Closure is a myth

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Murder victim family members are often told that they need closure to be able to move on with their lives. And closure will come with the execution of their loved one’s murderer. Because, it will be over when the killer pays for their heinous deeds with their life, the ultimate price. That will affect the change needed. It will lift the clouds.

It won’t. Trust me.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see her. Her chair is empty but I see her. How she sits at the front of the seat, never leaning back. Her vanity is clean but empty. I see her sitting there putting on her make up before we go out. I can still smell her perfume.

I miss her every holiday, every vacation, with every passing of a birthday or anniversary. If I close my eyes, she walks next to me. Breaths in my rhythm. But when I try to grab her hand…

The execution didn’t change anything. If at all, the execution added another nightmare to my already impressive arsenal.

Now I see him on the gurney with needles.

Now when I think of her, I see him too.

That was not the case before.

Before, I had him locked away in a separate prison that my memory build just for him. He was in there behind a thick stone wall never to be seen, touched, or spoken to again by mankind. But now, he is out there.

Now I see him.

I hear his last words and I know the smell of the witness room. I can taste it.

Closure, it is a myth. Capital punishment doesn’t help heal the soul. And now I will forever wonder what will bring me peace.

*written July 25, 2016.

But I might switch again

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It is the everlasting quest
to find that one, to find the best.

I open the bag, the smell, the anticipation.

I savour my cup and pledge,
never again another brand or blend.
This is perfect and refined,
the one on which I depend.

But nothing remains the same,
who could possibly make such a claim.

I will keep an open mind
because… who knows what else I might find!

*Tuesday writing prompt from Go Dog Go Cafe

Happy Monday!

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I cannot believe it is March already but here we are, in the second week of the month. During the month of February, I did not add much here but that was intentional. The January daily writing challenges really took up more time than I had anticipated so for now, unless I get the prompts in advance so I can write a few posts at a time instead of waiting for the daily cue, I am not likely to do this type of challenge again.

Which brings me to what Jon Beckett wrote: “Rather than even attempt to write an “almost daily” journal, I am only going to write when I have something to write about.” He is absolutely right. Repeated content is boring like chatting just to talk and cover a silent moment.

Jon also wrote something else that resonates with me: “You might be the most interesting person I’ve ever known, but unless I can find out about you, I’ll never know.”

One of the scariest things to do is to open up to someone and tell them what you really think. It is what stopped me from posting on the web what I thought about some criminal cases because after all, what do I know? I didn’t go to cop school, I went to law school. I don’t canvas the streets but read reports from the safety of my desk. One of my former colleagues at a police department called me their ‘cubicle commander.’ He meant well, he’s a good friend.

Jon is right about posting unique content. Think about it this way: why should you spend time, sometimes hours per week, reading blogs if there isn’t something that makes you lean back in your chair and a smile forms on your face? Or, you frown and start to think more deeply about something.

In short, I am collecting in my WordPress Reader blogs from people who make me think, smile, and challenge me. I want to read about your finest moments. I want to encourage and support you through difficult times. And that means that at times I will fall off my chair laughing or cry above my keyboard. I am here for it.

My Younger Me

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The first prompt for #Bloganuary is a tricky one: what advice would I give my younger me? There isn’t one, there are several. And, even if I list several, I will realize later on that I forgot many. So let’s start with this.

There’s no such thing as perfection.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Know yourself, your limits, and where you are willing to compromise.

I remember being terribly upset in elementary school because the teacher thought I had not used my paper well while drawing. The assignment? I forgot but I remember drawing a beach scene. However, I had not drawn the beach across the whole paper and the blue sky had white spots for clouds.

The teacher saw it as wasting paper and made me fill in every centimeter. I did, I cried, got an A, and ripped it up. It wasn’t me. To the teacher, not wasting paper was the perfect drawing. To me, expressing myself in an incomplete manner was perfect too.

Your body is never done changing. With each decade come ups and downs. You will always be a work in progress. So, don’t hurt yourself to become someone else’s perfect person. If anyone doesn’t want to be friends because you don’t live up to their ideal, as much as it hurts, let them go. They are not your friends.

Trying to be someone else just to be accepted by the school’s incrowd, is lying to yourself. I found out the hard way who my real friends were. No, I wasn’t in any popular group in school. I wore glasses, double braces, my lips were often swollen if they got caught in the wires, and I was really bad at PE and not just because of my asthma.

After a few years, I got contacts, the braces came off, and I was suddenly of interest. Short-lived interest because I kept hanging out with those who were my friends when I had big, thick lenses in plastic frames, when my lip bled and was swollen from being stuck again, when I couldn’t run a mile without having breathing problems. To this day, those are my friends and I cherish them.

Perfection does not exist. We can strive to make things better, yes. We can aim to be better in our personal interactions, controlling our tempers and emotions, and yes, in making this world a better place. But there is never a 100% perfect situation.

Accept yourself, know that you will change, and that change is part of life.

So my advice: strive to be flexible instead of being perfect.

3 tips to not take blogging (too) personal

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Blogging is by its origin personal however, sometimes we take things to heart and it really hurts. A nasty comment, a blog follower ignoring you for months despite posts that are right up their alley, or no reciprocated sharing of posts on social media. I get it.

I often wonder why not more people share criminal cases as they all claim to be fascinated by DNA. But I cannot let it affect me or else, I might stop writing. So here’s what I do when things tend to get too personal.

1: identify the source.

The source might be a blog follower but may not be part of your target audience. We all have followers and we all follow back people with whom we do not have a tight bond. On social media, you are more inclined to follow back a person when they seem friendly and when they interact with a lot of people we know. But are they part of our target audience?

People can sign up to follow your blog because they are curious, they like your web presence, or because you left a nice comment at one of their blog posts. But they may not be a dedicated reader of your blog simply because it isn’t a good fit. And we need to respect that.

I love to read books but I don’t follow (back) every book reviewer as their favourite genre might not be mine. So, know whether the source is part of your target audience, or not. If not, let it go. If they are, check to see if in essence, they have a point.

2: don’t reply immediately to anything that needs more that a short ‘thank you!’

There are comments and emails than need a more nuanced answer than ‘thanks.’ I learned the hard way, a long time ago, to let those emails sit, simmer, and then calmly prep for answering.

Our initial reaction might be an emotional one defending our topic’s choices, or explaining how hard we worked on a piece, or even defending the topic by giving away too much personal experiences hindering our own privacy.

I get it. When someone tells me “Is that all the information you found?” in a case while I have been digging in several newspaper archives and files for months, I also would like to invite this person to join me in the racks next time a case from the 50s needs researching. But I don’t. I don’t even send a reply anymore. I know that I did my best. This is what I found and I will keep an eye out if more information surfaces.

In short, if my conscious is clear, I either do not reply (serious enquiries will come back to you anyway) or send a generic ‘Thank you for contacting me’ with my best wishes. Nine out of ten times, you never hear from these people again. Case closed.

3: What else is going on.

If you are in the midst of moving or are preparing a report for work, your reaction to a critical comment on your blog can be completely different from when you read it while sitting on the couch with your laptop, good music on, and a nice drink in your hand. You mindset is in a different mode, it makes the thoughts flow in a different pace, and that makes you less likely to quickly judge and take something too personal.

Of course, everything is always easier said than done. I too make mistakes and take some things personal. But then, once I realize that, I take my lesson (if there was any) dust myself off, and I keep going.

Making mistakes, taking things personal, it will always happen. We are not robots. That’s also a good thing. We have hearts and souls. Let’s keep blogging!

Is the Blogosphere dead?

S who blogs over at ‘Flying on Empty Thoughts’ was wondering whether WordPress personal blogging was dead. She points out issues that irritate me too ranging from the Block Editor, the forced modernization that should have been an option and not a force-fed daily blood pressure enhancing experience, to the biggest mistake that WordPress ever made: letting go of the Daily Prompts.

For those of use who were blogging a decade ago, WordPress released a daily writing prompt, see here. They started this on December 31, 2010 and the last prompt went up May 31, 2018.

It was wildly popular by a variety of artists. Not just bloggers used the daily prompts. Writers seeking for haiku inspirations, those who journal on Twitter as it started as a micro-blogging site, and even those who sketched used it and, shared their works online.

The Daily Prompt became a community of bloggers who were excited to start their day logging in, checking the prompt, checking in with their fellow bloggers to see what they made/wrote/sketched. Not continuing this program was a big mistake. But there’s another one.

A long time ago, the WordPress courses, see here, held a feature that doesn’t exist anymore: the Commons. The Commons was a private room where all course participants could gather and talk about the writing assignment, ask others for feedback, get encouragement when they were stuck, and exchange thoughts that remained amongst the participants only.

This feature was immensely popular with all who took those courses. We felt encouraged as bloggers, we were each other’s support system and early readers. We started following each other and in doing so, supported fellow bloggers to build up their online presence.  

The moderator was there too to clarify the assignment if needed and always opened the room reminding us not to run on the pool deck. The Commons was our club house. The blogosphere was our pool.

I started following WordPress courses years ago and remember the excitement of finishing a post and heading over to the Commons. I could see who was there, who had already posted, ask someone to help me with my English, get feedback on an idea, follow a fellow course participant, and basically see how my blogger friends were doing that day even if they skipped one assignment. Gone, a great feature gone.

The Commons was not just to chat about the writing task at hand. It allowed participants a safe space to make friends, build up an audience, find their voice, and encourage them to allow their work to be read outside of the Commons. It was a great way to get your feet wet before you jumped into the deep end of the pool that is the blogosphere.

So, if the personal blogging aspect of the blogosphere is dying then to me, WordPress had a hand in it. I know many bloggers kept their personal blogs going but you could see the Reader, the WordPress newspaper that you compose yourself by adding blogs that you follow, getting less exciting. The bloggers were writing but no longer talking as vividly about writing as they used to do.

WordPress is used by many to run their professional websites and that, they do extremely well. But the personal blogging part may have suffered more than they realize.

So, is the blogosphere as a whole dead? I don’t think so. But I do feel that the personal blogging side is on life-support and would benefit from a return to supporting creativity approach.  

The essence of a writer

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As NaNoWriMo is progressing, I keep reading on social media the various realizations of what it means to be a writer. The most harmful one is “I can do flash fiction or a poem but not a 50’000 word novel, what is wrong with me?”

Nothing, there is nothing wrong with you. What is wrong is the label that you use for yourself.

There are many different styles of writers just like in any art form. Take dancing. We have hip-hop dancers, classic ballet dancers, break dancers, ballroom dancers, the list goes on. The same thing counts for writers. There are those who enjoy writing haikus. One haiku is just 17 syllables. A poem can be as short and as long as you want. The word count doesn’t make the poet.

I wish that people would stop using labels in an exclusive manner. You need not be a novelist to participate in NaNoWriMo. If you enjoy writing poetry, that is your style for NaNoWriMo. You enjoy writing short stories or one-act plays? That’s your style for NaNoWriMo. Do you need to adjust the word count? Go for it!

The essence of NaNoWriMo should be to get into a daily writing routine that allows you to kickstart a new project, to create a draft that you can then edit, advance, and complete.

And while we are at it, not every writer seeks publication through traditional publishing. So the anticipated post-NaNoWriMo stress of finding an agent and a publisher, is just getting yourself worked-up over nothing, really. Just because some want that doesn’t mean that you have to go the same route.

Some want to self-publish, some want to build up their writing portfolio by contributing to websites such as Medium, and others enjoy guest blogging. Bloggers, by the way, are writers too even though there’s no novel in sight.

The essence of NaNoWriMo is to further the love for writing. The essence is NOT to make you feel bad about yourself. Now go write!