The business end of blogging

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-30-28-am(Almost) every morning I write. I credit my need to write to my mother who made me keep a journal. Every night I had to sit with my bound book for 15 minutes. Roughly 87% of my entries were about how much I loathed keeping a journal. The rest were poems written to my cat. For a brief period of time I wrote about Nate Archibald, the Celtics point guard with the nickname Tiny who made his way cheerfully through the courts with the giants. He was my guy. Although he probably enjoyed his paycheck he ran around the court like a kid (and not just because of his stature) he was there for the pleasure of the game, not the business end of basketball.

Last September I started a big project. Called Slut: Spit AND Swallow it was the story of my adolescence juxtaposed with my current life. It was about sex for sure, but also mental illness and the work that it took to feel that I was not simply some giant hole to be plugged. Forgive the imagery but those of you who know the emptiness of depression will know exactly what I mean. As time went on the simple weave of past and present became a snarl. I knew the narrator of my past would be acerbic and pretty unsympathetic but I had hope that my current voice would be more appealing. Sadly this was not so.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-31-33-amI have blogged for five years. It started just like journal entries. The posts were like this one, completely stream of consciousness. If I go back and read them I can always find a line or two I love but they were really a brain dump rather than a discrete piece of writing. When I started writing for other websites I tightened things up a bit. It took a little more time and thought and I devoted less of my word count to my bigger project and more to my individual posts.

At around the time that I virtually shelved Slut I had a blog post go viral. It was never my favorite post, but at least the headline worked because I had 250,000 views in 5 weeks. Feeling that blogging wasn’t “enough” I looked back through my traffic over the past two years and realized that my parenting posts were garnering more attention than my posts about sex. So I began gathering my thoughts and sketching out an idea for a large scale parenting piece.

But something got in the way…the business of blogging.

I work for 4 hours a day. Often I only write 4 days a week. Recently I have started tracking my time. The results are uninspired. I spend 2 full hours on social media promoting my work and the work of a small handful of friends.  I schedule pins and tweets and I flip and stumble.  Flip and stumble. If those names don’t say it all I don’t know what does. There are stumble groups on google+ and twitter groups on Facebook. There are blogging groups and social share threads. There are group Pinterest boards and Pinterest tribes.To pull my weight in the share groups I have to read and comment on dozens of blogs. Outside of my small regular groups I pop in to other share threads. Thats the crummy grammar posts. There are literally thousands of sentences with the word literally. I an greeted with so many exclamation points!!!!!  !

It is tiring. It also makes me feel like a sell out sharing posts that I don’t like or care about. (BSlovers this is not you, I love you.)

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-16-03-amThere is also the time I put into optimizing my site, finding tags, creating link backs, and labeling images with whatever keyword I have chosen that rarely works for my wordy posts. The WordPress SEO plugin wants posts to be at the readability level of a fifth grader. I pretty much never get there. Not to be bragadocious but I have the biggest vocabulation. Which means that my readability needs improvement.

I try to make sense of the cents. Since last September I have earned roughly $6,416.10 on affiliate links  within my blog and re-posting my articles on other sites. If I roughly calculate my hourly rate it comes to $13 an hour. Which I guess is above the minimum wage. (Although it shouldn’t be.) Now I need to back out expenses. I pay $35/month for buffer + tailwind, applications that help schedule my social media so I am not just a storm of shares about comfortable shoes. I spend around $20 a month on graphic design and $35 dollars a month on hosting the site. Let’s leave out the cost of the tea and tips at my coffee shop office. Now my hourly rate is an impressive $11.11. (Pause to make a wish.)

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-32-24-amI know I have never done this for the money. (Which becomes even more clear when I look at the dollars and cents). I used to think I was motivated by the conversation. I felt privileged to be able to share details about depression and sex and parenting. I loved to hear that I was striking a chord with readers, even when it was dissonant. I wanted to build traffic and gain an audience. I imagined even more spirited conversation.  I am not sure about that anymore. When my lazy parenting post gathered momentum it really didn’t shift MY momentum at all. The comments were a mix of “right on” and “you suck.” Which was what I thought I wanted. As it turns out comments on posts that I wrote with SEO in mind and click bait headlines are not posts I am interested in talking about. They are pieces that came about because of the business end of blogging. As we all know, the business end is rarely better.

Chatting with a friend who has made a legitimate career of blogging we talk about the grind. She has taken three weeks away and realized that the business end of things has brought her far from herself.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-36-16-amShe sent me the image of her profile for some social media site.( I can’t even tell which one it is that’s how many we need to deal with.) She called it “boring, lame, and promotional.” I can promise you she is none of those things in real life. Yet the business of blogging makes us robotic.  She explains that she has let her online persona take top billing. She manages three sites and has managed to shelve her self in the process. She tells me she might change her profile to “doesn’t give a shit.” I know which description would make me want to click through and read more.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-9-38-47-amI have never been one to avoid swearing in social media profiles. Or in life. Lately I have been cursing top ten lists and fear based headlines. I have been swearing at SEO and throwing the F bomb around Facebook. (Which then edits my writing more than I do.)

So I am going back to my roots. To my journal. To celebrate brain dumps. To eschew editing. To channeling Nate Archibald and focus on the joy in writing rather than the business end.

Here are things I didn’t put into this post. A click to tweet link. A prompt at the end to try to get you to comment. A focus keyword. A numbered list.  Or time editing.

What can go wrong….(moaning about Monday)

Shall. On a Monday.

Monday quote
This is not usually how I feel…

I am not a Monday hater. I see grumpy cat memes and listen to pop songs lamenting another school week and I shrug. At least I used to shrug when I could move my shoulders. Now I just mentally shrug and on good days lets add a knowing chuckle where I am both “with you” and “above you” Monday moaners.

Steve steps it up even more and walks around with a Weekends are Overrated t -shirt on…issuing a challenge to the undercaffeinated. Now that he works from home I am the only one to read his message. I think I have begun to take on my new role. He is the Monday lover leaving me left to loathe it.

On Monday’s my tea is evil.

How do I know?

Because there are steps to my coffee shop morning routine and I have fucked up each of them in some way or another.

  1. Making an entrance. I have three days to write this week before I take two weeks off and I have a two articles and a blog post to get through before 11. I can do this. First I need to open the door to the coffee shop.  It is a bit sticky and I don’t have time to waste with the extra pull or two so I approached it with gusto. It flung wide to greet me and hit me in the face. I immediately made eye contact with the barista who greeted me with an “its definitely Monday.” I am hear enough so I know that her Wednesday is my Friday making my Monday not her Monday. As I try to calculate which relative day of the week has left her laughing at me I trip over one of the metal stools that is protruding from the coffee bar. It wasn’t so bad. It  wasn’t one tenth as bad as the time I knocked over two tables, three computers, and three cell phones spilling my evidently endless tea on all of us. This time it was a little trip. I was still upright! So I held me head high and went to replace the stool in its place getting it tangled in the legs of its brother. Bang. Scrape. Then I was trying to catch two stool with my phone hand and the whole thing collapsed. It was loud. But there were only three customers that had to look up from their work and I was still standing on two feet. I consider that a win. I walk myself over to…
  2. Select my table. The BEST table was available. It is the end two top that nestles into a wall allowing three chairs.
    fashion shot
    My cousin. His bag and coat will have their own chair! Other cousin took this photo
  3. So when my cousin and I aren’t waiting for Elijah we have a designated bag and coat chair. It is a luxury. There is also an outlet. Lastly, and most importantly as I mentioned this table is at the END of a row. So I can slide out with my ass to the wall and a friendly smile to my family. When we are next to strangers not only do I have to pretend not to eavesdrop…but I also have to slide my butt along the edge of their table every time I get up to pee or carry a dangerous drink to and from the counter. So only the wall gets my back side. Pleased with my table choice I hang my backpack on Elijahs chair (jew reference) plug in my laptop (already at 100% but it is part of the ritual so it can’t be stopped) and sit briefly to log onto the correct network. Despite working here five times a week my computer has a love affair with AZ2Net876!. Every day I need to break them up. So my role as spoiler over I am ready to get sustenance. With a smile I turn my ass to the wall and begin to exit my area, but I trip over my power cord taking my laptop with me. I actually manage to catch the thing. Yet another win. I am on my way to the counter to…
  4. Place my order and pay. When I make it to the counter to 6 sympathetic and 2 amused eyes I see my order has already been entered into the POS. Usually this would be good but I am not having the spinach sandwich because, lets say, the spinach hasn’t been a happy ending. I consider eating it to make her happy but decide to correct the order. I stumble over this as I try to enter my email for our “spot on” extra credit. I have always liked extra credit and I am amassing points. It takes me three tries though and I back a way a bit sheepishly. I usually enjoy ordering, having a quick chat with the friendly staff about vagina surgery, or anti depressant medication always makes my morning. Instead I have wasted our time together correcting my order and messing up my email. Back at my table without tripping I sigh at the eleventeen open chrome tabs just as Amina arrives with my tab. I had forgotten to tip or sign. So she checked me out with no tip and brought me my card. I try to insist that I head back up there to tip but she won’t hear of it so I sit down with my tab and my tabs and feel guilty times two. On a normal day I would…
  5. Retrieve my order. This Monday I see my tea at the bar waiting to be picked up. I am not going up to get it because I will spill it. I see its liquid forming a meniscus at the top of the custom cup and it taunts me. “I will be on your chest soon caught by your overlarge, undersupported  breasts. I will dribble down your fingers causing you to whimper and jolt and with the jolt even more of me will be free, discoloring your Dansko Women’s Professional Oiled Leather Clog,Black,38 EU / 7.5-8 B(M) USjaunty green clogs and making a big splash on the floor. When you bend down to wipe me up the whole coffee shop will see your butt crack. Ha! I have you! ” Then I remember that I haven’t tipped AT ALL today let alone 100% and I head to get the tea myself…pulling my computer off the table by tripping over the cord. AGAIN. I set it on the table and back into the server who is bringing me my tea. I spill it down his chest. They insist on making me another one. Then they bring it to me.
    My tea...
    My tea…
  6. Work. I have already abandoned the plan. I was supposed to read and share other people’s work then write one parenting article and one sex article (except in the other order because thats how it works.) Then IF there was time I was going to write a blog post. Instead I am here with you…because it is Monday and nothing is going as it should.

What did you mess up this morning?

Life is getting in the way of my napping

Woman napping on couch
Not me napping.

Napping is core to my identity. I make a daily list that includes a nap. All other items can stare at me accusingly and I will still feel accomplished if I can cross off “nap” with the strong line of a pencil held in a well rested hand.  If I haven’t napped during internationally acknowledged siesta time I will often take an evening nap, screwing my sleep cycle just to experience the bliss of snuggling into bed during off hours.

Lately life is getting in the way of my naps. My morning walks have been pushed to the afternoon now that I am writing. My morning writing has been shifted a bit later now that I somehow feel I need to be up on the news of the world. I wake up and read the Times for 30 minutes…minutes that could have been used napping later in the day. After I finish writing (sometimes even AFTER lunch) I hang out with Steve. Steve used to work in an office. Now he is home to garden, food shop, do taxes, and some other euphemisms. All of this togetherness happens during PRIME nap time.

After years of doing nothing  all of a sudden the boys have two to three afternoons of activities each(I wonder where they get it). We had carefully arranged for them to walk home (across the street) from school so I could still be in bed at 3pm when they returned and made themselves a snack. Now I am up and dressed and sometimes have even MADE A SNACK FOR THEM so we can head out to tennis or volleyball.  There are many days that I listen to Steve coaching the fifth grade DI team during the time that I could have fit “late nap” into my packed schedule. There are days that I coach the fifth grade DI team. On those days I miss my nap most of all.

It is almost as if I am a grown up. I work and get paid (part time…very little). I know what is going on in the world (through the eyes of one liberal news outlet). I exercise (if you can call a stroll a workout…and you can.) I drive my kids to activities (when I can find them…the kids and the activities.) I even do things like make doctors appointments and  manage rental properties. There are days that the mail only stays ignored on the floor for a single hour. The next thing I know I will start answering the phone. Ha. Never.

In my life of loafing I have found that it is exhausting to be awake. Despite being tired the modest accomplishment of staying vertical during the daylight seems to pay off for the whole family. Making it through an entire day with open eyes has opened my eyes to the grace of competency. And it makes nighttime snuggles even sweeter.

Present Tense

Don't say a word.
Don’t say a word.

There are times I feel younger than my age because of weird enthusiasms. Like when I lean in with glee to hear about a friends sexual interludes, or when I joke about nutsacks with my kids, and obviously when I pretend the pool cue is a tail and trot oddly around the game room.

Then there are times when I feel about 16 for more sickly reasons. I measure up my outfits against other moms at school pick up, I force myself to stay late at a party for fear I will miss something, and when I rebel against an assignment as if someone were trying to lure me into their basement and feed me only salad for the rest of my life. Or something equally terrifying.

In my early college years I walked around with perpetual writers block. I was surprised I could even move my body there were so many words stuck inside my head. I thought my condition was emanating from me like waves and wanted to warn people away from me for fear it was contagious.  They were magical creatures these other students who could do things like start writing, stop to pee or even go to the gym and then START AGAIN. What was this madness?

Since leaving school I have lived a life without assignments.

Any deadlines I have are self imposed. The work I do changes with the month and my mood. There are things I have started and finished, and many more I have started and stopped. Never to START AGAIN.

My wordpress blog dashboard is full of drafts. Probably a ratio of 4:1 to the posts I publish. My blogging style fits me.

  1. I write,
  2. I publish.
  3. There is no three.

I skip the hard part. The review and improvement. The changes small and large. The rules of grammar. The need to weave in a different perspective for a different day.

For the past year I have been sucking at writing a book. This thing is terrible. Unreadable. I have plugged away though, sometimes even reflecting and rewriting. Occasionally I add structure that might (in theory) make it understandable to someone other than me. One day I might do something with it. For now I am using it as practice, a place to experiment with voice, and even more so with a more disciplined version of writing. It is a story from my past. One I want and need to explore but it can come slowly. No has any expectations for a product. Not even me.

This month I got back into writing short form work. I have a spreadsheet where I track the things I submit. Some are syndicated versions of posts I have made public on my blog. Others are originals. In contrast to my larger project I am trying to write in the present tense. Which is presently making me tense.

Last week I sent a query letter to an editor at a The Good Men Project. In the body of the email I spat out a writing sample. It rolled out in a single sitting. I was pleased when she asked to publish that piece as is with just a title change. There is nothing better than writing something and never having to see it again. I wanted this piece to stay in the past.

This time I was wrong though. It got a fair amount of shares through their website and has been picked up by several other outlets for syndication. This is good. Except for the ways it is not good. It means I have had to reread the piece and realize (how could I not have known) that it set in the past and written in the past tense. Worse than that the longer life of this piece means I had to answer truthfully my mother in law’s question about the topic of my article (sex with her son. Except I just said sex. Which was slightly less horrifying.) It means a few other websites have approached me about writing for them. I realize that I should be putting this last one in the good list.

But I am like a sucky 16 year old so I won’t.

I reply politely and with fairly good grammar to each inquiry email. When they ask for a pitch I send a pitch. Guess what happens next?

They ask me to write what I told them I would write.

It turns out this is crushingly hard. I look at the listicle  one outlet has asked me to write. The entire thing was 80% finished in my reply email. I cut and pasted that to a word document. Were it has taunted me for two days. Who knew a chipper little list could be so angry.

“Finish me.”

“I don’t hear anything”

“Finish me.”

“I don’t even have the words to write you, how can you have the words to mock me?”

“Finish me.”

“Fuck you.”


This piece (like the other three I have agreed to write) was my idea and sport my deadline. That doesn’t seem to matter at all. I might as well be a college kid again, fighting against Psych and Poly Sci., kicking and screaming against the invisible force that wants to tie me down, limit my topics and my time.

It doesn’t seem to matter that that force is me.

My past on the page was not perfect and my present seems to be just as tense.

We are we?

Yesterday I watched Leo lie in the dentist chair receiving his first filling. After a fair amount of thought we agreed to the nitrous oxide. He lay outstretched, nose covered by a grape flavored mask, mouth stretched by dental tools, eyes wrapped in sunglasses to shield him from the bright light. I found myself looking away from his face, at his still tanned legs. Looking at scrapes, and pen marks that told the story of his last few months. He is a newly eight year old. He is my son. He is not a patient his legs told me. Except he was. In regular life I am more than a mom, although I don’t know exactly what else, and in this small room I am only a mom. He is only a patient. The dentist and her assistant refer to me as “mom” whether it is for Leo’s sake or theirs that is what I have become. I am fine with that. For now I really am only a mom. I don’t exist outside this chair. There is something about medical care, even something as benign and quick as a filling, that strips away all of our other identifiers. We don’t live beyond that room.

It makes me think of other moms. Moms whose kids are acutely ill, who spend not hours but days and weeks and months in the hospital. How do they keep their kids whole? Battling both the disease and the separateness from real life that keeps us away from the activities and responsibilities that define us.

Moving to a new place, spending my time in different ways, and being asked at school pick up and dinner parties what it is that I do has set off a newly old string of questions.

Can you be a writer if you don’t write? Can you be an investor if the last check you wrote was a month ago? Can you be any one thing?

How much are our current actions tied to our current sense of self? And how much can we and do we rely on our past as identity and guide?

It is the difference between the noun and the verb.

One of my new friends in Colorado lost her sister years ago. The exact number of years ago that she had been alive. So each day from now on makes more life lived as an only child than as a sister. But does that make her an only child? Certainly not. Is she still a sister? Can you sister in your mind?

I wanted to have three children. I wanted the act of brothering to be multiple, so each relationship was unique between two, but the definition of a sibling was based on a few. Like being a daughter was for me.

I was such a different daughter to my father than my mother. Adoring, attentive, amused. It seems anathema now as I am alternately tolerant and bitchy, curious and judgmental, open and closed to my mom. It is a living relationship with the contrasts of most, changed by the weather of my mind. And hers.

I am a daughter. I am a daughter to my mom. I am my father’s daughter. It is woven into me. But can I be his daughter when I don’t daughter?

My father would rule a room. Seated at the head of the table he would command attention by being provocative, or introducing a novel idea, or just being mean. All eyes were on him. I have a bit of that now. One on one I am a real friend, listening and talking, remembering dates and events and following up and through. In a group I am the entertainer. Afterwards I am tired, I tell myself to listen more, leave jokes untold.

I don’t think of myself as a social spark. But at some point do our actions start to tell the story more than the descriptions in our minds.

Oliver was a Vermonter. Just a few months ago he lived there, and in his mind he will again. Eventually he will be able to control that, but for now he talks about Camel’s Hump and maple creemees, he talks about his old school’s jog- a thon, and the fall weather. We moved a lot within the same town, so his home became broader than our walls. His sense of place was the state. Is he still a Vermonter? By the twist of an early birth he was born in Massachusetts, but he forgave himself because he was living where he was meant to be. Now without an origin or a present he is Vermontless. And he feels like less because of it.

Is he a Vermonter? Will he always be?

How much of our sense of self comes from the verb?

Who ARE we?


Every time the rumors of IBM layoffs come around I hit zillow will a new fervor, imagining a time in the not too distant future when IBM lets go of the hardware fab in Essex, and thus lets go of Steve.

He is usually reassuring, but these rumors are coming more frequently and the cuts are going deeper, so this time around he isn’t putting a stop to my research.

That said I have a few possible post Shelburbia sites. I need feedback, I don’t know many of these communities well.

I am a bit of the princess and the pea about this potential move. We love it here. Except the weather, and the impending unemployment. Generally I am seeking the impossible, a place that is affordable, liberal, charming, with great school, wonderful weather, easy access to stunning natural beauty and a robust job market. Quite a few of these criteria offset. I want Shelburne in the bay area. I’m pretty sure it is not there. Here are the contenders:

  • Bay area- Berkeley to Mill Valley. Upside: huge tech job market, a handful of friends already there, liberal, gorgeous natural areas, ability to grow fruit. Downside: public schools have a mixed reputation (for NOW Ty), and so so so so expensive. Even with a 45 minute/hour commute you can buy more space, but not for much less than 1 million dollars.
  • Chattanooga- Upside: Rising community, new food and beer scene, urban camping, even more affordable than Vermont, great weather with seasons still in evidence, Chris, Kim and the cutest boy baby on earth. Downside: Its TN, job market is not a big improvement over VT.
  • Asheville- Upside: Weather, access to nature, liberal artsy, foodie town. Good public school very close to downtown, charming small town feel within easy commute of the “city.” Cost of living only slightly higher than Vermont. Downside: No friends or family, job market is not a big improvement over Vermont.
  • Austin- Upside: Great tech job market that continues to grow, have another family we could probably convince to relocate with us, no need to search for housing for SXSW, neighborhoods all have pools and easy walks to good schools. Downside: Weather is equally challenging as Vermont just in opposite world. Texas isn’t the most liberal state. Those neighborhoods look like little worms and are bordered by 4 lane strip mall filled misery corridors.
  • San Diego- Carlsbad- Upside: Moderately good tech market, Steve has friends there, we could grow citrus. Downside: Its the desert. I don’t like stucco, the houses we can afford will only have the land they stand on. New England to Southern California might cause some sort of version of relocation Bends.
  • Mass tech corridor south of Boston- Upside: Good job market, good public schools, easy access to my mother, aunt and uncle and foxboro. That’s the Patriots for those of you who don’t know. We could afford a reasonable house there. Downside: I already moved away from Mass. The weather is not much of an improvement, but you do get a bit of spring in the place of mudseason.
  • Seattle- Upside: Good job market, at least one close friend, possibilty of convincing other people to relocate with us, great views and outdoor access. Downside. Rain is possibly worse than cold. Every house I look at has moss growing everywhere. That means it is WET.
  • Portland OR- Upside: Liberal, Burlington’s big brother, friends and family- including Val and the cutest girl baby on earth. Downside. See Seattle weather. Job market is not a big enough improvment to relocate on spec.
  • Raleigh/Durham- Upside: Strong tech job market, really nice weather still with seasons. Downside: we know no one, the liberal areas near the colleges are unaffordable.
  • Denver- Upside: Sunshine. Architecturally interesting neighborhoods within a walkable city, with reasonable prices. We have good friends there, including Oliver’s best friend so one kid would not be heartbroken over moving. Downside: More jobs than BTV but not known for tech. Still snow. And cold. Although less cold. Schools are a mixed bag.

Now I need help. Do you know anything about these places? Even better do you know another place that should be on the list? Best still do you want to hire Steve? He is an electrical engineer with an MBA and project manager certification. He lives with me so can get along with anyone. He is smart, organized and manages billion dollar deals including working with the combined misery of big blue and the government.

Which means he is the only person I know that doesn’t loathe red tape.

Maybe we can get some of that for the boxes.


Quick quiz

Which element is most egregious…(overheard at a virtual conference)

1. Using nouns as verbs…when an actual verb exists. “Let’s see if we can find a way to solution this before January.”

2. Overestimating their ability to flex the space time continuum. “We have decided as an organization not to change the way we have done things in the past.”

3. Solutioning problems of their own making. Entire conference is about competing IBM technologies to allow virtual conferencing. This Solutioning is taking place over a virtual conference to which some of them fail be able to log on. This actual problem is not addressed, instead each caller talks about their current use case of the software. Everyone determines the redundancy of these redundant solutions. While taking notes the current solution stops Solutioning. The demo fails. Nothing is determined. Redundant solutions will continue on their parallel tracks for n number of years. Where n = ?


Procrastination, perfectionism, depression

Go head and click these links if you want to understand the references. If you don’t click this will go faster and be a less effective procrastination tool.

Why procrastinators procrastinate. (more like how…but its mostly brilliant so we can let that go.)

Procrastination monkey

How to beat procrastination. (Or start to beat it…)

Years ago I was planning to build a procrastination app but I never got around to it. As much as that sounds like a 2010 iOS conference punchline it is the truth. I wanted an app for that.

I wrote about this at length in college, when I was supposed to be writing papers. How I would plan plan plan my projects, do just enough work to show myself how on track I was for success and then ignore the plans until the last possible hour (panic monster arrival) then churn out the work and get an A-. I called it an A – effort, but in fact it was procrastination. The Verb to the crippling mental state of perfectionism.

By allowing myself little time to work any less than triumphant outcome was a result of timing, rather than my skill and brilliance. The fact that time management in and of itself was a skill was not lost on me, rather shoved in the closet along with abstemiousness, maintenance, and other less sparkly practices.

WBW talks about the dark playground. Here is a picture for you non-link clickers.

Look at those fun rides
Look at those fun rides


As I get older the dark playground shares a parking lot with procrastination station. Where activities and commitments masquarade as adult pursuits but in fact keep me from making concrete commitments to things that could count as personal achievements.

Here I am going to spend an hour making the train cars of procrastination station. Wait for me.

It only took 5 minutes because I did a crappy job. WIN!
It only took 5 minutes because I did a crappy job. WIN!

Of course there is place for all of those train cars. When you get on them from the “civic mindedness” station that shares the parking lot with the happy playground. If Id rather meddle in community business than watch TV (who am I kidding here) then good for me. But this is not where I boarded the train. I shut down google earth and pet rescue and re-categorizing my blog posts to do all this great volunteerism.

What is missing is self care. Not the fun kind of self care. I have spa days, and date nights, retreats with friends, and freehand drawing classes at design/build centers. The kind of self care that takes specific planning and one brick building kind of maintenance. Jogging to improve heart function. Adding in healthy food to push out calories. Earning money instead of consulting with businesses for free.

The discipline I have been practicing lately (now that I have quit : mediation, walking, running, yoga, buying and selling antiques, app design, interior design consulting, color picking) is writing this blog 5 times a week. Even if I don’t want to. This had seemed like a specific goal (one brick) in the road to being paid to write. For someone. Somewhere. About one of my many areas of expertise. Without doing any research. Sure I don’t always like to write here. But does doing something I don’t like act as a step against procrastination?

I’m not sure.

I am sure that I have been procrastinating for as long as I have felt depressed. For those of you who clicked the link and couldn’t relate to the monkey and the dark playground I first say. Wow. What must that feel like?

He writes about the pain and unhappiness of procrastination, and how it is tied into our sense of self esteem and self worth. What he doesn’t write about it how HARD it is. It takes a vigilance to procrastinate every project. Almost an elective paralysis. A LOT of brainpower and brain space. Much like depression.

I wonder about the links between these three states: perfectionism, depression, and procrastination. They all seem to have scope creep, fear, and vigilance in common. They are missing the matter-of fact attitude that makes me a great mom. If I have doubt or fear I say fuck it. I trust my kid, I trust this world. Competence is innate. Fearfulness is learned. And so far they are thriving. I don’t need to re-write their storylines.

How to be more matter of fact? This is not a concrete goal. The little monkey is rubbing his hands together gleefully. Yes, Anna, he says. Lets become “matter of fact.” Good one. I’ll file that next to “heart healthy”. See you tonight in the dark playground. He has plans…Scandal + pet rescue + checking blog stats. While rubbing Leo’s head. An excellent evening.

Are any of you procrastinators? Really really good ones? Are you perfectionists? Depressed?

Heads up, shut down.

It was a very social weekend, he tells me. I read into this and try to pry more details out of him. This friend keeps things to himself effortlessly, so this is about as effective as asking Bellichick for an injury update. (Can any of you tell me how I have been a rabid Patriots fan for 20 years and have not learned how to spell our head coaches name? No?) There is a bit of something there though, so I work on the nail with my screwdriver, unequipped to get the job done. He sums up his non story like this: “I think I might just have my head up these days.”

I know what he means.

There are times when we are aware and everything feels possible. Our town delights us with new restaurants, the act of mulching around a bush feels like a gift to the neighborhood, the people sitting in the cafe look engaged and intelligent, each a possible friend or colleague. Posters show concerts, pop up dinners, pumpkin patches, and fundraising runs. I want in on each of them.

Quick meetings leave to do lists that are evenly distributed, easily accomplished and with community wide pay off.

The row of closed doors don’t represent lives unled, but lives yet to be led. Knock and enter, or just barge in. See what is back there, get messy with it and make something. These are the good days, the heads up days.

Then in a phone call the I come crashing down to earth. The accountant has finally gotten through to the IRS after the shut down and amongst other unsavory details informs me that the interest meter was running during the shut down. I want to howl with the unfairness of it all. I took a risk, tried to create a product to help families, poured time and money into it. The worst part of the audit has been revisiting my efforts. I really tried to make Marble Jar work. Conferences, sponsorships, blogger outreach, many many marketing efforts and product refinement. So many. Now, not only did I lose over $100,000, but the IRS is claiming it was not a business but a hobby. If I can’t prove that it is a business by providing contracts (bank statements and Amex statements don’t count) for each of my expenses then not only will I owe $16,000 for 2011 but will have to go back to 2010 and ahead to 2012, and there will be interest and penalties to pay. This is after I paid over $250,000 in taxes. And for fucks sake this is the worst hobby on earth.

When I quit things early it is a protective mechanism. Quitting is less painful than failing. But this research into 2011 puts me face to face with failure. A piece of me still believes that if I try hard enough I can do anything. I don’t want to disabuse myself of that idea. It is what makes me take risks, and believe in my kids. Its hard to nurture that belief when I revisit an above and beyond effort that failed so spectacularly that the IRS claims it was never a business venture at all.

I’ve got my nose to the door and my eye to the keyhole, but from the outside the reverse fisheye makes everything so small and far away.

Possible has turned to impossible, curiosity to my own kind of shut down. I wonder why any of us put ourselves out there.

We may want in, but staying out seems safer…it might just save us an audit.

It is easier to keep our heads down. I’m just not sure easier is better.

Possibilities, or dead ends?
Possibilities, or dead ends?