My texting problem

Have you ever texted me?  And have I ever texted you back?  Because if you have, you know about my texting problem.

My texting problem is akin to–no, stems from–my writing problem, which is akin to–no, stems from–my talking problem.  Have you ever talked to me?  Because if you have, you know about my talking problem.  Which is:  I can’t seem to stop.

I can’t stop talking.

I can’t stop writing.

And now, I can’t stop texting.


And if the Universe comes up with one more means of verbal communication that allows me to push my random thoughts and half-baked opinions on others, I won’t be able to stop doing that, either.  I think it all goes back to my Big Mouth which, as with most of my weaknesses, is Really Not My Fault.  (See my Standard Line of Defense; i.e., It’s Really Not My Fault.)  The way I see it, I was born with that Big Mouth, just like I was born with fair skin and short legs, for good reason.  I haven’t figured out what those reasons are yet, but I have some pretty solid hypotheses:

Fair skin = forces me to use sunscreen, which I would so not bother with if a sunburn didn’t hurt so much.  (The sunscreen, in turn, has allowed me to look not a day past 39.)

Short Legs = forces me to wear high heels on Sundays, which I would so not bother with if looking like a hobbit at church didn’t bother me so much.

Big Mouth = forces me to write, which I would so not bother with if gabbing nonstop in peoples faces didn’t scare them away so much.

And when the writing isn’t enough to relay my thoughts and feelings to my imagined audience (it’s big and full of hotties, let me assure you), I know that texting will finish the job.  I didn’t set out to use texting as an overflow for my Talking/Writing/Big Mouth problem, but it’s certainly morphed into a useful one.   (To my relief, and my texting recipient’s horror.)  For example, you may send me a text like this:

r u picking up kids tonite

to which you may expect a short, prompt reply.  But look at it from my end of things, will you?  Upon receiving this message, the little bell on my phone will ding (to my great delight),  I’ll pause in whatever monologue I’m delivering (to the listener-I’m-holding-captive’s great delight), and I’ll spend a few studied minutes formulating a reply that looks something like this:

Hey [insert your name, in case you were unsure who the text was addressed to] !!!  How are ya today?  Feeling better, I hope.  I miss you!!  We SO need to get together soon!  How’s ur cold–better, I hope!  And how’s the fam?  Good, I hope!  [I hope for a lot of things in my texts.  I believe it exudes an attractive optimism.]  Give [insert your son’s name here] a hug for me–he is SO darling!–and tell him Ethan wants to have him over to play!  Let me know when a good time is for you–we’d LUV to have him anytime!

[And then, my faithfuls, I will actually do a paragraph break.  In a text.  I know.]  I’ll continue:

Yes, I will totally pick up the kids tonight!  Thank u SO much for getting them yesterday–helped me out bigtime!  It’s been a crazy week (I know I always say that) [insert happy face emoticon here], but it never slows down, does it?  Aagh, life!! How are u holding up?  U guys are SO busy too!  Let me know if you need anything:  dinner, a date night and I’ll keep the kids, whatever! [You know these are fairly empty offers, so being the good friend you are, you never take me up on them.]  [Thank you, good friend.]

Next comes the most crucial segment of my text, the Conclusion of Goodwill:

U do so much, u totally deserve a break!  Let’s get together ASAP and go get yogurt, smoothies, whatever, or even just go for a walk.  We SO need to catch up!  I miss u!  U r just the best! Have an awesome weekend! LUV U! [insert Happy Face With Heart Eyes emoticon, or Standard Happy Face emoticon, depending on day of the week, my mood at the time, and how good of friends we actually are.]

See what just happened?  You needed an answer, you got an essay.  I know it’s obnoxious.  I know it’s undisciplined.  I know it shows a complete lack of respect for your time, not to mention your I.Q.  But friends, as with my talking and writing:  I just. can’t. stop.  I’ve tried.  Every time that bell dings and I whip out my phone, I take a breath and will myself to show some restraint and reply to:

r u picking up kids tonite



Because yes is all you need.  You don’t need twenty questions, you don’t need a love letter, and you certainly don’t need my emoticons to show you that I care.  (Or do you?  Send me a smiley emoticon if you do, a frowny one if you don’t.  Send me the flamenco dancer if you’re on the fence.)

But here is the problem in replying with yes:  all it does is convey information!  Since when is that the point of communication?  What about conveying emotion and affection–not to mention developing Setting, Theme, and Plot?  What if you read my emoticon-less yes and think–heaven forbid–that I’m not happy and smiling while I’m sending it?  And what if, when I respond with that emoticon-less yes, you then respond with an emoticon-less K?  I’ll worry all day that you’re mad at me.  And worse, what if, after receiving my one-word answer, you feel no need to belabor the issue and don’t respond (gulp) at all?

Heaven forbid.

My only insurance against such cataclysmic damage to our friendship is the Art of the Long Text.  My husband shakes his head, rolls his eyes, and says, “Finished your novel yet?” every time he sees me tapping away, but I know that’s just ’cause he’s jealous that his relationships aren’t as deep as mine.  See, his texting threads go like this:

Him:  Home in 5.

Me:  Long response asking about his day, his job, his health, and his spiritual development.  At least five questions are posed, all with love and tender care.  [And lots of emoticons.]  I eagerly await his answers.  The bell finally dings.

Him:  Tired.

Hmph.  I punch the end bar, throw the phone down on the couch, and get on with my day, shaking my head and rolling my eyes.  No wonder nobody likes him.



Zoe or Bios

Recently, I discovered something new about myself.  This was exciting for a woman of my years, who thought that discovering anything new about herself seemed, by now,  a statistical impossibility.  But while reading The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, I came across an idea that explained, to some degree, why I think the way I do.  And perhaps it will do the same for you.  It’s a theory offered by (who else?) the ancient Greeks, who had two words—zoe and bios-–to distinguish two fundamental, differing perceptions of Life (capital intended, forgive the pomp.)

Says Tharp:  “Zoe and bios both mean life in Greek, but they are not synonymous.  Zoe…refers to life in general, without characterization.  Bios characterizes a specific life, the outlines that distinguish one living thing from another.  Bios is the Greek root for ‘biography,’ zoe for ‘zoology.'”

In short, zoe means the big picture, bios, the details.  Though most of us think somewhere in between the two, we all lean to one side in how we interpret and define the world around us.  Do you like to see things close up or far away?  Do you look at the grand and sweeping or the minute and measurable?  Do you read a book for its plot or its rhythm?  Do your favorite movies tell a story or convey a mood?

You’re probably thinking:  both!  And you are right.  We all want a great plot that creates a great mood; we all want to see the big picture of life while relishing in the details.  But think about what headlines grab your attention, how you relate an anecdote to a friend and, for that matter, which anecdotes you choose to relate at all.  What makes you the happiest about the world we live in?  What are you most afraid of?

Your answers may reveal whether you operate in the theater of zoe or bios.  One is no more valid than the other; they are simply different ways of engaging, different means to an end.  Bios tells a story with Life as the backdrop; in zoe, Life is the story itself.  Bios is defined; zoe, more abstract.  Zoe vs. Bios is why paintings on a blank canvas with a big red splotch dripping down it get swooned over by some people and rolled eyes from others; the first crowd sees their own feelings of isolation or anger in the big red splotch; they are the zoes.  (Is that a word?  let’s make it one.)  The bios crowd, on the other hand, interprets the story of Life by following the actual life of its subject (thus biography.)  Bios folks are inspired by the hero’s valiant actions in the movie; zoe folks are likely more inspired by the soundtrack.

So, which one are you?  At first I thought I was bios because, well, its important to me to be able to describe the smell of sour cream–obviously an up-close, detailed approach to things.  But then I realized that my finding relevance in the smell of sour cream plops me squarely into the zoe camp, because my interest isn’t really in the smell of sour cream, it’s about what that smell of sour cream means on a larger scale:  Anticipation.  Memory.  Ordinary, and Ordinary’s many wonders—all things that zoe concerns itself with.  A bios gal, on the other hand, seeks meaning by determining who’s smelling the sour cream, and why.  (Good question, bios.  Smelling sour cream in the first place is never, ever a good sign.)

You may wonder:  why figure this out about yourself?  I think it’s because the better you know how your mind functions, the better use you can make of it.  If you’re zoe, forget trying to be bios, and if you’re bios, don’t try to pull off zoe.  Read and learn and see and create in the sphere your mind requires–and, more importantly, enjoys.  You can switch-hit to some degree, but it will require vastly more effort to exist in the one if you’re naturally inclined to live in the other.   

As for me, I’m just glad to finally understand why I like movies like Shadowlands, books like Crossing to Safetyand tv shows like Seinfeld—the original “show about Nothing.”  About Nothing?  About Everything.  At least that’s the way we zoes see it.

Winner of the BigBig Giveaway!!

First:  Did putting “BigBig” in front of “Giveaway” trick anybody into thinking it was, in fact, a bigbig giveaway?  No?  Shoot.

But it is my first giveaway ever, and that alone merits the two exclamation points rendered.  And truthfully, I think any book given or received–but most importantly, read--is a BigBig Deal, for obvious reasons that I’ve already beaten my poor readers over the head with many, many times.  (Thank you for taking it, poor readers.  I know I don’t deserve you.)  Now that I’ve thoroughly disclaimed whatever-it-is-I’m-disclaiming, I’m happy to announce that the BigBig Giveaway Grand Prize Winner is….Rachel Short of Salem, Oregon!  For her brilliant answer of Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.



You may be wondering why I said this was a title every middle-aged woman can relate to.  Maybe I’m projecting my own issues onto an entire generation, but these two words sum up how I feel every time I look in the mirror these days.  (It was once beautiful.  Now it’s in ruins.)  Perhaps midlife is treating your mirror more kindly.  I hope so.  (And can I borrow your mirror?)

Indulge me as I pause and tell you that I am not surprised my dear friend Rachel got this right, as she and I have been living quasi-parallel lives since we met in an ill-fated piano class during our freshmen year of college.  We were both there to polish what we thought were our already well-honed piano skills, until we looked around and saw a classroom full of Mormon prodigies who could, um, like, perform–and I mean for real.  We hated our teacher and were pretty sure she hated us too.  (She was mean.) (And got mad when we didn’t practice.)  The class would have been a disaster had not our twenty-year friendship sprung out of it which, of course, transformed it into a smashing success.  (Unlike our end-of-semester solos.)

Mr. Walter will be gracing Bella Voce in May, and I’m thrilled to go stalk see him during Portland’s beautiful spring.  Who knows?  Maybe another Rebecca Skloot-like groupie moment will occur, though with a member of the opposite sex, that could get truly uncomfortable.  (What if he thinks I’m crushing on him?  What if I am crushing on him?  Life with an engineer is all it’s romanticized to be, you know.  I’m just a woman.)

Enjoy the book, Rachel!  And thanks for guessing, everybody.  That was fun.  My next giveaway will be something blindingly cool and a little less stuffy.  Let’s see…anyone interested in a Ross giftcard that expires in June?  No?  Then how about a coupon for thirty minutes of the Hub’s time, in which he’ll tinker with the digital gadget of your choice until it kindasorta works, eighty percent of the time?  Still a no?  Fine, I’ll think about it.  (But hang on to your hats, because our used-only-once Food Dehydrator has been looking for a new home since we used/quit using it on Christmas Day, 2011.)

I have one more book I’m going to ask you to read, and then I’ll silence myself on books for awhile–this is a blog, for Pete’s sake, not a Lit class.  (Oh, you thought it was?  Cool.  Your essay on “Why I Want a Used Food Dehydrator” is due by the end of this post.)  My faithfuls, mis vidas, before you go get your roots done or eat another Skinny Cow ice cream bar (you’re eating one now, aren’t you?), I beg you to jet over to the library and check out A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel.  You will love this book.  You will love Zippy.  You will love your childhood, all over again.

This book’s actually been around for awhile; it was published in 2002, and I only remember that because I first heard of it while sitting on the couch nursing my second baby and watching the Today show. (I could cry for the simplicity of those days.)  An acclaimed author was asked what her own favorite, current book was, and she promptly answered “A Girl Named Zippy.”  She described the book as “a shot of pure joy,” and twelve years later, having just finished the whimsical memoir, I have to agree.  A Girl Named  Zippy is funny and quirky and original, and it is also exquisitely written.  It is about an ordinary childhood in an unremarkable place and time.  Come to think of it, A Girl Named Zippy is the perfect literary antidote to The Triple Package, as Zippy’s parents espouse a parenting philosophy diametrically opposite to that of Amy Chua.  Read Tiger to motivate you, then read Zippy to comfort you.  Then read my blog so we can talk about them both.

‘Kay?  Kay!