Honestly don’t know what my fears were about these past few days. Well actually I do. It was about fear of being unknown, improperly known, partially known… and/or being incorrectly esteemed. I dread being incorrectly esteemed, almost as much as I dread being unjustly judged.
A kind (at least I think you are kind? Are you reading now?) stranger on the Internet emailed me some time ago with compliments about my profile photo on MasterClass. That profile photo is one I took myself on auto-timer nearly three years ago (I’ve been too lazy to take a new one) and I look better in it than I usually do thanks to posing, makeup and summer tan (bringing me from ghost white up to freckly beige). Also the “Amaro” filter from Instagram, which is always an instant makeover. lol 101.
I should have learned my lesson by now (I once posted my mom’s vintage belly-dance outfit for sale on LeBonCoin and had strange men emailing me to come join their harem, yes I’m an clueless sometimes), but tbh I posted a good one in my unfailing hope that Princess or Prince Charming (that’s a book agent or MSt admissions spy, btw) just happens to be browsing the random Internets, yes including MasterClass, lol, sees my amazing selfie skills and wants to sign me for a book deal! I want to show her/him that I can shine up like a new penny when it counts! You know, for the back cover, book signings and all! Lol lol. 101?
There were also compliments from the kind stranger on my blog(s?) and my design skills, and flattering (but misconstrued) assumptions about my intelligence, and there even wonderings… I seriously got hooked by this…if people were in “awe” of me. Oooh, that sounded nice… (little flutters of hope in my chest… this must be the real reason no one talks to me anymore IRL! Ahaha!)
I wasn’t sure how to answer it, at first, since although I’m a terrible (and I mean TERRIBLE) sucker for flattery, 1) NO ONE I KNOW is in awe of me (quite the opposite, because in reality I’m an obsessively writing/editing, otherwise-lazy wretch), 2) it was after all a total stranger on the Internet, with no personal information about himself/herself given except that perhaps he likes chess, because he noticed my comment on the chess MasterClass (though, interestingly, he did not “like” my comment or otherwise publicly acknowledge it).
I don’t like the game of chess, nor any other strategy game, myself. I’m being honest, though it makes me sound un-evolved. My husband does love it and and my boys do too, and that’s why I was watching the chess MasterClass one evening. Someone in the comments just under the video asked where to find the PDF and I answered with a “pro tip” on the MasterClass PDF downloads. (I’m not good at chess but I’m good at PDFs, and pro tips, particularly for Master[s]Classes… Prince(ss) charming? Hello? Can you hear me?)
Anyway, I am always of two minds of this type of encounter from an unidentifiable stranger who claims to be a man. Or at least who claims to have a man’s name. (But George Sand took a man’s name… lol 101.)
1) I might be dealing with a serial killer. Is s/he planning on killing me anytime soon? If so how can I hide?
2) I might be dealing with a serial killer. Can I make him(/her?) like me, so I won’t be killed anytime soon and I don’t have to hide?
3) Can I somehow make myself look a bit more dull, unattractive, self-absorbed and uninteresting, so that s/he will no longer be interested in me, and I don’t have to die, nor hide? (But then… what if s/he kills somebody else? We can’t have that…)
Or… in a happier moment:
4) It might be Prince(ss) Charming (i.e. secret book agent/MSt program admissions spy) in disguise! Oh yes! They might be testing my “kindly emails from Internet strangers” responses for potential personality defects! Does this mean I’ll get published or accepted this year, if I pass the test? (Not likely, since I can’t seem to fill out online portals properly, in spite of my newfound skills with PDFs…)
5) I might be dealing with a nice, normal person who is just a little scared and shy (thus unidentifiable), like I used to be when reaching out to strangers whose work I admired online.
Ok that was five minds, not two minds. But yes! That last one must be it, impossible though it seems, that this could now be happening to little old me. Well, time to show them the real me instead of this book-jacket persona I invented and then left neglected on Internet forums. Look, dear bud (I like flower metaphors), it’s just endless spiralling that got me to the strange place I’m at now (wherever that place is perceived to be), and so the main thing is for us both to keep on spiralling, in hopes of reaching the tops of these crazy lighthouses. Mostly separately, on our own paths, at our own paces, to our own lights, I hope.
Yeah. Something like that. So I’ll just write him/her (/you?) back with the friendly truth, along with some (hopefully?) helpful links to some of my sources… and oh yeah! Make a crazy-assed self-absorbed post that shows my scary midlife mug in the morning. That’ll be fun for my girls as well! You know, writer “beauty” routines, fairy tale allusions, approachability 101 lol.
‘Cause he’s (/you’re?) just like me, right? Er, except, come to think of it, I didn’t ask the strangers I admired personal questions, nor ones about their looks…instead, I offered them free editing help….
Hmm. Okay I better delete that post. Or at least the photos. And lock the front door. Byyyyye
Just kidding. But also not just kidding.
When I started this blog I did it to develop my writing skills, develop as a person (i.e. try to stop deleting myself in my attempt to avoid getting deleted), and hopefully share what I know along the way.
In order to get past fear, we have to face it down, big time. One of my top fears is anything scary. Know what I mean? I’m scared shitless of scary shit. Like serial killers for example. Also angry people who are fans of serial killers.
Now, let’s have a look at what a typical session on WordPress entails for me.
Sometimes I write a post and publish it — most days in fact, because I have a weird reading-and-writing-and-publishing obsession and addiction (that’s the only “secret,” as many of us know — an evolution of self-acknowledged, normal-ish addictions to commonly-abused legal substances. In my case history: first, as a child, writing and music and art (very addictive, thanks mom and dad), then cute boys, cigarettes and a bit of booze (in an innocent sort of way — thanks school, books and movies), then boys again (picked an amazing One who unbelievably and thankfully picked me back, thanks book), then food (the One I picked unfortunately cooks food really well, lol, 101), then business, then babies (soooooo addictive), then a bit more fashion (maternity-and-breastfeeding-wear is the bomb, yo), then a bit more art and music, then a bit of shopaholicism, then a bit of booze again (late at night, while using writer social media, not recommended), then editing, then a bit more business, then writing, now (self-)publishing.
“The obstacle is the way” and “ego is the enemy,” baby — y’know what I’m sayin’? (Ryan Holiday, paraphrased, though I haven’t yet read the first of those titles. The second was great; I read it all. The first I understand by osmosis…)
Either way, before or after writing and publishing, I also check notifications, and (excitedly and happily) respond to comments left on previous posts, or ones left in reply to comments I’ve left on other people’s blogs. I love interacting with fellow worshippers of the Word(Press). And that’s mainly why I continue blogging here.
I can’t “respond” to likes, other than by checking out the likers’ blogs, reading their work and liking it also, so that’s what I do when someone likes my post, if their username actually links to their blog (which isn’t always the case), and if I find something I like.
The other thing I do is look at Reader and read new posts from the people I follow in WP Reader.
The other day, that lead me down this rabbit hole:
Saw new post from Dr. —. (Usually at the top of the feed, due to bi-hourly reposting. Read it. Though it could have been written by an English major, I felt ambivalent about it, tbh. It was about empathy. When I clicked, I was hoping for instructions on how to deal with evading possible murder caused by surplus of empathy (lol. 101). But (go figure) the post is more geared towards explaining dysfunction in people who lack empathy. (It’s almost like his blog is geared to folks who need help or something! Lol 101…911.) So although I felt really happy for those empathy-lacking people (well I thought I was empathic; I know they would be irritated if I felt sad for them and I certainly can’t feel sad with them because to be empathic means to “feel with” — or is that compassion? — and yet they don’t feel sad, not about not feeling sad with other people, at least), the post was not really useful to me, personally, in this case. But I like Dr. — since he first liked one of my posts, some while ago, he has a friendly profile pic and well-designed website, good content, and, tbh, because he has a Ph.D.
Side note. Completely unrelated to Dr.– .
I love a man with a nice certificate. Also one in uniform. Or a suit. Or ragged shorts and a faded t-shirt. Or nerdy collars and pocket protectors. Or biker boots and pocket chains and a get-out-of jail-free card. Also one with muscles and/or square chins and/or a bit of embonpoint or any kind of brain. Also and most especially, kind, reliable ones, no matter what they look like. You know what I’m sayin’? “Girls what’s my weakness — MEN!” (Salt ‘N’ Pepa, c. 1993 — which was a top hit right around the time I met my husband, incidentally).
So strange that I find myself looking at Pep more than any of those guys in the video. Mesmerizing…
Anyhow, men with certificates or uniforms in particular are trustworthy, and reliable, and harmless, or so I was led to believe when I was a young thang.
Also they’re usually hot or rich or both. Which, in spite of fables, mythology and my parents telling me the opposite, is what I (subconsciously) learned were the best things to look for in a man — from all those Harlequin Presents novels I found in my grandma’s spare bedroom when I was 13.
But IRL I said to hell with the rich part (poor is sexier, as well as more noble, according to the classics) and just went for handsome and a little scary. (Not scary for husband material. Just some trial-and-errors before marriage. TG, obvs.)
Never mind kindness or empathy. Kindness or empathy in a man apparently wasn’t important — because all it took was a little sweetness and innocence — in a young (preferably virginal, naïve), girl, of course — to completely turn all that around. Beast+Sweetness+Light(+Virginity+Naïvety) = Prince Charming, right? Presto! (No. No no no. Or maybe sometimes. But only at arm’s length, and hopefully not while he’s about to choke you to death. Trust me…lol 101/
So let’s get back to the subject. I feel like I should “like” Dr. –‘s post, now that I’ve read it. Mainly just to be kind and appreciative of his well-written informative psych service, and to “bookmark” it in case I decide to link to it in some future post.
But I don’t truly like it. I kind of feel like my good friend (my imaginary good friend, that is), Brene Brown (um, Ph.D., so hot), already said the main thing on empathy for the century (NEWSFLASH: it’s not the same as sympathy, girlfriends!) and this post just doesn’t add to the conversation; not in my books at least.
Also, around the same moment (I’m a horrendous multi-tasker), I’d just received an email from one of the many writing marketers whose lists I’m on, wanting me (and every other clickbait-happy writer-market-browsing
sucker hopeful) to sign up for their copywriting class for €297 (though it takes three clicks before you can see the price).
I get one of these about once a day now, so I’m nearly immune. I haven’t unsubscribed since I don’t want to hurt their feelings (and hey, you never know, maybe their course would be the key to my future success — their Cannabis copywriter client’s website is way beyond cool. Great colours, and talk about niching down in the copywriting market! This guy’s the pro!). And I haven’t junk-mail-listed their address in case they discover what an amazing writer I am and want to help me for free, or maybe just hire me to be their assistant editor! You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours? That kind of thing. lol 101. 911.
Anyway I did read this marketer’s success stories, and saw that their first protégé’s website (not the medicinal Cannabis guy’s) had grammatical errors on it, and I certainly didn’t want to end up a highly-paid copywriter who makes grammatical errors on my own business websites, since then I might be making grammatical errors in work for my potential clients, so that pretty much sealed the deal, in terms of not taking the clickbait.
But all the email marketer’s stories of Ph.D.-holders who hire copywriters to ghostwrite their blog posts for them at €100/post, if you just come out of the wordwork [sic, I love those little slips] and ask, made me wonder if Dr.—-s blog is ghostwritten as well. (And holy crap, €100 is more money than I’ve made for writing in…. well… my entire life! Would he hire me, instead, if I charged a little less? Say €90/post?) Lol. Lol lol lol. Marketing 101 lol. But of course he’s not ghostwriting his posts. Lol. 101.
So what’s a gal to do? Lie and hit like? Or be truthful and move on? I decided to be truthful and move on. Well actually I decided to rattle off a chapter-length comment into that little 1-cm-wide comment field, and then move on. But I ran out of time to end it nicely and I had to do the school run so I deleted it from the comment field and moved on. Arg. Arg argety arg. And late again.
But now will Dr. — think I have no empathy? (But more importantly, why do I care what he thinks? Is he one of my fellow blogging buds? Or is he my potential therapist? He seems nice enough. I’ve definitely thought about it. You know, that that pocket-dial post and all, so human lol. 101. He does Skype calls, as many therapists do these days.
Wait a minute, maybe I don’t have empathy! How unkind was that of me, to not like his post? Will he notice? Will he be sad? I would be sad if I was him, that everyone in my blogging follower group hadn’t liked my post by the tenth time I’d reposted it. Do I maybe need a session with him, so I can fix my empathy levels? Or to prove to him that I’m empathic so we can be friends? He really does seem like a lot of fun. He even likes pizza. Ah well, no time to think about it now. School run. There’s always the suicide hotline listed at the bottom of his post, if I get desperate on the way. And that’s free. Lol. 101… 911.
Later in the day was a “like” from someone new. (Attention: I am about to violate my tall stripy hat rules here. Oh hang on I already did, a few times over. Red alert, red alert… but Buddha’s head. Lol 101. 911?)
I checked out their blog. Latest post: their roommate has asked them to leave, due to their not paying rent, and they are angry at their roommate because of that. They love true-crime stories and are proudly able to watch them alone at night. And they had a post about loving a new show featuring Ted Bundy tapes. Ted Bundy, Ted Bundy… who was that again?
Wikipedia…. Oh yes, he was a serial killer with necrophilia, killing girls along the US west coast around the time I was born. (Heart begins to pound with fear, of serial killers, and with unspeakable anguish, for those girls, and for the twisted pain that must have been rooted in the killer who did it to them…. but what’s necrophilia again? Oh right it’s someone who likes to —— oh god. Oh dear god.
Wikipedia is difficult for me sometimes. In some cases it’s like reading the news. Ted Bundy’s mother was horrifically abused by her horrifically abusive father (Ted Bundy’s grandfather), who (it has been postulated by some) may have gotten his daughter pregnant and then raised her son as one of his own.
My heart is stopping now, aching for the mother, and for the horribly-circumstanced, innocent little boy that Ted Bundy started out as… who grew up to terrorize his “sister”/aunt, devour porn found in neighbourhood trash cans, major in psychology, become handsome and charming… and…
act as a counsellor on a suicide hotline. 101… 911. 911. 911. 911…
and was not aborted, by the way.
Oh yeah, forgot to mention I also read a pro-life piece in WP reader the other day. By another (kind?) (male) person who liked a post of mine. It was a great piece, by a good writer who truly cares for life. That much I could read and feel. But I’m not sure if they understand the fundamental importance of choice being made available to women, when it comes to what happens to their own bodies.
But anyway. Thirty women, perhaps many more, were tortured, killed and mutilated by this one, un-aborted serial killer, born to a young, horribly abused girl.
Holy electric chairs…
In other words, any handsome, charming psychologist (or suicide hotline worker) could be a serial killer? (Eyes wide as saucers, biting fingernails, trembling with fear…)
There is a knock on the door.
I hadn’t locked it yet. It was Aunt J.
A package had arrived for me by mistake at her place, from Amazon. I know what it is. It’s those new boots that finally went on sale. Yippee! I keep it quiet, though, in front of Aunt J., feeling a little sheepish about them even though I’ve been yearning for them for months and they were only $39.99. (I feel sheepish because I really don’t need another pair of boots.) She asks me to mail some letters and pick up some stamps for her on the next school run. Then she compliments my outfit. (The top is new, from the grocery store, bought on Saturday, as detailed in my narcissist last post, lol 101 911.) I don’t usually get compliments, yet I love compliments.
I feel so much love for Aunt J. in that moment that I hug her tightly and kiss her crisp, cool cheek. Then she’s off, foot-printing through the snow of the driveway with her now-empty carry bag. (Don’t worry, she’s safe.)
I return to my laptop on the sofa and go back to notifications history to check out which post of mine the Ted-Bundy-show-lover had liked, in my posts history. Oh, right, that one.. Yikes that was a strange though truthful post… it actually started as the prologue to Dr. Bird & the Falling Sky, from my old Cambridge diary, but I published it separately on this blog.
It’s short and therefore quick to read. And although it’s in fact sort of covertly talking about empathy and what it’s like to be empathic, looking at it now with fresh eyes I realize that it could also read…
as though a serial killer had written it.
Well, tra la la, continuing on to grandma’s house now, with my basket full of treats….
p.s. The boots are going back. They have click-clack heels and I only wear rubber soles… because they’re silent.
lol 101. 😉
EDIT 1): Thank you so much for reading. ❤︎
EDIT 2): I had the meaning of empathy wrong. Check it out: from the ancient Greek εμπάθεια it meant “in/at passion/suffering” … but the craziest thing is that (according to Wikipedia) “in modern Greek, εμπάθεια means ‘malice’, ‘hostility’. Whoa….