You can’t control the message


High summer is usually a difficult time of year for me. The heat, the awareness of diminishing days until school (even though I am not teaching this year I still feel that end-of-summer anxiety), knowing I am nowhere near completing my summer goals…it all combines into a big black morass and I wade right in and get stuck.

Then I commence with feeling sorry for myself, which is combined with a constant, expanding fear that I am lazy, worthless, talentless, and worst of all, always feeling sorry for myself.

Then Robin Williams kills himself and I wonder if there is any hope for anyone, anywhere. If being talented, a hard worker, and surrounded by family and adoring fans means nothing, then nothing means anything, not even that I am in a deep depression, which means that there is no point to trying to get out of it, which I can’t do anyway.

Then my requested copy of Sartre’s Nausea comes in at the library and I am excited to think that there are people in the world, or were once upon a time because the existentialists are all dead now, who see things as I do.

Then I reread all the stories I have posted online and my heart and stomach mix together in one big feeling of sick. Oh. My. God. They suck. My first thought is I have to make that blog private asap before anyone else has a chance to read them. I feel shame.

It is the same shame I feel when I reveal anything that matters about myself to others. The same shame I feel when I’ve been part of a community long enough for people to get to know me a bit. Or when I’ve gone out the night before and had some wine and talked to a total stranger for awhile about something completely innocuous but without carefully evaluating everything that came out of my mouth. It’s what I feel when I am not controlling the message.

The thing is, I know I can never control the message. But oh do I try. And when I can’t anymore, I say goodbye. I end friendships. I stop going to church. I make blogs private. I stay home when I drink wine.

But there was something else when I read my stories. Even though I could see every awkward phrase, every cliche, every bit of unrealistic dialogue, and whoa, the problems with pacing, I still liked them. I read each one through to the end with a certain pleasure, and I was moved. Even though I was crushed realizing how far my work is from what I want it to be (note to self: don’t read any of your own stuff right after reading two amazing stories in the New Yorker), I still liked what I read.

I’m trying to convince myself that matters in some way.


The shoes in the picture above are twenty-year-old Clarks. They were given to me in Italy by someone special when I was there on a year study abroad. He also gave me the tag from his Clarks, which were tan.

I never wore these much until the last several years. They were never in style and I had money to spend on shoes. Now they are suddenly in style and I have no money, so out they came from the closet. I love them. The other day I went looking in boxes and found my friend’s tag. I took the photo and sent it to him. I don’t know what he thought of it. He responded, but didn’t say anything about the shoes.

I guess I was feeling nostalgic and hoped he would respond in kind. Or would realize how much he meant to me all those years ago and how much the memory means to me now.

But I can’t control the message once it’s out there in the world. And chances are I garbled it in the telling.

Keep going. Keep trying. Let go of the outcome.


2 thoughts on “You can’t control the message

  1. Your about me page is really relateable and I love your style of writing. I’m interested in knowing if you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, feel free to email me 🙂

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