750 Words

I promised myself I was going to do the 750words.com September challenge. That means I promised myself I would write 750 words a day every day during the month of September. This seems particularly foolish right now. I don’t have enough time to do everything I’m supposed to do in a day. Why would I add another pressure?

But writing isn’t pressure to me. Writing is a chance to relax. Writing is like meditation to me.

Yet I didn’t plan to write like meditation. I had a purpose in mind. I wanted to write a series of articles about writing to share with my students. I wanted to write instructional materials. I find myself too fatigued to write like that, however. I need to write like something else.

Writing is actually recommended by the Mayo clinic and other reputable medical facilities as a strategy for stress management. I’m not the only one who understands that writing can be meditation.

And so I think that I will manage my stress by writing a critique of the sources of my stress.

For one, I am typing this now in a word processing program. Normally, I type straight to the blog and hit publish on the spot. You might notice that I do that because I don’t proofread, and I don’t do too much in the way of self-censoring. I am the free write queen. You get it as I think it.

I’m not doing that now because my Internet is out, and I cannot type straight to the blog. This has been a source of stress for me this week. Both at school and at home I have experienced repeated technology failures. I teach all online classes. I can’t teach them without Internet. My Internet has been extremely unreliable. That makes me want to claw the pixels right out of my error messages.

For the other reasons I am stressed out, I blame my grandmother. I’m not even sure which grandmother, but I do have my suspicions on that. I blame her, may she rest in peace, because I am a person who experiences a high level of empathy. I read an article that said your empathetic responses to the emotions of others are genetically patterned in you and that if you experience too much stress due to excess empathy, you should blame your grandmother. I figured I might as well. She hasn’t argued about anything else I’ve blamed her for lately.

And so I’ve been working in this environment where people who normally don’t get upset about anything are feeling pretty terribly disgruntled and depressed. It’s much easier to block out the disgruntlement of others when it’s all coming from the usual suspects. Some people easily dis up their gruntlements. Even highly empathetic people have coping mechanisms for that. You can frame it in a context, and you can deal with it.

But when the normally happy people are sad and angry, there aren’t really any coping mechanisms for absorbing their moods. It’s all too unexpected. You want to fix it, and you just keep getting more and more stressed out when you can’t figure out a way to fix it.

That’s what’s happening to me. I’m a problem solver, and I don’t have any solutions to the ills of my world.

Let me also take the time to say this as long as I am still spreading random letters across the screen.

When the happy people in your organization are sad and angry, you have deep-rooted problems. I hope someone is reading this. I hope someone is thinking about this. I hope someone who can do something about it cares.

I hope it matters that I say something about it.

Writers should be social crusaders. If they aren’t speaking up about things that matter, they aren’t doing their jobs.

As a result of writing what I wrote yesterday about the demoralized atmosphere of my workplace, I received a fairly impressive number of private messages thanking me for saying it. People said it was brave of me to say what everyone else was thinking. That surprised me. I didn’t think of it as being brave when I did it. I only thought of it as doing what I do.

I am a writer. I write. It’s what I do. That’s why it seems like relaxation to me to say I will write 750 words a day. That’s why it never crossed my mind that it took courage to put some words on a screen.

I was taught that you should always do what’s right even at great personal cost. As a result, I think I could play a pretty good martyr. But that’s not what I’m doing here. Writing is no cost to me. Writing is my pleasure.

And if writing honestly about how you feel about what’s happening in the world around you requires inordinate bravery, your world has a terrible illness. It needs emotional chemotherapy in the worst way.

This is America. No group of people should be afraid to say how they feel, particularly not when those people work for a public institution.

That’s all. I have now exceeded not just 750 words but 850 as well. If the Internet pops back in for a moment, I will post and say good night.

Sleep well, world. There’s always the chance of calmer moments tomorrow.

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