When Someone Else Publishes ‘Your’ Thoughts (or, Mark Twain Has Great Fingernails)

When I woke up this morning before my alarm, I immediately grabbed my phone to check the time and see if I had significant time left to sleep a little more. I was smiling at the full hour and a half I had left when I saw the Facebook notification from my best friend Donna, but the smile left my face as soon as I saw her post – along with any thoughts of going back to bed. She forwarded me an article someone had written days earlier about painting fingernails!

(To see the article, click here.)

While the article itself may have little importance to some, it is extremely significant to me. Why?

I wrote the same ‘article’ in my blog four years ago – well, close enough to the same. (Actually, it was almost four years to the day; mine was published 4/29/2013, and this other writer’s article was published 4/17/2017.)

(To see my post, click here.)

Even the picture used for her article was very similar to a picture I used that same year.

fingers on coffee cup

These are just two of my favorite things!

It was like having a bucket of cold water thrown on me while I was sleeping (it certainly had the same effect – I jumped out of bed that fast).

FOR THE RECORD:

  • This is NOT about plagiarism. I do not think anyone ‘stole’ anything of mine.
  • I do not hate her article.

Writers, inventors, musicians, and other creative types are very familiar with the Mark Twain quote about ideas:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

I’m sure every single person has had an idea that they dismissed at one time or another and saw another person some time later cash in on the same thing and kick themselves for not acting on it. Words, musical notes, blueprints, small parts, big parts … thoughts … all get recirculated and recycled.

But I acted on my thought! I did write about it!

In my blog. And only 30 people read it. This other writer had hers published by Glamour Magazine and the article was picked up by the Huffington Post, no less. The Huffington Post! (Can you say ‘dream’?)

Ain’t that a kick in the head!

(I bet she’s younger than I am, too.)

Fortunately – and maybe because of my age? – I was able to get past my initial self-pity. In the short distance between my bed in one room of my apartment and my computer in another (with a pit stop at the bathroom), I pretty much had my thoughts in order – and in a positive light – before I even sat down here at my keyboard. It was not so much as a kick in the head, but a kick in the ass.

Here’s what I realized:

I was validated. Someone else felt the same way I did, and the many other people who read and shared her article felt the same way. Did it matter that it was only about painting my nails? No. I was right.

Timing matters. Yes, sometimes you have to get something out at the right time, when enough people are thinking along the same lines. That’s the reason why some thousands of wonderful books, movies, and songs don’t make it – or even flop initially then grab a chart-breaking popularity some time later.

And now we get to the more personal ‘lesson’:

Did I really act on my thoughts? Yes. But no. I followed through with my idea as far enough to publish it in my blog. And I left it there. Did I send it out to any bigger publishers? No.

I try to be so clever with my blog titles, yet there is a definite difference in an article title – one that informs. To some extent I even downplayed my writing by calling it a ‘fluff piece’ – in the title.

Blogs allow us to be a little more self-indulgent, as well. That is a privilege I enjoy heartily.

We wrote the same idea but for different audiences. If I really wanted my writing ‘out there’, I should have tailored it a little more (with less self-indulgence) and added a supporting authority footnote (“backed by science”).

And then, I should have pushed it out. Pushed. Not just tacked up somewhere where someone may or may not have seen it.

Four years ago, I wasn’t ready to do that. Four years ago I had just started that blog (only two weeks prior to writing that particular piece). It was my third attempt at writing a blog and the first one that ‘stuck’.

Now, I am ready to start pushing further. I can read and enjoy that other writer’s article without anger of any kind – not even self-loathing – because my own personal timing played into things, too. Where I was back then is not where I am now, and it is a place I needed to be at to get to where I am now.

Reading her article was an encouraging nudge to me to get moving more, writing more … pushing more. Her article showed me that what I write about has an audience. No, I am not where I want to be as far as my ‘writing career’ goes, but this place where I am right now (like four years ago this month) is a necessary step in that direction. I have pushed my writing more, I have published more. And I still have more to do.

My alarm just went off. I have to get ready for work. To go do the job-that-pays-my-bills-until-I-can-make-money-writing.

Who knows? Maybe if I follow the nudge and my inner muse a little more closely and seriously, four years from now I will be on that next step.

The time is going to pass anyway; I might as well make it count.

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Get Over It

(this blog has been cross-posted)

I have $19.41 in my wallet, and that amount is to last me for the rest of the week thanks to a major snafu on the part of a large company that took multiple payments out of my bank account one day two weeks ago, and a second time again last week. There are two reasons I’m telling you this: one, to show my certainty in my willingness to gamble with it; and, two, to point out that one event creates a domino effect afterward – which is part of the point I am trying to make now.

I am willing to bet that whole $19.41 – all that I have right now – that with the three words at the top of this article you have a good idea about my subject here. I even knew that those three words would get attention because of their implication.

Three words. Like I love you, they now carry a weight much larger than the space they take up on paper implies. Now especially, they can also evoke as much emotion as those other three little words, although their meaning has grown into something more hurtful, more uncaring, and more dismissive than before.

Get over it.

Something happened recently that has caused many people to be afraid. Very afraid. Had that event had the opposite result (and it very nearly did, if not for a … technicality), then another group of people would know that same fear – if their vociferous and public opinions beforehand were any indication; yet, instead of there but for the Grace of God their motto is the derogatory get over it.

When exactly did you stop caring about other people? When did you stop being able to see that it could have been you in that position?

I will ‘get over’ my financial issues after the company resolves its error in ‘the system’ which, apparently is a law unto itself, that will try three times – with no apparent means of stopping it – to make that same error a third time (I can’t wait to see what happens on Friday). I will ‘get over it’ after the bank has refunded bank fees and charges for overdraft, and when the company provides full compensation for what I have spent. Obviously, I won’t ‘get over it’ until later.

My daughter was in a serious car accident in July. While we are fortunate enough that she will heal in time, we will ‘get over it’ after she has completed therapy, after she is no longer in pain, after she is able to go back to work, and after she gets on her feet again. AFTER the actual event.

My mother had breast cancer. There were many things that happened after the diagnosis. We shaved her head in a ‘family ceremony’, she went through chemotherapy and radiation and suffered the aftereffects – not to mention how something like that can put one’s life on hold, or worse. Tell me, if the diagnosis happened in one day, when should she have gotten over it?

A man I loved died of cancer a little over four years ago. It happened; it’s done, right? When should I get over that?

I’m asking you to get a little perspective. The people who are concerned and afraid have their reasons for feeling the way they do. Who is any of us to judge what they are feeling or how strong their feelings are? Who are you to dismiss and disparage something that’s very real to them just because you don’t feel the same way?

We – none of us – are not even able to determine what courage is in another person, because we can never know what something might cost them. We decide someone else’s measure of bravery based on our own experiences and value judgments. We never really know how much the personal price is for a soldier, an activist, a parent, or the seemingly ordinary person walking out his or her front door … anyone.

We rush to judge people, and dismiss them only based on how we feel, conveniently forgetting that they have feelings, too. Like you, other people have their own truths. If you truly believe we live in a free country, if you value your freedom of thought, then you should be able to show some respect for the freedom of others in thinking and feeling as they do. Divided we fall.

Isn’t it funny how selective we can be, even with compassion? We seem to have more compassion for the person afraid of spiders. Why is that? Why can we accept their fear in that situation?
Do we ‘believe’ that opposing beliefs of others are to be scorned? That’s a little contradictory, don’t you think?

There is one more thing that I ask that you consider – if the above wasn’t too much for you already: the event that you are telling people to ‘get over’ hasn’t happened yet. A decision was made, and a future was foretold. These people you are telling to get over it haven’t even experienced what they are worried about – they were basically told that a disastrous event was coming. If it hasn’t happened yet, how can they possibly ‘get over’ it? And, if their fears are realized, what then? Or can you predict the future – including the actions of another – and fully assure others that everything will be all right? I’m a mother, and I have trouble telling that to my children – and there’s only two of them.

If you were told that something you feared was going to happen, how would you react? And how would you feel talking to someone else who didn’t understand your feelings?

Please, please, stop using those three little words. Understand the effect they would have on you. Remember the ‘other’ three little words. If you are unable to go that far then, please, just be quiet.

I love you.

I SEE You, San Nguyen

For the job-that-pays-my-bills, I visit stores that sell my company’s product. Since my territory covers the Boston area to mid-New Hampshire, I spend a lot of time in my car. In some cities and towns, though,  I have stores that are close enough together that I can park the car once and walk back and forth between them. It’s never a problem – well, except for that one time a young police officer stopped me with, “Are you soliciting, Miss?”

(He called me “Miss”!)

Anyway, today was one of those heavy walking days. When the weather is nice I allow myself a slower pace because I enjoy looking around when I walk.

When I’m inside the stores I need to visit I talk with the owners or managers for a bit, fill out a report on my cell phone, and take pictures.

I’d just walked outside of one of my stores and was taking pictures when a man stopped me and earnestly asked me to take his picture. I was a little confused at first; he spoke broken English and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get me to take his picture or not take his picture. Normally, when other people are nearby they duck out of the way to avoid the camera, but this gentleman was trying to get my attention. I told him I was taking pictures of the store and he smiled cheesily then pointed to his chest and opened his arms wide in a “Look at me!” pose.

I took his picture, giving him a minute to assume his position as it appeared to matter to him. My noticing that point made me think. Why did I find it unusual, or why did I notice, that he needed a moment to think about his pose before I snapped the picture? People pose for pictures all the time – all.the.time. – and adjust themselves for pictures, yet this seemed different.

I got another thought: he might never get his picture taken. That would make this – this simple act of taking a picture – a big event.

Digital cameras and cell phones have made it possible for us to take as many pictures of as many things as we want to (without worrying about running out of film/flash or the time it takes to develop the pictures). And we do. We need only one picture for our profile on Facebook, and we can take thousands just to get the right one. We think nothing of whipping out the phone to take random selfies with each other, a coffee cup, or a burrito. Even my Facebook friends six times removed can see that I take great advantage of that opportunity.

That privilege.

And here was this man, asking me to take his picture.

Look at me!

I talked with him for a moment after I took his picture. I introduced myself and shook his hand – and then he took my hand and cradled it against his cheek. When we said goodbye he didn’t ask for money or anything; all he wanted was his picture taken. When I was a few steps away from him I turned back to look; he was still looking at me and I waved.

Look at me.

LOOK at me.

For all the enjoyment I get when I’m walking around, I know there are still some things I don’t see. I’m absolutely certain that on days that I’m rushing around for my ‘important’ busy-ness that I miss even more –

– like people.

Acknowledgment of one another is huge. It doesn’t hurt to greet someone when you make eye contact, or even greet someone before you make eye contact. People matter, and need to feel like they matter. Think about how you feel when you feel snubbed by someone you know, or how it feels to be ignored. Think about what it might feel like to be unacknowledged. Most of us question our existence in times of stress and tragedy; how much more would you question the Universe if you felt your existence went unnoticed?

I take pictures as casually as I breathe (another privilege I take for granted). How lonely does one have to feel to ask a stranger to take his picture?

It’s not like I will see him again, or exchanged phone numbers with him to text the picture to him. He will not get the picture, but I will have it.

San Nguyen, I am very happy I met you today. Even if we never see each other again, we are tied forever in that moment and right here.

One more thing …

I see you.

san-nguyen-11-1-16-cropped