January 2016


I’ve lost another friend I’ve never met. My heart hurts.

Many, many years ago when the internet and I were both much younger, I got a computer with a modem in it. Our first and most expensive computer didn’t have that hardware so we upgraded. Then I got my AOL disk in the mail and I could connect to everywhere with a baud rate of 2400 and if I didn’t get a busy signal when dialing in. But there was the world. The entire freaking world. No streaming video and barely still images, but the entire freaking world.

It didn’t take me long to find chat rooms and meet a bunch of really great people – online. Well, Dick and I actually met David, but everyone else was just a screen name and yet, I knew them and their stories. It is our stories, both real and imagined, which make us who we are. The stories we tell ourselves and share with the world defines who we are. How we see ourselves. How we interact with the world around us.

I’m still friends with a couple people from the old Philosophy chat room. At least I’m friends with them on Facebook. I’ve never met them. But I care about them and their lives and their hopes and dreams, both realized and dashed. I count them as my people. But I’ve never met them.

I grew up and so did the internet and I left AOL and got Ethernet and cable and off I went at a greater speed and without worrying about a busy signal.

I’ve joined a number of different communities via the computer and the internet and the World Wide Web and IE and then Chrome. I’ve found multiple people who think like I do and even more who don’t. I’ve found people who care about crafting with yarn, CrossFit, coloring, writing, and storytelling via blogs.

I know many people I’ve never met. I know their lives and their stories and their dreams. I’ve shared my life, stories, and dreams with them. Sometimes I have seen their pictures and might be able to recognize them if they suddenly and magically appeared in front of me. Some, I have no idea what they look like.

Just a few days ago, I reconnected with an old neighbor. It has to be around 25 years since we last spoke, but when I heard her voice on the phone, it was immediately recognizable.

Many of my friends from around the world could stand in front of me and I wouldn’t know it. They could magically call me and I wouldn’t recognize their voices. But just like my real friend from long ago, they are my real friends now.

We try to impress upon folks the fact that there are real people behind the screens and so we should think before we type on social media. But we often negate the close ties we form with strangers from around the web. I have spent years communicating and sharing stories (real and imagined) with people from every continent. Some people have stayed in my life and some have slipped through my fingers just by attrition. This is true even in my real time life.

One of my  online friends has died. I knew she was ill. I knew her appearance online had dwindled. We were the three musketeers, the three amigos, the triumvirate. And now we are two. The three-legged stool has tipped over. My balance has shifted.

I can’t send a card or flowers or anything. I know what country she lived in but that’s all her geographic details she shared. It doesn’t really matter when we can gather together from around the globe no matter where our feet are.

I lost a friend today. A real friend. A dear friend. A friend who shared stories with me. We’ve never met, but still … she was my friend. And the world is a little sadder today.

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Why in the name of all that is holy can I not appreciate who and what I am?

I’m old and retired and I do appreciate the latter. It is so freeing to not schedule my real life around the hours when I earn enough money to pay for my real life. We have lived frugally enough, saved enough, delayed gratification enough to be able to afford this luxury. We were also fortunate enough to have jobs that paid enough and had great benefits along with pensions that make this all possible. The sacrifice of then makes it possible to have now.

My pictures are pretty (most of the time). I’ve experimented and stepped out of my comfort zone even with coloring. I’ve tried some different techniques and managed to create things that amuse me as well as enjoy the process.

But if someone dares to call me an artist, I get antsy. I point out stridently that I cannot draw a recognizable stick figure. I am a colorist. And not even a very good one because in The Underground there are real artists who post their pictures which are stunning. They are actually drawing real pictures, often faces. They are perfectly shaded. They are lifelike. Hell, I can’t even manage to get my own makeup on like that.

And there it is again. The constant belittling of myself by myself. No one has ever come to me and said anything negative about my appearance. I used to even turn heads. But … I can’t seem to accept any accolades without deprecating.

I have been imploding around my CrossFit stuff. I have been doing this for more than three years and in all that time, I have changed myself from a frail Little Old Lady to a freaking awesome beast. I have muscles, real honest to goodness muscles. I have stability and better endurance even. I can accomplish so much more than the old woman who walked in the first time.

And yet, for the last couple weeks, all that is running through my head is that I’m a failure at the whole thing and haven’t done anything in the last three years. I can tell this to myself even while gaining a new PR. This is beyond stupid.

What I can’t do (and I would like to be able to do) is RX every damn workout. Hell, even the 25 year olds can’t RX every damn workout.

When I read the WOD, all I see is what I can’t do. I don’t see any of the tremendous gains I’ve made over time with constant attendance and working my ass off. Instead, I see what is still impossible for me to do. I wonder if the WODs were written in scaled versions if I would still lament my inability to do the RX version and whine about how I’m still the lowest level there is.

Brittany and I did the same scaled version of the WOD today. She did 100% while I did only 50%. Her outlook was that she did all of what she planned to do. My outlook was that I only did half of what the “real” athletes were doing. No one has ever said to me, “You did great for your age.” People often tell me I’ve done great and in my head I and I alone add “for your age” and feel defeated by my place in the world.

I have no idea how to stop this nonsense. I was whining to myself the other day because after all this time, I only have two lifts over 100 pounds. It took me six weeks to be able to deadlift 42# and I’m whining about the limited number of 100+ pound lifts I have. I don’t know how to make this type of thinking go away. I do many amazing things – period. I do even more amazing things for a woman. I do even more amazing things for an old woman. That’s not even giving me any credit for this whole exceptionally high heart rate thing. I go to the box three times a week and give it all I’ve got. I usually give more than I’ve got and just plod through at the end. I work hard.

Intellectually I know this. I work just as hard as anyone else there. I just don’t accomplish as much with my hard work. And that makes me sad and mad and crankypants. I do know that no one else there is exactly like me and that comparison is the thief of joy. I know that I work just as hard and do totally asinine things just like CrossFitters everywhere.

I can’t deadlift 1.5 times my body weight. I can’t shade perfect faces. Hell, the list of things I can’t do would be too long to read. Even so, I’m pretty awesome, for an old broad.

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What coloring is teaching me is patience with the process.

I am not artistic. I am linear and plodding. Capriciousness is not my strong suit. I like to plan ahead and then have everything turn out just as I planned.

This is not working with coloring. I might have a general plan that holds true for an entire page, but even that often gets sidetracked by the results of laying down color on the page. Sometimes things go awry when I grab a pencil which looks like that color when looking at the lead, but actually is this color on the paper.

I’ve learned to test my colors together on a piece of scrap paper to make sure they actually are the colors I think they are.

I’ve had to learn to let go of perfection. When you run out of the line with a pencil, there is still some hope of fixing it or having it go unnoticed. When you run out of the lines with a brightly colored gel pen or a dark marker, too bad. Between my bad eyes and my unsteady hand, I have had to learn to stand back from the finished product and stop looking for the mistakes.

I’ve learned that my mind can wander freely as I color or it can concentrate intensely on the process of coloring and both of these options are refreshing and relaxing.

I’ve learned that coloring is not simply scratching a utensil across the paper but that there are many different techniques for this. Shading and blending as an adult are quite different than the shading and blending I did as a child. I’m pretty sure I don’t ever need to get into the whole serious side of this just to relax, but it is interesting to see how much I can pick up as I keep coloring.

I’ve learned that people who color are encouraging and helpful when asked. The first time I told my husband I asked the coloring group what to do with something, he began to ask me what the Underground’s response was and now we just call the group The Underground. They have been helpful in both answering my questions and giving me inspiration.

I’ve learned that sometimes you just mess up and it isn’t the end of the world. I’m not doing brain surgery here, I’m coloring. I’m not titrating Dopamine. No one is going to die if I make a mistake. There is freedom in that. The need for perfection in an imperfect world is gone. The worst that can happen is that I throw the picture out and start a new one.

Or else, and this is why I began this, I change my perspective on what is good enough.

I asked The Underground what to do with my picture. Should the border be gold, silver, or black. I’m a literalist and black seems the best choice but was I just being prosaic, something I’m really good at. So The Underground answered and Linda suggested cutting out the picture and pasting it with its white border onto a black surface.

That sounded so neat. But as we may have noticed above, my hands are not steady and I don’t have the correct scissors anyway. And I don’t frame these, so it seemed like a non-starter. But on the ride to Hilton Head, I thought I could color it like that. I thought it would be really neat to have black at the border and then lighter and lighter grays to the edge.

Well, I got home and could color the border with enough patience, but I could see that the shading with the different grays wouldn’t work because of the various distances of the picture and the edge of the page itself. I began to just color it black and then I have no idea what went wrong.

Perhaps it was impatience, my strong suit, and using too long of strokes, but it became just a horrible mess. The only thing I could come up with in order to save the damn thing was to cut off the ugly part and leave the pretty behind. I don’t frame them, anyway.

So I got my crappy not precision scissors and my old shaky hands and I cut the messy part off. I’m left with this. I still like it. It isn’t what I planned. It isn’t what I planned a second time. It isn’t even what the third plan was. Letting go is part of the process.

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