The world is not atomized

To be clear, I DID IT, TOO

Several years ago, I briefly joined a Facebook group for administrators of inspirational pages. I was deeply discomfited by the group, members of which spent much more time talking about how to get more page and post likes than how to inspire people. The proper formula at that time was just the right quote pasted on just the right pretty picture; many admins were perturbed when sharing algorithms changed so that Facebook began sharing fewer pictures.

Troubled, I wrote that I didn’t feel inspiration resided in the number of people able to see a post. Maybe one person who really needed to see a post would see it, and than an “unsuccessful” post would’ve made a world of difference to that one person. The good it worked on them would ripple outward in lovely ways, so that a post’s reach would go far beyond what some statistic on Facebook revealed.

Each post I read there left me more unnerved. I couldn’t articulate the feeling then, but it was a sensation like: We’re putting numbers over people. This technology is turning us into marketers and targets, not humans engaging with other humans.

I left the group. I eventually left Facebook, too, and found myself better able to see human beings in all their splendor after doing so.

I was on and off Twitter. I even ended up deleting my Instagram account last November, after realizing that, too, was somehow messing up how I perceived real people. In December, I wrote in “Sunlight & friends“:

Something delightful happened after I deleted my Instagram account last month: I stopped thinking of my friends as the two-dimensional representations they share there, and started remembering them as who my heart knows them to be.

I hadn’t even realized I’d been boiling them down to their most superficial selves until I was no longer doing it.

Reading a copy of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business last week, I was floored to find old concerns addressed with such deference to history, present, and future. That’s to say, in 1985, a scholar I’d never heard of was publishing a book that’d help 2017 me begin to find words for things I felt silly for finding disturbing. Read more…

Hope in the Dark

In 2015, my goal was to read one book per month. I barely reached it, but was glad to have beat my 2014 reading. Having grown up immersed in books, it depressed me to have lost my stamina for reading.

This part-year, by contrast, I’ve already read almost twenty books. I’ve crammed in minutes of reading wherever I could, trying to learn more about the many connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Understanding these connections has felt pivotal for being able to describe them, especially those least intuitive, and perhaps find ways to help effect much needed, positive change within and outside my home country.

I spent several months last year in a state of genuine shock at the world I saw uncovered by my book reading. I’d vaguely understood there were some injustices happening somewhere out there, but only began to comprehend their scope and scale last summer. Seeing how many millions of people have suffered and died needlessly, whether of hunger or treatable illness here or bombs and drones abroad–for decades, under command of U.S. Republicans and Democrats alike–sent me toppling into despair.

I don’t regret raging. I don’t regret grappling aloud with my despair. These are understandable, even appropriate responses to discovering what great and sweeping cruelties have been and are being worked by my country right now.

Even when the shock finally wore off, anger and great sadness lingered. I stumbled forward with little hope, desperate but clueless about how to start working effectively now for a better world for my children … indeed, everyone on this planet.

Genuine hope finally found me a few weeks ago. It came (wouldn’t you know it?) in the form of a book. Read more…

my wings have grown

thumbnail_2hofu12.jpgGathering pictures 
to present on my time in Japan,
I found a photo of myself
in front of the floating torii
of Miyajima

I was there. Of course
I remember my awe
standing before
that gate (between
the profane and
the sacred); still,
seeing myself
there inspired
a rush

That all really
happened! I didn’t
just dream it!
Read more…

Fortunate

I graduated from law school in 2004. I had no interest in practicing law, so I moved to Japan and taught English there instead. Though I was supposedly the teacher, I learned a lot and had a blast.

I moved back to my hometown for family reasons and took a job temping in a small HR office. Job opportunities did not abound, so I was simply glad I could pay my bills. I felt the same when I took on a temporary administrative role at a larger company before long. I sucked at it, but did my best to find silver linings, of which there were many.

As my temporary admin gig neared its conclusion, a woman I’d met exactly once offered to take me onto her team as an admin. I sent her a copy of my resume; once she saw I’d gone to law school, she became determined to get me negotiating software contracts on her team. I rejected at first, saying I’d have taken the Bar if I wanted to do anything law-related.

She persisted, thank God. I soon began negotiating contracts, and felt (happily) challenged for the first time in years. I loved learning about hardware and software, which I had to do to be effective at negotiating. I enjoyed negotiating and was grateful to have an encouraging, supportive manager nudging me outside my comfort zone.

I worked on software contracts for a decade. Then, two years ago tomorrow, I began working as a software licensing contractor. My commute to a full-time job with great benefits was just too long. I accepted job uncertainty as a small cost compared to the benefit of not spending four hours in my car daily.

My first few months as a contractor were deeply uncomfortable. There was a lot of ambiguity, which frustrated me until I took it upon myself to lessen the ambiguity. If anyone didn’t like how I was doing that, I figured, they’d be sure to tell me. 

Taking risks, I found myself growing. I found joy in that growing, though I’d started out discombobulated.

As that contract wound down, an opening came up for a software asset management position. I seized the opportunity. Sure, I’d never done it before and didn’t know a thing about helping ensure neither too many nor too few licenses were procured, but I knew I’d grow. I knew that any frustration I felt at being a noob the first few months would be counterbalanced by the ultimate joy of learning.

I “knew,” but I didn’t really know. ‘Cause, see, I had no idea how much I’d learn, nor how much I’d be encouraged to learn. I couldn’t have fathomed how much support I’d have, nor how mistakes would be treated as just a part of the journey of learning. I had no idea what it’d be like to feel genuine psychological safety for the first time in my life, among a team that makes me laugh while pushing me to do better every day.

I took a risk two years ago tomorrow, and another one fifteen months ago. Because of those risks, my whole life feels so much richer than it did two years ago. For how rough my life began, it’s pretty rad now.

This is all a necessary background for another story to come. For now, though, I want to say that I am more fortunate than I sometimes remember.

I’m thankful to be challenged to remember this.

Where software and clothing converge

For many months, I lost touch with the physical world while immersing myself in a virtual political one. To sustain that, I had too much coffee and too much beer; coupled with the fact I was no longer getting outside to move, I gained a lot of weight. 

I’m not too concerned with my weight as an isolated factor. I see it as a symptom, not itself a problem. Happily, after almost four years of figuring out which foods hurt my body and which ones heal it, I know exactly how to tackle the root causes of my feeling-crappy-ness. Doing so, I’ll feel much, much better … and my weight will change as a result.

What had bugged me, then? My clothing! I got to the point where I had four skirts and zero pairs of pants that fit me. I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money in clothing I’d only wear once or twice, so I spent a month wearing my least favorite clothing before deciding I had to change something.

How, I wondered, could I spend only a few dollars to cover a transition period? The answer came to me by virtue of my work in software licensing.

For ages, most companies bought their own hardware to run their software. Maintaining hardware was expensive and time-consuming, so that cloud computing was pretty exciting: all the software benefits, none of the hardware costs!*

Using software in the cloud, someone else has to maintain the hardware. With that “someone else” investing in all that infrastructure, the client company can use a little or a lot of hardware capacity … without having to constantly worry about hardware itself.

In a word, cloud computing offers easy scalability.

I needed that, but in clothing–something that would easily scale up and down with its hardware (me).

You know what provides scalability? Maternity clothes!

I bought a few pairs of pants and a few pairs of shorts. For the first time in a month or so, I actually felt good in what I was wearing.

It cost me all of $40, and will keep me covered across many sizes.

So, hey! Here’s to scalability, and making small investments to feel a little better now!

* There are plenty of other costs, by the way. Just don’t expect techies to care too much while oohing and aahing over new technologies!

Categories: Health, Learning Tags: ,

Books, family, love

A few months ago, my family happened across a used bookstore that was going out of business. The store’s lovely, kid-friendly owners couldn’t afford the rent, which had just been jacked up something like 50%.

My husband, sons, and I bought a couple of boxes full of books that day. Before we left, my husband signed up for the owners’ school book fair mailing list. It’s a good thing he did, too!

A few days ago, he got a great email about the bookstore. First, there’d been such an outpouring of love for Camelot Books, its owners had decided to open up shop somewhere else a few months down the road. The store wouldn’t be closing down for good. Woo-hoo!

Second, there wouldn’t be enough space to store their inventory in the meantime. With thousands of books still left, the real sale had begun! 

My family and I returned to the store yesterday, eventually leaving with one enormous box of books for only about fifty dollars. We left, too, with memories of another hour spent surrounded by books, love, and each other … and the elation of knowing this bookstore will continue, and with it a joy that has little to do with physical location.

Categories: Books, Family, Love Tags: , , ,

Hair, just a fraction

“Mama?” my seven-year-old, Li’l D, spoke.

“Yep?”

“My friend [M] said that the difference between my hair and [my little brother, Littler J’s] is that his is way bigger because it hasn’t been cut for a while.”

“That’s one difference,” I said. “Another is that his hair is fine, while your hair is …” I searched for the right word, understanding many words that seem neutral in the dictionary are charged in living color.

“Your hair is thick,” I concluded.

“Which is better?” Li’l D asked plaintively.

“Oh, sweetie,” I said, ruffling his thicker curls. “Neither is better. When I was little, my only friend who wasn’t my sibling–Topaz–had curly hair. I was so jealous of her curly hair. Then again, she wished she had my straight hair.”

Li’l D looked at his brother’s hair and half-smiled. “Oh.”

I don’t know if he believes me now. I don’t know if he’ll believe me later. I only know that (1) pre-pregnancy me of eight years ago wouldn’t have understood “dog whistles,” or the ways politicians invoke race without ever explicitly mentioning it, and (2) I believe it through-and-through. His curls are lovely. His brother’s curls are lovely.

One brother’s curls are fine. Another brother’s curls are coarse.

Both brothers are beautiful; either’s hair, only a fraction of that.

 

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