, and thank the chef.
7. Clean up.
8. Don’t interrupt naps, work, or conversations.
9. Share generously: your time, talent, and treasures.
10. Put the seat and the lid down.
11. No ambushing innocent bystanders.
12. When in doubt, tell the truth.
13. Do not anger wizards.
14. Jump up, jump up, and get down.
What are your Home Rules?
Got some signings, conferences, and visits coming up, and I've been pondering how to come up with some stickers for signed bookplates, and notecards with my info for thank-you notes, and other random suches.
Nothing was really working for me. I mean, "let Vistaprint design you a logo"? Blech.
I like personal. I like imperfect. I also like free.
And then, eureka!
My writing group pal John Claude Bemis already dubbed me J-Cube, even though technically I think the equation would be
(j) to the third power.
If you have ever met me, you know I likey a good DIY (remind me to tell you the worm farm story).
My general attitude is, "Why not give it a try? What could go wrong?" (Remind me to tell you the deck roof story.)
So -- voila! My new logo, brought to you by a Pink Pearl eraser and my trusty exacto knife:
Me likey. What do you think?
So I opened up my soul and poured it into a letter to my teenage self and wrote this for the Dear Teen Me website.
And now that it's out there, I kind of can't believe I put it out there on the interwho.
Which is a good indicator of just how honest it is.
Click this link to go to the letter.
The time: June 2012. The place: St John, USVI.
I'm in an island paradise, sipping a drink, staring at this four-foot-long iguana staring back at me, and instead of thinking, Wow. What a cool creature. Or, I'm a lucky girl. Or [Zen lack of thoughts, Be Here Now]," I'm thinking, I can't believe the wireless is down! I need to get a photo of this on Facebook, stat!
And then I said: "Facebook, I need a break. It's not you, it's me." Four reasons:
Let me be clear: as an author, I care a lot about copyright and piracy. But I care a lot more about freedom.
SOPA and PIPA would let the US government --and the big corporations most of our representatives are clearly beholden to-- mess with internet content AND structure.
I'm convinced that SOPA and PIPA will break the internet -- technically, practically, and philosophically.
If you want to learn more, the video is a great primer. But don't take it from me. Do your own research. And when you do, please contact your representatives. Stat. (Click the link at left to contact your reps, but remember, when it comes to actions like this, phone calls count a LOT more than e-mails.)
j.j. johnson, author