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all that you can leave behind

The piece below is nothing but a long introspection of the past year and the self realization that came with looking back at the things I've written in the past twelve months. It is basically a confessional to myself about several things and was written and published as part of a penance I put upon myself in my effort to make steps towards change. It might be of interest to you, as it has everything to do with blogging and what's taken place here in recent months. It's long, it's self indulgent. That's why the entire post is below the fold. You've been warned.
Thanksgiving has always been, to me, a marker of sorts. While the calendar says winter doesn't start until December, in my mind the season is ushered in on Thanksgiving evening, as soon as the leftovers are wrapped up and the last piece of silverware is washed. As if on cue, the weather cooperated yesterday. The morning still had hints of fall; after a downpour the sun came out and the kids on the block swarmed around the basketball hoop, all coatless and carefree. By the time we got home from my parents' last night, we had grudgingly turned on the heat and commenced with cursing the cold. Thanksgiving has become, in the past six years, my year-end measurement. I met my husband on Thanksgiving evening of 1998, so it's only natural that I would spend some time each year after the turkey and stuffing to reflect. Some people reflect in December; me, I like to get a jump start on the introspection. It's easy to look back on the year past when you keep a weblog. I don't have to wrack my brain wondering if I made any mistakes or hurt anyone or behaved badly because it's all right here in black and white, sealed forever on the hard drives of thousands. I guess that's the price one pays for running an emotion-based blog, which I do. Some bloggers write from a fact-based or opinion-based view; most of what I write is emotional reaction to the world around me. It's just the way I am, the way I've always been. I react to everything with feeling. Most of my decisions, my choices, my actions are based on my emotions. No, not a great way to live, but it's who I am. So last night, after waking from the food coma and noticing that many of my neighbors had turned on their Christmas lights, I went into automatic reflection mode. And I read a good portion of what I've written here over the past year. Talk about self discovery. When I was done reading, I was left the feeling like I looked in the mirror and saw that I was covered in thousands of blemishes. It was an ugly year, to put it mildly. I suddenly found myself faced with the weird feeling of losing all respect for myself. I see a year's worth of words that were filled with such hatred and anger that I barely recognized the person that exists in this particular space. It's not that may anger wasn't real. It certainly was. But the way in which I expressed some of that anger and the manufactured hate that flows through my words made me question why I wrote half of what I did. Why did I actively seek out those things which I knew would anger me? Why did I engage in such vitriol and mouth-foaming reactions when most of it was not only completely unnecessary, but only served to fuel whatever negative emotions I was dredging up by reading things I knew would make me mad? I'm not saying I should have tuned out from the world, but did I really need to make matters worse for myself by digging deeper than necessary, or saying more words than situations warranted? A long, restless night of thinking gave me the answers to those questions and, trust me, they are not answers I am happy with. But if I spent the better part of a year becoming a hateful, antagonistic creep, then I would do best - for myself, anyhow, to come clean about what led me to become that way. People are driven by different things in life. Some of us are driven by our need for acceptance. I've been that way since I was young and I suppose it's what will always be the driving force behind the things I do. Old dog, new tricks, etc. I know that some of the less stellar things I did in my youth can be attributed to my need to be accepted by people, even if those people were not exactly the kind of company one wants to keep. A pat on the back for a questionable act was far better than no pats on the back at all. I've carried that need for acceptance on into adulthood, to a lesser extent. I managed to run a pretty successful weblog for nearly three years without the histrionics or hate, so why did I choose to go that route now? Well, it starts with one little instance and it sort of builds up. A few accolades for a well written, yet vitriolic post, a few extra hits, a few more readers. So you do it again to see if you can repeat that success. Sure enough, you can. That shit sells, man. My hits were going through the roof. I had a nice, long adstrip. I was quoted in newspapers. CNN was calling my house. I was finally being accepted. But accepted as what? I never did stop to think about that. Well, I did briefly, a few times. See, that's the problem. I knew that it was my raw anger and seething hatred that was getting all the blog press. I knew that people showed up in droves for the posts that were written in the depths of rage. Again, my anger was definitely real. My opinions on these subjects were completely honest. But it's the fact that I reached for these subjects, that I actively sought out those things that would make my blood boil and my hands shake that makes it now seem so manipulative. Why else would I swim through the sewers of Indymedia or Democrtatic Underground? Why else would I care what Ted Rall, a festering sore on the face of humanity but an insignificant microbe in the large scheme of things, have to say? I cared because ten thousand people or more a day did. I cared because people liked this stuff, they turned out in droves for it. And even though it made me sick to read what I was reading, even though the emotional energy it took to write some of these posts left me tired and cranky for the rest of the day, I did it anyhow. I was totally guilty of doing what I accused many of my adversaries of doing. I was writing about what I was against, not what I was for. I was writing with long, broad strokes. I was engaging in the worst of unsocial discourse. And I was fueling ten thousand people a day while I was doing it. I look back at some of this and I laugh when I see that I accused some of those people of being shrill and unhinged when clearly, half of what I wrote could lead the same thing to be said about me. There are definitely a lot of posts within the last year I'm proud of. But they are far outweighed by the damage I did to my own sense of self-respect. I know I also lost some friends over this. Not the people who came right out and said they hated my politics so they hated me; that's another issue. But there are some people I was pretty good friends with who just drifted. Or, more like slowly backed away from the emerging car wreck that I was becoming. We just lost touch and I know damn well why. And I never made the attempt to initiate contact with these people because subconsciously I knew that I was being a complete asshole. I alluded to it several times, I spent a few days writing about how I was tired of the hate and tired of the anger, yet I kept right on keeping on because writing about anything else wouldn't bring nearly the response. Let's face it, about 90% of bloggers crave attention. While I'm being completely honest here, I may as well admit that I'm just as much an attention whore as the 16 year old pouting seductively on her webcam. It's not an easy thing for me to sit here and admit to all of you that half of what I wrote over the past year was born out of manufactured hate. There was no need to go to DU every day looking for the most absurd thing on there. There was no need to say a thousand times in different ways how much I hate Ted Rall. I beat the dead horses because dead horses make for good ratings. And all those hits and ads and reporters and comments meant that I was accepted somewhere as something. But what? The greatest sewer of venom in the blogosphere? The woman who could alienate a whole circle of people with just one paragraph? Talk about superpowers. I could write ten words and send ten people scurrying to their keyboards to say how insane I was and ten people scurrying in the other direction to say how right I was. Well, there's something to put on my life resume. I can make people scurry to weblogs! I have the power! I did as much to contribute to the air of animosity that existed around these parts as Oliver Wilis or Kos or anyone else I accused of being divisive. Instead of engaging in civil discourse like I implored everyone else to do, I coarsened the conversation and made it nearly impossible to have an intelligent discussion about anything because I so loaded down my posts with negativity, hate and anger that anyone responding from the other side would automatically start out on the defensive. Sure, there were times when I tried to discuss things rationally, but they were far and few between and certainly didn't garner as much attention as the profane posts. All these things are what I'm leaving behind by not dealing with the politics anymore. I'm over the whole acceptance thing because, just like when I was fourteen and drank fifteen shots of Sambuca to gain acceptance, it has left me feeling sick to my stomach. And in much the same way that to this day I can't look at a bottle of Sambuca without heaving, I will not be able to look back at a year's worth of my writing without feeling sick. I really have no one to apologize to but myself. Self-awareness isn't exactly an apology, but it's a start. Admitting that I am not proud nor particularly pleased with the way I behaved, especially in recent months, is my first step towards making peace with myself. And letting go of that need for acceptance is another step which I think I took already. I stopped caring about the hits or the comments. I stopped caring about figuring out ways to draw people in. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be, I'll tell you that. What I gained in readership or ad revenue was not worth the respect I lost for myself.

Comments

I do that hug thing to you.

And I will continue to read your blog everyday because the posts you write are interesting! I am in awe of anyone who can, with words, make me actually visualize the subject. Thanks for doing that for me!

Yikes.

Of course, this morning I was making you visualize a street packed with thongs. For which you may or may not thank me when it comes back to haunt you at 1am after that last turkey sandwich.

elbows Bill out of the way

Quit hoggin' the hugs.

Hug mosh!

Keep writing and people will keep reading...write your heart. Hugs

I think stuff like that about myself, but I never write it down. it's good to know that all the way on the other end of the internet is someone who's normal too.

Coffee takes effect, realizes that is a different Michele in second comment, ergo not talking about me. World does not revolve around me, lalalala, never mind.

I have a little blog where I did nasty on John Kerry too. All the hits on the hit meter are me checking to see how the site looked.

Anger is not what sells. Hate dosn't sell well either. Interesting sells. You do interesting very well. Keep that up.

Sometimes we need to see what the bad guys are doing. But not often.

We need to be the best at who we are. So continue to do that. And be a blessing for who you are, rather than what you might become by searching among the drek.

I don't think you need to apologize for anything.But that's just my two cents and we know what that's worth!

:-)

Hey, I definitely want in the hug thing. You do good, sister.

Thanks for the TMI advisory! ;)

I first came over here because someone linked to your comparison of Dick Cheney to Han Solo.

Not devisive, just accurate. Given, that was a fairly recent post and I am fairly new here, but I never miss a day of your posts. Even when it means reading it at my in-laws on their WebTV.

Like someone said, interesting is what sells. I often agree, disagree or flat out have no opinion on what you write here but I always read what you write because what you write you write well.

I enjoyed today's honesty. It's rare to find a person of passion willing to lay it all on the table. So keep writing. I'll keep reading.

/crappy WebTV with failing batteries comment

WebTV? People still use that?

Anyhoo... Michele, I think you're being too hard on yourself. People need to know what's going on on boards like DU because that's the center of gravity on the left these days. Michael Moore, Ted Rall, Mica Marcshall - they're all a constellation of opinion and method that informs even the very center of the Democratic party. Even now, the party's leaders think that the reason they lost is because they didn't go far enough left.

That stuff cannot be ignored or dismissed. In an era where CBS News feels it can go forward with a hit piece on the president based on transparently falsified documents, you can't kid yourself by saying, "oh, that's just a bunch of loonies on the far left". Their influence on the mainstream is too strong.

And that stuff is hateful, ugly and disturbing, and naturally it's going to produce a strong reaction. You can't get down on yourself for having a strong reaction like that. It's normal.

So maybe you feel it shouldn't be your job to talk about stuff like that, and that's your prerogative. It's your blog and you can talk about what you want. But from where I sit, your take on what was happening on the left was entirely reasonable and nothing to be ashamed of.

Michele, I've been reading you for close to three years now and never comment, but this post made me want to finally come out of lurk mode. For the last year or so I've skipped right over most of your political posts for the reasons you so very clearly stated. It takes a lot of guts to say all the things you just said (and so eloquently too!) and make these painful realizations. No wonder I think you're so cool. Too bad we live on opposite sides of the country - I'd like to buy you a beer.

I do believe you're too harsh on yourself (we're our own worse critics, etc. etc.).

There have been times in the last year or so that hatred, vitrol and venom were EASY. The divisive part was also EASY. All one needs to do is read the news, turn on the TV or listen to a campaign speech from last year...

So if you want to write a bit more lightheartedly, go ahead..

those of us who've been around here for a while will keep coming back and reading.

Oh and a side-note.... even if you do consider it harshness or hatred or whatever, we accepted you long before you wrote from that side of your heart and we'll accept you long after. Stop acting like a 16-year-old who refuses to believe people actually do like her. We DO like you and your writing.

'nuff said.

now go add Megadeth and Rollins Band to your list.

Michele,
Sometime this past year, I stopped reading everyday. I just couldn't come here and read the very type of hatred you were telling others that they were doing. I couldn't read it anymore. It made me sick to my stomach and angry and I chose to instead not start my day being angry about things.
I missed reading your blog every morning but could not put myself through the emotions I felt reading your words and the words of your readers. It was just too much.

This post took a lot of courage and I applaud you.
I also applaud you for having the courage to be able to look back with such profound retrospect and be able to express it so eloquently as you always have, and one of the many reasons I loved starting my day here. You are a great writer and to me, a much better writer when you are not filled with hate.

Happy holidays to you even though you hate them. ;)

What she said. Beautifully expressd, Kat.

Looking in the mirror is hard, good for you. I read your blog because it is emotion based. But there are lots of emotions other than anger and I have especially enjoyed your posts that dealt with those. From what I read, "manufactured" in the right word because I don't think there is that much anger/hatred in you.

Thanks for the gift of your writing.

That was one of the most nakedly self-aware things I've read in some time. Like others, I think you should lighten up on yourself a little bit, because, as they say, admission is more than half the battle. In this case, it's almost all of it.

Though you can learn from it and move on, you should know you didn't commit an original sin. There were a host of high traffic people who were guilty of similar behavior ... but have we heard any self examination from most of them? No, it continues, for the most part.

I lost a lost of my respect and hopes for the Blogosphere over this past year. I saw a few genuinely good things happen, but 90% of it was a "sewer of venom."

But posts like this one make me think maybe I've been a pessimist. So thanks for sharing, in that uniquely emotional way of yours. Knock it if you want, but it seems to have gotten you back on path, eh?

I'll keep reading because I like your writing and your choice of subject matter, with our without politics. Try not to be so hard on yourself.

I think I understand how you feel. It's that same hollowness that comes after I leave an argument riding an anger high. I've won, and I was right, and if I got that angry it's probably something important. But was getting angry the only way to win? Is it worth the consequences? Did anger give me the impetus to say something that needed to be said?

Sometimes the answers are yes, and sometimes it's no. There's no joy in it either way.

But I've also realized that there are times when that's the best I can hope for. Though I don't seek out conflict or revel in heated arguments like I once did, it can't always be avoided. I think what you've written this past year has been necessary, and I think the broader result has been more positive than negative. Particularly since you were generally right. Reassessing your attitude is one thing, but don't let regret cost you your self-respect.

I agree that attacking people for being "divisive" wasn't a high point. (What's so great about unity with a people who are that alien to you? Berkeley soshialists* are in Berkeley and far away from me, and that's why I like it.) Also I agree that some of those posts made for a depressing read. On the other hand...

You did help rile up the masses. Partly because you got Republican-but-unreliably-so folk like me so steamed up: Bush got re-elected, and he got a more compliant Congress.

Also, in your best posts, it's not like you were fibbing. Michael Moore really was feted at the Dem convention. Kerry really was a rotten candidate. Kerry's supporters (as a subset of his voters) really didn't like Middle America - hell, most of them don't like America, period. Someone had to get out there and warn everyone in such a way that the Dems could hear it that the Dems were going the wrong way. They didn't listen and they lost. THAT's not your fault.

The Prophet Jeremiah probably felt pretty dumpy when he gave his "there is no balm in Gilead" sermon, too. He was still right.

*had to respell because the word has the ever-popular see-all-iss in it.

Michele,

I seemed to be really, um, "gifted" at drawing you out in comments with my snarkiness, but I always thought you were a gifted writer and, as this post showed, a decent human being. Sometimes I thought you took the easy way out with your DU posts (as I've noted, Lucianne and Freep are equally--if not more--"extreme") and I just, well, thought you were capable of much better than that. I thought you could state your case better for the rational behind your political transformation than "everyone I used to hang around with sucks." Sorry if I crawled too far up your ass on occassion and best of luck in the future. Really, I mean it.

I will snark here no more and try to tone it down in general.

But, Michele, c'mon, the Rolling Stones were the best band of all time (just ignore everything after "Tattoo You"). I can't let you off the hook for that one. ;)

Just wow. I am continually amazed by your ability to be so open and honest here. I don't think I could do it.

Wait a minute. Are you sure it was "hate"? It seemed more to me as if it was passion.

I didn't find anything hateful in what you posted. What I did see was someone who was passionate about certain things and you made damned sure people knew about it. There's nothing wrong with feeling passionate about something, especially when what you feel passionate about is a good thing.

You mention your desire to have people accept you. It's a common desire, and I share it with you. Your candor is appreciated. But, are you sure your self-castigation over being an "attention whore" isn't just a way to drop the whole passionate thing and retreat into pleasing-little-girl-mode?

I'm not trying to slam you in any way with this. You're a fine writer and I read you regularly and have no reason to slam you. But sometimes negativity has to be wielded, because there are many, many things which deserve it, and deserve to be served it by a strong voice.

I think you fought well.

Hm. Safe to assume this has no bearing on our clashes in the comments section of this blog, but I'm interested to see you're thinking in this direction regardless.

People come here because you're a good writer. Because you write something they like the read.

Today, for me, it's the hysterical caroling story. Your imagery and word choice is inspired. I feel like I'm right there with you, living vicariously through you. In fact, I can't help but have flashbacks of A Christmas Story and that kid with his tongue stuck to the flag pole. It's the same kind of timeless story, and well told!

Other days, it's reading about your trials as a mother. I'm a mom now, so I'm obsessed with reading about kids and moms and coping with life. Thanks to you, I've already thought of what I should do when my boy is picked on by bullies, or threatened by crazy people. Without you, if (when!) that happens, I'd have to face it without having ever throught of it. But now I have you here, putting your life out there for everyone to see, and sharing your experiences. And the experiences of your readers.

Sure, you got a lot of hit for Kerry and Bush. That's because everyone wanted to read something about them. There's a million sites out there who bashed Kerry and felt anger, but we came here because you could express the same anger we felt with the perfect imagery and inspired word choices that we've come to love from you.

As someone who occasionally tried to respond from the "other side," I'd like to thank you and compliment you on this post.

I'm a liberal Democrat who voted for Kerry--but Moore, Rall, the DU, et al never spoke to or for me. It was regrettable that so much time was spent setting them up and knocking them down; although regrettably real, they are, as you say, insignificant. They are not "the center of gravity on the left"--although it serves a purpose for Farmer Joe and Darleen to declare that they are: It makes it so much easier to dismiss us all as moonbats.

Those who are disappointed or baffled by your mea culpa are part of the problem, and offer no solution to our politics devolving into a pointless, lazy pissing match between easy-to-denounce extremes, while our real problems march merrily on.

I really respect and appreciate your introspection and honesty, Michele. I hope the future will belong to thoughtful moderates who can and will talk to each other. For the next four years, our success or failure will be solely the responsibility of the Republican right. Good luck to them.