Saturday, May 14, 2016

On All the Things I Used to Do Before Social Media Took Over My Life

Authors have to do social media, they said. You must develop a platform, they said. Post eighty percent on random crap, and the other twenty percent on shameless self-promotion! No ten. Actually fifty! You must include Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr and Twitter, wait, not Twitter! Twitter is dying! No it's not! Are you writing a book about birds? Look for message boards filled with people who will attack you like a flock of rabid chickadees if they get ANY INDICATION AT ALL that you are there to promote your book. You must promote your work without SEEMING to promote your work! Actually it's okay to promote your work! People expect it now!  Unless they are internet purists. Avoid the purists. They will TROLL YOU, destroy your reputation, accuse you of trying to actually profit on the very activity with which you are desperately trying to earn a meager living. Get noticed by people, but not OVER noticed, or they will come for you. The misogynists and militant vegans and religious fundamentalists and crazy lonely cat people will lie in wait for you on message boards and in comment sections. They will surround you like hyenas circling an injured baby wildebeast! Don't be a baby wildebeest. Be a hyena. Unless there are catfish around.  Or cat-fishermen. Or...

Avoid animal metaphors!

And forget. Forget how you used to sing in a bar at a thing called a Hootenanny, how you would practice with your friend Mimi and harmonize for a group of tolerant middle aged people. Forget making dinner for friends, showing off your lasagne, telling them that hilarious story that happened in Spain and making them laugh. Instead entertain those friends from afar with 140 characters. Forget how you used to get bored of being home, and you'd put on your shoes and walk to a coffee shop to read a book. Especially forget that you used to carry a book with you everywhere you went, because books are heavy and iPhones are light, and Twitter is even lighter. Forget sitting quietly in a park listening to birdsong. Forget taking naps.

Entertain yourself entertaining people entertaining you.

And definitely forget about how much you used to write. How much MORE you used to write. How much longer you used to write.

On second thought, forget it all. Forget Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr. Forget your passwords. Forget your iPhone. Remember that story you never sent off? That book you meant to read? That idea you had for an essay about how social media is destroying your attention span?

Look out the window.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Migraine.

It's scary when your head hurts so badly that you can literally FEEL that a vein IN YOUR BRAIN is swelling up, causing clusters of neurons to cry out in agony. It makes your stomach turn inside out. It totally exhausts you so that taking a single step requires an act of will. You lie there helpless for hours, for days maybe, and hopefully your special pills from the doctor will work. But sometimes they don't. Sometimes the headache takes on a life of its own, and it won't be controlled, it won't be reigned in, and your only choice is to huddle your poor head between two pillows, pressing an ice pack to your temple, and just pray for time to go by quicker.

I had a headache like this on Sunday. It really started Friday night, but it was late when I felt the first pulls inside my skull, so I took a prescription pill and went right to bed to sleep it off. Or so I thought. The next morning I woke up and, since it was Saturday I had time to myself while my husband played with my kids, so I ignored the slight ache in my head, and took myself to breakfast, and then took my dogs for a nice stroll in the woods, thinking a little food and nature would be restorative. But by the time I got back home, I felt shaky, so I decided I better lie down and take it easy. I figured I wasn't dealing with a migraine, I was dealing with a migraine hangover. And in most cases, I would have been right. I've never had a migraine last for longer than a day. That night I endured a headache while I put the kids to bed. (Hubby got to go out with friends, only fair after he took care of the kids all day, and I was glad he had the chance for some fun of his own.) I watched a little trashy TV before I finally went to bed myself.

The next morning I woke up, made breakfast for the kids, and realized by the shaking of my hands and the spike in my head: I had a full on migraine. I took a pill, which is usually enough to make it better, and lie down. Hubby took the kids out for some fun. And I waited for it to get better.

And I waited.

It didn't get better. And I had taken my last pill. And my husband was gone.

At some point, with a migraine like this, when you've run out of pills, you begin to cry. For about an hour, I let the tears come as I pressed an ice pack to my head. I called in a refill for my pills, and texted my husband to please go get them. He did, but I had to wait, and that was not an easy wait.

The second pill took the edge off. I was able to kiss my kids goodnight before going right back to bed. I slept through the night, and then had a weird migraine hangover that lasted another twenty four hours, which included foggy thinking, poor muscle coordination, and knock-you-down dizziness. But the worst was over.

There are supposed to be four stages of a migraine: the Prodrome, where you don't feel quite right; the Aura, where you might see things or have ringing ears; the Attack; where you lie helpless in all encompassing pain; and finally the Postdrome, or hangover, where you feel foggy, confused, and SORE. But I submit there should be a fifth and final phase, which is the Aftermath. Every migraine is so painful and scary and isolating that when you finally come out of it, the world looks different. You feel unbelievably lucky to be able to walk across the room without leaning on the wall. You can look out the window at a sunny day without feeling like someone with long fingernails is pinching your optic nerves. You feel grateful it's over, and incredibly relieved, and yet. And yet.

You will get another one.  Sometime in your future another headache is lurking. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. It's impossible not to feel afraid.

If you have a friend who suffers from migraine, or a family member, you can help, but just a little. Make the room dark and quiet. Bring them ice packs. Bring them cups of cool water to sip. Don't touch them. Don't speak. Above all don't make them talk.

If you suffer from migraines like me, I'm here, buddy. I know. I know.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On Politics

It's an election year, did you hear? This time around, it's scary.

Our Republican front runner is building his power with rhetoric that scapegoats vulnerable minorities. Muslims fleeing political upheaval and civil war, who have had their lives destroyed by extremism, are being told they will not be allowed in the country whose motto is Freedom and Justice for All. He wants to build a wall to keep people out because he is so ignorant of history that he believes walls actually work, when in fact they embarrass the nation that builds them. Remember "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?" If not, you should look it up. A Republican said it. He wants to register Muslims in the United States because their young men don't feel excluded and disenfranchised enough. He wants to deport millions of people from US Soil. Do you know what has to be built in order to accomplish such a feat? Internment camps. Sound familiar? Other Republicans are talking about carpet bombing the Arab world. These people are being cheered by thousands.

We have another candidate using facts and figures to build his argument that the middle class in America is in danger. He is only saying what economists have been saying for decades. He wants to give free college to everyone, like they do in Europe. He wants to bring single payer health care to America, like they already have in Europe. He wants to readjust the tax structure to pay for it. The numbers work. Independent agencies have vetted his math and approved it. He wants to bring prosperity to the middle class again, and how is he dismissed by the media? Not possible. Can't do it. Pie in the sky. Vote for the one who is in bed with Wall Street, the one who will uphold the status quo, won't rock the boat too much, won't piss off those powerful billionaires who are really running things, including the media. They try to prop her up. They try and try. Maybe they'll do it, and she'd be so much better than the fascist orangutan, but only because she's not insane.

Please don't bother posting your defensive comment spewing hysterical fear, and rage, making some veiled threat like, "You'll feel differently when the scary brown people come for your family!" No they won't, so no I won't. And I won't feel differently when people are forced into long lines where they have to register, and ushered into camps where they await deportation, and become more angry, more embittered, and more sadly aware that after a death defying slog through deserts both figurative and literal, the land of Freedom and Justice for All was a mirage.

Let's not go down this road, America. Let's remember who we are. For the love of all that is holy, if you are capable of empathy, if you believe that violence and oppression are not the answer, if you don't buy into the easy scapegoating being touted by a bullying braggart who inherited his wealth, if you believe that hope is a worthy cause, vote. Please vote. And remember what Edmund Burke said:  The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.