Honestly

Something about this job, about this work that I do, to turn people’s lives for the better, is exhausting. It’s a constant uphill battle. Sometimes people think they know what they want — that twinkie in front of the tv, that nap instead of a run, that choice to wing it instead of planning something out well. And with our current culture of “to each his own” and “who am I to condemn another’s preferences”, being prescriptive is hostile.

Last night, as I quoted a character on tv’s misuse of the word “literally”, I cringed. Somehow, even breaking the rules of grammar have taken on a moral sheen for me. As if using a word incorrectly were the same as saying something untrue, the same as lying. Because if I know what the word means and then purposefully use it in a way that disagrees with that, then I’m in the wrong. I’m not only polluting the language,1 but also, I’m being false to those around me and perpetuating that word’s abuse.

Because language is valuable. Language holds power. And it’s misuse, its pollution, its dilution devalues it to everyone. Ask George Orwell. It makes communication harder, makes understanding others more tedious and difficult, makes getting along more of a chore.

To put it more simply, understanding others is a morally right action, one we should all strive for in every action. Thus, anything that stands in the way of understanding others is, in some way, morally wrong.

In my mind, at least.


  1. Yes, I know that a phrase like “polluting the language” sounds both vague and haughty. It probably casts my voice as nasal and points my chin in the air. The language of morals does that sometimes. 

This makes me smile just thinking about it. And yes, I know precisely how odd I am for thinking this way.

millionsmillions:

The idea of having to diagram a sentence still gives us nightmares, but Pop Chart Lab has diagrammed opening lines of famous novels, including those as simple as Slaughterhouse-Five and as complex as Don Quixote.

“You can’t take notes on essence, it has to set up shop inside you, roll around in your head and in your heart a bit until you’re ready to spill it out.”

Wake Up Singing

When I got up this morning, I found my three-year-old daughter singing to herself in her bed. She hadn’t gotten up yet, hadn’t started playing with her Barbies, hadn’t clambered into our room asking for a granola bar for breakfast and Strawberry Shortcake on Netflix. Instead, she was lying there under her covers singing softly to herself. No hurry, no imperatives to move or do anything other than make up songs and sing them to herself.

I wish I started more of my mornings with that amount of happiness.

A little while later, on my way out the door to work, I checked in on her again. This time, her little brother had woken up cooking in his crib. And guess what—she was singing to him. And he was scrunching up his face in those hugely exuberant cherubic grins that only babies can master and she was laughing right along with him.

This is what’s so great about being a parent. We’ve got constant reminders, everywhere we turn, of how to wake up singing.

Hunting for blue skies, open vistas, and fresh, white stillness.

Well, hello, #Utah. It’s good to see you, too.

Aw, shucks, California. You didn’t have to get all dolled up just to say goodbye to us.

Writing and Sneezing

I might have gotten carried away in a “cold” letter to a recruiter today. But it is a subject I’m passionate about. It didn’t amount to much, but it was something I felt I needed to write, not because of a spiritual prompting or external pressure, but because I had words inside me that I needed to say.

That’s the way true writing is for me. It burns and churns inside me, bubbling until it boils over, spilling across the screen in front of me.

It’s something I must discover, something I need to be there for, be present for, be accountable to. If my fingers are on the keyboard or my voice is joining in with friends, I can find it more easily, locate those lilting, still gasps of inspiration hidden in between the gaps in our conversations.

Writing, then, becomes a conversation with myself, similar to the discussions and debates I have with old roommates. It’s a back-and-forth, a collision of ideas on a 2-D plane, a gushing, crashing crush of insight and rapport. It’s an exchange with myself — I give you words and a willingness to listen, you give me glimpses in a mirror and reflections on deeper topics, and we both come out better for it.

Writing is how I learn, how I create, how I build my way into the world around me, by mashing new ideas against old ones like clay on a school desk. The moldable against the immovable, the mess against the clean. My thoughts need to be kneaded and pummeled and flattened and folded until they become soft enough to work with, pliable enough to build something strong.


I know I shouldn’t write in such ephemeral, abstract terms, that I shouldn’t use “thing” or “get” so much. Readers can’t connect with abstract concepts and null-value words, not like they can with good, concrete examples. Solid metaphors. Nuance-filled parables and fables and fact-based fictions. That is what I’ve been told, what I’ve had taught to me. Taught at me.

But I’m not writing for them, not when I get like this. Not once the words start flowing and growing on their own. I’m not writing to be read (as ironic as that sounds). No, I’m writing for me, writing to clear my head, to heal my heart, to mend my mind, to fix some fault or fracture I’m still figuring out how to face.

I write for the very same reasons I blow my nose: I don’t do it to help others hear my voice more clearly; I do it because something inside me needs out. It’s visceral and physical and instinctual. If I don’t do it often, things can get messy and raw. If something irritates me, aggravates my sinuses or my morals or my subconscious convictions, I immediately feel a near-uncontrollable need to expel it from me, to get it in front of me, to examine it on paper. It’s how my body flushes out foreign objects and ideas.

And, much like this post, when what comes out slaps noisily and explosively onto the page in front of me, running on a little as it slides from one line into the next, I feel better. I’m usually a bit sore, too, but that’s understandable if you’ve ever seen (or heard) me sneeze.

But, like I said, I can’t really help myself when it gets to that point. Sometimes I’ve just got to let it out.

This should be a cardinal rule of the internet (and of being human): if you don’t have the patience to read something, don’t have the hubris to comment on it.

From the Brain Pickings tumblr, explore-blog:

A good thought to live with, which I asked the inimitable Lisa Congdon to hand-letter for the Brain Pickings Facebook page header. See more of Lisa’s wonderful work here.

A great quote that I hope to live by, both online and in real life (as much as possible)

“There’s about a million miles between saying “I have no idea what I’m doing,” and “I’m making it up as I go.””