The odd coupling

Sometimes, the words in random lyrics, quotes, billboards, fiction, essays, and articles align in unlikely and wonderful ways. For example:

I heard Lady, performed by Little River Band. Written in 1978 by Graeham George Goble, when lyrics were poetic and sometimes ethereal and vague, it tells the story of a man who left a girl long ago, finding himself now drawn to a woman “on the dance floor.” While speaking to her from afar, he tells her that maybe he wants her, maybe even needs her. And then this line pops up:

I have no answers but know where I wanna be.

Hmmmmm. Oh, sure, written in the 70’s.

Then shortly after, the same day, I ran across these wise words and copied them down in my own book of quotes:

Everything you say online
– and everything you don’t say –
contributes to the story about you that plays in people’s heads.

That was written by Mark Schaefer, a marketing sort of guru, in his book The Content Code. I know what he’s talking about – the idea of effectively branding yourself by creating a clear message, developing a strong platform, and strengthening your business.

But his words, in isolation, struck me in ways far from a desire to promote my writing. It struck me that we work within two completely different online models, both of which are valid and have purpose.

  1. Social media is a way to stay connected with friends and relatives, meet new people, gather recipes and craft ideas, and share encouragement. It’s social. Period.
  2. During times when we are isolated or face national crisis – whether social, political, or environmental – social media serves as a platform to share ideas, make statements of opinion and position, and discuss important issues that affect us all. It’s useful.

I am conflicted about my voice online. While I do not want to lose the connection with friends that do not share my ideas about faith or politics, I do want to feel free to present my case with respect, humility, and an open mind. I fear being unfollowed or ignored – or worst of all, blocked – by people with whom I do not agree. How I wish introducing issues about faith or politics would be considered conversation-starters instead of friend-determiners.

I *love Love LOVE* seeing the pictures of new babies and puppies and the work of makers I admire. I appreciate being invited to fund-raisers for people and causes dear to me. I like the birthday greetings and new-book announcements.

(At the same time, I am slightly annoyed with the “Which Disney Princess Are You?” posts and information gathering surveys. But, whatever.)

Yet those Lady lyrics creep into my mind. Because I don’t have all the answers, but I do know “where I want to be” about serious and complicated issues. I know what I believe to be the most important and what I can wait to understand until the truth is revealed, either here or in Heaven.

And I want to be known for what I believe, not just that I have the cutest grandchildren or that I can make nice stuff. Even though that’s also true.

Some people I know and love are perfectly content to be in Lane 1 – they post only what lacks even a hint of controversy, a lovely assortment of the perfectly positive, cute, beautiful, and informative. Although we may share positions and opinions, what they share publicly gives no room for argument – unless, of course, you mistakenly believe your dog is better than mine. I envy them a little.

Others I know post words and pictures that illustrate only the controversial. They use social media to push an agenda. They are not always obnoxious or insulting, but, in extreme cases, their presence seems to be intent on dividing. While I admire the dedication to cause, I am a little more cautious about this profile.

And that’s just the thing. I know and love people in both lanes. Unfortunately, it is in my nature to try and please, or, at the very least, not annoy either one.

So, while the Little River Band encourages me to be where I know I should be even if I don’t have all the answers, the marketing expert warns me to be mindful of what I say and what I don’t say – including what I fail to say. Because the truth is, each word I speak or write, each topic I embrace or avoid will sculpt my image in the minds of my audience, whether they agree with me or not.

The only conclusion I can come to is that there is a third lane, one that blends the other two. I’ve tried to step into it, scooting back and forth from #1 to #3.

I’ve enjoyed seasons when I’m completely out of the fray of politics, LGBTQ, abortion, education, the refugee crisis, BLM, and the Second Amendment. Lately, my little hand-made-journal endeavor (#birdhousejournals and @birdhouse.papers, if you’re interested) and promoting newly-released books by people I admire have taken up most of my social media space.

But, in the past, I have micro-blogged about issues that have gotten me in hot water with people I thought I knew. I’ve spoken up about important things and been either misunderstood or ignored because many people don’t want to discuss – they want me to just agree. As I’ve said, I try “to present my case with respect, humility, and an open mind.” I’ve made the attempt to stay in my own Lane 3, being true to myself, celebrating all the different parts of me.

I end up, though, losing that rush of empowerment and variety because the chameleon in me wins out, blending in with others’ patterns and colors.

James Arthur Baldwin, American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist, once said, “When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know.” Unfortunately, today I’m a poor example of these words.

I have no epiphanies. I’m not all the better for writing this down, other than perhaps making sense of my own oddball lyrics and marketing mashup.

The only thing I can hope is that I’m not alone in this dilemma. I trust there are others out there who want for all the world to fit in while accidently sticking out at the worst possible time.

Welcome to Lane 3.

As always, as I continue to explore, I pray for you …

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