Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Long-winded

"You should have chosen the cupcake," joked a friend upon hearing that I was in the midst of a life threatening experience due to a tiny piece of baby carrot that was apparently lodged in my windpipe.

He was probably right!

How funny/ironic that while on this huge health kick of mine, it was a piece of carrot that was precariously stuck in my throat and impeding me from taking a long full breath without wheezing and coughing. While I couldn't actually feel the piece of carrot, it was obviously there, turning my once clear breaths into the sound reminiscent of someone struggling with emphysema.

As I was too scared to lay down for bed knowing that my airway was still hosting a mini room-mate, I shut myself in the bathroom and proceeded to work myself up into a very intentional, and quite forceful coughing fit. Thankfully, my attempts proved successful, and after only a few heaves, the culprit exited, the rasping breaths stopped, and I was able to snuggle down for bed without the fear of choking during the night.

I now have a better appreciation for long deep breaths.

My blog is a means of catching my breath.  A long deep breath where my airway is always unblocked, and my thoughts flow without labor.  Just as I breathe without thinking about the mechanics of each inhale and exhale, writing also comes naturally for me, and I often find that words have poured onto the screen without my realizing what I've just written until I proof the entry - for I have learned not to censor myself while in the moment.

I tend to be long-winded writer.  And opinionated.  What a great combination.  Isn't that just what we need?  More long-winded and opinionated people?  Sorry.  Warning. This one is going to be a doozy.

Recently, during a brief discussion with a fellow writer, I inquired as to whether he had ever retracted or appended a published piece - against his better judgment.  It's a confusing topic for me, seeing as I write a blog - the home of thoughts and opinions which are based upon my personal experiences.  Over the past three years, however, I have ruffled feathers on more than one occasion due to my content.  My friend shared that while writing a book, he too met with some criticism and although he wanted to allude to the disagreement in the finished product, he ultimately chose not to do so.  Same goes with me.  For each time I've had someone question my content, I have made the choice to cool the pot by re-editing a piece, rather than allowing the pot to boil over.

Both of us were a bit frustrated with our choices.

Me, because while I never set out to intentionally hurt someone with my words, they do run the risk of being misinterpreted.  I realize that putting myself out there is an invitation for criticism.  I actually like a healthy/respectful dialogue and will usually state my opinion with the hope that anyone who misunderstands or disagrees with my take on an issue, will respond by addressing their concerns with me directly before dismissing my words as those of a dramatic dingbat.  I am finding, however, that the dialogue I seek rarely occurs.  Confrontation is too dangerous for many.  And uncomfortable. It is simply easier for one to discuss the content with someone else, rather than talking directly to the originator. 

I received my first tongue lashing (or, rather, finger lashing) back in Evanston where I wrote a post letting a local business have it after months of dealing with them.  All my readers agreed they deserved it, and yet, somehow actually writing about it was considered rude.  I still haven't completely reconciled my decision to amend my original posts about the issue, for I know that I will never verbally recommend this business to someone else.  It's hard for me knowing that although I've written a slight retraction, ask me directly, and I will tell you directly not to use this particular business.  I have often wondered if my writing about the situation would have been considered more legit had I written a review for the local paper, or sent my criticism to a local news station to be part of a consumer alert segment. 

In blog form, however, my comments were merely considered mean-spirited and cheeky.

Talk about being confused.  I like truth, but truth can sting.  So, what's a writer to do?

As a Christian, I do believe that I have the responsibility to love my neighbor, and my enemy, even through my writing.  This does not mean, however that I will always agree with them.  It does mean that I must be "slow to speak" (and write, for that matter).  Which brings me to my post-Memorial Day moment.

Freedom of speech via writing.

There are two areas of the Christian life which invoke fear in me, and cause the hair on my arms to rise.  I truly believe these two areas cause the majority of relational damage in a church community.

Gossip is the first. This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Homogeneous thinking is the second.

No one, including myself, who has ever worked as an actor got there by being safe.  Theater is not safe.  In fact, safe theater is downright boring.  Auditions?  Please.  Some of my scariest moments in life occurred at the hands of a production team staring directly at me as they sat comfortably behind a table while I did my shtick - and the worst thing I could do in that situation was to perform the same shtick as the person who just went before me.  Homogeneous acting is a no-no.  Even during rehearsals, a good director will always suggest and help the actor find and successfully pull off riskier choices to make the character more interesting.  Thus, my life, and specifically the last 18 years have been shaped by those types of risk-taking experiences, which now translate into my writing.  Acting involves  a ton of self-discovery, honesty, directness, conflict, open-mindedness, love, vulnerability, and transparency. When you read me, you read this background.

I would love for Christians to take the riskier choice with one another - in love.  Without planks.  Wouldn't it be great if we could actually make the more difficult choice of engaging in direct conversations with one another before resorting to the easy choice of communicating our assumptions, accusations, and judgments to others through gossip? And wouldn't it be cool if during these conversations we were able to show respect for differing perspectives rather than chalking them up to being less than Christian?

When I breathe in my blog, I will always tell you what I think.  You may not agree.  You may find my thoughts petty, or rude, disrespectful, immature, sinful even.  Maybe you'll even find me controversial - although truly I've always been a pretty straight arrow.  As I learned through my experience with that business back in Evanston who got hit with the writing-wrath of Joline firsthand, I have since learned to be careful not to "name names" or use this blog to rake someone over the coals - and yet, I still open myself up for the annoyed critic.

One thing is for sure.  You will always know where I stand, and I'd be glad to enter into discussions with you if there is question as to why I wrote a particular post. 

I'd rather breathe out, than walk around holding my breath - and I encourage you to do the same. With me. Your neighbors. Co-workers. Whoever you've been discussing with others. We've all been there.

Let's really embrace this freedom of speech that we have been given and use it for meaningful discussions and not for creating circles of whispers about one with whom we disagree - for I'd venture to say that in the majority of disagreements, the background or experience of an individual is not taken into account before they get roasted. It's time we get above board on this one, Church.

Let's all take deep, encumbered breaths together.

'Cause I'll tell you - having something stuck in one's throat is uncomfortable, dangerous, and distracting.

Clear the airways. We've been given the freedom to do so.

1 comment:

chuck said...

You know where I stand on this!

The truth will set you free.

I'll dish it out , and they can take it or leave it!