Stronger Than a Spider Web (and I’ve Heard They’re Pretty Strong)

There’s certainly something to be said for privacy. I don’t want to preach boundless disclosure and ignore the merits of selective sharing and protecting oneself and others, if that’s what you’re into. But there’s something about extending a thought, an experience, a conviction, that invokes a sigh of relief. Not only is it comforting to engender an idea into collective and undeniable reality, it is curiously empowering.

The Internet is wonderful this way. I am not engaging in the tired debate that people over 40 seem obliged to contribute to (without actual desire, I’m pretty sure) over the dis/advantages of technology; I’m simply feeling lucky to exist in a time of such deep and accessible connection. The shield of a mesmerizing screen emboldens us, softens us, challenges us, reassures us, teaches us, captures us… it’s pretty cool that we can let the whole world into our rooms in an instant, unless you have slow WiFi, in which case the frustration is sometimes unbearable and soooo not worth it.

Thank you, Internet, for an endless supply of people with much greater senses of humor than my own

Thank you, Internet, for an endless supply of people with much greater senses of humor than my own

Willingly divulging intimate experiences and struggles (actually, promoting them… oh geez) on a globally accessible (and decidedly permanent) platform doesn’t even feel weird to me. Exposing my vulnerability and exploring the extents of my own story via writing releases a burden. Sharing makes it real; it’s solid and raw and secures a cord between myself and the larger whole. Like, here guys, here’s my contribution. I’m weaving myself in and even if I’m alone here’s proof that I’m still here, that I still care and trust and want to keep on building.

And that’s why I love my generation, even if we’re selfish and lazy and entitled and living in a virtual reality. Because we’re building a community.

When I say my generation, I don’t actually mean all the other humans born within ten years of myself. I mean anyone who’s willing to jump in, compassionately and passionately and openly. I’m not into exclusion, and we could all use some empowerment. When I read a genuine and astute article/blog/post/etc. online, (which I’ve encountered quite a few of lately, but the Internet’s kinda gigantic so there’s literally an infinite amount, yay Internet!) I undergo a distinct and tangible upwelling of pride and zeal and inspiration and belongingness that emerges in my belly, swirls around for a bit, then shoots up my intestines into my chest (that’s how anatomy works, right?) and spreads tingly fire out my extremities. I see flashing neon signs saying “THESE PEOPLE THINK LIKE YOU” and “THERE’S SO MUCH HOPE AND SO MUCH YOU CAN DO” and “HUMANITY IS MAGNIFICENT” and “FUCK YEAH YOU ARE A GODDESS” and the like. (Way better than “vacancy” with one letter out… any motels hiring?)

In an era of vehement social movements, instant connection of thoughtful people with something to say or questions to ask is an invaluable tool. Whether it’s a forceful reality check to remind us that shaming others is never an effective means of empowerment or an honest exploration of a personal sojourn with universal implications, I can’t help but preen my feathers like a proud, sub-five-foot human Mama Bird because I am part of it. I get to be inspired by this tremendous and spectacularly authentic web that is so, so much greater than the sum of its parts, because each thread is an uncensored outpouring careening down the mountainside.

I don’t care if it’s a journalist for Time who gets published every other week or a lonely teenager who’s never passed an English class. I’ve gotten teary-eyed from a painfully mainstream YouTube ad and frequently get fired up about questionably politically correct articles on websites like Everyday Feminism. I find words for conditions that have been tugging at the edge of my consciousness without ever quite realizing their validation, like how eating disorder recovery often perpetuates fatphobia. I don’t even mind if I’m part of a seriously trendy fad of obsessive Humans of New York scrollers, because it’s fucking awesome to see the absolute humanity in people you’ve never met but find solace in knowing they exist.

What I’m trying to say is this togetherness, this connection and simultaneous existence, this unabashed exposure to anyone who cares to waste some time on a screen is collective compassionate empowerment if I’ve ever seen it. (But only after I say that ten times fast). My citizenship in this community is an underrated and continuous gift that I can’t ever lose.

The best part? You’re a member too.

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Floating

It’s hard to change.

Even while constantly, continuously, there is absolute fool-proof evidence that EVERYTHING changes and there is no avoiding the ever-shifting nature of time and experience — from the earthquake that just interrupted my family’s dinner preparation to the fact that my once instantly responsive dog now wanders aimlessly, deaf and clueless — we fight so hard to resist the current.

I know I’m not releasing some ground-breaking realization or even saying anything relatively new. We’ve all been fed the adage “the only thing constant is change,” often to justify difficult transitions or mystifying sacrifices. I, for one, get a little irritated being thrown this cliché that does NOT make switching mindsets or expectations any easier. But even when I’m stuck — like super-glue-between-10-year-old-fingers and tongue-on-freezing-metal-pole-at-recess stuck — I can’t ignore the fact that the roller coaster keeps on rolling, whether I’m buckled in and safely inside the cart or not.

AND, while most change occurs without prompting or even desire, it’s reassuring to recognize that we, as the sole helmsmen-and-women of our own lifeships, do possess the ability to steer our courses of change to our preference. Now, whether that change actually benefits us or plays out is almost irrelevant. As is the materialization of our actually seizing the steering wheel or not. Sometimes, it’s enough to know that we can change, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the present moment.

For me at least.

It’s also hard to commit, especially if you’ve spent what feels like your whole life always chasing the next impressive task and adhering to a prescribed regimen of thought (hmm… kinda sounds like someone I know…cough everyone cough).

But I’m at the point where I know I need to direct my own change. I’m ready (I think) for a couple hard things — namely, committing to change. I’m tired of living in a self-consuming hole rolling around in Grade A molasses minus the sweet and only the black, sticky properties — tar, in other words. I’m tired of knowing I’m simply sabotaging myself before I even depart for the sheer satisfaction of predicting my own failure. I’m tired of finding exciting blips far in the future to cast my sight on and avoid feeling my present self.

Every time I let the thoughts of expanding, strangling bleakness penetrate my purview, that rut in the road wears a little deeper and my steering wheel bucks out of my hand again.

So here’s my practice, for now: when that constraining, familiar shadow inundates my senses, I WILL find a way to counter it. A simple way, with just a few replacements and adjustments. For example:

“I’m upset because I knew I was full and then kept on eating”
can turn into
“I knew when I was full and it’s awesome I’m in touch with that cue”

or

“I wasted so much time this summer and was really lazy”
can be heard as
“I learned what it’s like to watch the days pass and I’m glad I don’t always have to be busy”

or

“I didn’t write a blog post in over a month and I can’t keep a commitment”
might be
“I waited for inspiration and didn’t want to clog up everyone’s emails and time with meaningless ramblings” (ha..ha… that one’s for you)

You get the picture. I don’t need to get too self-indulgent.

I’m not advocating for “find the good in everything!” or “be happy” or “just smile!” or simply ignoring realities and misfortunes in pursuit of restful dreams. I am a firm believer in living to the fullest extent and truly being, whether in pain or pleasure. In my better moments I espouse philosophical enlightenment and rousing declarations. But in my not-so-good moments I could use a little contrived stimulation to remind myself that this is all I’ve got and every molecule of my breath is intertwining with particles of ancient thoughts and it’s as real as I believe it to be.

I have a feeling most of us in this modern era recognize that our societal structure is counting on us swallowing the fuel of fear and scarcity (time, money, food, energy, space, love), internalizing insecurity and operating on doom. Hell, I get annoyed when someone is “overly cheerful” or optimistic. Annoyed. That is not a peaceful and fulfilling existence.

So here’s to grabbing the helm, even if it’s with a pinky that will most likely slip off by tomorrow. Here’s to realizing that trying to end obsession hasn’t worked and if that means faking it — at risk of insincerity — until you do or don’t make it, well, that’s a worthy endeavor all on its own. Here’s to embracing discomfort and suffering because there’s a reason we have tears and screams.

Cheesy, I know... but hey, that's my boat!

Cheesy, I know… but hey, that’s my boat!

Where is your bow pointed?