Five Minute Sherpa

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Anne Lamott on Brian Williams and scapegoats

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors, recently posted some thoughts (originally posted here) about Brian Williams (NBC Nightly News anchor) and our common humanity. This is worth reading, even if you don’t have a clue what’s happening with Mr. Williams. My favorite line encompasses something most of us are afraid of doing: “Let’s be human together.”

 

Brian Williams is our new Old Testament goat. It’s like being the new It Girl, although of course, not quite as festive. And I’m caught up in it, too. It’s hard to turn away, and a part of me, the dark part of me with bad self esteem, is cheered. The handsomest, richest, most perfect guy turned out to have truthiness issues; and it was good.

He’s our sin offering. Wow, how often do I get to type those words? Not nearly often enough! It’s exhilarating. It’s Shirley Jackson’s “Lottery.” Each worsening detail is like a self-esteem ATM.

I’m watching talking heads on the biggest news stations come down on him, and I know some of these most famous men to have been unfaithful, and worse–way worse, with children. They’re in the delicious throes of schadenfreude, which part of me is, too. The sweeter part of me, the child, the girl in her little blue kilt, the mom, the nana, the black-belt co-dependent, wants to shake her fist at the bullies. Who here doesn’t lie, emebellish, exaggerate? (I’m reminded of the old joke about Jesus telling the crowd who is stoning the adulteress, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Suddenly a woman throws a rock at the adulturess. Jesus looks up, and says, “Oh for Pete’s sake, Mother.”)

No one, not one single person, has stood up for him. I would, but I’m a lying liar, too–well, maybe not as egregious as Brian Williams. I don’t tell people “I looked down the tube of an RPG”. Well, maybe that one time I did. But that was just so people would like me more.

I would stand with Mr. Williams, because he’s family. There’s a scene in Small Victories where I was giving a writing workshop to the prisoners in San Quentin, with my friend Neshama, and she told them. “I’m human. You’re human. Let’s be in our humanness together for a little while.” So yes, I stand with him.

But my solidarity wouldn’t mean all that much. My son rolls his eyes sometimes at family gatherings, because the story I’ve just told has changed from its last telling. But then again, so has his.

The sober people I know began sobriety by minimizing how bad their drinking and drug use was; by the end of the first year, they’re copping to the most graphic, disgusting behavior you can imagine. This was definitely my case; I started out mentioning that maybe I had a few too many a couple times a week, to the truth, which was that I was insane, trying to buy opiates, guys, the random RPG.

(Of course, Brian Williams did not do nearly as socially repellant things as my addict brothers and sisters did. In our defense, though, we rarely said we had been struck by RPG’s. So it’s sort of a wash.)

The truth eventually set me free. It’s the “eventually” that gets ya. But it did. I hurt a lot of people, mostly other women, but with a lot of help and solidarity, I told my truth, and there was great healing, for them and me; and what I did still sucked. Sometimes, they still do.

Take, for instance, the words for which I am probably most semi-famous, besides “shitty first drafts” and that my bad thoughts make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish. The words were not even mine: it was my wild Jesuit friend Tom Weston’s word who actually said that you can tell you’ve created God in your own image when He hates the same people you do. Father Tom said it in a lecture 23 years ago, at a small gathering. The first few times I quoted it–probably at Salon, and possibly in Bird by Bird–I attributed it to him. Then the next few times, I didn’t. I just shoe-horned it into conversation, as if I’d just thought of it that minute; brilliant daring me

And not exactly “conversation.” More like, “While being interviewed.”

Then, it got picked up, and it was everywhere, and I started trying to correct the lie–at a big public level. In print, and on Kurt Andersen’s gigantic show, Studio 360 on WNYC, New York City’s NPR. It was the childhood dream of going to school naked. But I did it.

The line is frequently quoted, as mine. It’s a great line; it says it all. But I’m sick of cringing and saying I borrowed it. Okay–stole it. Fine.

Me, and one of our greatest historians, Doris Kearns Goodwin, right? Do we say, as people are saying now about Mr Williams, “Well, we wouldn’t be able to trust Goodwin after she plagarized.” No. We absolutely trust her. We decided to. She earned our trust back.

The point is, we are gigantically flawed. Oh, my God, such screw-ups. We can be such total asshats. And if you’re in the public eye, like Brian Williams, or in the public baby toe, like me, it goes viral.

We do the best we can. Sigh. Some days go better than others. We get to start our new 24 hours every time we remember. I’m also remembering the old wisdom story about the elder who tells a young girl that inside him, inside all humans, are two dogs, a good dog and an aggressive dog. They’re always at war. The girl asks him which dog usually wins. He thinks about it, and says, “The one I feed the most.” So I am going to feed my kinder side, forgive and trust Brian Williams, me, and, sight unseen, you. His story will to play out however it does, almost entirely based on NBC’s financial considerations. In the meantime, we can wish him and his family well.

 

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Turn Off the Screen

(article originally published by startmarriageright.com)

There are a number of articles that have been published digging into how the social fabric of our culture is changing based on social media. The Atlantic published an article called “Is Facebook Making us Lonely?,” which is a long read but very challenging to our understanding about the impact of technology and social media.

Smart phones, tablets, and laptops have met and created a demand for instant communication, postings, and status updates. A friend mentioned to me the other day that he felt naked without his iPhone in his pocket (he’d left it at home earlier in the day). It was a joke, but it was truth. We don’t know what to do with ourselves when we are all alone. If we have technology and have a few moments to kill it’s really easy to check twitter, Facebook, or our favorite news site.

Is using technology stealing time from your relationships?
We all have a need to connect with others, and smartphones fill in that need really well. But in reality, they don’t. When we shut off the screen, we’re right back to where we started—alone.

I fall victim to this as well. I’ve been a smartphone owner for 6+ years now, and there are days that I wish these little boxes had never been created. Sure, they’re great for keeping tons of information in one place, replacing our need to carry a calendar, camera, address book, and more. But they’re an every present distraction.

I’ve noticed that my own tendency to use my iPhone comes when I’m need to escape. Most of the time I notice this at home. After a long day at work, I get to go home and work some more. The demands of relationships at home are ever present. Some days I do not want to engage because of the constant pull from my family. Sometimes I resent them for this and will steal 5-10 minutes with my iPhone or iPad. These devices are always on, available, and ready for me when I need them. They’ve taken the place of the dog as man’s best friend.

Continue Reading at – Start Marriage Right

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A Viewable Life

I recently ran across The Amish Project (youtube video), where a guy goes “off the grid” for 90 days. He gets rid of his cell phone, social media, computer, and anything else that promises to keep him connected to others. His project shows him that all these technological advances promise to make him a better at life, he actually has more human interactions and better relationships by not texting, facebooking, or tweeting. Yes, these are all part of our culture, but they come at a cost to relationships.

More and more of our lives are viewable, yet less vulnerable. We post blogs, tweet, update our Facebook status, and pin ideas to pinterest. All of these outlets are fun, and potentially helpful to long-distance relationships but it’s really easy to hide our true selves behind all these networked sites. “Posting” gives a level of honesty that exposes what we like or what we’re doing but doesn’t express who we are. In some cases who we are online is vastly different than who we are in real life (see the documentary Second Skin). “Who we are” is a question that can only be answered in the context of relationships.