Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Grudges, Grief and Other G-Words

Y'know, I was a lot less sleepy when I decided on the "hook" for tonight's entry. Now I'm not sure I have the energy to do it properly--but I'll give it a shot!

This message is brought to you by the letter G.


I would like to think that I never hold a grudge, but it just isn't true. There are people I will never feel comfortable with again, because they hurt my feelings so badly, once upon a time, many years ago:
  • One sentence I wrote in a message board entry on Prodigy in 1991 or 1992 destroyed a friendship I had with another Leaper.

  • Later, a best friend's drunken rudeness one night when I was particularly lonely and vulnerable resulted in our not being best friends any more.

  • Someone I'd only met once was very unpleasant to me at work one day, during my second week on the job. Ever since then I've been a little nervous in her presence - even though she's been consistently nice to me, and even though I'm not quite sure she's the person who said that hurtful thing!

  • I love their commercials, but I've refused to patronize Jack in the Box for well over a decade, ever since their St. Mary's location made me wait half an hour for a fork with which to eat the salad they'd sold me. (Long story - remind me to tell it sometime!)

  • And I haven't voluntarily bought gas at Exxon since the Exxon Valdez spill.

Yeah, I hold grudges. Heck, I even hold grudges against myself. There are a few things I said as a kid that I deeply regret, even though nobody else remembers that I said them, and my memories of the incidents seem rather far-fetched now. Did my mom really burst into tears with a hearty "boo-hoo-hoo" when I said I hoped that if she died, my next mommy would be even better, and the one after that better still?

Despite all this, I'm generally pretty good at forgiving people. I can understand why the leaper was upset by what I wrote, why the best friend didn't want me over that night. My grudges about them have little to do with anger and everything to do with self-defense, trying not to get hurt again. If either person turned up at my door tonight or tomorrow - 4 AM, 10 AM, whenever - I would invite her in, and offer her some hot tea and pie.

So how does all this apply to the present situation?

Well, really, as I look back, the people I've forgiven over the years have generally been people who apologized. AOL hasn't apologized. Scalzi and Joe have apologized, bless 'em, but that doesn't help much. They aren't the ones who made the bad decisions, who chose to go with the banner ads, who pretended to the press that hardly anyone complained, and that competitors' blogs all have banner ads. It's kind of hard to forgive someone while their misbehavior continues, without acknowledgment or apology. I think I could manage to forgive AOL anyway, see the other side of the story, accept America Online as a tapestry of good and bad qualities and move on, if the company would just refrain from annoying me for a while. But as with the P* Leaper, as with the ex-best friend, I will never be fully comfortable again. And that's a shame.


I think there's something wonky about my grief process. I've heard about the five stages of grief, but that process never seems to quite apply to me. When my mom died, my primary reaction was relief. I'm not even sure I cried, except before the fact, the evening of the Thanksgiving horror show, and in the ER waiting room that December, as I watched for the ambulance to arrive, 24 hours before she died. And yet here I am: three years later, I still dream about her at night.

Last week, as friends took their AOL Journals private with no readers, and started up on Blogspot instead; as a lively community of bloggers fractured, seemingly forever; I knew we were all grieving for what we'd lost. And yet, after the first day or two, I haven't been terribly depressed or angry or upset about all this. I've been driven, yes, setting this up, and trying to find the right words to help people set aside their anger and reconnect as a community instead of dividing into armed camps. I've thought about returning to AOL-J Land, as others have, if only AOL would throw me a bone, putting on that stupid disclaimer below the banner ad, and making it possible to spell the word Mâvarin correctly again. Is this bargaining? Or is it just me doing what I usually do, trying to be a cheesemaker (peacemaker)?

The thing is, though, that we've recovered remarkably quickly, up to a point. I was worried I'd be back down to a readership of five, but that didn't happen. I was worried that the extreme AOL loyalists and extreme AOL detractors would, in combination with the mere change of address, manage to destroy any lingering sense of community. That hasn't happened, either. Oh, yes, I've seen some mean and bitter things said on both sides, but most of J-Land seems to realize that the problem is not, and should not be, between one blogger/journaler and another. Blogspot addresses are turning up on AOL-J sidebars now, and vice-versa. That's as it should be.

Still, there is a lingering sense of loss. We grieve for the relatively carefree days when the biggest controversies were over who deserved a VIVI award, when Musings and Ellipsis and (sometimes)photoblog and the rest were still our relatively angst-free private domains.

Over on Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly, the eponymous Carly is planning a five part series on grief management next week, to help us work through all this, and any other grief from which we may be suffering. Click here to read her introductory entry, and to post your questions on the subject. Then join her next week for the series itself.


I hesitate to mention this, because John will probably express his disapproval, but I've been eating my way through the many possibilities of "pumpkin anything." So far, I've had that pumpkin Clif bar and pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. I have big plans to eat pumpkin seeds and pumpkin ice cream between now and Christmas. I shouldn't be doing this, but maybe by the end of the year (or sooner!) I'll be tired of the flavor, and more apt to settle down with a more healthy diet.

Today I got a triple dose: restaurant-made pumpkin pie, homemade pumpkin bundt cake, and terrible store-bought pumpkin tarts.

And yes, I had a little bit of Scalzi's favorite, too: pecan pie.

I had only a small wedge of the bundt cake, which was a mistake. I took that little piece home to eat later, so by the time I discovered how extremely good it was, it was too late to have any more. (Just as well, I suppose.) The pumpkin tart, on the other hand, was a lot of bad pie crust, a big smear of icing, and a little bit of tasteless pumpkin filling in between. It was tiny, but even so I didn't eat the whole tart.

All this was part of our department's pre-Thanksgiving pot luck. The company sprang for a Honey-Baked Ham, a huge expense (have you priced those things lately?) and much appreciated. I bought cranberry-orange relish for the occasion, which one of my favorite people at Safeway got from the deli department for me after midnight last night. The guy in the cubicle next to mine brought his own version of fruit salad, oriental style. There was lots of other stuff, store-bought, homemade, or somewhere in between. Yum.

Under the terms of the Blocher-Blocher holiday treaty, I either cook for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but not both. Tomorrow we go to Marie Callendar's. For Christmas, well, I'm not sure yet. Maybe I'll cook as planned, or maybe we'll go to Disneyland.


"In the beginning, I misunderstood,
But now I've got it, the word is good."
--The Beatles, The Word

Things are looking up. I got my first notice from FeedBlitz about an hour ago. I think it will make a fine substitute for AOL Alerts, but only for blogs that syndicate their feeds on this service. "Huh? What does that mean?" you may be asking yourself, but really, it's painless. You just go to and follow the instructions, and people will be able to sign up to get an email when you post - or once a day if you post more than once that day and set it up that way. The only semi-tricky thing is that you need to go to your template and find a spot on your sidebar, and paste in the code that FeedBlitz gives you.

And if you don't want to bother with that, there's always Bloglines. But I think I'm going to like this better.

Yes, there are lots of cool things you get do with these blogs, some of which aren't possible on an AOL Journal. Take a look at Steven's newly-redesigned layout for (sometimes)photoblog, now at Isn't that nice? And he designed that template himself! Also see Shelly's Cyber Chocolate - it's choco-full of fun stuff on the sidebar and elsewhere. You may not want to go all-out like that, but just seeing what's possible can be inspirational.

So as we start the Thanksgiving weekend, I think we have a lot to be thankful for after all. We've discovered that there's life after AOL, and that we can invite our friends on new adventures in the bigger blogosphere, and most of them will be happy to come along. Those of us who made the move are learning HTML, and maybe even css. We're starting to feel good about our accomplishments, as we learn techie stuff we never had to know until now. And most of us are about to have a nice little chunk of time off, during which we'll be able to play with Blogger, and learn our way around some more.

As I said: Good.




DesLily said...

Sheesh, if i look at enough food pictures in the journals by the time the turkey is done i won't be hungry LOL..

Have a great Thanksgiving!!!

Shelly said...

"Things are looking up. I got my first notice from FeedBlitz about an hour ago. I think it will make a fine substitute for AOL Alerts, but only for blogs that syndicate their feeds on this service."

I checked the site and it said you can get a feed even if the blogger doesn't have an account, so if you want to try getting updates to my blogs on FeedBlitz, give it a try and report back so I can see if it works. I'd rather not bother with it, cuz it means changing a lot of templates and means another account with another login to worry about. And as a relatively new service, it hasn't really been tested yet. But I am curious.

Globetrotter said...

For someone who was sleepy you did one hell of a job on this entry!
Almost all of what you said I wholeheartedly agree with. The grieving is over for me, too, but I am very sorry that some people have chosen to take sides. It does remind me of something Abe Lincoln said once. "A house divided cannot stand"...or something like that. The diviseness is what kills me, but frankly there was a lot of that going on before the ads went up so whatever.
I am glad I haven't felt anxious enough to leave. I don't know if I'm up to speed on the challenges of the html stuff. But one of these days I'm gonna find out!
Regarding forgiveness. I just read an incredible book called "Prison of My own". It's the most incredible story of forgiveness I've ever read. I forgive easily, but like you, it happens much quicker with an apology attached. AOL sucks, but I blame myself because I knew it when I signed on the first time.
Have a glorious Thanksgiving Karen...I must now go and eat something after seeing your yummy pictures:)

Jeff said...

I also had issues with AOL and left there with a bad taste in my mouth. When I read the fine print of Blogger, I pulled my blog from there and got my own domain name. I probably don't get as many readers, but I don't really care.

Carly said...


This may be one of you best entries. Thoughtful, honest and well reasoned. I applaude you my dear friend. So rare.

Always, Carly

jennifer said...

Happy Thanksgiving (a day late...), Karen. This was a fabulous entry, especially with all the food. (And I agree on those store-bought tarts -- yeech. Mine were pecan. Never again.)

I've been through my anger phase, brought on in large part for me because of the unexpectedness of it all. Now I'm settling in, and see this as a blessing. I don't know that I would have stretched my wings had I not been shoved through the door, even though I have maintained a Blogger blog since March. Now I find I like it here. I do believe that things happen for a reason, even though at first we don't see the reason and tend to react.

I really believe that we will maintain the friendships we had, once we all (or at least the ones willing) realize that it's not the house that makes the home.

And I LOVE FeedBlitz!! One email, everybody's entries. Now we just must convince everyone to allow us to subscribe to them! Please everybody, sign up! LOL