The last few years it’s been hard to enjoy blogging as much as I used to, and I eventually came to see that my lack of enjoyment was actually a lack of trust. Lack of trust in the ability of the Internet to play nice, but also lack of trust in my own ability to properly assess the impact of what I write as it comes out of me.
Back in April, for example, I wrote a post about life coaches in general and Martha Beck more specifically, as I was reading one of her books. The tone of the post was skeptical, to my ear, but I can sort of understand how you might read the post and hear bitchiness or dismissiveness, or any of a thousand other things that I have no control over
because your tinfoil hat prevents me from manipulating your thoughts because everyone’s tuned to different frequencies. I tend to look for a funny way to talk about things that make me nervous, like feelings and my deeply repressed spiritual nature, and so my writing about these subjects can come off as immature. I’ll own that.
Anyway, my post hurt the feelings of some people who took the time to tell me that life coaches had helped them tremendously, as well as the feelings of people who were life coaches and felt kind of bummed that I didn’t get it. After which I felt bummed that I didn’t get it, because deep down I did get it; I got it very, very much, but I was deeply afraid of admitting how much I wanted such a miraculous person as a life coach to come and fix me. So I made fun of them.
Listen, it’s not always fun being a suburban, middle-aged white lady who can’t handle her own stupid feelings.
And commenters can be really smart. They can point out your flaws so quickly sometimes, weaknesses you’ve spent a lifetime carefully papering over can be stunningly obvious to them. They don’t always call you on it very nicely, unfortunately, but I think it’s the job of anyone who writes online to examine themselves when someone cuts them to the quick, and ask themselves, “Is it true?” It doesn’t have to be 100% true, but if it’s even 1% true you have to own that 1%. Because if you mindlessly take the road everyone who loves you and wants to protect you tells you to take, the road where you get to say, “don’t feed the trolls” or “they’re just jealous” or “ignore the haters” or the time-tested “fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke,” you will add another brick to the wall that will eventually turn into an airless room containing just you and your ego.
Just to make things worse, eventually I got a comment that began, “Hi, Eden, it’s Martha!” Martha! didn’t seem to like what I’d written about her profession. Actually, I had some doubts that the comment was truly from Martha Beck, because I was pretty sure Martha would know the difference between “Augean Stables” (the ones Hercules had to clean out as part of his many labors) and “Aegean Stables” (stables that are just Aegean in general). I didn’t think Martha would really be out there Googling mentions of herself in blog posts, but maybe she had a staff member dedicated to preserving her glorious image online. The e-mail address left with the comment pointed to someone @marthabeck.com, so who knew! Life coaches are crazy, right? Right? Oh, God, please tell me I’m right.
I knew I was in trouble because I’d violated such a cardinal rule of Internet blogulating that I couldn’t even believe it: don’t talk shit about people as though they can’t hear you, because 9 times out of 10 that person is going to end up on your blog, reading what you said about them, and then chanting for your slow, painful death from stomach cancer.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of yoga, and one thing I’ve learned that I can carry into any situation is that your weaknesses often point directly at what you need to work on the most. And one of my most persistent weaknesses as a human being is that I check out emotionally when things get tough. So I alternately hid from, beat myself up for, and tried to ignore the fact that I may have pissed off Martha Beck — who never did anything but write a book that I found helpful, for fuck’s sake — for two and a half months.
Then, last week, I watched as someone I admire angered and then shot back at a whole lot of people, thought deeply and clearly about why that happened, and then apologized like a pro. And I knew what I had to do.
Hi, [person at marthabeck.com], a few months ago I wrote a blog post talking about how I was reading Martha’s book “Finding Your Own North Star,” and in this post I expressed some skepticism about the profession of life coaching in general. (The link is here: http://www.fussy.org/2012/04/selvishness.html .) On this post, a person left what I felt was an angry-ish comment under the name Martha Beck. I felt terrible, of course, because I was coming to admire Martha’s writing tremendously, but at the time I also felt like the comment might have been left by someone just pretending to be Martha so I let it sit.
But since your e-mail address was the one left below their comment, and this has been nagging at me for more than two months now, I felt I ought to put on my big girl panties and apologize, if the comment was indeed left by Martha and she was indeed ticked off by what I wrote. Friends have told me not to worry about it, but friends don’t have to live in my skin and walk around feeling like I’ve offended someone I’ve come to admire. I haven’t even finished reading “North Star” because every time I open it I feel like I don’t deserve to have Martha help me. So I thought a good way to get past that would be to apologize and go forth and try not to be such a dick in the future.
If the comment wasn’t Martha’s, at least I got all this off my chest! Sorry you had to witness it!
A couple of hours later I received this reply:
Thank you SO much for your email and for reaching out. I read the comment and double checked with Martha because it was definitely not something I felt she would ever do or say. She responded with No no no. We are deeply sorry someone used her name. She also asked that I send you the message below.
Attached was a kind message from Martha Beck herself (I’m pretty sure, unless this is a really elaborate ruse involving a weapons-grade e-mail cloaking device). Not long after that I also heard from the CEO of Martha’s company, who was unbelievably nice as well and had no problem with my post whatsoever.
So that pretty much made my day.
This story has a couple of morals, as I see it.
- Internet commenters can be lying weirdos with unfathomable agendas, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing
- If you hurt someone’s feelings and the reason you did it points at a fault within yourself, own it
- Thou shalt not commit adultery
- Buy the kosher hot dogs
- Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus