|The Long-Backed Seussian Terrier upon first arriving in the White Mountains.|
As the years go on, I realize that I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert. I’d never have thought of myself in this way in the past. No, years ago I used to love to jump into the middle of life and live out loud. But coming to the mountains has changed me. Letting Nature wrap her arms around me has simplified things. My days are now quieter, and I’m more cautious about who I let into my life. Those I am close with, I’m very intimate with. But no longer do I feel the need to “collect” friends, thinking that numbers are everything. These days, it’s more about quality.
Of all the people I’ve loved and lost to death, the one I miss the most is my Aunt Marijane. Once a nun working with the Navajo Indians in Arizona, she eventually left to further study psychology and became a Jungian analyst. Conversations with Marijane were always illuminating. We’d talk for hours, and typically several times a week. She turned out to be one of my best friends.
MJ was one of the least judgmental people I knew, but she wasn’t blinded by dysfunction or B.S. She forgave easily, but always was aware of the human condition. She had a great saying when explaining one person’s troubled life, “She’s driving a Mack truck full of crazy.”
But Marijane’s point was not to hold it against the person but to acknowledge what you were dealing with. “It’s okay to pray for such a person, to like them even, but be careful not to get run over by the Mack truck full of crazy.”
These days, more than ever it seems, I’m aware of the Mack trucks full of crazy driving around at high speeds. Perhaps it has to do with social media. Things that were once thought but only quietly expressed to close family and friends are blasted out into the world. Look no further than the recent Republican and Democratic conventions. I streamed both, as best I could, on my phone and laptop, and I listened and filtered things through my beliefs. What I found was what amplified angst were the comments on so many Facebook posts about either candidate. There is such anger out there now, and much of it isn’t filtered. It has gotten to the point that I avoid most comment sections no matter where I find them on-line. And it’s not just about politics. It’s about guns and religion and race. Heck, even vegans fight among themselves in comment sections about who is more "vegan."
When I pointed this out to a friend of mine who is a vegan activist he wrote back with a twinkle in his eye, I imagine, "Oh, don't ever read the comments." But it has gotten to that point.
A little while ago I remember reading my daily dose of the “Mutts” comic strip. I forget the complete message, but it had to do with the closeness shared on a walk between human and dog. To me, it seemed charming in every way, as all of the cartoonist’s work is. And yet, in the comment section, there were some people livid that the dog in the cartoon was wearing a collar instead of a harness. There were a lot of double exclamation points, and double questions marks (!!??). Just reading a few of them changed my mood. (The double !! or ?? so intrigue me that I looked them up. What they translate to is a form of anger.)
So I’ve now learned my lesson. I avoid comments because the vitriol is tangible and it is toxic. It’s a lot of Mack truck full of crazy.
This may help you understand why I’m so happy with the Following Atticus Facebook page. Sure, there are still judgmental and angry comments left, but they are in the minority. Just yesterday a man wrote that I was an abuser because of the hikes I shared with Atticus. He urged me to leave Samwise alone and let him stay in the house. Fortunately, I have some dedicated administrators who help keep the page positive.
It has gotten to the point that I write a post, and then leave the rest to them. From time to time I check back in, but mostly I use the page as an on-line journal and leave it at that. My biggest request of my moderators is, “Keep the page positive. I would appreciate it if Atticus, Will, and now Samwise are treated with respect, and if you see something that you wouldn’t want to be posted about you, feel free to get rid of it.” What my moderators do with that is up to them. This way I keep my sanity.
But here’s the thing about the Following Atticus page I really like. It’s the way many of you have networked to get to know one another. Friendships have formed by way of our Facebook page. What a beautiful thing to see. It’s brought to my attention that when someone is going through a bad divorce, or cancer, or has lost a job, or a loved one, people reach out to them and offer solace and kindness. They embrace each other, and that makes this a special place.
C. S. Lewis has that fabulous quote about friendship that goes like this, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too?’ . . .”
Even someone who has become as private in “real life” as I have, embraces these get togethers, and they make my heart swell. Whenever the stories are shared with me, I can’t help but smile. Earlier this week I heard about two women who are battle-tested by cancer meeting for coffee in Bristol, Rhode Island. Meeting made their online friendship truer. From what I take, they both left each other having felt blessed by the other.
These kind of connections are not something I expected when starting the Following Atticus page five years ago, but it’s one of the things that makes it unique. And just to show this introvert is not immune to all of this, when Samwise and I take our trip around the country, we will be making five stops along the way to meet people I’ve been drawn to through the years because of their posts, and the correspondence that followed.
To close, I want to share this, which was sent to me by a friend three thousand miles away.
“I went grocery shopping this morning, and as I came out of the store, there was a woman standing on the walkway with a dog who bore at least a passing resemblance to Samwise. Curious, I said to her, ‘What breed is she?’ With a completely straight face, she said, ‘She’s a Long-Backed Seussical Terrier.’ Of course, I started to laugh and blurted out “Following Atticus!” She said, “Yes, You too? Isn’t that just the greatest Facebook page ever? Have you read the book?” We talked for a minute or two about you, Atti and Will and Samwise, and your upcoming book.”
I thank you for helping to create a refuge from the craziness. Running a social media site is not always easy. There are landmines to skip around, but most of you make it a pleasure keep this page going strong.
Onward, by all means. And look out for those Mack trucks full of crazy.