It's a Cruel World (the Internet)

The other day, I commented on a remark a friend posted to Facebook. He wanted to know how a flash mob advances the cause of preventing violence against women. Though I suspected the remark was more of a commentary than a question, I weighed in anyway. I said I thought it was about raising awareness around an organization and a cause. I mentioned that I hadn't previously heard of the organization in question--which had organized a recent flash mob in San Francisco (One Billion Rising)--but that after learning of it, I wanted to get involved.

In my case, the news of the planned flash mob served its purpose.

My friend responded that he had doubts about certain organizations' publicity stunts, as well as the overarching purposes of many non-profit organizations, but that he was in favor of fighting the good fight. I believe my friend is a good person who does fight good fights (both in the courtroom as a lawyer and in the ring as a MMA fighter).  So this blog is not about him.

It's about a friend of his (unknown to me), who responded to the initial comment with the following. 

First:  If your dancing all day your too tired to beat the misses when you get home

I ignored that comment. I get that it was meant to be funny, even if it's not my sense of humor.

After I left my own comment, he wrote the following:

...if you need to be made aware of stuff, you prob need to get your head out of your ass. Cancer has always been around, so have starving people, child abuse, violence against women, bla bla bla if you need some people dancing in the street to remind you, your failing as a human

My first and ultimately prevailing notion was "don't feed the trolls." There are people who want nothing more than to make potentially inflammatory comments to strangers via the internet and then see what sort of debates/sludge-fests they can get into.

Are they bored? Are they conflict oriented, fed by the adrenaline rush of a well-timed, well-placed insult? Is this what fun is to them? Is it the often-blamed anonymity of the internet that causes people to say thoughtless things to people they haven't ever met?

I don't know. I admit it baffles me.

I mean, I can understand that if you're having a substantial debate with a person and you simply cannot respect or even make sense of his logic, and you're frustrated after multiple rounds of miscommunication, etc....I can see getting to a point where you feel the person is insulting your intelligence and you act on an impulse to hurl an insult. Though I wouldn't likely go that route myself, I can at least see how things might eventually come to that.

But I definitely don't understand the impulse to just tell a stranger who made a single (pretty uncontroversial) comment that she needs to get her head out of her ass and to accuse her of "failing as a human." Don't get me wrong. I was not personally offended or hurt by this person's words. I figured he must say a lot of things along these lines, and I didn't take it as a reflection on me personally.

But I admit I was intrigued. Not in the way I think most people would like for others to find them intriguing. I didn't think him captivating or articulate; I didn't want to get to know him. I suppose I just wondered how a person gets to that point in life. I wondered how he sees himself--Clearly Winning© as a human (as opposed to my failing)? Funny? Authoritative? Insightful?

Or maybe I just spend too much time thinking about things that other people simply fling out onto the interwebs without a moment's reflection or re-visitation.

Whichever it is (or neither), I just find myself wishing people would be nicer online. I heard a news story recently about extreme misogyny and sexual harassment endured by female gamers online. While many people find it off-putting, the eventual consensus seems to be that the internet is still a frontier of sorts: cruel insults issued by strangers is the way of the land; enter at your own risk; if you can't take the heat... That sort of thing.

Is it really that most of us have this hateful side inside us and we were just WAITING for a seemingly safe and consequence-free place to let off some steam?

I admit I have once committed such an infraction. I repeated things I that been told to me about somebody online, and though I thought them to be true, I know it was hurtful for the person to see them repeated in a public way, and I acknowledge that airing them served no honorable purpose. That was a lesson from which I learned plenty.

Perhaps it is in light of that experience that I can look at comments like those of my friend's friend and know that there is nothing to be gained there.

Being cruel makes you go to sleep feeling like an asshole. At least it should. It makes the world a more, rather than a less rotten place to be.

For the record, I am always in favor of the less rotten. The less rotten, the better.


That the Sound of His Voice May Always Bring me Joy...

During a rare lunch away from my workplace yesterday and out with The People, I overheard these words from an exhausted-sounding Mom, to one of her two young boys: "Stop talking!"

It caught my ear, mostly because to me (the mom who was not the one at her wits' end), it sounded harsh. I've heard pleas to stop screaming, stop whining, stop hitting or running or bullying. Talking was an offense that seemed not-so-offensive.

Then I realized this must be a Mom who is around her kids a lot...a LOT a lot. This must be a Mom who could actually use a break.

Two of my best girlfriends and I have been having an ongoing discussion about motherhood (and religion and current events and sexuality and family...) over an app called Voxer for a few months now. Recently, we were talking about this very parenting question: how much time is the EXACT right amount of time to spend with your kids so that everybody is happy?

Hint: that is a question with no answer.

The reason there is no right answer is that it never comes down to the amount of time a Mom has with her child(ren); it has more to do with what happens during the time she has.

One of my girlfriends works many hours a week teaching at a university, many more hours grading papers, and many more hours driving to and from school and to her parents' house to transport her young daughters for childcare. She doesn't feel like the time she has left with her kids is quality time.

The other girlfriend is home all day with three children--an infant, a toddler, and a fifth grader whom she home-schools. She feels like so MUCH of her time is spent directly caring for, preparing food for, cleaning up after, disciplining and teaching her children, her time is also not of the quality she would like.

They are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are left with similar feelings.

The time I am able to spend with my son is dictated both by a shared custody schedule and my job (which has asked a lot of extra time of me the past 6 weeks, with two out of three employees in my position out until mid-March). Whatever the amount of time I am able to spend with him--it never feels like enough. And it definitely doesn't feel like enough of the kind of quality time I'd like: the time to take him on frequent outings, to play in the sun and at the playground and with friends; time to visit children's museums and the beach. It's not that we don't have any time for these things. I just want more of it.

But there are a million things I would like to have in an ideal world.

I caught a bit of an Oprah interview the other day with Nate Berkus...I don't know much about him except that he's a designer with his own show and multiple lines of interior design products. Anyway he was talking about losing his boyfriend to the Tsunami of 2004, when the two were on vacation in Sri Lanka. He talked about the difficulty in moving past that loss and coming to terms with your life where it is, as opposed to where you thought it would be.

I realized I have a lot of work to do in that area. Gratitude comes *somewhat* naturally to me, and I try to make up for what doesn't come naturally by making the conscious effort to appreciate. But I see now that I am still missing the joy of the moment every time my mind wanders to the things I don't have--namely, enough time with my baby.

I know that every day that passes in which I have yet to accept my life exactly where it is, I am keeping myself from moving forward. I see that it would be easy to spend 18 years wishing things were different and that I could have enough time with my son to be annoyed by his simply talking, like that mom at lunch yesterday.

And that would be a grave disservice to us both.

It is clear that no parent feels his or her situation is perfect, regardless of whether or not we feel we have control over it. But I also know that every effort I can make to accept the amount of time I have with my son, love and bless my life for every moment I've been gifted--in or out of his presence, and keep mindfully aware of the joy of every single chance I have to love him...well all of those efforts will be rewarded.

My son will feel my appreciation for our lives and know that I love him for exactly what he is to me in the here and now--not what he could be in some idyllic version of things. 

Hopefully, he will learn by example that his level of happiness is a direct result of what percentage of his being has made the true and concerted choice to be happy with the life he has, even as he is free to make all the changes within his power to make it better, if that's what he wants.

I thought I'd done a lot of soul searching over the past few years. Well, I have. But I see now that I've hardly scratched the surface. On this cold, rainy winter day just perfect for my contemplative mood, I send out a prayer--to whom or what I'm not sure. It's a prayer for wisdom and clarity, and for the means to find the kind of peace that comes from true acceptance and happiness, in parenthood and all areas of life...


The Depth of "Water"

My son and I have a few bedtime rituals. Some come and go as his interests in different things wax and wane. For months he wanted to watch YouTube song videos on my phone; now he hardly mentions it. Recently he's begun asking me to make up stories. 

Always, always, he wants to "talk a little bit."

Sometimes I ask him questions about his day during this time. If I'd been working that day, I may ask him what he did with his Nana. If we were together, I'd ask him what his favorite part of the day was.

Recently, as his cognitive abilities expand and he begins to spend more time in what could be called bona fide contemplation, we've begun to delve into more complex concepts.

The other day, I decided to explain to him the meaning of "grateful." From time to time I keep a gratitude journal, and that evening I'd been feeling particularly thankful. I want to instill this idea in him while he's young: the idea that it's good, meaningful practice to focus on the things in his life worthy of gratitude.

I told him that when you're grateful for something, you are happy about it. If it's a thing, you're glad you have it. If it's something you do, you're happy you get to do it.

The first night I asked him what he was grateful for, he said he was grateful for hugs, for giving hugs. (Yes!)

The second night, he said he was grateful "to have drinks of water."


I smiled out loud initially. But the following morning it occurred to me just how profound his choice was. I recalled the conversation and told him he was right to be grateful for water. I asked him whether or not he knew there were people--even kids!--in parts of this world who don't even have clean water to drink.

"They have dirty water?!" he asked.


I explained how they don't have water to wash their clothes or water plants. He said, "or to take a bath?!"



I admit freely that there are times in my life when I find it very difficult to focus on the positive. I worry about money, about the future, about Kalil's upbringing. I bemoan certain of my past life choices and find myself making fantastical wishes about things I think would make all or some of the worry go away.

And then something like the other night happens to put it all into perspective. My son gives thanks for one of life's most basic, most staple (and thereby precious, even in all its mundaness) offerings. And I am reminded that my life is more beautiful than I have ever been able to fully comprehend.

My son is alive. We are both in good health.

We have water to drink. Food to eat.

We have love.

It's very possible I will write a similarly themed, "revelatory" blog a hundred more times in my lifetime--the blog wherein I detail what happened that week to make me remember that life is good and that, in every moment, I have more to be thankful for than can be cancelled out by life's occasional struggles. The lesson will never be trite in my mind. The remembering will never be less crucial or well-timed. My desire to share it will never diminish.

I hope that all who are reading this have something profound--or profoundly mundane--to focus upon and be grateful for.

And by the way, Happy Valentine's Day. May you always be surrounded, swathed, silly in love.