"The Internet is hilarious this week, Mom. You're missing it. It's the Internet's best week ever." - Jacob MercerThe first thing I figured out about going without the Internet for a week is that it's nearly impossible to give it up completely. I had to transfer money to my bank account one day and that required using the Internet. Last night, I needed to confirm the address of a restaurant before I left the house so I googled that.
I also checked my email once a day because I didn't want anyone who was unaware of my little experiment to worry that I was dead. Unfortunately, the main gist of this week's emails was about jobs I interviewed for and did not get.
The second thing I figured out is that it's not that difficult to give up social networking and reading comments under news stories. It's not at all stressful to give up reading the opinions of the perfect people of the Internet.
Unfortunately, Tuesday I realized that we'd completely missed registration for juniors that was held Monday afternoon at Jacob's high school. Last week, I'd read the email about registration and saw the date.
But it turns out I don't often know what the date is anymore.
I do know what today's date is. I woke up knowing it. Is it a coincidence that the week I so desperately needed silence was the week leading up to this day? Probably not.
"When can we get Chick-fil-A again?" - Jacob
"When gay marriage is completely legal in every state. Now eat your Taco Bell and like it!" - Me
"Why are you doing this to me? I just want a chicken sandwich!" - Jacob
When I reactivated my Facebook account this morning after more than a week, it only took a cursory scroll down the news feed to see that everyone is still talking about Chick-fil-A. I was really hoping everyone would be talking about the Olympics and all those incredible athletic bodies.
|FYI: You don't get a body like this by eating fast food sandwiches.|
Obviously I support gay rights. I support HUMAN rights. I do not think Dan Cathy is right that his God is going to judge us as a nation based on gays being allowed to marry. Sorry, but if God's voice didn't come booming from the clouds above when we were enslaving an entire race of people, then I'm pretty sure he's not coming down to give America what for about allowing people to love one another.
This is one of the things that prompted my Internet vacation. I found that the hate being promoted by so many was growing inside me, too. I hated them right back. I wanted to tell them to choke on a chicken biscuit. I was getting caught up in the circle jerk of hypocrisy. It was getting harder and harder for me to pretend that I don't think these people are homophobes and hate mongers and redneck, racist asshats.
Unfortunately, I recognize that it is wrong for me to hate someone because they hate someone. It is wrong to call someone names because he is calling someone names. (sigh) Self awareness is a real pain in the ass.
This week I thought about hate and the people who spread it. I thought about how hate works. It might seem like a good weapon but it's a weapon you cannot control. When you plant the seeds of hate what you are really planting are land mines. The chances are good that you will forget where you planted that hate and eventually you will step right on it and blow your own feet out from under you. You will essentially take yourself down.
When you teach your children to hate people because they aren't like you, you are teaching your children that if they aren't like you, you will eventually hate them, too. Do you think they don't pick up on that? Now you have taught them how to hate and there is simply no way to control who and what they will harm with that weapon. It could be you.
I want my children to know that I will love them no matter what. I don't want them to worry that I could ever condemn them for their choices. I mean, it's highly possible one of my children will break my heart one day and come out of the closet as a fan of Fox News.
But I will love them no matter what.
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." - John 13:34
Shows You Should Be Watching
I did not give up TV. I thought about it, but it's summer and I have two children at home. There was no way that was going to work.
Thank goodness I kept watching TV, because Louis C.K. and Robin Williams making a bunch of strippers cry to the sounds of Sister Christian on Louis was the damn highlight of my week.
Unfortunately, later during the same episode I almost threw up.
I was also totally unwilling to wait an entire week to watch Breaking Bad.
You should be watching Louis and Breaking Bad. Period.
I did try to watch TV more purposefully. I recorded the shows I liked and watched those. I rented a couple of movies (50/50, which I highly recommend, and 21 Jump Street, which was way funnier than I expected it to be).
I've been watching the Olympics. I love the swimming events. I love when someone breaks a world record. I don't care what country they're from. It thrills me to think that no one has ever done that event faster! Ever! I can't swim for shit so I am fascinated by all the different strokes. I like to watch the butterfly. I remember when I was a teenager and my dad had a pool, he'd show us the butterfly and I always thought it was incredible. He used to swim competitively and that was his event. It's one of the things I think is cool about my dad.
Books You Should Be Reading
I read a lot this week but I always read a lot. I am finally almost finished with that damn series by Stieg Larsson. The Girl Who Played with Fire was pretty good. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is putting me into a coma. Maybe it's because I know it's translated from Swedish, but the writing just seems so cold. There's not a hint of warmth or feeling in it. It's like reading a really long news report.
But forget that. That's not what you should be reading. You should be reading Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. It is my absolute favorite book I have read this year.
Jess Walter is my new thing. As soon as I finished Beautiful Ruins, I found two of his other books, Citizen Vance and The Zero, at the secondhand bookstore. I went to the library and checked out The Financial Lives of the Poets. It's about a man laid off from a newspaper. His house is on the brink of foreclosure, his wife is flirting with her high school boyfriend on Facebook, and he's taken up with a bunch of drug dealers. It's a great read and I could relate to this man whose industry is disappearing, whose options seem limited, whose life is unraveling.
Beautiful Ruins is Walter's latest book. Around page 37, I got the feeling I was going to love this book. By page 41, I knew it. I could tell this was going to be my kind of book and my eyes teared up a little. When it comes to books, I am my most sensitive self. I can't help it. I get overly excited about the ones I love and overly moved by the idea of writing a story that makes someone feel something. I love the books that remind me why I want to write.
Beautiful Ruins begins in 1962 on the coast of Italy as Pasquale, a young Italian man with blue eyes, watches a beautiful American actress arrive at his small, isolated hotel. Then it picks up today on the back lot of a movie studio. The book goes back and forth between the events of then and now. There are numerous characters and they are all "beautiful ruins," flawed and hopeful and hopeless. Richard Burton, the actor and sometimes-husband of Elizabeth Taylor, even makes an appearance.
If you don't love it, I will eat a chicken biscuit.
"Stories are people. I'm a story, you're a story...your father is a story. Our stories go in every direction, but sometimes, if we're lucky, our stories join into one, and for a while, we're less alone."
"But you never answered the question," Pasquale said. "Why you come here."
Bender pondered the wine in his hand. "A writer needs four things to achieve greatness, Pasquale: desire, disappointment, and the sea."
"That's only three."
(Bender) finished his wine. "You have to do disappointment twice."
Lately I have been doing nothing but disappointment. I am disappointed and I feel like a disappointment, like a failure.
Today is just another day on the calendar. Another day three years after Charles's death just beyond my kitchen door. Awhile back I painted the door a sunny shade called Raincoat Yellow, an appropriate name for a color that is meant to guard against the things that haunt me.
I hate these days on the calendar, this way of marking time against the worst day. Three years is nothing. That's what I know. It's nothing. It's a drop in the bucket of grief. It's a journey of 1095 days that leads you right back to the beginning.
I'd rather not think about how, at this time on this day three years ago, Charles was alive. We ate lunch together. We watched an episode of Entourage while we ate something I can't remember and then I went back to work.
All day I will think about what time it is now and what was happening then. And at a specific time this evening, I will no longer think "Charles was alive." I will think the thing that will never change. I will think, "At this time on this day, Charles was dead."
It's all I ever say anymore when people want to know how I am really doing. I'm tired. Three years' worth of tired.
I have failed at getting a job or a literary agent or a tiny modicum of peace. I am hemorrhaging money and I hate myself for jeopardizing my family's well being with my irresponsible choices. I have distanced myself from God. My mother said this and she is right. I worry less about God and more that my loss of faith is hurting my mother's heart.
Worse than any of it is this undeniable truth that I have failed at the thing that is truly awful.
"It is the only unforgivable thing, really...to feel sorry for yourself." That's Jess Walter again, in The Financial Lives of the Poets.
Three years in and I'm painfully disappointed in myself for the crime of feeling sorry for myself. I'm disappointed in myself for not being this shining, sunny, bright Raincoat Yellow version of myself, a hero of recovery and healing.
I'm tired of saying a lot of mean things about myself in my head.
I took a break from the cacophony of opinions and bitching and hate of the Internet for an entire week.
But it turns out all the noise is in my head.