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Blogging Amidst the Trumpian Chaos

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BLOGGING AMIDST THE TRUMPIAN CHAOS

August marks five years since I started blogging here at Writing With Spirit, and I want to recognize the anniversary and thank my readers and followers. I truly appreciate the company.

When I first began blogging, each post was greeted with an empty echo. Now I receive encouragement and feedback (even if I am occasionally damned to hell), and I have virtual “friends” I’ve never met. I love reading comments from the people in my neighborhood, and I love imagining who my readers might be in Turkey and Japan and Australia.

I want to continue blogging — I do — yet I seem to be losing inspiration lately. Here I am in the midst of a two-week stay at my little writing retreat in New Hampshire, the place where my blog was born, and I haven’t blogged once!

Just sittin’ and pondering

I Blame trump

I blame Donald Trump, as I do for most things. Donald and Twitter. I am so overwhelmed by the chaos and danger and tragedy in the nation and the world that I can’t find a handle to get inside a story. It’s all just swirling around in my head and overwhelming me, like the toxic brown waters swirling around the people of Houston and India and Pakistan and Nepal and Yemen and Niger.

See? I try to use a simple metaphor and all of a sudden I’m drowning in the despair of lethal climate disruption and the current administration’s denial and vengeful dismantling of all of our climate protection programs. Not just the programs to research and curb the disruption and death, but the ones to address the consequences, like money for flood programs and healthcare.

And the EPA Administrator shaming the “opportunistic media” for insisting on talking about climate change “without basis or support.” And the Attorney General declaring that “Hurricane Harvey Is proof we need to militarize our police forces.” What???

And Twitter

I just can’t hold on. When I try to focus on one travesty, such as the president being unwilling to disavow white supremacists, the president encouraging police to hurt people, the president toying with nuclear annihilation, the president mocking efforts to prevent Russia from undermining our democracy, the president dooming our planet, well, I just, I just . . .

I just resort to wasting time on Twitter, is what I do. Which overwhelms me even more and exacerbates my ADD. You think you’re getting a handle on the hateful #Nazi violence in #Charlottesville when all of a sudden the hate-full #Evangelicals release their gay-bashing #NashvilleStatement.  (Mean, embittered religious men must always make a resounding STATEMENT or a PROCLAMATION.)

And who can keep up with the White House firings and resignations? I am both spooked and comforted by the apparent military take-over of the White House. Near as I can tell, General John Kelly is the only reason we still have a country at this moment.

So I want to say three things:

  • Happy anniversary to my beloved blog, which has kept me sane during some very trying times these past five years. I will persist and continue Writing With Spirit, despite the madness.
  • A hearty thank you to all of my followers and readers and fellow bloggers for the encouragement and inspiration and food for thought.
  • Climate change is real. It is happening. People are dying because of it, in hurricanes, floods, heat waves, tornadoes, typhoons, and tsunamis. After the flooding, the typhoid and cholera. So the Tweeter in Chief and his reality-deniers are criminals. Period. They should all be in jail for mass murder.

And that’s where I am, five years in to this blogging endeavor.

 

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Thanks for Voting My Blog Best on the Internet!!

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Thanks For Voting My Blog Best on the Internet!!

My blog readership recently topped 5,000, and I just want to say thank you to all you winners who support me. Of course this is not about me, it’s about you, and how great and smart you are for following my blog. #IRock

This is ME

This is ME

Because let’s face it, there’s a lot of fake news out there — so sad — but my blog is 100% true and factual. I know facts, and these are facts. Believe me. I know blogs, and this is a blog. This is a great blog, one of the greatest, if not the greatest. #Greatest

My good friend Pope Francis — he says I’m brilliant, by the way — he said that this is the best blog. He said it will make America great again if enough people follow it. Believe me. #MAGA #TheBest

This is ME. Being famous. Many, many people wanted my autograph

This is ME. Being famous and signing a book. Many, many people want my autograph.

This is me, giving author Anne Lamott my autograph. She loves my blog.

This is ME, giving Anne Lamott my autograph. She says me blog is the best. She is a writer too, but many people say I am better.

If the murderous Mexicans at WordPress hadn’t lied about the stats, you would see that this blog – Melanie Lynn Griffin’s blog – has over a million followers. My people will investigate. Illegals trying to delegitimize. Sad.

Anyway, congratulations to all my friends!! My best friends who love me. Many people — many, many people — say they give their computers a standing ovation every time a new Writing With Spirit blog by Melanie Lynn Griffin comes into their mailbox.

What? You don’t get this masterpiece mailed directly to your inbox?

Loser.

#QuiteAJourney   #ThanksForFollowing!!

Sexual Assault, Anger, and Gentleness

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I may have to re-think this every-day blogging practice. I opened my journal this morning and realized that I haven’t written in six days, which is unheard of during my retreats in New Hampshire. I have a call with my therapist this afternoon, and I don’t know what to talk about, since I have no record of my musings.

In fact, I do know what I’ll talk about, and it’s probably the same thing most women are processing this week with counselors, therapists, and friends. I am bowled over by the reaction to Trump’s sexual predation tape on social media — my Facebook and Twitter feeds are crammed with women remembering and re-living predation stories from the past. Many, like me, are surprised by their anger and even rage.

I blogged on that recently and included a list of my experiences from childhood to twenty-five. Last night as I was falling asleep, I remembered another that I had completely wiped out of my mind. The closest I have ever come to being raped. My boyfriend’s best friend, and my boyfriend wouldn’t believe me. He said I must have “misunderstood” because K would never do that. No wonder I wiped out that memory!

Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about today. I am exhausted by it all.

Instead, I want to share a quote about gentleness that I came across while preparing a sermon on the topic. I think the sentiments are much needed right about now. I apologize that some of my posts about The Donald have not been very gentle. I am human, I am a woman, and I am angry. Also sad.

winter 2013 & Jesus pix 045.tear

On Gentleness

If you don’t know Henri Nouwen, you should. He was a remarkably gentle and loving man, a priest, professor, theologian, and writer. He wrote this about gentleness, which the Bible says is one of the signs of being a Jesus follower:

“Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness.

We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count.

But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.

Gentle is the one who does “not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick” (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something.

A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force.

Let’s dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.”

Amen.

Day fourteen of my daily blogging practice

 

Recovering From My Social Media/Trump Addiction

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RECOVERING FROM MY SOCIAL MEDIA/TRUMP ADDICTION

I’ve decided to take another fasting day from social media and Donald J. Trump. Yesterday I got just a glimpse of what I’ve been doing to my psyche. I felt as if I’d been set free from an abusive imprisonment after just a few hours away from Orange Man and his tweet-world.

I read the Bible, read a book called Courageous Gentleness, and took time for prayer and meditation and napping. I prayed for Haiti. Every five minutes, I would absentmindedly flip open the cover of my laptop and see written in pencil across the top: “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” (Annie Dillard.) Then I would close it.

Yes, I watched the VP debate, and then I and stayed up late watching pundits and tweeting about it. Not at all how I want to spend my life. I’m not even going to add to the ruckus by commenting on it here.

This morning I am journaling, which I neglect more and more as I get sucked into this social media/electoral addiction. I will share with you a few snippets from my first week here at my little haven in New Hampshire:

September 28

Arrived & well-settled at Quiet Hills. I took off Monday, watched the first presidential debate over pizza and wine at the Scottish Inn in PA and then made it here with an hour to spare on Tuesday evening before the Garrison Keillor show with E.

What a gift for story he has! It’s beautiful and touching. He started out just by humming a note and without using hand gestures or anything, he soon had the whole theatre humming it and then started us all in singing, “My Country Tis of Thee,” or whatever it’s actually called. Lovely. He went on for two straight hours, digression after digression but somehow tying it all together. No notes, all memory, flawless. He talked about the beauty of words and language, went from high-brow to low-brow, sonnets to limericks, funerals to urination. Remarkable.

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On the way home, E & I saw an owl standing by the side of the road (probably over an unfortunate mouse) and it took off and flew right over our windshield. I am here.

September 30

I’ve started my time up here not too well — too much computer, obsessing over political articles and polls. I’ve committed to post a blog every day while I’m here. Yipes. Tomorrow the calendar turns over its page and I can see the end of my time here already. Mustn’t think that way! I have three weeks left. Smile. What a stretch!

Kind of funky weather. Cloudy, rain possible for the next four days, in the fifties. Humid. Not good house-airing weather.

October 1

Honestly, I am the luckiest. Quiet, early evening. The sun sets twenty minutes earlier here than in D.C. — 6:30. It’s 5 now, tea time. (When is it not?) Want to light a fire, but I’m going in to town for a cello/piano concert at St. James.

I’m thinking about doing a story on Badger Balm. At the pizza party they hosted last night, I met Bill, the founder. I joked something about “All you need is a dream right? No work at all,” and he responded, “There are invisible forces at work.” What a fun interview that would be! KInda want to do it, pitch it, and get it published in one of those “good news” magazines. Lot of work, but it would be good to get back into practice. Know what? I have the chops for this.

October 4

Dearest Book, how I neglect you! That dreadful laptop takes all my attention. Today I am fasting from it, and hence from Donald Trump. This morning I checked polls (Hillary 72% chance of winning) and headlines: Trump & Hillary stuff and nonsense and a massive hurricane hitting Haiti right now. Really, God? How much farther into the ground can those poor people be driven? I read that they don’t want to evacuate because their few belongings will be stolen. Hard to fathom. I am so grateful to have been to the slums of Nairobi so that I can *begin* to fathom and empathize. Prayers.

I have kept my commitment to blog every day. Not even sure why. I thought it might get my writing muscles moving each day, but it clearly peters out and turns into wandering the internet and falling into social media.

So very ugly in the Twitter world. I fear for my country. Such contempt & disdain & viciousness. I felt it from the Hillary people when I supported Bernie; now I feel it from the “still Bernie” people because I support Hillary. And the Trump people, OMG. It’s like a bunch of sociopathic middle schoolers have taken over adult Twitter accounts.

Afternoon:

Oh, this is *so*  much better! I can’t believe I’ve been living like that, trapped inside my computer, held hostage by mental busyness. I was mistaking that for life. I’ve read the Bible some, written prayers for church after reading the upcoming sermon, and read a bit of Frederick Buechner. 

I note in my gmail that there’s a debate going on about race and police on my Facebook page, but I have not clicked to see what’s up. Have at it. I think it might behoove me to turn off the modem. Gmail is also unhelpful.

Oh! There is the sun on green-gold maples leaves out the window! And that sweet goldfinch song. And a pileated! It’s been drizzly and dreary for days, but we’re at the beginning of a nice stretch.

I have a candle lit, signifying my intention to be present to Jesus, and I’m going to meditate now. Sweet.

DSCN5171

Day Eight in my daily blogging adventure

Bits O’ Blog

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I don’t seem to be able to finish a blog post lately. My thinking is fractured, what with all the shootings and bombings, the Brexit vote and the ensuing financial chaos, the potential of violence at the upcoming political conventions. Or it could be my late-night binge-watching of Downton Abbey. More than likely, though, it’s Donald Trump’s fault . . . most things are.

Anyway, all I can do is offer you fragments of what were to have been several brilliant and insightful blog posts, possibly capable of moving you to tears or laughter or a personal epiphany.

One: A Memory

I remember the moment. I was nine years old, crunched between my older brother and sister in the back seat of our Dodge Dart as we drove along a main street in Miami Beach singing along with Petula Clark on the radio at the top of our lungs. “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go, DOWNTOWN. When you’ve got worries all the noise and the hurry seem to help I know, DOWNTOWN.”

My Dad glanced in the rearview mirror, probably deciding at what decibel level he should intervene. My mother rubbed her forehead.

“DOWNTOWN!”

“OK, enough,” Daddy said.

My sister Lannie let out a dramatic teenaged sigh and said, “I just loooove the city.”

old-city_M1l1s18u_L

I heard my voice say, “Not me, I like the country much better,” and then I froze. I couldn’t believe I had disagreed with her. I worshipped my big sister and always tried to emulate her taste in food, music, clothes, movie stars — everything. Even though I spent my afternoons squatting on the muddy banks of our backyard pond catching minnows and frogs while Lannie spent her afternoons sunbathing by the pool slathered in Johnson’s Baby Oil and reading Glamour magazine, I still aspired to grow up to be just like her.

I think this memory sticks because it was the first time I expressed an opinion all my own without first hearing what everyone else thought. I’m sure that psychologists have a term for this — differentiation or some such thing. That moment as a child when you realize that you are not actually part of one family organism, you are separate and can have different opinions . . .

Two: Afraid, Afraid, Afraid

Going back to work. A phrase that strikes fear into any “fake retired” person’s heart. I’ve been trying to come to terms with the words for months now, to decide what they mean and how I feel about them and why.

I’m afraid, that’s for sure. Afraid I’ve forgotten how to apply myself, afraid I don’t have enough energy, afraid I won’t take to someone telling me what to do, afraid I have lost all ability to learn, afraid I won’t be able to master new technologies, afraid people won’t want to hire an “older” worker, afraid I won’t be able to muster the confidence for interviews. Afraid, afraid, afraid.

Even so, I think that taking a seven-year break in the middle of my working life has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, if you can call it a decision. In a way, it just happened. I definitely decided to leave my career as an environmental lobbyist, and then I decided to go back to school for a Masters in writing, but did I envision leaving the working world for seven years? No, I don’t think so. I didn’t have a plan . . .

Three: My First Day Back at Work

I wake up thirty minutes late for my first day at my new job, can’t find the number to call the supervisor, curse myself, step in cat vomit on the way to the bathroom, and then burst into tears while brushing my teeth.

This anxiety dream woke me at 6:10 a.m., five minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Flooded with relief that I had not actually overslept for my first workday in seven years, I turned off the alarm, made it to the bathroom without incident, and brushed my teeth. Victory!

The next challenge was making lunch. I figured PB & J would be fastest, but then noticed mold on the lovely multigrain bread I’d bought at a little bakery in upstate New York a few days earlier. Oh well. I quickly boiled some eggs, tossed them in a brown paper bag with an avocado, a banana, and half a cucumber. So they think I’m eccentric. At least I’ll be on time.

Now I’m at my desk in the front office of my housing co-op. I’m feeling capable, if somewhat winded.

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So far today, I’ve dealt with phone calls or visits from co-op members who have asbestos in their basements, ants in their kitchens, mildew on their aluminum siding, burst pipes in their bathrooms, and clogged sinks in their kitchens. Phew!

I look at the clock, figuring it must be about lunchtime. It’s 9:30 a.m.

Contractors come to fix the internet, pick up a broken computer, drop off gutter-cleaning reports. A guy comes in to say his brother has died and he has to rehab his home. How should he proceed? I do not tell him my brother died. This is progress, I think. I am (at last!) more than someone who has lost a sibling.

I am given a tour of a back room lined floor-to-ceiling with bulging folders and files and binders. I feel at home here amidst the piles of papers in this old-fashioned, uncomputerized office. I can hear the clicking of a keyboard, but I haven’t turned on a computer all day. I like that.

Finally, it’s noon. I feel shell-shocked and ready to escape. I did not get a chance to meditate or pray or journal this morning, and I’m a little off-kilter. I’m surprised how much more introverted I’ve become in the past few years. It’s tiring having to deal with all this humanity . . . 

Four: A Blackjack Poem (Three Lines of Seven Syllables)

Involuntary:

Soon they will take me away

I will protest as I’m dragged:

“It’s not hoarding, it’s just books!”

Stack of vintage books isolated on white

The Poem in the Closet

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I’m trying to be grown-up writer. I wrote a poem today in response to a prompt: closet. It’s a good poem, with potential. I want to post it here, right now. But I learned this weekend at the Festival of Faith and Writing that our brains dose us with dopamine when we get views and comments on our blogs. I didn’t know I was getting a chemical rush every time I posted, I just knew I liked watching my stats go up when I pressed “publish.”

If there’s an addictive aspect to something, I will find it!

So – I have decided there will be no immediate gratification for me today. I will not share my new poem with you. I will read it at a local poetry reading tomorrow night, after which I will put it in the closet for a time.

In a few days or a few weeks, I will bring the poem back into the light and polish it until it shines. I will read it out loud and ask it questions; I will caress it and cuddle it and play with it. The crease between my eyebrows will grow deeper as it does when I concentrate, but I will also laugh when the the Divine Poet presents me with a precisely perfect word. I will rearrange and reinvent my poem until at last the sublime syntax rewards me with a waterfall of joy that washes away any wish for a simple dopamine high.

And then I will submit my poem for publication. Because I am a grown-up writer.

Thanks for the closet word prompt, WordPress!

047

Festival of Faith & Writing: Day Two

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Would anyone miss my blogging if I went to bed instead? I learned today that there are about two million blog posts issued every day. But I promised myself I would do a daily blog from the Festival of Faith & Writing: so be it.

Blogging or Blathering?

I learned the above factoid at a panel discussion entitled Blogging or Blathering: The Current State of Personal Online Writing where participants addressed the question, “Is there still a legitimate place or need for blogging in a writers’s life?” A magazine editor, a publisher, and a former and current blogger spent an hour disagreeing with each other and sometimes with themselves, saying first one thing and then another. The answer seems to be maybe, sometimes, for some people, yes and no.

I may share more about this workshop when my brain re-engages on some far distant day, but for now I’ll just share the one aspect that became clear: if you are trying to build your writing “platform” through following, commenting, and a ubiquitous online presence, don’t waste your time. No editors or publishers read comments anymore and many have shut them down completely. People are too mean and nasty, they say. Sigh.

I also learned that a nice blog length is 500 words — about half of what mine often are. So for the sake of brevity and a good night’s sleep, I’m just going to pick something that struck me from each session I attended today and expand on my experiences later (maybe).

I also learned that blogs must have pictures. So here are some pictures of life on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids:

under tree

 

 lawn2Angling for a Book Deal

Stephanie Smith, an acquisitions editor at Zondervan Publishing talked about developing an angle for your book that will appeal to editors. While “there is nothing new under the sun,” according to the Bible (I think “my book” has already been written by 1,000 people), Stephanie says that all truths are like diamonds — if you look at them from a different angle the light will strike them differently and they will be beautiful every time.

Writing as Caring

Author David Dark is . . . well, I think his brain is differently ordered than the norm. But what a fascinating ride! We bounced from his grandmother to Godzilla to Star Wars to zombies to Mr. Rogers. This guy is scary-bright, so it’s not easy to keep up with him, much less find one nugget to share. How about this: “Writing is an expression of self-care and an expression of communal care. Ask yourself, ‘what do I have in me right now that might be of help to someone?’” He’s just written a book called, “Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious.” Great title! Sadly (for me, not David), it was sold out just hours after his talk, so I will reserve a space on my shelf for it. 

David Dark

David Dark

Poet and teacher Marilyn Chandler McEntyre bemoaned how hard it is to maintain civil discourse in a political climate where stakes are high and well-funded spin campaigns rule the airwaves. “Where half-truths are common currency and discourse is dumbed down, speaking life-giving words can be particularly challenging.” Amen to that! She offered examples of authors who do this well, including Wendell Berry, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, and Chris Hedges. I love Berry, but I need to check out the other three. Two nuggets: “Neutrality is complicity,” and “Laugh when you can.”

Author Shauna Niequist was very generous with her tips and insights into the memoir process. I’ve got pages of notes to digest from her talk. When asked about vulnerability and where she draws the line on what is “safe” or “appropriate” to share, she answered, “I will always throw myself under the bus if it helps you {the reader} know that you are not alone and you are not crazy.”

Last Words

After eleven hours of words and more words, it’s amazing that I could retain anything from the last session, which was a talk about fiction by George Saunders and Tobias Wolff. Two nuggets, both from Wolff:

“Most of us walk around in an unintentional cloud of self-absorption. Literature is the thing that woke me up to the absolute. adamant reality of other human beings.”

And: “Death is in front of all of us. It should tell us something about how we spend our time.”

Here’s a cheerier thought to end on, because I’m told you should never leave your readers hanging on the edge of an abyss:

photo (68)

Carrying love through the shadows

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