Pause and Smell the Roses

 

It all started with a writing prompt.

Every Friday, I participate in #FP (Friday Phrases) on Twitter. A few weeks ago, the theme was “pause” and one of the tweets I wrote was this:

This morning, I did pause. And was rewarded with red squirrels, grey squirrels, and chipmunks racing through bushes, chasing each other. Mourning doves cooed. Chickadees tweeted and blue jays squawked, fluttering from maples to pines.

I watched the clouds drift from brushstrokes into dragons and marveled at how the sky directly above the tree line is a watery blue which deepens in hue as your eyes travel upward—so subtle you’d miss it if you weren’t absorbed in its color.

I sat on my porch peeking between branches, at the ground, in the sky, dipping my finger in dew drops on our mini-pumpkins, all the while enjoying the intoxicating smell of my morning coffee and sipping the delicious brew.

I looked, listened, smelled, tasted, and touched. I used all my senses to appreciate the world around me. I didn’t stop. I paused. A minor distinction, perhaps, but a world of difference to me.

People are always saying I need to ‘stop’ when what I really needed was to ‘pause’.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

ThoughtBubble

When is the last time you paused? Took life in? Enjoyed the moment? Take a pause today, gentle readers.

 

Hotel California

 

“Social media is like the Hotel California. You can log out anytime you like, but you can never leave…”

Beaton wrote this and I commented something like, “Haha! That’s hilarious!” ThoughtBubble

But, see, it’s not. I mean, it is Hotel California but it’s not really funny. If you follow.

We log out but it’s on the brain. There’s an almost imperceptible tug. (Although, for some people, it’s more like being a roped cattle.)

I have to get some shout-outs ready for (fill-in-the-blank) hashtag day.

I need to acknowledge those mentions or RT something of theirs.

I never tweeted my blog post from this week.

I’ve got to catch up on reading blogs and tweeting them.

I love this book—I wonder if the author’s on Twitter.

Ooh! Some new Harry Potter covers! I have to tweet about that!

Most of us on social media have thought one of these things at some point. Or, if not, you’ll leave a comment here saying, “Pfft! That doesn’t happen to me!” (I’d appreciate a little “how I do it” in there, if you wouldn’t mind.)

My pull from social media is fairly mild. But it’s there and I worry about that. I don’t want to get caught (any more than I already am) in the tangled web of Twitter.

 

Hotel California has been accused of being about a lot of different topics. That’s the beauty of this song—it’s about what it’s about but it can be applied to many situations where someone is stuck by his or her own device.

We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.”

Can you log out any time you like? Can you really leave?

 

Sarah B Hotel California

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Letting Go of Social Media

 

Let go of social media?! Yes, I know. We can’t do that. We’re not allowed. As writers, we must be on all the social sites to build our platform and brand ourselves and whatnot. But I’m letting go. Does that mean I’ll have less success? Maybe. Maybe not. Probably. I’ll miss out on opportunities if nothing else.

I read this post by Lisa Reiter and it resonated with me. She talks about being busy and organizing her writing. Pfft. Who needs that? With two young kids, a husband, a house, a job, appointments, meetings, blah, blah, blah, I have all the time in the world to sit down (uninterrupted) and write.

As the saying goes, “If you do one thing, it’ll be your best. If you do two things, they’ll each have a bit of your intent to do your best but they won’t be your best. If you do ten things, they’ll suck.” Okay, that’s not at all how the saying goes and I’m not sure there’s a saying even remotely like that but you get my point. Hopefully.

If I do those ten things with a bag full of the fifty things I’m not doing sitting on top of my head, the ten things are going to really suck and I’ll wind up hurting my neck. Something’s got to give. And, if I look back and realize I haven’t sent anything in yet for my column this month or worked on my book or submitted anything to…anywhere, then social media has to go.

Okay, I’m not getting rid of social media entirely, I’m just attempting to stuff it into a box and shove it in the corner. Social media is a rope. (I’m going somewhere with this. I swear.) Instead of throwing the rope to the ground and leaving it unattended or allowing it to lasso me, I have to take control of it. “Letting go” of this rope means untangling myself from it so it doesn’t choke the life out of me but making sure it doesn’t get soaked and moldy in the rain. Hence, the box in the corner.

 

social media rope

The Rope of Social Media (A.K.A. A ball of string I found around the house)

The rope of social media shouldn’t be a noose, it should be a lifeline.

A connection to my audience, potential editors, agents, and other writers.

Lisa says in her post that she has set aside a day (one day!) a week that she calls her “Blog Admin Day”. In the post, she uses words like “addictive” and “compelled”. I feel like that sometimes.

Technically, she’s talking about blogging but I’m applying it to all social media. I don’t know if I can set aside one day to write my blog, read other blogs, comment, read litmags, research submission guidelines, catch up on my Twitter account… Seems a tall order. But I’ll try. Because I need the rest of the week to do that thing I love to do with words like putting them together and making cool sentences (and fragments). I need time to write. Also, I’m on call 24 hrs. a day as a mom so there’s that.

I’m going to attempt to organize my own Social Media Admin Day. Let’s be honest: Days. I think I need two. For now.

Interesting. I wrote this post almost exactly a year ago. This crisis isn’t new. Maybe it resonates with me because I’m going through it (again). Maybe more people are dealing with this. Maybe it’s the time of year. I don’t know. But I do know that many fellow bloggers, writer friends, and tweeps are deleting their accounts, taking breaks, or wondering out loud where they’re headed.

Two days for social media/blogging time didn’t work for me. And I have nothing inspirational to say. Just… You’re not alone.

How do you manage your social media? Do you read/comment on blogs? Do you have time to read anything else (poetry, short stories, books)? Do you have time to write (something other than your blog)?

 

Envy and Honesty

 

Envy is never pretty. Not really all that helpful, either. (Except if it motivates you to go to the gym or something.) But I digress. I’ve been envious lately. Of the “good” writers, the funny tweeps, the people who have it all together. Because their blog and social media shows this, it must be true.

Then I received a DM.

An online friend was struggling.

I got an email. Then another. And another. They were all struggling. And I had no idea. I wrote back, sending supportive words and virtual hugs. But I felt helpless.

I also felt guilty. Here’s why.

Two of the people who contacted me were, less than a week before that, on my list. (My completely, utterly unfair list.) It was a long list, I must admit, because I am not doing well. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t keep up. And more is headed my way every day.

Although I should know better, I envied these people who had it all together. Who were juggling families, jobs, friends, writing, blogging, social media… Life. They were managing life. Without breaking a virtual sweat.

Ah. But there it is, right? Virtual. It’s difficult enough to recognize in real life people who are struggling. When you can hide behind a screen and type when you feel chipper or comment when you’re capable, no one can tell that you’re struggling.

Imagine my shock when one of these emails expressed a good-natured jab about how well I was doing because I was seemingly all around the blogosphere. Here I was drowning and someone thought I was winning the swim meet. Everyone is dealing with something—they may be fine, they may not be.

I know this. People post when they’re feeling okay. I should never have assumed. Needless to say, and yet I will, I should never have been envious of their ability to handle the world in the first place, virtual or not.

 

Sarah B rainy day - sig

 

Because September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, I thought it fitting to share this today. I’m checking my envy at the door. Giving what I can, when I can. Being there.

And asking “How are you?”

 

Twitter Trends: Trash or Treasure?

 

You’re on Twitter? So you know that sidebar with all the trends. It’s loaded with absurdity like #RuinAMovieWithBacon, #DescribeYourPoopIn4Words, and #LiesWeTellOurPetGiraffes.

Then there are the ones with celebrity break-ups, fall-outs, nose jobs, nose rings, weight gain, weight loss, and what color their hair was yesterday. It’s fascinating. Really.

There’s also breaking “news” trends (a.k.a. target practice). They scream, “Feeling aggressive? Ready for a virtual fight? Let your anger out right here!” And people do.

Sometimes there are awesome trends, like #Hemingway, #Shakespeare, or #EmilyDickinson with fabulous quotes for nerds like me. Also, I have learned about some incredibly cool “holidays” like National Coffee Day and National Chocolate Day.

It’s a mix. A dizzying display of words, names, places, and opinions.

I tend to ignore them but with their bright bold font, it’s difficult not to at least notice them. Which is, of course, the point. And occasionally (before someone rats me out) I’ve been known to #RuinADateIn3Words or something equally silly.

When I looked up the definition of “trending”, it actually had Twitter in the definition. I am quite serious. To be fair, that was online so I’ll smooth my ruffled feathers or dunk in the birdbath or whatever.

 

trend

verb

gerund or present participle: trending

  1. change or develop in a general direction.

          “unemployment has been trending upward”

          “interest rates are trending up

          “the Richelieu River trends northward to Lake Champlain”

  1. (of a topic) be the subject of many posts on a social media website within a short period of time.

          “I’ve just taken a quick look at what’s trending on Twitter right now”

 

Do you notice trends? Steal a glance to see if there’s something you’re interested in? Pointedly ignore them? Or actively seek them out to tweet about?

 

Trends

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Disappearing Into the Ethernet

 

It’s an unspoken rule that you don’t just disappear from social media. You don’t remove your blog or delete your Twitter and Facebook account without warning. You don’t keep those accounts and abandon them. ThoughtBubble

Why? Because we have made connections.

Maybe I made this rule up because, of course, many people do disappear. But a lot don’t. They announce they won’t be on Twitter or are taking a break from blogging. They often give a reason, too: computer problems, internet connection, poor health, family stuff, personal issues, going on vacation, “just need a break”…

The “social” in social media is strange. I’ll confess to checking on people (discreetly—in DMs or emails) if I notice they’ve gone AWOL, and it truly is out of concern. I’m not trying to pry and yet, I wonder, is this appropriate? I think it depends on your relationship with the person.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. When did we become so attached to our cyber friends? How do we define online friendships?

How much do we owe our readers and followers? Our facebook friends and tweeps? Why do we feel we must give an explanation for our sudden disappearance?

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

Oversharing on Social Media

 

When you haven’t blogged or been on Twitter, what do you do? I think some would answer with a resounding, “Nothing. Move on.” Others would say that a full-on explanation is warranted. I’m guessing that most people fall somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I feel I should write something.

When sharing information about my personal life in a very public way, where is the line? Do I keep it vague or go into details? How much is too much? And, more importantly, why am I thinking about this at all? Why, in the midst of a family crisis or health emergency or computer meltdown, am I worrying about what my online presence looks like to others?

I suppose you should let people know why you haven’t been online or won’t be online much. I suppose that’s the nice/right/proper thing to do. But… Is this common courtesy or TMI (too much information)?

 

So, when I should have been getting a huge reality slap about what’s important in life, I was thinking about all the blogs I haven’t commented on, the posts I hadn’t written, the updates I hadn’t made on my website, the tweets sitting in my drafts, the emails piling up in my inbox.

For anyone who is wondering, I’m about to overshare:

I went to the ER last week expecting a little help but was admitted to the hospital. I stayed a night. Then another. Then another… The world outside those four white walls faded away. I didn’t think about much besides my family. (And all the beeping machines, wires, IVs, tests, and blood pressure cuffs.) After a day or two, it hit me. The social media thing I’ve been yammering about. And here I am posting about my hospital stay and my ongoing treatment (a.k.a. wireless heart monitor I must wear 24 hrs. a day for a month). So I will post when I’m not passing out and will tweet when I’m not too dizzy. And there you go. Hope that is not too much information for you.

Cheers, gentle readers.

Oh, also, I have a strange habit of taking pictures at unseemly moments. I like to document everything—even the horrible things. So, for your viewing pleasure, this is my EEG. It’s one of the nicer photos. I look at bit like a modern techie Medusa but I’ve titled it “space mermaid”.

 

Sarah B Hospital - EEG

 

Writers & Semicolons

 

As writers, we can kill off our characters with a fictional flourish.

We wouldn’t have our heroine receive a mysterious call in the middle of the night, or get a desperate text at 2 AM, or craft a dialogue with something as boring and unoriginal as “I want to kill myself”. Why? Because it’s cliché. We edit, revise, polish, and proofread. We make sure it. Is. Fantastic.

But suicide happens here—outside of books and stories.

A call comes in at 2 AM because nights are notoriously difficult.

A text reads, “I need you” because, sometimes, people actually do need you.

A partner says, “I can’t take it anymore” because there are times he feels that he can’t handle life one more minute.

A friend confesses, “I want to kill myself” because she wants to die.

These things happen. They happen because there are people in pain who want to escape and can see no other way out. And, because, when it comes to real life, clichés are not forbidden.

 

semicolon Sarah B. B&W

 Show your semicolon.
Because it’s not over.

Pay attention to cries for help. No matter what they say or when they arrive. Don’t assume anything.

Sometimes all you have to do is listen. Sometimes you have to act. Sometimes you have to seek help to help another.

Reach out. Your hand is powerful. It can hold, lift, or comfort.

It can make a statement.

Join the movement to honor, encourage, and support those who have kept going.

The Semicolon Project brings hope through a symbol of continuation.

Project Semicolon“A semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

Project Semicolon

Wear your semicolon tomorrow: April 16, 2015.

Show your support.

Tell the world your story is not over yet.

@ProjSemicolon

#ProjectSemicolon

#SemicolonProject

#TheSemicolonProject

#SemicolonProject416

 

To Thank or Not to Thank – That Is the Question

 

I am polite. Too polite. Is there such a thing? I’m not sure but I do have a friend who jokes that I would write a thank you note to someone who wrote me a thank you note. I don’t know where she got that idea. (I’ve done it.)

I always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I’ve taught my children to do so as well. ThoughtBubble

Moving on to social media. When I tweet someone’s post, it’s nice to receive a “thanks”. But it’s okay if I don’t. Some people retweet the shout-out. Or reply. Or favorite. Or tweet something of mine.

There’s no “right” way to handle this. I’ve read contradictory advice on what to do (I’m sure you’re shocked). Some recommend thanking. Others, reciprocation. Others suggest it’s not necessary to do anything.

I will say that if I scroll through someone’s timeline and see nothing, nothing, but “thanks, @schmoopypoo!” “thanks, @pumpkinhead!” “thanks, @ilovechocolate!” and on and on and on, I have no idea who this person is or what he or she is interested in.

I think you should thank but, on Twitter, there are several ways of doing this. How do you decide when and how to thank?

 

Thanks

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

I’m an Online Bartender

 

When I bartended many moons ago, I stuck to the (possibly antiquated) rule of not talking about politics or religion. I kept the conversation light. Superficial.

It worked for me. After my shift, I left with a purse full of tips and my sanity intact. I didn’t take my work home with me. (Which, as a bartender, you really shouldn’t. Unless a rep comes in with free samples of a new raspberry-chocolate liquor. Those you bring home.)

Drunken conversations, disagreements, arguments, anger? Why would you want those in your head while you’re trying to get to sleep at 4 AM?

I’ve seen a few bar brawls in my time caused by “discussions”. It’s really not a good idea to drink and talk about volatile issues. In fact, one can drink a few margaritas, make a cutting comment about another person’s shoes, and that can lead to a fist fight so what might talking about religion lead to? Go ahead and give that a moment’s thought.

I have coined a new term: “Online Bartender”. I’m not going to mix you a martini. (Get your own drink and meet me back here.) I’m also not going to discuss politics or religion or current events. Bet you saw that one coming.

If a person (like me, for example) does not write about the latest news on her blog, tweet about current events on Twitter, or use a trending hashtag, it does not necessarily mean that said person doesn’t know or care about these issues. She may. She may not.

Personally, if it’s a celebrity’s new nose job or fabulous $500 pair of jeans, I don’t care. If it’s brutality, war, poverty, injustice, abuse of power (in any form), I do. Very much. And you will never know about it. Because I won’t discuss it. Not even if you ask nicely and send cookies.

I choose not to write about my opinions on religion and wars and abusive sports players and school shootings and terrorism. It doesn’t mean I don’t know about these things, it means I don’t use social media to talk about them. I work through my feelings in my own way in my own home. I discuss news stories with my friends and family in real life. That’s just me.

Although…

I do happen to know that some other writers, bloggers, and tweeps also feel this way so, before you judge a person for being ignorant or uneducated or callous, please do remember that some people are Online Bartenders.

 

Do you discuss politics, religion, and current events online? Do you keep quiet on social media and talk about it at home?