I wrote this stream-of-consciousness and haven't edited or condensed this yet. I'm just talking it out, out loud. Yep, I know it's a public post... but I fucked up the other day and I own it... and I'm trying to work out my thoughts here by typing them out.
Didja ever have something really frustrating happen, and you vent about it, and once you've gotten it off your chest, you've pretty much forgotten about it? Like, the act of venting pops the proverbial zit, it heals, and then you're done?
That's what venting is for. And we vent to our pals about stuff. That's one of many many neat things that pals are for. And that's also what blogs are for... and blog pals. :-)
Another thing blogs are good for is for feeling connected to people when you may have a hard time seeing folks. Like, I don't really like thinking about what I'm about to type in this here paragraph because it depresses me, but it's a fact that Matt and I are pretty isolated. When his belly issues started in 2012, we couldn't go out as much. And then what seems like one day in February 2015 the belly issues stopped and were replaced by unspeakably awful anxiety attacks, and then we really couldn't go out any longer. When we would try to go out we'd always have to leave early, so eventually we just stopped going out. The few times we tried inviting people over instead, Matt would still end up having an anxiety attack (I'm not looking for a cause or diagnosis here), so we just stopped inviting people over. And understandably, people have stopped inviting us to things because they/we just know we'll either have to cancel beforehand or leave shortly after we arrive. So we don't really see people any longer unless it's for a rehearsal or a gig. Matt has friends he talks to on the phone, but I don't really. I also don't have coworkers, and my family all lives hours away, so I am pretty isolated. I'm not on Facebook, so this blog (and barely Twitter) is pretty much my main connection to other people.
I've been keeping an online blog since the mid-90s, since before the word "blog" was even used. I once had a creepy neighbor discover my old llij.net blog, and he saw me in person one day and told me how close he felt to me because he read what I wrote. But he didn't know me-- he just knew those teeny moments and ideas I shared. This spooked me out a bit, and shortly thereafter I switched to LiveJournal, which had the ability to lock certain posts down so only a small subset of people could see it. You could have public posts too, of course, and you could also even lock things to be completely private, for those rare things I didn't want to bounce off any friends but still wanted to immortalize on electrons. :-)
But when you don't see someone very often but you read something they've written, it's logical to assume that what they're written is some deeply-held sacred belief or life philosophy... when it could just be the brain-fart du jour.
LiveJournal ("LJ") got bought by the Russians a few years ago, and since Russia does not believe in https, we all abandoned ship since no privacy could be assured there. OnePostWonder ("OPW") was born, and we've all built a nice cozy home here. It's not as huge as LJ was, but most of my LJ pals (many of whom are IRL pals) made the jump to OPW, so it's good here. (Plus I love and trust the people who built it.)
I've always loved writing, though I know I'm not that great at it. I switch tenses all the time, I change I/you/they prounouns constantly because I write in a very stream-of-consciousness way. And I'm long-winded as hell (plus I start sentences with conjunctions-- heavens!). But I blog as a way to just shoot the shit, but also so I have a way to work out some things I'm thinking about, and to share some general life happenings.
Anyhoo, you may recall I wrote a post the other day where I vented about a very frustrating night at a restaurant where an acquaintance's kids (two daughters) misbehaved and it upset not only people at our table, but also a group of strangers who had to sit in our semi-private section because it was a busy night. I wound up buying the strangers' dinner (nobody put me up to it) because they were in my direct line of sight and I could see how upset they were over how often they were getting bumped into and squealed at by the kids, and I felt the mom (I called her "S") wasn't doing anything to control her kids. Plus, this kicked Matt into one of the worst panic attacks he's ever had, and he left the restaurant early. I had assumed he went to sit and cry in the car (which he always does), but when I got outside after I quickly said goodbye to folks, I found him wandering the far end of the shopping center speaking gibberish and spinning in circles, arms flailing. I wish I was exaggerating. It was really upsetting.
In S's defense, her daughters were super-happy. I think maybe parents tend to correct their kids when they're being skootchy or annoying or hitting, but when they're squeeing and giggling and dancing (OK, and climbing the walls and trying to do cartwheels) maybe you don't worry about it because they're chipper, maybe it's hard to see that as misbehaving. I dunno, that's just a guess... I'm not a parent.
Anyway, when I wrote that post, I really let loose. I was raw. We had just gotten home and I had finally gotten Matt calmed down and in bed, where he was still punching himself in the head and speaking nonsense words, moreso than usual. It was a particularly awful panic attack (he said later it was one of the worst, if not the worst one, he's ever had), made even worse by the fact that we were so sure going into the night that he wasn't going to have one. We don't get to go out anymore, but that night the stars had this magical alignment and he was actually OK, and we felt normal and hopeful for the first time in a very, very long time. I was so, so angry to have had that taken away... and I was so so angry because I felt that this could have been avoided.
What do I know.
Maybe I'm delusional and maybe Matt was destined to have a panic attack all along. Why should that night have been any different? Maybe we're idiots for having hope anymore.
So I vented. I was frustrated. Not only was I trying to piece Matt back together again, I was also out over $100 for the strangers' meals... and I was annoyed that the strangers never even smiled to say a silent "thank you." Nuthin'. And then I felt guilty that my friends bought my and Matt's dinners because they knew I bought the strangers' dinners. I wasn't trying to cost anyone extra money! So I was angry, and embarrassed, and annoyed, and sad, and hurt, and crushed, and disappointed. And those were all valid feelings, and I don't feel bad for having them.
But in my venting in my blog post, I did something awful. Legitimately, genuinely awful, and something I feel deeply sorry for. I called S, the mom of the rowdy daughters some awful, awful things in my blog post. I was vicious. I was beyond harsh. I used words that may have felt justified in the moment but were absolutely NOT OK.
It's one thing to hate the behavior... it's another thing to hate the person.
And the truth is, I don't hate the person at all. Never did. After I wrote what I wrote, the venting was over, we commented on it here, and bloop-- I forgot all about it.
Right? Haven't you ever vented about something and then forgotten about it? That's what venting is for. Once it's vented, it's over. It's a non-issue. If someone were to bring it up again, I'd say "Yeah, that night was a shit-show," but if I saw S the next day I'd say hello like everything was fine, because everything is fine, and I don't hate and never did hate her. Sure, I was pissed in the moment, and I reaaaaaallllly wish the night played out differently, and I shot my big dumb mouth off on my blog and let my New Jersey out, but then I got over it once it was out of my system. Humans are wonderfully resilient that way.
But due to my blog entry, a bunch of strangers on OPW now think that S is some awful human being, though she is not. (Not that 99.9% of you know or will ever know who S is... but still... that's negativity the world doesn't need.)
But if you don't know me very well, or if you don't see me that often and you read my post, you'd think I was gonna set this lady on fire. You might think, "My god, I've never known Jill to hate anyone like this. This is upsetting and concerning." And I could see why you'd think that, and I wouldn't blame you. (Sure, I'd hope you'd give me the benefit of the doubt, but I could also understand why you wouldn't.)
And this Benefit of the Doubt thing:
This is where I went wrong, and for what I feel awful: In the moment of blogging, I never gave S the benefit of the doubt. I went straight for the jugular; I chose vicious. I didn't say "I wish her behavior was different," I said "She is a fucking piece of shit." I didn't say, "Man, she had a lapse in judgment that night," I said "She has shitty fucking parenting skills." (or something like that.) I didn't separate the actions from the soul. I judged her as a human. I called her such awful things that it could almost even be viewed as an insult to everyone else at the dinner. If S was such a complete piece of shit then everyone else at dinner must be too since they're all friends with her. Only shit likes shit, amirite?
This is not okay.
To be clear, I don't regret my description of what happened at dinner. It was factually accurate from my viewpoint-- I was watching stuff happen because I could see the whole room from my seat. But I deeply, deeply regret what I said after I described the events of the evening... where I got personal. I called names. I judged.
As if you couldn't tell, I've been really reflecting on that evening and its blog post and my word choices, as well as my description of the night's events.
And check this nugget out:
There were two moms there; Julie is Kit's mom, and then there was S and her two daughters. The truth of the matter is Kit was behaving just as inappropriately and was just as rambunctious as S's daughters, but I described Julie and Kit as "fine" because I know Julie and I love Julie very much... so I naturally cut her some slack in my judgment. I didn't mention Kit's climbing or cartwheel attempts or windowsill dancing once in that post... because I know Julie is a good person who tries hard, so I didn't throw her under the blog bus. But S? I don't know her so FUCK HER-- SHE MUST BE A TERRORIST. Whaaaa? Hey Jill you asshole... YOU may not know S., but everyone else does, and she wouldn't have been invited if people didn't love her very much. So just because you Jill don't know her, maybe you should cut her the same slack you cut for Julie and Kit. They are clearly deserving of slack and basic human fucking decency, instead of coming out guns blazing.
So I've been soul searching ever since I realized what I had done.
And I really think this is the crux of what sucks with the world and the USA today. So many of us are all so quick to vilify those we don't know... but that person we're vilifying is someone's friend, someone's daughter, someone's sister, someone's mother. Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to "other-ize" people, or to "well they should just"-ize people. It ain't that easy. If they "could just," wouldn't they?
If anyone called any of you the things I called S, whether you made a mistake or not, I'd set them on fire.
It's actually a very very minor subplot-point that I completely accidentally made that post a public post (that I have just friends-locked an hour ago), and S's dear friend saw it and got very understandably upset... so upset that she didn't want to speak with me so her husband brought it up to me. (S's dear friend and husband were not at dinner; they had heard from other attendees that dinner was a shitshow, and I think it got mentioned on Facebook... but my OPW post was the only place where someone (me!) was vitriolic and horrible.) I'm not angry at the dear friend who got upset, and I'm not angry at her husband for telling me... and I'm not angry at anyone else who may have seen the post and shared it. I'm angry at myself.
I fucked up. I own it. I'm genuinely sorry. I am using this as a learning experience and as an opportunity for growth... which sounds douchey, but I am totally sincere here.
This is not one of those things where I'm apologizing because I'm sorry I got caught.
In some lumpy way, I'm almost happy (?) I got caught, because it's forced me to have a VERY uncomfortable look at this thing I sometimes do without thinking about the larger impact it's having.
So while I'm damning S for doing something without realizing the larger impact it's having, I'm doing the same thing like a hypocritical fuckstick. And I've gotta knock it off. If you wanna make the world a better place ya gotta look at yourself and make a change, yo.
So yeah, I'm not apologizing because I got caught. And I'm not apologizing because people are upset.
I'm apologizing because I'm sorry for judging this person so harshly instead of cutting them some slack. I'm sorry for being a judgy asshole and jumping to the worst possible conclusion without even considering any other possibility. I denied her her humanity. How fucking shitty is that?
Sure, her actions almost definitely caused bad times for me and Matt, and caused other people to have an uncomfortable, awkward, unpleasant night. But nobody is perfect. You need to separate the person from the actions until you have hard, ongoing, consistent, repeatable proof that the questionable actions are an actual character trait and not just someone having a bad night or a one-time lapse of judgment. We all have bad days. We all make mistakes. We all deserve forgiveness.
I hope people will extend me the same courtesy.
I have some apology emails to write.
(This post was typed stream-of-consciousness and has not been edited or condensed.)