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.