In which I discuss control freakishness and my need for a new script writer

It is a fairly well documented fact that sometimes I can be a bit of a control freak. Popular definition may give you the impression that my “control freakishness” means I have crazy-psycho reactions if even the teensiest detail is not My Way. Not so much. I also do not turn into a crazy Lifezilla type if faced with something I don’t want to do. Nothing like that (I hope). The Harriet version of “control freak” is more along the lines of “I freak out when I feel like I have no control,” with said “freak out” being something along the lines of absolute despair with a side of living in a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. I really really REALLY don’t like feeling like I’m being tossed around my Life and there’s nothing I can do about it. On second thought, perhaps this doesn’t make me a control freak, perhaps this just makes me normal…?

I feel like I am finally on the tail end of months YEARS of being tossed around, I’ve got a few weeks of craziness left and then I have a solid stretch of what should be no big plans and a general calmness at work.

Should be. And so help me, Karma & Murphy, if you throw a wrench in that dream simply because I vocalized it I will destroy you.

I’m sick of being tossed around. My freak controller has taken a serious beating of late and I am worn out. I’m tired of not knowing what is going to happen next, of not even having a vague idea. I have repeatedly thought that my life would be a fantastic soap-opera, what with the relationship drama, the crazy family situations, the “Past,” the events that border on completely bizarre…those three kids I didn’t know were mine…wait. No. Scratch that last one. That’s not a thing. (I promise, NOT a thing.) I just…I need a vacation from all of this crazy. I need Life to slow down a little bit so I can recenter and find my groove again. I need to give my battered controller a break so she can recoup and re-prioritize.

And then, after I have fully recovered, THEN we can go back to the crazy soap opera stuff, mmmkay?

As far as this My-Life-As-A-TV-Show thing goes, I want a better script! I want a new director with a brand new artistic direction! I want a new wardrobe lady! I want softer lighting and a team of airbrushers! I want better snacks! I need better snacks! I want a mini-series in an exotic location; Belize or Iceland or Myanmar. (And no cheating and using Manitoba as Iceland. I want the Real Deal.) I want more air-time with Mr. Blue Eyes! I need more time with him, just us, figuring “us” out in peace and serenity.

If I was the lead actress in that show I would sooo be lounging in my own (air conditioned!) trailer sipping Diet Dr. Pepper and rolling my eyes with my assistant (oooh! I get an assistant!) and rambling on about how “I can’t work under these conditions”, and “artistic differences” and blah blah blah.

…Do I sound like a freak yet? Maybe a little? Ok, as long as we’re on the same page. In fact, if only to emphasize how serious I am here I think a scathing letter is in order:

Dear Life,

Please stop with the crazy. Really. This has been going on for months years and it’s enough already. Besides, it’s The Holidays–summer totally counts as “holidays”–can you at least stop sucking for The Holidays? Or forever? Kthxbye.

Love, Harriet

…Ummm, so “scathing” may have been a bit of an overstatement; I’m exhausted and not quite cranky enough for “scathing.” Hopefully, Life will still get the message.

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Pretending Gives me Anxiety

Prickly pear_feistyharriet_april 2016

Some days it is almost all I can do to just be myself. I feel like I don’t fit in my skin, my brain and my heart are not on the same page, and sometimes panic attacks that come out of nowhere send me spiraling down to the fetal position where I hug my knees and try and remember how to breathe.

Real talk, ya’ll. Sometimes being Harriet is just hard.

I am thirty-three, and it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve realized something: it’s actually much easier to be myself than to try and be anyone else. The general discomfort and lack of self-confidence most often come when I am trying to pretend I’m someone I’m not. Did you catch that? Pretending to be someone else ultimately increases my anxiety: pretending builds a beautiful but completely unstable house of cards, impressive, but ready to crash at any moment.

I don’t get far trying to pretend that I’m cool; I’m not. I can talk to someone for hours, but I very much prefer conversations about things that matter over Small Talk. Small Talk is boring. I am a nerd. I get excited about volcanoes and elephant psychology and North Korean history/politics. I will always love reading dense-ish non-fiction over watching some fluffy Netflix crap or devouring the latest YA series. I don’t like most popular TV shows because I get irritated at the messages that are being sent about how we should probably live our lives, I don’t like the social commentary that most often uses minorities or those who are somehow “other” as a jokey subplot linked with the laugh track. I think, more often than not, it sustains or increases prejudice against already marginalized groups instead of generating critical thought or inciting social change.

I don’t get (or even really care (anymore)) about what makes someone popular in the real world or online. I was sooo not popular in school, or in my 20’s, and doubt I ever will be. I do try to be kind, but sometimes when people are assholes basic kindness is impossible, and I don’t feel that badly about treating assholes with a hefty dose of their own snarky medicine.

Clearly, I am a barrel of laughs. I often have to force myself to not be so serious, to lighten up, to not pick apart every little thing. But, the truth is, I am serious-minded, and all the fluffy unicorn memes in the world can’t undo that part of my personality.

A few months ago I read, and mostly disagreed with, Marie Kondo’s Tidying-Up Magic. However, thinking about her ideas in the context of my online presence and blog (and not the physical objects in my home), perhaps she was on to something. What are the pieces of Harriet that truly bring me joy? It’s not a bright and shiny, well-lit and well-curated “lifestyle” social media feed. It’s not a styled online presence at all, actually. Every time I think I should post about X, Y, or Z to attract more traffic or get a few likes or a few shares, I feel like I stumble and fall flat on my face. I’m not a lifestyle blogger, and probably never will be. And…that’s okay. At this point (and I do give myself permission to change my mind), I don’t want to employ SEO tactics to increase traffic, I don’t feel any need to link up with sponsors to get my foot in the door (the door to what?) or to gain better visibility to brands or campaigns. Am I jealous of the fancy big blogs that bring in a livable wage? Sure. But I’m not a lifestyle blogger, I’m a writer. Or at least trying to be. I’m trying to figure out how to write down the stuff in my head.

I am feisty, I am a feminist, I will talk your ear off about social injustice for minority groups or whatever geeky book I’ve read lately. I cannot pretend that world events don’t affect me; they do. I critique advertising much more than I follow it’s not-at-all subtle nudges towards consumption-based buying behavior, and will quickly make mental notes of the pieces that feel disingenuous. I don’t care about being popular, but I do care about fostering individual relationships–meaningful relationships–with people both IRL and online. I do not have time for disingenuous, give me your real self, your authentic self, even just a small part of it. I don’t know what to do with the shiny and the pretend, but give me something ragged around the edges, I’ll take extra care with it. Give me something a little broken and I’ll bust out my Scotch Tape and a cup of tea and something to snuggle with and if I can’t fix it I’ll just employ gentle hair pats and the occassional one-liner to break the tension or make you smile.

And maybe, ultimately, that is more what I am than who I am. Perhaps I am the rough edges, the broken one, the lonely one, held together with non-decorative Scotch Tape and a hope for compassion. Maybe I’m just trying to fit in, knowing for damn sure that I’ll never make it as a Styled, Curated, Shiny Harriet because Harriet The Feisty Nerd will always get in the way, say something candid and honest and decidedly not “on brand” or “campaign approved.”

Remember how I said that it’s much easier to be yourself than to pretend to be someone or something you are not? Yeah. This is me. Messy and feisty, opinionated and sometimes jealous, unfiltered and sometimes a little sweary or ranty and almost always ready to fight for the underdog. Sometimes I’m selfish and sometimes I’m kind. Sometimes I’m forgiving and sometimes I guard that grudge to somehow protect my own hurt feelings, and sometimes I keep it just out of spite. Sometime I have my shit together and sometimes I eat raw cookie dough right out of it’s store-bought plastic-wrapped tube–not vegan, not gluten free, not free-range, not responsibly sourced. Just a tube of sugary trans fats.

I am a work in progress, and it’s easier to admit that than it is to pretend that things are great and everything is fine. Is it scary? Yes. Is doing something scary easier than sustaining something fake? For me? A million times easier, there is no house of cards that I must build and/or maintain, no illusions to feed, no shareholders to please.

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write, edit, rewrite, delete, write, rewrite, delete, write, edit, rewrite, delete.

San Francisco2_feistyharriet

[write, write, write] there! a post about anxiety.

….hm….nope, too vulnerable, can’t do it. [delete, delete, delete.]

…..[think…think…think…] !!!!!

[write, write, write!] there! a post about not feeling so alone!

…. except…no. not working. at all. [delete, delete, delete.]

….. [think…think] a ha! a new idea!

…. [writey-write-write-tappity-tap-tap…. delete, delete, delete.] all my ideas are terrible.

……hmmmm….what if….?

[writewriteEDITwrite!!] ok! a post about doing it for the process! perfect!

[review]…..meh….no….nope, nope, nope.

[delete, delete, delete, delete, DELETE!]

…..[think…… think….. THINK DAMMIT! THINK!….]

….nope. no thoughts.

sigh. why is this sometimes so easy, and sometimes so ridiculously hard?!

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Complaints

Ya’ll, I have complaints. In fact, on any given day I have a list of complaints as long as my arm. Ok, that’s actually not really true. For the most part I’m not really a super complainer, not really. But sometimes…man, sometimes I just need to get it out. And that means you’ll get an ear-full or a feed-full of my rantiness in all it’s glory. Here is at least a small attempt to curb some of that ranting, at least the kind that doesn’t do any good.

What I want to stop complaining about:

1. Moving. I haven’t said much about it here (or really anything about it), but at the end of this year I am packing up my apartment, my beloved home I’ve lived in for 10 years, and moving 700 miles south to a city where I know exactly 6 people, 3 of whom are family and one who is only tangentially related (and a monster). I’m emotionally torn, but I also feel selfish for feeling that way. It’s my decision and after looking at all the pros and cons I know it is the best choice. However, for me the “pro” list only slightly outweighs the “con” list–and that makes the decision an emotionally difficult one.

2. A certain mico-managing colleague. And, in accordance with the wise law of dooce, I’ll just leave it at that.

3. My intolerable lady parts: graphic, bloody, TMI. Enough said.

4. My weight. This is 99% an internal complaint, and also a fairly recent development. I want to stop complaining and just fix the damn problem, all 40 pounds of it. I know how to do this (fewer cookies/boxes of pity-party macaroni and cheese, more exercise), but I somehow continue to eat the cookies and the pity mac and cheese and complain about my more rounded bits.

5. Oversharers, especially those on social media. Dear Harriet, just unfollow them. Stop complaining and stop allowing their annoying-to-you updates to clutter your feed. Just walk away.

What I will not stop complaining ranting lecturing educating everyone I meet about:

1. Feminism and the radical notion that women are people to and should be treated with a basic level of respect, equality, and kindness. This includes respect of images of women, words said by women, ideas put forth by women, and laws set down by women. “No” means “no” and “stop it!” means “stop it!” and “stop treating me like a set of boobs and legs” means “PAY ATTENTION TO SOMETHING OTHER THAN MY BODY!” I will yell about this my entire life, or until women have equal rights and opportunities and are treated with equal respect world-wide. So, my entire life. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

2. Equal rights and lack of prejudice against people who have a different skin color, religion, ethnic background, sexual preference, or political views than you. Stop it. Seriously, stop.

3. My intolerable lady parts: exploding ovarian cysts, endometriosis (newly diagnosed), excruciating doctor’s visits with TEN MILLION BIOPSIES TAKEN FROM INSIDE MY VAGINA!, and the general lack of control over super painful experiences inside my own body. I know I said I’d stop complaining about this I wanted to stop complaining about this, but no. I can’t. It’s just too much and too unfair to keep to myself. You’re welcome.

4. My love of hefty non-fiction and, therefore, my somewhat devil-may-care attitude towards YA fiction. Sorry/not sorry, but I can only intake so much fluff before I start to mentally float away and need something grounding, like evolutionary theory, or conditions in North Korea, or neuroscience, or economic practice, or whatever. And then I can’t won’t stop blabbering about all the cool stuff I learn in these books. I’m like a walking, talking, probably super annoying personal podcast. Again. You’re welcome.

5. Every year for several weeks I am loathe to go outside and enjoy the glorious spring sunshine and blooming flowers/trees because all of the flower/tree jizz gets up in my sinuses and creates a biological Niagara Falls, complete with sneezy, itchy eyes and a ridiculously high-dollar allowance for Kleenex with Lotion. I just, no. Not okay. Hear that, Nature? NOT OKAY! KEEP IT IN YOUR DAMN PLANTS!

So. What do you complain about? And what will you continue to complain about, come hell or high water?

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Inspired by ROE’s post at Giggles and Laundry.

Writing my own story

  • Five Ways to Become A Better Decorator!
    *Sponsored by The Decorating Company
  • Eight Things Not To Put On Your Resume!
    *Sponsored by The HR Company
  • Four Easy Steps to Be Organized!
    *Sponsored by The Organizing Company
  • Nineteen Cute New Summer Fashions!
    *Sponsored by The Fashion Company
  • Seven Ways This Special Product Will Change Your Life!
    *Sponsored by The Product Company

I have not written any of the above-mentioned totally fake blog posts (and fake sponsorships, obvs).  But the honest truth is that in my regular interaction with the Interwebs and Blogland in general, I probably wouldn’t click on any of those links either. It seems that for the most part the “popular” blogs and blog posts around today are, if not sponsored, specifically written for optimized traffic, optimized SEO, and are hopefully published with a little wish for Viral Status. I know a couple of people who read/used to read this blog accept sponsorships and are able to supplement their family income by writing posts about products or services that interact with their regular, normal lives. Most of you weave sponsored content with your own real life content.

And–and I really want to be clear here–THAT IS JUST FINE.

And yet.

I miss the stories.

I miss the relationships that came from those stories.

I miss the back-and-forth of comments and emails and [insert social media platform of choice here] that grew from laughing and crying and empathizing with those stories.

Let me be honest and blunt: I probably won’t have a real connection with how those five ways have made you a Better Decorator, and so I will skim and move on to another post; where I won’t have a connection/conversation with How To Improve my Resume, so I will move on; and I won’t have a real response to How To Be Organized; so I will move on to no connection with the curated List of Fashionable Summer Items (trendy, expensive, consumerist); and the life changing Products will be just another list of sponsored marketing that I suspect will not actually Change My Life. I will, however, probably feel more and more that The Internet is not a place for my stories because they aren’t polished and optimized and sponsored and written with the intent to generate traffic and clicks. Ain’t nobody need to feel like Blogland is no longer welcoming.

Again, let me reiterate that if you have published a post like one mocked listed above, THAT IS TOTALLY FINE! It’s just….it’s not entirely my cup of tea. Sometimes, sure. But it can get kind of tiring and depressing to feel like my feed reader is one big long commercial. I have DVR and Netflix for a reason: I hate commercials.

And, again, I miss the stories. I miss the thought-out essays and emotive paragraphs about Real Life. The interactions and un-polished lives of people I learned to adore through their non-Pinterested, non-SEO, not-even-photographed writing. I miss you! And, I also miss me, the part of me that used to flourish in that online space. I know I can do better at contributing my own stories, and this post is definitely an attempt at such. Let us all write our stories, for ourselves, for our friends (cyber and otherwise), and yes, even for those total weirdo strangers who dabble in Internetting. (Hi, Weirdo Stranger!) After all, once upon a time, not so long ago, we were all Weirdo Internet Strangers, looking for stories and friends and connections in our computers; and look where our stories have brought us.

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Also, in a piece of non-sponsored, genuine link-back: this post was inspired by Abbersnail.