Monday, January 14, 2013

The Mad Puck Goat

Every morning, after I've woken up and poured myself an earthenware mug of French press coffee, I do a few things - I check Questionable Content, I check Jezebel, and I read my horoscope.

I think I'm something of a horoscope addict - not that I take it very seriously, but I have to click through Yahoo's daily, career, love, and Chinese astrology posts in order to know what to do with myself. It's probably pretty silly, considering that I'm a big fan of free will and agency, but it's nice, you know, to have a set of guidelines, to get a minuscule piece of advice on an otherwise lonely day. Somehow I feel that I have a connection - to Yahoo, to other readers, to the universe - when I click determinedly on these snippets of what the day might bring.

This week, my horoscope is telling me to write, pretty specifically, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I do have a novel brewing, and it is somewhat reassuring to pretend that, for two days this week, I'm really going to get stuff done. My horoscope is a catalyst for further exploration, for my creative endeavors, and I love the simple words of confirmation - you can do this.

I don't feel bound by astrology, and whether or not it is accurate or made up or written by someone making five cents a word doesn't particularly matter to me - I think what matters most is that feeling that someone out there is thinking of me, and that I have, however probably false or possibly true or simply invented, a dialogue with someone I can't see. And I feel that I have solidarity with the other Capricorns who wake up and need a little boost to get through the day.

That's the thing about the Internet. More often than not, being online is being a part of a conversation.

Having this blog has opened me up to a lot - I get reblogged by my parents, I have a creative presence on facebook, I get emails from old friends with comments and collects and, most often, support. All of that is wonderful, because sometimes I feel like I'm whistling in the dark, that my private thoughts, made public, come off wrongly, clattering, made ungainly by vocabulary or alliteration or how young I am. And I know that I'm young, and that my opinions are characterized by naïveté and a desire to shout out - like the Whos down in Whoville, I want to say, I am here, I am here!

And sometimes, that's a problem.

My post yesterday was a good example of me stating my opinions and initially not caring one way or the other how they would be received. Fortunately, something in the way I discussed football and second chances appealed to most of my audience. I feel grateful for that. But what I wasn't aware of, at first, was how incendiary my opinions could be.

Last night, after assessing the various responses to my work, I sat on the porch with my husband, holding my head in my hands, regretting my writing and the way I feel and the fact that I opened my heart, in that loose way of Internet conversation, to the possibility of not being liked very much. Over football!

Maybe I read my horoscope not only for the simple reassurances of my talent and ambition. Maybe I read my horoscope because it can't tell me, directly or indirectly, that I'm wrong, and that I shouldn't have woken up and guzzled my gingerbread coffee in the first place. Maybe my horoscope doesn't make me feel like I have to apologize for my opinions.

I guess having an Internet voice is a responsibility. I'm not going to start censoring myself, but I think I need to be aware that what I write can be taken amiss, can be manipulated into something it is not. Let me say it, here and now - my opinions are just my opinions. My beliefs are my beliefs. I never think that what I say is the rubric for other people's lives, because what a boring world that would be, where everyone thought the same things as I do, where it was a universe of Alices, all screaming into the sky, we are here.

This morning, along with the horoscope and the indie web comic and the feminist commentary on the Golden Globes, I checked my email and found a beautiful poem, written for me by my mother. I won't publish it here - it is her work, and the content is private - but the images that stick with me are first, a snapshot of picking off the insects of the past, and second, the relief of standing up and going out into new life.

I think I need to do both.

The problem with the Internet (as if there were just one!) is that it's so easy to put up your heart and soul, damning the consequences, and then bearing with the criticism, with the doubters, with the offended and indignant and (perhaps) hurt. I'm not going to say that people who disagree with me are bugs to be picked off, and if my writings are unintentionally insulting or hurtful, I don't mean to squash the offended like maggots in breakfast cereal. That's not me. I don't do that.

But I think it's time for me to just let go. My post yesterday was supposed to be about that - not about football, exactly, but about letting go of burdensome negativity and trying something new. Sure, I was super excited about the Ravens win, but what was more exciting was that I wasn't weighed down by the past. I need to live like that more often. I need to rush out, charging, Capricorn horns sharp and strong and unyielding.

I need to stand up.

My horoscope doesn't talk back when I make mistakes. It lets me live up to Tuesdays and Wednesdays when I don't quite make my word count, or when my prose is undeniably awful and I despair of ever becoming an author. The dialogue of the Internet isn't like that. The Internet makes me hold my head in my hands, rubbing my eyes in fatigue, thinking, what did I do wrong?

I start to flick the insects from my skin. I stand up, feet temerous in my worn flip-flops, shoulders tight and aching, the hair on my arms standing up in a battle between fear and exhilaration.

I write. My heart is open. I read my horoscope.

I try again.

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