Saturday, February 26, 2005

What I've Learned from E-mail
So, I'm in the midst of the throes of Lent again. Here's the tale of what it's all about for me.

This year I've given up e-mail. Now, one might think, "In this day and age, how is it even possible to give up e-mail? How do you communicate?" That is a very valid question.

The rules of my non-e-mail Lent go somewhat like this (it's a loose definition, because with something like e-mail, exceptions have to be made sometimes): I've given up superfluous e-mail, meaning any and all e-mail that doesn't serve a purpose. If it's to get in touch with someone I can't easily talk to, it's ok. If it's to make plans, it's ok. If it is responding to someone who has e-mailed me for a specific purpose, it's ok. And pretty much all work/office related e-mail is ok, since my job depends on that. Otherwise, personal e-mail that is for fun, or to give information about myself (ie: tell a story) is strictly prohibited.

Admittedly, I have failed at this already. And it's been a much harder thing than I ever expected. But overall, I have kept up my end of the no-e-mail for Lent. The main goal for me is to spend far less time than I usually do sending e-mail, and to use other forms of communication to talk to people.

The purpose of this decision for Lent is that I've fallen into a bad habit of depending on e-mail as my main form of communication with people. I love to write. And I sit at a computer most of the day. So it has become far easier for me to send an e-mail to talk to someone, rather than pick up the phone, or make dinner plans, or get face-to-face time with the people in my life. It's become a really bad habit, and has led to some e-conversations that haven't necessarily been a positive influence on some relationships.

When I really think about the amount of time I've spent writing long e-mails, and I realize that time could have been spent with whoever I am e-mailing, it actually makes me a bit sad. I don't like that I would choose such a passive form of communication over spending time with people.

Not that e-mail is always bad. I have a beautiful way with words, and can better say anything I want to say via writing than I ever will be able to communicate by speaking. I've had some really great conversations over e-mail, and I think the genre of e-mail allows for more honest conversations sometimes. But sometimes, it can be misunderstood, or just too much at the wrong time. And sometimes things written on a page just can't be fixed later. Even if you had good intentions. Sometimes, e-mail is just the wrong way to go. It can actually be dangerous. I've learned that the hard way.

But, what started as a simple idea for me to stop e-mailing so much has turned into a much broader self-realization and committment as I've gone along with this Lent thing. It's been really eye-opening, and pretty cool for me.

I first realized just how much I do e-mail. I am extremely funny. And I sit at a computer all day. So when I'm sitting in my cube, and something pops into my head that I find extremely witty, my first reaction is to e-mail it to 5-10 of my closest friends so they, too, can share in how funny I am. I've written some world-class funny e-mails in my day. But for Lent, I've had to check that and save the funny for another time. It's been hard. I forget what was funny, I forget to tell people later, and usually it's not so funny after I've forgotten most of what was funny about it in the first place. I feel like Chandler on Friends when he had to give up making jokes about people for his New Year's resolution. So many funny things that need to be e-mailed, but I can't join in!

Then I realized how much I e-mail when I want to tell someone something. Like, for reasons other than being funny. I generally hate the phone. I'm just not a phone person. And, I'm generally not a talker. I get shy, even around people who I'm completely comfortable with. It's just easier for me to put it all down on e-mail, send it, and get the conversation going that way. But as a good friend has mentioned to me, I can go on for pages in an e-mail, but when I'm in person it's sometimes like I'm different person, because I just don't say much. She knows me really well, but if that's something she's struggled with about me, how often am I like that with people I'm less comfortable with or who don't know me as well? I don't want people to know me only through e-mail, and I don't want that to be the only way I can be open, or myself, or relate to people. It kinda hurt to hear her say that, but I'm thankful she said it because I've realized that it's true.

So, thinking through these things and some other things, I've realized that e-mail is not really the problem. It's more the symptom of how I deal with people, and maybe also about much of my lifestyle. I've got millions of words going on in my head at any given moment, but it is hard for me to be the starter of actual speaking conversations. I'm reclusive by nature. I'm in my own head most of the time. But I also long for close connections with the people in my life, to let them know me, and to know them better.

Quite a conundrum, I must say.

To most people, I'm sure none of this even makes sense. People generally don't have a problem with e-mail. Phone is not something that is fundamentally difficult. Conversations should not be difficult with people you enjoy being with. And most people likely only use e-mail for basic ways of communication - not to write brief novels to people about everything that's going on in your life that week.

But for me, verbal communication and developing relationships has always been hard. It's easy being funny. I can make a group laugh with very little effort. And I think that sometimes translates to people as "she is funny and therefore able to carry on a conversation with me because funny is the same as charming and adept in social situations." And this is followed by disappointment when I'm quiet following a ten-minute schtick on whatever had a group of people rolling with laughter.

But when it gets to one-on-one and getting to know people, it takes very patient people to stick with me until one day I'm comfortable enough to have easy flowing conversation. It's always been a struggle for me. And I couldn't even tell you what or why it's difficult sometimes. I just seem to have missed the lesson that kids get somewhere in school on How to Talk to People and Interact with Them Like a Human Being 101. Even with people I've known for years, sometimes I just don't have anything to say even when I've got a head full of things I want to say and the opportunity to say it.

But I've realized that I need to work harder at the conversations and the one-on-one, because people don't generally exist in e-mail.

So, this Lent round has been somewhat progressive. I've started with the self-imposed ban on superfluous e-mail. But I've been adding things to the overall experience as I go along. First, I've reintroduced myself to my phone. I have one. It's nice. I just tend not to use it. So, (likely much to the annoyance of people who aren't used to me calling them often, or much at all) I've made myself pick up the phone and call people when I have something to say, and sometimes even when I don't have much to say. It's an exercise in getting comfortable with the phone. I'm having some struggles with this because as it turns out, I am bad at phone. Who knew this was possible? But hopefully I'm not running too many people off by my awkward attempts to converse with them via this new-fangled gramophone thingy that I've discovered. (Although some people may wish that I'd just go back to sending e-mails and quit calling 108 times a day to match the 108 e-mails I usually send in a day...)

I've also added time. With people. Over the past couple of weeks I've made the effort not to turn down invitations to things that involve spending time with people. I've also made conscious decisions not to let things like a T.V. show I usually watch get in the way of picking up the phone and calling someone, or answering the phone when I get a call in the middle of the show. I'm generally selfish with my time when it comes to feeling like I haven't had enough time to myself, or just doing things I want to do that I'm used to doing by myself.

But it's not enough just to stop e-mailing, because if I stop the e-mail but don't bring in other ways to be with people, we will disappear from each other. No one will ever hear from me, and I will likely not hear from anyone if they think I only exist via e-mail. I have to also add other ways to keep in touch. So, I've been really busy these past couple of weeks. I've had to change my routine some (which is difficult for me being not entirely un-Rainman-like in many ways). I've spent more time with people than I'm comfortable with, being the reclusive writer-wannabe that I am. But it's been really good. Being with people is good. It's wearing me out, and I think that's just a personality trait that will always be a struggle. But it's good. I'll eventually find a good balance.

And, I've tried to think and act more in ways that aren't necessarily all about me. This has maybe been the hardest part for me. E-mail is really kind of selfish, I've come to realize. If I can't talk to someone, I can send an e-mail. And unless they decide not to read it, I'm essentially commanding their attention to say whatever I think I have to say right then. I'm not being patient enough to wait until I see them, or until they have time to listen to me, or even considering what may be going on with them before I dump a load of myself on them via a 108-page e-mail. And while it may be a stretch to relate it to e-mail, I can see this pattern in my life beyond e-mail.

So, I haven't accomplished all of what I originally set out to accomplish through giving up e-mail for Lent. I'm still working towards some other things that I have in mind as goals. But I've accomplished some unexpected things that I will consider a bonus. It's been much more of a personal inventory than I ever anticipated. I think essentially I'm searching for confidence in my ability to not hide in writing. I don't think I believe I exist much outside of what I can write, or e-mail. And that's a whole other can of large disgusting worms that will take time and effort for me to work through.

But this isn't to say I will never e-mail again. Sometimes there is absolutely a time and place for my funny e-mails, or even an e-mail for other reasons. It's a good invention, this e-mail. But my hope is to not ever let it be my main mode of communication.

I hope this phone-a-ma-jiggy thingy catches on.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Ipod Update
I had no idea if this would work or not, but I've actually had several people sign up and show an interest in helping me with the free Ipod. But no offers have been completed.

Five offers have to be completed for me to get the Ipod.

If you've signed up or taken a look, I beg of you (in my weakened, sickened, pathetic-and-desperate state) to complete an offer. Just click through all the one-pagers to get to the better (and Ipod-earning) offers, and pick something. Blockbuster online?? Credit card? So many wonderful options.

Thank you, those of you who have at least looked at it and considered it. I appreciate it!

Free Ipod!


Red String: Another "what were you thinking?" Moment
So, I'm home sick today. The Plague has returned. I'm worried that when I called in sick this morning, my voice was so deep that no one will know who it was that left the message saying I'm taking a sick day today.

In my weakened state, I finally decided that bathing myself might help me feel better. However, being so weak, standing for any length of time in a shower seemed like a good idea only if I wanted to turn into one of those Rescue 911 moments by passing out in the hot shower, falling against the glass shower door, and lying unconscious in shards of broken glass upon my bathroom floor, naked, until someone finally misses me a few days later and calls 911 to look for me. I determined this was not how I wanted to make my reality TV debut.

I opted for sitting in a bath instead.

Now, I'm not a regular bath taker. I prefer showers. But on occasion, I do enjoy the relaxing hot bath. Today, however, I managed to get the water temperature mixture not entirely correct. So I ended up with a lukewarm bath. This only made me want to power through my bath so I could get out of the increasingly cooling tub of tepid water. But, I needed to shave some legs.

I was not having a nice, relaxing bath experience.

Being weakened by my Plague, my hands are a bit shakey today. And as I was trying to hurry through the bath so I could get out and get into some warm clothes, consequently I cut myself. Twice. On the same knee.


I got out of the tub, dried off, and began looking for the band-aids. My tub is in the Blue Loo, and even though I enjoy this bathroom immensely, it is not the bathroom I use daily. Hence the supplies in this bathroom are typically somewhat out of date, as I discovered when I finally found a box of band-aids.

I'm pretty sure it's the world's oldest box of band-aids. And it was a variety box. But not because it started out that way. It seemed to have turned into the box of random leftover band-aids from many an old box of band-aids. And what's more, it looked like a hand-me-down box of band-aids that was once likely owned by my parents. I don't remember ever purchasing several of the varieties of band-aids I found in this box. And I have no idea why I would have this box of old mismatched band-aids.

Quite a puzzler. Maybe it was here when I moved into the house....


However this box of band-aids came to be, this was the box of band-aids I had to work with to cover the two bleeding cuts on my one sad knee. I pulled out what looked like two normal-esque band-aids, and attempted to get the band-aids out of the wrappers. This is when I knew I had the world's oldest band-aids.

Today's band-aids come in an easy-to-open peel-away package. You pull the flaps, and there is your band-aid. So simple!

Do you remember how one used to have to go about getting into a band-aid wrapper to the chewy band-aid center? You had to rip off the top, and then pull that ridiculously little red string from the top of the package all the way down to the bottom. If you grabbed the string wrong, it wouldn't pull. Then you had to try pulling it down the other side, which usually didn't work because by then the package was all wrinkly and not pull-able. Finally you had to completely forego the string and just rip into the package as best you could, all the while losing gallons of blood through your gaping wound that remained uncovered as you spent hours trying to get into one single band-aid package.

Now, my question is ... who is the genius who thought up the red string idea?? How did a group of people listen to this idea, think it was good, and then implement it worldwide into bazillions of band-aids for years and years and years?? Where was the person who implemented the new easier-to-use-and-makes-much-more-common-sense peel-apart packaging we are very thankful for today? Seriously. Band-aids are an emergency first-aid mechanism. Why make it as difficult as possible to open a life-saving device, and sell the band-aids that way for many, many years??

Not to mention, a small child could choke on that tiny red string. It's completely unsafe.

And where did all that string come from, anyway? Was there a band-aid red string plant somewhere overseas, manufacturing millions of 1.5 inch lengths of string sold only to band-aid packaging plants? And how did they get that tiny piece of string into all of those band-aid packages? Are there now millions of tiny-handed little people, or perhaps children, out of work because the red string idea finally became revealed as the stupidest contraption on earth?

These are my questions.

I finally got the band-aids out of the package and onto my knee. And, they may never come off. It's that super sticky old school glue that only grows stronger with time.

Man, it sucks being home sick. And now I'm worn out from the battle of the band-aid.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Blatant Solicitation
Ok, so the merchandise hasn't exactly paid off. It's fun, but my fans seem to be too cheap to indulge in the Tyrant Gear.

So, now I beg of you to help me in another way. It's simple, and will make me very happy. Not to mention, I've been providing free entertainment here for you for over a year, asking very little in return....

Show me you love me. Help me get a free Ipod.

Now, you may think this is a scam. And sure, this is one of the most annoying things known to man, begging people to do these types of things with a "free" incentive. But I have never lied to you before, nor led you astray. I actually know a couple of people who have successfully done this thing and received free Ipods. Seriously. No joke.

And yes, I've actually sunk this low. Begging for your help. And here is my sob story.

My current MP3 player is at least four years old, is held together by a rubberband, was nearly recently put out of its misery by the battery leaking inside of it, skips and shuts off when I move too much, and holds a maximum of 17 songs. It's a priceless antique that I can really no longer use, and I am about to start training again for a 100-mile bike event. Music while I spend hours on a bike will make the training almost heavenly.

All it involves is merely FIVE of you participating in one of the offers, making sure to sign up through my link so that I get credit for you, and then I magically get a free Ipod mini.

If you've thought of joining Blockbuster online, or a CD or DVD club, these are a few of the types of offers. And you can quit any time. You just have to sign-up, complete the basic offer, and let me get credit for your hard work.

I, too, have to complete an offer. So I'm not asking you to do anything I am not also doing. All for a free Ipod. Plus, get five people you know to do it and earn yourself a free Ipod.

You will have my undying gratitude, the peace and joy that comes from knowing you've made The Tyrant very happy, and more great blogging that comes from a happy Tyrant who is soothed by the music you helped her be able to listen to.

Ready, set, free Ipod.