I was proud of myself. I started sharing my little posts on Facebook ... and Twitter. And there it was, the beginning of the end.
At first I was so excited. People started reading my blog and following it - following ME - on Twitter and I thought to myself, "This is cool. People can relate to my posts! Maybe I can do this thing!" Alas, I have no idea whether people can relate to my posts or not because, up to the day I stopped reading my Twitter notifications and stopped being interested in whether anyone was following me, every person who followed me or liked (or whatever you do on Twitter to express approval) my posts did so because they wanted to TEACH me, SELL to me, DEVELOP me through their blogging education programs, help me to be a better public personality in some way or other. Perhaps I should have been grateful that so many people took an interest in how I would do as a blogger; after all, it's cool when people care about you. Right?
No. It's not. All I gained was frustration at notification after notification after notification that someone - some blogging "instructor" or "guru" - wanted to help me figure it all out. Dozens and dozens of articles and tips and offers came at me every day. It was the exact same experience as walking into a furniture store and EVERY sales clerk running up to me at once with their questions and their offers. It was maddening! I'm ONE person! I wanted to write my blog posts and perhaps reach a person or two with my thoughts; perhaps cause a person or two to think about the subject a little. Instead, I was swarmed by people who just wanted to use me to promote THEIR blogging and THEIR businesses.
Now look, if this offends anyone, well, I guess it is what it is. But maybe it wouldn't hurt to actually check out a person's blog with genuine interest. No time for that? Then maybe it wouldn't hurt to just leave them alone and let them get their feet wet before you start pushing them off the diving board!
I've wanted to write this post for a long time; about three months, apparently. I just couldn't bring myself to put my thoughts out there once more as shark bait for life coaches and wealth advisors and daily blog tips. I needed to get my bearings.
If this blog becomes anything one day, so be it. If it doesn't, so be it. But do me a favor: if you like my posts, reach out and follow or like or whatever because you like them; comment if you have something to say. But please, please don't swarm me with your unsolicited guidance. If this post annoys you, unfollow/unlike me; you'd be doing us both a favor. I'd rather be read by no one at all than by people with only an ulterior motive. If you're a real teacher or a real life coach or a real advisor, you'll know that no one writes their dissertation on their first day of college; if they had to, they'd quit - and so would you.
I don't care what Trump says now. I won't ever care what he says again. I will always remember what he said a long time ago, early in his campaign. He made a statement that chilled me to my bones. He made a statement that I'm sure many people will find different ways to justify or excuse. He made a statement that perhaps he doesn't even remember; after all, as he himself has bragged, he will do or say anything to win. Well, he won. That statement probably carries not the slightest bit of weight for him, for his life, for those who love him, or even perhaps for many who hate him. But it carries weight to me and it is written on my mind in indelible ink:
"You know what we would have done in the old days?"
"You know what we would have done in the old days?"
"You know what we would have done in the old days?"
Hmm. Why yes, Donald Trump, I do know what "you" would have done "in the old days." Yes, I do. And that statement dredged up a montage of images that would be appropriate only as a backdrop for Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Why yes, Donald Trump, I do know what awaited the men of my race whenever they had the audacity to get "uppity" or the nerve to suggest they had rights or a voice. Why yes, Donald Trump, I do know the horrors of the punishment people like you inflicted on "others."
OK. So now let me speak to you, reader. I don't care if you're thinking, "This is old news. Why is she dredging up this ridiculousness?" I don't care if you troll this blog with hate and venom and bile. I don't care for any of the reasons/excuses you have for his statement. I don't care that the particulars surrounding that statement make it, to you, not all that. I don't care that he won. I wouldn't have cared if he had lost. I don't care if he makes a fool of himself when he gives speeches or if he uses the teleprompter. I don't care if he won fairly or whether he used Russia to cheat. I don't care that he's a successful businessman or that perhaps he's a successful businessman because of cheating others. I don't care. I don't care. I don't care!
I care about my sons. That is all.
You see, Donald Trump, when you made that hateful, flippant, provocative statement, you ridiculed the pain that my family and the families of every African American in this country had to bear because of people like you. You trivialized the fact that, even now, the nightmare of mothers of color is that some fool like you will suddenly transport himself, in a whirlwind of emotion and self-righteousness, back to those "old days" when, at best, our sons would have been "carried out on a stretcher." You told a bunch of neanderthals who have been missing their neanderthal mothers that they had found her and she is you. You dangled nooses in the faces of all of those Americans for whom barbaric mob rule was a very real, daily possibility and shoved those nooses in the faces of the many, MANY, who actually lost their loved ones because of the hate spewed out by people just like you. When you said that, I knew everything I needed to know about you. I will not forget it.
OK. So perhaps you aren't really that person. Perhaps you yourself would never do those things that "they" would have done back "in the old days." That means that you're simply someone so swallowed up by your own ambition and self-importance that you would exploit those troglodytes who actually would do those things. You would use these sick followers to your own advantage.
So which of those persons are you?
You know what? I don't even care. All I care about is that, regardless of what any other human being in this country make think or say about you, I will never waiver from what I think about you. And what I think about you is tightly wound up in that statement: that you are either one who is willing to commit brutal murder or one who loves those who are willing to commit brutal murder - anything so long as it means you win.
When you don't know what to do, don't do anything. Be quiet. Wait.
For me, that statement is both profound and necessary because I tend to be impulsive. I'm prone to knee-jerk reactions because I'm emotional. In my defense, it's hard to be a performer without being emotional. Well, I guess it's possible but, without my emotions, I can't imagine creating performances that would move anyone. That's my humble opinion, of course but I've learned that being impulsive, being prone to knee-jerk reactions, can result in:
This is not to say that when you don't know what to do you should just sit there idly, shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, I don't know what to do so I'll just watch TV." That isn't what it means. Well, that isn't what I took it to mean. Depending on who you are, you might interpret it to mean:
sit and wait for God to reveal something to you or to guide you; or perhaps be quiet and wait for inspiration; or just wait and let circumstances and thoughts mill around on their own until they mesh into something. To me, all those options are the same.
Being quiet, being still, is an activity, in my opinion. It isn't a cop-out. It isn't going to sleep. It isn't giving up. No. It's waiting for clarity, waiting for the appearance of a path. It's having faith and trust that, indeed, what you're looking for will be revealed to you. It's like that old saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees." There can be so much to see, so much to think about, so much to process that everything melds together into a mess and nothing comes into focus.
To me, being quiet and waiting is stopping the struggle of staring out into all of those trees and seeing every single leaf and branch and twig. All of that is akin to a great noise in my head. I tend to have a million ideas a day. That's the noise in my head. I have to quiet it. When I quiet it, things come more into focus: I can see one tree at a time; I can see where the different trees are in relation to each other; I can see the way the branches reach off in this direction and that direction; I can see the coloring of the leaves, some brilliant, some subtle. I can begin to appreciate the beauty and splendor of the forest.
How do I quiet the noise? How do I stop seeing all the trees at once?
I stop trying. I just stop. When I don't know what to do - when my vision is clouded by too many things to see; when the thoughts in my head are coming a thousand a minute; when I'm stressed by a never-ending to-do list - I don't do anything.
I distract myself with things that are not related to whatever is causing my stress. It might be a great time to spend four hours braiding my hair (which, incidentally, I plan to start in just a few minutes). It might be time to go for a walk or do some yoga. And yes, it might be time for me to spend a few hours watching TCM movies. It might also be a time for me to spend several days actively doing nothing. Again, this is not inactivity; on the contrary, it is actively calming myself down, clearing my head, quieting the noise. For me, it works. I've had to do it many times and I'm always so thankful to Oprah for sharing what I consider to be a wonderful self-management/self-preservation technique.
Which brings me to this blog - well, the creation of this blog.
I recently had a very distressing 10-or-so days during which I couldn't walk. I mean couldn't walk at all. Yep, I woke up around 4am in excruciating pain, unable to turn over or anything else. I somehow managed to get myself out of bed and pulled myself to the bathroom using furniture, howling all the way, dragging my leg behind me. My husband had to help me do absolutely everything, even something as "simple" as turning over in bed. Considering I'm a dance and dance fitness instructor, I saw my career and my livelihood flying out the window. I was not only in great physical pain, I was also in an emotional panic. After a long round of steroids, a cortisone shot, and several days of not working, I was restored to mobility and was able to start working on my flexibility.
But don't think for one moment the panic of suddenly being unable to work hasn't stuck with me. Oh no, it's a thought I have every day now. And so I began, out of necessity, to wonder what else I can do, what else I could do if I needed to. I remembered that I write. I have a history of writing; although not grand and well-known out in the world, there is nonetheless a history of writing in my life: journals since I was a child; short stories - one of which was published in a magazine I can't even remember now; a full-length stage play that was actually produced in a community theatre as part of a playwright's festival; and some short plays which had public readings. I like to write, I think I'm okay at it, and I'm willing to cultivate it to be better and to make a living, should I need to do so. Also, I usually have a whole bunch to talk about and writing will give my husband's and my friends' ears a break! But I'm not naive. I know it can take - will take - a very long time to make a living as a writer. Thus, my blog, which happens to be about something that matters to me very much - being self-employed/self-sufficient/self-motivating.
I'm embarrassed to say I was totally unprepared for all the stuff that has come flying at me since the day I started this blog and created a Twitter account in hopes of letting folks know that I started a blog. And although I've been quite happy to have gotten a few followers, I wasn't prepared for the fact that, currently, all my "followers" are teachers for people who, like me, embark on blog writing. Everyday since I've started there has been a forest of "Are you doing this to make your blog better?" "Do you know the steps to make your blog better?" "Do you know how to become a professional blog writer?" "Does your blog include this?" "Hey, here's how to market your blog!" and so on and so on and so on and so on.
I sound ungrateful and snobby, don't I? I don't mean to. All of this advice (one of which such blogs I am actually following and doing the steps) is, I'm sure, very valuable. It's just so MUCH all at once! I find myself standing out in the middle of the forest with trees and leaves and bunny rabbits and branches and twigs and snatches of sunshine all rushing at me at once and, guess what, I can't see the forest!
And so ... (exhale) ... I'm going to take my own advice - which happens to be another reason I started this blog; to remember what I already know - I'm going to stop, be quiet, and wait. I will, however, keep on working on the Do-It-Yourself Blog Critique by Blog Clarity but, believe me, I'm going to take it mighty slowly. I've come to realize this blog forest is ENORMOUS. I want to enjoy my walk through it without running blindly into every tree and stopping to inspect every leaf and being stabbed by every branch. For a while I'm just going to stand here quietly and allow the path to appear.
I'm sure I'm not along in feeling overwhelmed. How do you cope?
Look, I get it. We all have the right to self-expression; it's an American right and a human right - whether all nations will acknowledge it or not. We certainly are living in LOUDLY interesting times. No doubt about that.
Still, the idea of foregoing my professional relationships - relationships upon which my livelihood is dependent; relationships upon which my reputation is dependent; relationships which took years to cultivate - in order to spew out all of my thoughts on social media or even right in someone's face, well, seriously, the thought made me shudder.
I just can't get with that idea. I feel that, as a professional who really wants to be taken seriously by ALL of my clients and students, it is my responsibility to be all things to all people.
Does this mean I alter my opinions based on the person I'm talking to? No, not at all. Does it mean I pretend to be someone I'm not in order to make others feel comfortable? Absolutely not.
Here's what being all things to all people means to me: it means I make myself accessible and approachable and reasonable so that my students feel like they can relate to me; so that my students feel safe being themselves in my presence; so that my students will be able to attend my classes, get their exercise, enjoy fellowship with me and their classmates, and be free of thoughts of the world's problems for this half-hour or hour (if they desire to be). It means my clients never have to concern themselves with what's going to happen when I walk into their buildings. They never have to worry about walking into one of my classes and finding that it has devolved into empty debate, thereby having to concern themselves with what's going to happen the next time I walk into their buildings.
You see, I have clients; I have students. They're not my friends and family. They're not my enemies. They are not - not a single one of them - "the problem," regardless of who they are. Therefore, it is simply not about me; it's ALL about them.
In this, of course, I can only speak for myself; I don't mean to disparage the poster of that announcement. We must be true to ourselves, after all. But to me, in a professional setting, graciously hearing and acknowledging the thoughts of others without interjecting my feelings is not a burden; it is not a censoring of my intellectual property; it is not trampling upon my rights. No. To me, it is nothing more than being good at my job; nothing more than caring more about those I am working for than I do about my opinions.
I want my classes to be a refuge from all the crap that will most definitely still be there when class is over. I want my students to be able to concentrate on their bodies, on the music, on their relaxation, on their goals. I want them to have fun. I want them to leave my class physically tired and emotionally refreshed; but even before that, I want them to enter my class confident that they are indeed getting away from it all for at least this little bit of time. I want my clients to rave about how invigorated their residents are after one of my classes. I want them to know they can trust me.
Why would I plant seeds that might cause them to doubt me, to resent me, or even to feel closer to me based on things external to our purposes in class, based on things external to our overarching goal of health (which involves the physical, the mental, the emotional)?
Being self-employed, to me, is a grand privilege; one which was given to me after more than 40 years of struggling through where my heart did not belong. I'm not going to forego those relationships that are tied to this wonderful privilege, not for anything and not for anyone. Not even for my right to feel.
I have friends and family and acquaintances for that. I have social media that is not linked to my students/clients in any way. And I have journaling. And I have screaming at the television in the comfort of my own home or perhaps even in the discomfort of a sports bar. But when I'm dealing with my clients, my students, and even prospective clients and students, I leave all that stuff outside the door - even if it's only a figurative door - and then I go in.
Believe me, all the crap I set outside will be there when I get back.