Saturday, January 12, 2013

Humble Pie

Back when I was in store leadership at Whole Foods the team members evaluated the management annually. It happened when I was in the bakery as well, but that more more manageable. Our team was only 18 or so people, there were no big surprises. In store leadership somewhere between 100-200 people were rating your performance. Not 18 people you knew really well and with whom you had  purposefully developed a working relationship, but 100-200 people who were often casual acquaintances at best. Or who were pissed at you because you had fired their best friend, or who simply didn't like you, or who legitimately thought you were a shitty boss. I remember being crushed by my results one year. The negative comments were overwhelming and the worst part was they were true. I had so much to work on and felt like the worst 2nd Associate Store Team Leader in the history of the universe. My Store Team Leader saw I was working myself into a tailspin and she did something really smart-she counted the number of negative comments vs. positive comments. There were substantially more positive. It was a valuable object lesson not only for that situation, but for life. The negative stuff carries ten times the weight of the positive stuff (Thanks D, you taught me a bunch of really excellent life lessons).

A couple of days ago I came across a Mommy blog with a large audience that I'd never read before. The post I saw was a direct response to negative comments received in reference to little stories posted on her FB fan page. It was a thoughtful and thorough response that was free of malice. I was impressed. So I scooted over to the FB page to see what these comments were in the first place. There were two of them. By the same person. And I had to search through a couple dozen positive ones to find them. All the sudden her response didn't seem so brave. The post read like folks were putting her through the wringer. I would have respected her more if she was honest-one person hurt me deeply and I feel the need to reply.

And then someone privately shared with me that they find my blog inappropriate and perhaps damaging to relationships in my life to the point where this person can no longer read and in a sincere act of caring wanted to let me know so I could avoid doing further and perhaps irreparable damage. I felt terrible. Like sick to my stomach terrible. The worst part was I felt like this person thought I was cruel. Then I decided that everyone who reads must think the same thing. And finally I concluded that I was the world's worst writer because what I'm trying to express was so completely misconstrued by this person.

At no time did I think this person was being unkind to me. S/he was trying to help me, trying to be a friend. Because of that I wrote back and tried to explain myself. And s/he responded that s/he understood where I was coming from which made me feel a little better.

Suddenly I had a hell of a lot more empathy for the woman who wrote the blog post earlier in the week. Because if I'm honest my first reaction was pretty ugly. I was angry. How dare someone write such a thing to me? It took about a minute before the more reasonable part of me reminded the rest of me that I'd opened up this dialogue myself. I make the choice to write this blog. I make the choice to put it out there. My friends have been incredibly generous by reading and being supportive. They are under no obligation to do either. The person who wrote to me had my best interests at heart. S/he was being supportive.

The bottom line is all of us folks who are over-sharing on the internet, no matter what the reason, need to take responsibility for opening ourselves up to criticism, constructive or otherwise. Not everyone is going to agree with us or our approach. Not everyone is going to be nice to us. Although, I've been extremely lucky in that regard. Partially because my friends are stellar humans and partially because I have a tiny readership I just haven't had to deal with nastiness. But if I do get meanies eventually I'll need to figure out how to cope-if it hurts too much maybe I don't blog. Or maybe I'll be able to remember that anonymous nastiness on the internet is to be pitied rather than valued. But everyone is entitled to their opinion. No one has to read anything. And if I've been making you uncomfortable I'm sorry about that. Really. But I am still going to write here.

The day that I got the message that was hard to read I also got several messages that indicated my writing was helping some of the folks who were reading it. I'm ashamed that I forgot those messages and just concentrated on the one that found my blog distasteful. Which is self indulgent bullshit. Everyone's opinions and feedback are equally valid. I don't get to give the negative one more weight any more than I should only pay attention to the positive ones.

I'm not going for confession-for-the-sake-of-confession here. My goal is to help de-stigmatize mental illness, to acknowledge how hard it is to parent and be a part of marriage, to celebrate the hard work, to remind myself and others that failures will happen but we need to dust ourselves off and try again. If you don't agree with my approach I get it. If I'm upsetting you and you want to respond I'd be happy to engage in a respectful dialogue. If you've given me a chance and I'm not your cup of tea I wish you well. I appreciate the time you did spend here. But time is valuable. I do not want to waste yours.

In the spirit of openness I'm also taking off the verification for the comments and enabling anonymous commenting. If it turns into a shit show I'll put them back, but a lot of people have mentioned they have tried to comment and been unable to. I'm not expecting some love fest where everyone just agrees with me. We are all entitled to our opinions. I may be wrong about everything. But writing here has helped me a lot. For now I'm going to keep on keeping on.

The boys saying goodbye to their Daddy a few days ago.

And he's back! With a cool bow tie made by a former student! And he's with a little guy who couldn't be more thrilled to see him!

Sunsets in Syracuse aren't bad either.

Got a haircut today. Z can't tell a difference. But it's two inches! That is kind of a lot...


  1. Anonymous12/1/13 17:06

    Rebecca Flowers is anonymously posting. Oh, shoot, I messed that up.

    1. Oh my lord, Rebecca. This is my favorite comment in the history of the universe.

  2. You've never wasted my time. I feel lucky to have found you. I've recommended you to friends who I think would also enjoy what you have to say.

    I wonder: why do some feel the need to air quite so many of their negative opinions? You're right...they can if they want to. But why?

    I loved what Kate Inglis wrote about blogging being democratic. People come, they go - the writers, the readers, the comment-makers, the lurkers. If they want to leave, they leave. If they want to stay, they stay.

    What I don't get is why unhappy people stay - reading, commenting, airing grievances - when they could just go.

    Over-sharing? It's only over-sharing if that's how YOU feel about it. You can share what you want to share. Maybe some people are over-READING. They can go somewhere else if they're unhappy. No one is forcing them to read.

    And if, in some sad universe, on some sad day, you decide to silence your voice and no longer write here

    I will cry a little tear
    in Missouri
    for lack of



    xo CiM

    1. Thanks so much Cathy. I agree with you, although I must admit that I've left what I hope are constructive criticisms on blog posts that I've strongly disagreed with.

      And I do want to reiterate that this person contacted me out of kindness. We all have different gauges for what constitutes appropriate behavior, which I think makes the world interesting. I've been known to question the decisions of people in my life (in my head or to Z) because the don't make sense to me. And occasionally I've offered my opinion. And if I'm honest I'd admit to thinking I'm completely right. But everyone has the freedom to live their life in the way that is best for them. I don't know. Am I even making sense here?

      I do appreciate you reading. It makes me smile to see your comments. You are the first person I've known about who isn't a friend or a friend of a friend in this space. It thrills me that you think a stranger's thoughts are worth your time.

  3. Anonymous14/1/13 10:06

    Hi Karen! I've been reading you for a few months now but haven't commented before. I've been thinking about emailing you for most of that time to let you know just how much I enjoy this blog and how much you've helped me...and it looks like this is the perfect time!

    I love what you do here for a few different reasons:
    1. Your discussion about marriage and motherhood gives me so much hope about having either of these things in my life one day.
    2. I also suffer from anxiety (though it comes more in cycles for me) and it's so validating to hear someone frankly talk about it as you do.
    3. Just the other day, a friend of mine told me she had HPV and had to get a certain procedure done and didn't know what to expect. And I was like...oh, I actually can send you a helpful first-person account of that...

    So thanks for all of this and more. Keep writing in the way that feels most authentic to you! Haters are gonna hate. Everyone else will reap the benefits.

    1. Hey Anonymous,
      Thank you so fucking much. Your response is exactly why I write this blog. You made my day.

  4. Uncomfortably Honest. Honestly Uncomfortable. Sounds like you accomplished your mission! I look forward to reading your blog. Don't stop!

    1. Thanks, R. I look forward to reading yours as well!