Click the play arrow to hear me read this essay to you:
This morning I experienced the kind of computer blip that I thought never happened to anyone anymore.
Last week I wrote – and labored over – and twiddled around with – and tweaked – and thought A LOT about – and edited – and changed the name of – and rearranged – an essay about communication.
After several days of this process, I had the essay in (what I consider to be) publishable format. I scheduled it to be published yesterday. And it was. Sort of.
The title of the post was published. And so were the categories and tags. But the TEXT – the part that I labored over, twiddled around with, tweaked, thought about, edited, and rearranged – had disappeared.
Now, I would like to claim that I am responding to this very philosophically. But I am not.
My response is more like this:
The first reaction
I am awash in the bitter freshness of having lost something that I worked hard on, enjoyed, and was excited to share.
And if I am honest, I see that I am also in denial.
I am hoping the work is not – in fact – lost. That I after I publish this post I will – gasp! – recover the other one.
I am hoping I can experience the relief of a close shave – you know, “learn a lesson” about scorpions without having to experience the fullness of the sting. Just a little stingy nibble, please.
So I wrote a blog post and I lost it. Is that going to change the course of the world? Am I such a middle-schooler that I believe my thoughts about buzzwords and messaging MATTER in an all-caps and italicized sort of way?
I’m going to give that a no and a yes.
No because disappointments like this may not determine the direction of the universe – or maybe they do, I can’t claim to say. (I’ve heard that Hitler was a frustrated and thwarted artist. Conceptually, I think that adds up.)
But certainly in this case, a disappeared blog post is not a matter of life and death. No small children are going to go unfed due to its not being published. No weapons were unintentionally detonated in the loss of this essay. And I’m grateful for that. But it’s a false conclusion that because no catastrophe has ensued, my thoughts about buzzwords and messaging don’t matter.
And that’s why yes. When we create something in our jobs or lives – whatever that something is – if it is meaningful to us, it is meaningful. No external authority (be it criticism or praise) can diminish or validate that significance because such things are under the jurisdiction of our internal sovereignty.
But what often happens for people in something like The Case of the Lost Essay, is a self-imposed “toughening up” process that does no good. It goes something like, “Big deal. It doesn’t matter. Get over it. Quit whining. Think of all the suffering in the world, and how much worse that is than this.”
Guess what. That’s not helpful. That is not “perspective.” It’s invalidation, and it ultimately leads to repression and a lack of compassion.
Measuring your own small sadness against all the
suffering in the world doesn’t make you less sad.
Or any kinder.
It just makes you mean.
I repeat, this does no good.
It’s like stepping in dog poop with your right shoe and deciding to wipe it on your left shoe, just to even things out.
I see this process unfold in the treatment room and I see this process unfold in writing clients. And today I see the spark of this process in myself.
The bottom line, though, is we can’t get over something we never let ourselves feel. From what I’ve observed, most of us are afraid of getting stuck (“wallerin” we call it here in Dixie) in self-pity so we never enter into sadness and disappointment.
This is a mistake, I think. This avoidance adds force and fear to the depth of sadness and disappointment. And if we can’t get our sea legs with “little losses” (like the Case of the Lost Essay,) how unrealistic of us to expect ourselves to weather the big ones.
So, yes. My proverbial right shoe stinks right now. And I am not going to smear it across the left one, too. Sometimes that’s the best we can do, and I think it’s good enough.
Shine on, y’all.
Mary Beth Huwe is a writer, an editor, and a strategist. She helps people identify, articulate, and translate their most essential messages into kickin’ content that is both communicative and practical.
These essays are forays into the art and essence of communication. They have not been subjected to the full scrutiny of said editor’s eye, and may contain typos. (But you’ll probably never find apostrophe abuse, because that’s just cruel.)