Happy 5th Birthday to us! (and a Facebook fight in an unexpected place)
Write on Fight on turns 5 years old this week!
Published on July 31, 2015, my first post “College Application Essay Tip: Don’t Sweat the Prompt”, was a 206 word bore I’m sure no one ever read.
I cringe when I read it now.
It’s like looking at an old photograph of yourself– preferably a photograph from those awkward years– acne, braces, a questionable hair style paired with questionable clothes. You can’t help but shake your head and cringe and wish you could go back, put a thumb over the camera lens, and prevent the picture from ever been taken.
That’s how I feel when I look back at my old writing. Voiceless drivel.
However, we all need to endure those awkward years to grow, mature, and develop into something less cringy.
Last week I wrote, I have good news and bad news, a piece that took courage to write and more courage to share. A piece I poured my fine American heart in to.
It was about how ataxia is slowly attacking my voice, how talking requires more effort now, how it sucks, and despite losing my physical voice, I’ve found my writing voice. A voice I’m proud of. A voice that took me 5 years to find. It was a difficult piece for me to write. To admit what I admitted. To be so publicly vulnerable.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people reached out and empathized.
Feeling brave, I posted the piece on an Ataxia Facebook Support Group. A safe place to be vulnerable and share stories with fellow Ataxians– people who intimately know the struggle.
The initial responses were all positive.
Then I got a message from, let’s call them Kindly Facebook Person (KFP), who wrote this to me:
“F you for making me read you stupid s.. .”
In a child’s life, turning 5 is a major milestone. It’s when they begin to exhibit more self-control than a toddler. And yet they’re still prone to outbursts and tantrums.
When I first read KFP I was suburban dad pissed. As if someone just walked-across-my-freshly-cut-lawn pissed.
With my blood boiling I started typing: “F me? No F YOU!!! You’re a bitter, cold-hearted…”
I took a deep breath.
Fighting bitterness with bitterness only causes more bitterness.
I know better.
I reread KFP’s post. They “can’t talk, type, walk”. That’s horrible. I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy. KFP also said they published 2 books. An author. On several levels, I was intrigued by everything KFP wrote.
I deleted the “get-off-my-lawn” response and started again. This time I took a different approach. Less combative, free of bitterness but laced with everyone’s favorite defense mechanism: Sarcasm
Most 5 year olds are not cognitively able to understand or even articulate sarcasm.
According to research, sarcasm is an advanced cognitive skill reserved for more mature kids, 7-10 year olds. Now, I’m about to offer you a textbook humblebrag. Parents do this all the time. They site “research” and shower their own kid with adoration as they compare their kid to other kids in subtle, socially acceptable ways instead of flat-out saying, “My kid is more advanced than most kids.” And so a 5 year old, who responses with sarcasm, is (humblebrag) nothing short of advanced.
Anyway, when I started WoFo 5 years ago I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew if I didn’t write and learn how to tell my story in engaging ways– I would be in a really bad place.
Have you ever felt like that? Like you just had to “do something”?
5 year olds are known for their impulsivity. Drawing on walls with crayons. Dumping a bowl of milk and Cheerios on the floor. That impulsivity to “do something” doesn’t go away with age. We just learn to harness and hide it. But it’s still there. Eating our insides as we watch soccer practice or wait at a traffic light or clean the mess your “advanced” kid just made. This blog is my bowl of milk and Cheerios dumped on the floor.
Back to my exchange with KFP. So KFP responded by posting Amazon links to their 2 books.
I clicked on the links and read the free preview and the reader’s comments.
I responded (still sarcasm):
Now, at this point I was feeling bad for KFD. They can’t speak, write, or walk. But KFD did say to me “F you” and proceeded to call my writing “stupid S…” but the insult that really chapped my dad butt was the line “you’re probably not a little girl.”
Damn right, I’m not a little girl. I’m a man. I’m 40.
At this point in the exchange, the mature 40 year old part of me was urging me to be mature and virtually walk away. The 5 year old part of me was scribbling the perfect comeback in crayon on a nearby wall.
The 5 year old won:
Now I hesitated when I wrote “thank you for not making you read your stupid S…” because I felt the sting when KFP said that to me. I’m a good person. And as a writer, I know how hard writing is. I have great respect for writers. And KFP wrote two more books than me. I was impressed. But I took the graham cracker. Remember, I’m 5.
But then things turn civil and my cool-head, sincere 40 year old self returns:
How do you like that– a Facebook scrap ends civilly, peacefully with both us agreeing on our love of writing, our hated for Ataxia, and how most people don’t know how to use punctuation. We found common ground. And we both moved on. KFP with their vampire slayer stories and me with my 5th birthday party.
Speaking of which…here is my homemade WoFo cake! I bought it, whipped it, baked it, icing’d it, wrote with an icing gel pen on it, and applied sprinkles myself.
Though KFP may never read my writing again, over the past 5 years, a lot of people have.
And so on WoFo’s birthday I want to thank anyone, both near and far, both the living and the dead, who have read my writing, shared my writing with others, wrote to me, went to a party ( remember those?) and said something to someone about something I wrote, bought a WoFo t-shirt (on sale for a limited time only!) and have made my story a part of their story. Basically anyone who has supported me over the years. Without you–I would have never turned 5. Without you–this blog would be dying in an internet ditch somewhere with thousands of other forgotten blogs littering the digital superhighway.
Having a blog, in many ways, is like growing up in public. It’s awkward, embarrassing, and scary and sometimes you don’t know what to say and sometimes you can’t shut up and other times you think, with bone certainty, no one knows what you’re going through. But then someone out there knows what you’re going through and they surprise and comfort you and suddenly you don’t feel so weird anymore.
When you set out to do a “thing” the first thought often is, “What will people think of me?” 5 years and I still wrestle with that question every time I write. But I’ve come to learn, in a way, everyone is hiding truths and contradictions about themselves. Everyone is beautifully flawed.
I hope my writing has provided you joy and has inspired you to pursue your “thing” and encouraged you to show your flaws.
You’ve provided me with companionship and happiness and the courage to act bravely when I wanted to be a coward. You continually remind me life favors the brave and everyone has a story and every story matters.
And for that– THANK YOU!
Below are pictures of an awesome, early “birthday” present I received:
Before you go..if this is the last time you ever read my writing, if you’re done with me and my “stupid S…”
No hard feelings. Good luck and safe travels.
But like I told KFP–I like my stupid S… .
You know what I need??? A new t-shirt. Click here and order a limited-edition, super-soft Write on Fight on supporter t-shirt!
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