Blogging, Bon Jovi and Lent

Like a parent preparing a child for the first day of school, it takes nerve for any beginning blogger to gather together a few words, dress them up with an image or two and send them off to fend for themselves in the big, wide world. It’s an anxious and uncertain time.  There’s no way to know how those young words will be received, and impossible to predict whether they will be accepted, ridiculed or ignored. 

Parents know that some neighborhoods are tough and not everyone is kind. For every open smile and extended hand, there can be hidden agendas and mixed motives. Bloggers have to learn that, in the blogosphere as in the schoolyard, there are bullies as well as potential friends,  trouble-makers as well as peace-makers.  Programmers may tout the virtues of WYSIWYG, but sooner or later every blogger learns the hard lesson: what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. 

When I first experienced true nastiness in a comment appended to one of my early posts on another site, my initial response was shock. An anonymous reader criticized my choice of topic, my writing style and my conclusions, adding a few uncomplimentary personal remarks for good measure.  Today, I would acknowledge the comment and move on.   Then, with far less experience and with words like troll and “sock puppet”  still missing from my vocabulary, I worried and stewed over my response for a full day. Finally deciding not to confront the criticisms directly, I added a few bland and meaningless sentences, hoping I had concealed the agitation I was feeling because of that single, anonymous comment.

Unfortunately, as days passed the comment continued to echo in my mind.  Inexplicably upset and embarassed by its presence, I began to obsess over it . Each time I began to write, I heard that disembodied, critical voice braying in the background. I found myself avoiding my blog and eventually contemplated ending the venture entirely.  

After two or three weeks of turmoil, I happened to be talking with a friend who does a good bit of writing herself.  She asked how the blog was going.  By the time I finished my story, she was bubbling with laughter.  “Look,” she said. “This one is easy. All you have to do is replace that critical voice with another, more affirmative voice.” 

I explained I’d been trying to do just that, attempting to persuade myself  no comment was worth such upset.  Always more practical than analytical, she said, “You can’t think your way through this. You have to be much more concrete.  Do what I do from time to time. Find a song that makes you feel good, one that embodies where you want to go and what you want your writing to be. Listen to it every day. Listen to it every time negative thoughts pop up. Keep listening until it’s wiped your mind clean of those nasty, negative voices.”

Of course I thought she was crazy.  On the other hand, it wasn’t going to cost me anything to give it a try. With Lent just around the corner, I already had begun my annual search for something to “give up”, and it occurred to me that giving up an unhealthy attachment to the voice of an anonymous, negative reader might be just the ticket.  Bon Jovi’s  It’s My Life always had appealed to me. When I went back for a listen, I discovered it not only embodied the kind of positive, energetic, in-your-face attitude I needed to hear, it had a great beat that would be perfect for a brisk walk. 

My commitment was made.  Every day during that Lent I set off  for what turned out to be a two-mile journey: past the palms, down to the water, around the lighthouse and back home again. As I walked, my steps set themselves to the rhythm of the beat and my mind emptied itself of everything but the words.

Unbelievably, my friend’s suggestion worked. The heavens didn’t open, no doves or angels descended, no Charlton Heston voice rent the air, but one day I realized the seemingly-impossible had happened. I spent an evening writing and experienced it as pure pleasure.  I posted without anxiety.  I read my comments with anticipation. The negative voices were gone.

Later, as I considered my experience in a larger context, I began to wonder how many of us still misunderstand the original intention of Lenten discipline.  The purpose of discipline isn’t to eliminate the pleasures of life, to constrict our lives or constrain them.  Rather, the “season of focus”  is meant to open us in new and unexpected ways to all of the possibilities which lie buried beneath the surface of the life we have been given. 

While Lent points us toward divine mystery, it does so in the context of an equally important human reality.  None of us is meant to travel another person’s road. None of us is called to take our neighbor’s path or speak with another’s voice.  We are meant to discover the open highway running through our own heart. We are called to claim our right to travel freely to our own destination and rejoice in the pleasure of telling our journey’s story with our own voice.    

If there is a caution, it is that we need to choose our traveling companions wisely. One of the best bits of advice I ever received was so simple and so simply put I’ve never forgotten it, even though I’ve sometimes chosen to ignore it or attempted to reject it outright:

Be careful who you listen to,
because their voices will influence your own.

It’s another way of saying, “What surrounds us, becomes us”.  If we choose to tolerate an atmosphere marked by hatred, we are more likely to speak in a hateful manner. If we continually hear echoes of cynicism and negativity, we are more likely to become cynical and pessimistic ourselves. If we listen to those who preach certain failure, success is not likely. If bitterness, paranoia or dismissiveness is the air we breath, we may choke to death on the fumes. We have the ability to choose which voices we will attend to and cherish and which we will ignore.  We need to make those choices carefully in order to nurture and protect our own voice.

Two years ago, my slightly unusual Lenten commitment to listen on a daily basis to Bon Jovi’s voice rather than the voice of a cowardly and snarky reader brought me to the point of making another commitment.  Not long after Easter of that year, I posted my first entry at The Task at Hand. I did so with a clear sense that it was, indeed, “now or never”, even though the title of my first entry, Dazed and Confused, suggests some residual ambivalence.  But as I said then,

The question no longer is: do you want to write?  For good or for ill, read or unread, poorly scribed or passionately sung, I will write.  At the edge of the precipice, a bit dazed, a good bit confused, I have made my commitment.  Let the perseverance begin.

For two years I have persevered, with pleasure.  This year, my Lenten commitment is somewhat different but Bon Jovi’s words still resonate, and the beat goes on.  I’ve come to understand that “now or never” lies at the heart of every moment of every day, and I cherish that understanding. As for that open highway, I suspect Bon Jovi would agree with another lyricist’s view of the human heart:  that “we must teach ourselves that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching ourselves that, forget it forever, leaving no room in our workshops for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart.”

It’s as simple as that.


 Comments are welcome ~ to leave a comment, please click below

28 thoughts on “Blogging, Bon Jovi and Lent

  1. Linda, it surprised me a bit to hear about how much the comment affected you – as you have such a strong and assured writing voice.

    I love the idea of giving up negativity for Lent – I’ve got some inner loops of negativity I could do without – and maybe with those withered, less negativity would spout out of my mouth. The Bon Jovi song is great!

    Mary Ellen,

    Well, you know, whatever strength and assurance I have are partly a result of two years of working at this blogging business. I’m convinced anyone who wants to write could profit from blogging, especially in the beginning. It doesn’t necessarily help make sentences prettier, but it can provide the kind of deadlines, feedback and opportunities for engagement with readers it’s sometimes hard to find. I was pretty timid when I started. Now? Not so much.

    I think that negativity, like so much else in life, can become a habit. I have to watch out for that myself, even in daily life. It can be hard to swim against that particular tide, but I’m happier when I do.

    Just like I’m happier when I listen to Bon Jovi. ;-)


  2. With this comment, you are now more confident on your writing and I believe you have the right to be proud with this blog seeing as how insightful these entries are.

    I have no negative comments so far but when that happens now I know what to do.


    Thanks for the kind words. I am proud of my blog. Some entries have been quite good, and others, not so much. But that’s the way it is when you commit to doing something on a regular basis. There’s always something to learn – and some of the best lessons come from entries that aren’t so good!

    The important thing to remember is that disagreement isn’t the same thing as nastiness or criticism for the sake of criticism. Some of my best blogging experiences have been a result of real disagreements. They force us to clarify our thoughts and positions – always a good thing! Learning to stand up for your words is important.


  3. Man! I wonder if this has happened to all/most of us, Linda (even if not posted about so lyrically). My first week on Shutterchance, my photo blog, such a thing happened to me and I almost quit on the spot. It devastated me. I didn’t think I could possibly continue showing my images with such negative criticism.

    Then I remembered a nugget from my “teaching” days: throw out the high and throw out the low evaluations and keep only those in between. I have also since learned that just because someone else thinks you should do something a certain way is not necessarily the right way for you.

    The most important thing you have said for me in this piece is:

    “None of us is meant to travel another person’s road. None of us is called to take our neighbor’s path or speak with another’s voice. We are meant to discover the open highway running through our own heart. We are called to claim our right to travel freely to our own destination and rejoice in the pleasure of telling our journey’s story with our own voice.”

    That is brilliant. I need to memorize it and quote it from time to time (attributing it to you, of course). Thank you for the way you said it.


    I think the sensitivity of creative people to criticism speaks volumes about their relationship to their work. Paintings, photographs, beautifully designed graphics, essays and poetry – all are far more than “things” to their creators. When I signed away the rights to some of my work for the first time, I actually pondered whether being published was worth letting them go. It was worth it, of course, but the experience made clear how much of “me” was in the writing. (That same dynamic is the reason editors are crucial for writers. I don’t have one for my blog, of course, but I try to edit as carefully as I write – not only for punctuation and spelling, but for clarity, coherence, and so on.)

    And you’re exactly right about throwing out the “highs” as well as the “lows”. Flattery’s no more helpful than nastiness when it comes to improvement – no matter what the endeavor.

    As for the paragraph you quoted, I’m so tickled you picked that out – I call it my “pink shirt paragraph”. Once upon a time, not so many years ago, my mom tried to give me a pink shirt. She thought it would look good with a pair of shorts I was going to wear. I thanked her very much, but declined the offer. When she asked why, I said, “I don’t like pink.” She insisted that it would look good with the shorts, go well with my tan, etc. I said again, “I don’t like pink, and I wouldn’t wear it.” Finally, we had the motherly coup de grace: “Won’t you wear it for me?” “No,” I said. “I won’t.”
    It was an entirely liberating moment – silly, but absolutely filled with the kind of freedom I spoke of in that paragraph.

    All it takes is one little taste – one we’ve experienced it, we know what to look for.


  4. Having just discovered your blog yesterday, I’m glad you didn’t give in to the thoughts about quitting back then.


    Welcome! It’s always such a deilght to have someone new stop by. You’re always welcome.

    I’m glad I didn’t quit, too. One thing that’s really helped is learning to “write, and let go”. I do the very best I can with each entry. Once it’s posted, I begin immediately on the next – I don’t sit around and admire what’s good or stew over what’s bad. It helps to keep things in perspective.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


  5. The dear Ginnie has opened an entirely new world of wonderful, creative and very talented individuals for me and you are an inspired part of that world – thank you for deciding to continue to share your gift with the rest of us.

    I’ll be back!

    Peace – linda

    Hi, Linda,

    I think I’ve noticed you at In Soul, because of our common name. Ginnie’s such a sweetheart, and a terrific photographer besides. I found her through her sister Ruth at Synch-ro-niz-ing. And around and around we go!

    I love watching connections develop, and really do enjoy the immense creativity that surrounds us in this world. I can be a little quirky in my views sometimes, and now and then I’m sure there are folks rolling their eyes and thinking “You blew it on that one, honey!” But I love the creating and sharing – I do hope you’ll come back and visit.

    Linda, too….

  6. The title diversity grabbed me, as I sit and watch NASCAR!

    Wonderful piece, Linda. Centering for sure.


    I have a suspicion Jon Bon Jovi could be singing for you, too. Here’s to not bending, not breaking and not backing down!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the piece – and I hope your driver won!


  7. Is it really two years? I remember it as if it was yesterday!

    I first came across the music of Bon Jovi in the summer of 1987. I was helping with a summer school, in textiles, and one of the students played their album “Slippery when Wet” on the tape recorder at every possible opportunity. (It was in the days before personal stereos!) By the end of the two weeks I wasn’t sure whether I loved or hated their music! As I continue to listen to them, I suppose I loved them.

    Here’s to the next two years, Linda.


    It has been two years, indeed – my first WU entries were around November of 2007, and then five months later I started at WordPress. When I was going back to look at that first WordPress post I noticed something sweet I’d not paid attention to. The URL for anyone’s first post doesn’t include the actual title, but looks like this: For some reason that seems just perfect ~ “Hello, world”, indeed!

    What’s so funny about “Slippery When Wet” is that I loved several songs from that album before I knew they were Bon Jovi’s. You know me – I’m still in the process of learning about people like Clapton, for heaven’s sake ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by. I figure I’ll still be up around your getting up time – I’ll make a cup of coffee, too, and we can toast the next two years together!


  8. you know, i have been silently enjoying your writing for a while. because i follow you on twitter, i see your name flash across occasionally, then your comments on my blog – thank you for taking the time and actually engaging. so. here we are.

    most appropriate analogy: blogging to parenting. it’s impossible for me to get my head around just how vast the internet is. interesting that the niggly comment was left by anonymous, which is so often the case. i will never, ever understand why people choose nastiness as a means of self-elevation. (at least that’s my theory.)

    good to meet you, though. look forward to more conversation here, there, on twitter.


    I happen to agree with you about self-elevation. Building oneself up by tearing other people down is an old, if not honored, tradition. It’s pretty easy to spot on the playground. When it’s all dressed up in grown-up words it can be harder to see, but it still exists.

    As for anonymity, it occurs to me that technology has been both cause and cure in that regard. When I was growing up – and even into early adulthood – the anonymous phone call was an effective instrument of harassment. Caller ID and other advancements have pretty much eliminated those. Now we have the lurkers, hiding behind multiple screen names and IP anonymizers to do their worst. Human ingenuity is a wonderful thing, I suppose. ;-)

    By the way, I have to tell you – your choice of “Verve” as a tag for The Task at Hand in your blogroll delighted me beyond words. More than that, it seemed to resuscitate that feeling in me – a feeling which does tend to get buried beneath the assorted responsibilities of life. Unexpectedly finding that was one of the best moments of my little blogging career.

    Thanks for stopping by – it’s a pleasure, for sure.


  9. I had a similar incident happen to me. I received a very negative comment which touched on being a personal attack. I felt so bad that for weeks I didn’t post anything at all. I’m glad you’re letting it go now. :)

    BTW, I think you write nice.


    I love your name! I think a lot of us around the country are longing for the warmth and beauty of “your” season. It’s been a long winter.

    It can be so hard to ignore nasty or negative comments. Eventually, I learned people say “don’t feed the trolls” for a reason. Trolls are looking for a response, and if they don’t get it, they’ll go elsewhere. And if they keep coming back for a while, it just provides a little more practice in ignoring them!

    I hope you’re enjoying blogging again ~ I certainly am. Thanks so much for the kind words, and for stopping by.


  10. Your writing is as always such a delightful reading.

    This time however I have a comment of objection. It is about the phrase “be careful who you listen to, because their voices will influence your own.” That is in my opinion a very dangerous way of behavior.

    To understand other people you need to listen to them. If you don’t listen to both sides of a disagreement you censorship your own mind. You mustn’t be frighted to listen to others, just because you might agree with them.

    I think it is when you listen to everybody you get a chance to make up your own mind. It is when you always listen to the same people, walk in the same environment that you get really influenced and denied an opinion of your own. So I would say: Listen to everybody, but think for yourself.

    Now, I hope I have not caused a disturbance in the Lent mood.

    Have a happy day!


    Oh! I thought finally we were going to disagree on something. But, no… I happen to agree with you. -;)

    I’ve been trying to think of some other ways I could have said it. For example, I might have said, “Choose carefully which voices you allow to influence your life…” I’d not thought of it until your comment, but there are at least two meanings of “listen”. One is simply to hear, as we listen to music. Another is “to pay heed to”, in the sense of giving weight or significance to what is heard.

    I agree that we need to listen to all the voices surrounding us. But the important next step is choosing which we will allow to influence our behavior and decisions. We need to hear a variety of voices, but we also need to be willing to judge their value for ourselves.

    A concrete example may help. When I began blogging, a person who’s done a good bit of writing advised me that the use of graphics or music in a blog would result in not being taken “seriously”. I “listened to” (heard) what was said, but decided not to “listen to” (heed, or accept) the advice.

    Another example. I’m told on a regular basis that I “waste entirely too much time on my blog”, and that the hours I spend writing could be put to more productive use. I’ve had long discussions with the person who holds this opinion, but in the end, I’ve chosen to simply not “listen to” what is said.

    All of this is just a way of expanding what you put so nicely: listen to everybody, but think for yourself.

    No disturbance here! And I’m even happier to have had a chance to think through some of this a bit more completely.


  11. Linda,

    Yes. I agree very much with reflections about Lent, as I do with Frederick Buechner’s own definition, which is that Lent is a time for us “to ask one way or another what it means to be” ourselves.

    In my own keeping of Lent, I’m taking time to fast from a daily blog post — which means less posts for now — but more time to sit with a paper journal in my favorite chair, to write free without rules of grammar or expectations — mostly my own.

    I like the idea of a song — an Lenten anthem if you will — my pick is easy: A-ha’s “Take On Me.” My favorite line in the song is this: “Say after me it’s no better to be safe than sorry.”

    I love that — and maybe this should be my Lenten mantra.




    Buechner always has a nice insight or two no matter which of his books you pick up. And how nice it is to move from childhood disciplines – remember giving up things like watermelon? – into discovering the real value of the season.

    I’d not seen the “Take On Me” video before. It’s a wonderful reflection on so many issues – identity, reality, image and imagination – and certainly was a bit ahead of its time. Anyone concerned about life on the internet can watch it and see many of the issues we think about today put forward in dramatic form.

    The line you quote reminds me of my own decision to “go public”, and post my real name rather than just a screen name. Thinking about “safe” and “sorry”, I was greatly influenced by something Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez said:

    “The sensation of losing fear, of risking, is a sensation that is normally irreversible. After you cross certain lines, there is no way back… “Once you experience the flavor of saying what you think, of publishing it and signing it with your name, well, there’s no turning back. One of the first things we have to do, a great way to begin to change, is to be more honest about saying what we think.”

    When I first read that, I suspected she was right. Now, I know she is.


  12. Two years. Happy Blogaversary, my friend. What a feast of delights you have provided us over the years, and oh! The places you have taken us! Voyages with you — whether to some spot like Mississippi or some place deep within your heart and so eloquently expressed — are truly something I cherish.

    Lent. I used to think Lent was for giving up something you weren’t supposed to do so much anyway. Chocolate. Gum. That sort of thing. Ultimately, I was supposed to win the good thing by the sacrifice. I have since decided there is more to it than that. Now, as I tend to practice Random Acts of Christmas during Advent, I practice Random Acts of Lent (which are the same thing). It’s not really sacrifice, yet it feels better to me.

    I think what you do for Lent is brave and inspiring and beautiful. I love this story. Like all your posts, it makes me think; like all your posts, I revel in its beautiful use of language. I can barely believe anyone could write a hurtful comment to a post you have done — ever. Critical or differing in opinion, I suppose. But hurtful? I am SO very glad you never took those comments so to heart that you could never return to the blog. You give us all a great gift thanks to that commitment.


    Ah, those traditional disciplines of Lent. I’ve done them all: chocolate, coffee, sweets. Eventually, I realized they had one thing in common. They focused my attention on “me”. I was pretty sure that wasn’t supposed to be the point, so I started looking for more positive disciplines, and find them much more useful.

    The year I gave up chocolate more-or-less successfully, all I could think on Easter was, “Bring on the chocolate rabbits!” The year I committed to read an hour every day, I found myself continuing the habit for months, until it just fell away under the pressure of life. The point is, denial doesn’t usually result in transformation of life. Positive commitment does.

    As for the nasty-and-snarky contingent, the disruptors, the false friends and the haters – well, they exist. I don’t worry about them any more, but deal with them when they show up. I’ve always loved a comment of Martin Luther’s that applies so well here: “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” :-)


  13. I love this, Linda.

    My mom had a saying: What you feed yourself, you get hungry for.

    What I hear and feel from your essay is the strong note of personal authority. It does not come easily or without pain. But if it comes, it is a wonderful freedom. We have to go through the obstacles though, the hurtful comments that dig deep. We have to look inside and listen for that divine voice that is our own.

    Yes, truly, I love how our current posts echo and lob to each other, each of us expressing this truth out of our own authority.

    I really love it.


    I’ve never heard that saying, but how true it is – both literally and metaphorically.

    I haven’t seen one in years, but there used to be signs at railroad tracks that said “Stop. Look. Listen.” As you say, we must do that with our own lives before any sense of personal authority – any belief in the power to live our own lives – can begin to develop.

    One reason I think so many women have gravitated to blogging is the opportunity it offers to hear their own voice in a new way. Speaking our mind may be a good thing, and being honest about what we think may be desirable, but as E.M. Forster said, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

    Sometimes I’m as amazed by what I post here as anyone ;-)


  14. Probably nobody was more ignorant than I was when I started my blog, upon the suggestion of my son. I first thought it was like a personal file where I’d collect my own movie reviews, just to keep track of and practice writing them… never thought that they’d be read by ‘the public’, or whoever out there. Of course, attracting traffic was not on my mind, and I seldom got any comment. But that was before I moved to WordPress.

    Anyway, I’d be devastated by nasty comments too. I’d rather receive none. So it’s a growing process for me as well these past two years. And I feel particular affiliation with those whom I discovered as they first started from scratch and struggled to get to where they are now, like The Task At Hand.

    I’ve been enjoying too a supportive blogging circle, albeit a small one … not having many ‘followers’ like some other bloggers. But as you said, surrounding yourself with positive input is essential to survival. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive, but sometimes one just grows weary trying to fend off oppositions like a warrior. I’d rather be a recluse than a fighter. So, I’d like to see blogging as a virtual place for serene contemplation, sharing and inspiration, rather than a battlefield. But, if I do need to fight, I know who my friends are that can lend support and keep me going. Thank you for being one.


    I’ve been thinking about something. If someone asked me, “Would you rather receive positive or negative comments”, my first impulse would be to say, “Positive, of course.” On the other hand, there’s a huge difference between “honest negative” and “anonymous negative”. “Honest negative” can be anything from criticism of content to disagreement with a position to a dislike for the way I design my site. Those provide valuable opportunities to evaluate things and either change, or not.

    “Anonymous negative” is where snarky and flat nasty show up, but the beauty of those folks is that, most of the time, you don’t have to fight them at all. Ignore them, and they go away, or change their behavior. And the beauty is that there’s a third option beyond recluse or fighter – real engagement with a variety of real and interesting people around the world.

    WordPress helps tremendously, of course, with their spam filtering and their screening tools. But I’ve “spammed” only a handful of comments in two years (Russian brides, anyone?) and have no one on a list of folks whose comments need to be held. I suspect keeping an eye on blog activity helps, but the truth is film criticism and essays on Lenten discipline aren’t going to pull the wackos out of the woodwork!

    It’s been a fun two years, hasn’t it? Just remember, we are in this together, and the point really is quality, not quantity!


  15. Thank you for your kind reply. I’m delighted that we agreed, because as I interpret the phrase it simply didn’t felt like the Linda I’ve heard in your other texts. But I guess the fact that I’m not native in English plays tricks on me sometimes.

    I first heard the English word Lent when I saw the movie Chocolat. So it always makes me think of chocolate cakes. Not very respectful.


    Actually, thinking about chocolate and Lent together is perfect! I read a survey a few years ago that said chocolate is the number one thing people give up for Lent. As I mentioned to jeanie in my comment above, I tried giving up chocolate when I was younger, but it wasn’t a very satisfactory experience – all I could think about was chocolate! Sigh.

    I was wondering last night if some of our various uses for “listen” don’t come close to being idioms. Those can be very tricky – I remember some embarassing mistakes when I was learning and trying to speak French. But your English is great – when we don’t make sense to one another, we always can figure it out!


  16. I just started blogging and was so nervous about criticism I didn’t even tell most of my “real” friends that I started a blog!

    For Lent I’m trying to be less greedy. I decided not to ask my husband for anything all Lent (anything unnecessary that is-I’ll still tell him when we’re out of bread, etc.) or even say things like “you know what would be great to get for my birthday?…” One day I caught myself 4 times! But it’s getting easier already to get myself out of that mindset.

    Maman A Droit,

    Your new blog is really lovely ~ you’ve got a wonderful start. You write well, and I especially liked the Tuesday “news” ~ I can’t remember now exactly what you called it, but it was interesting.

    It’s important to remember there’s no “right” way to blog. If you’re happy, that’s good enough. And it will take a while to build readership. When I first started, there were many days when 20 people stopping by was a good day. ;-) And I still believe that ten good readers are worth a thousand passers-by who click but don’t read.

    Sometimes you may feel clueless, but you already know what to do about that! As someone (!) once said, “the cure for cluelessness is to seek out resources, not just in print, but also in the form of (people) if you are lucky enough to have knowledgeable ones. And know that you aren’t alone in your cluelessness, or in your desire and ability to successfully (blog) anyway! If you ever have a question, feel free to drop an email.

    That old saying about practice making perfect has a lot of truth, doesn’t it? It does get easier as we go along, no matter what our Lenten discipline is. We probably won’t be perfect, but we’re being attentive, and that counts for a lot.

    Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re welcome any time!


  17. The last thing I expected to find when I popped over to read your blog earlier was a Bon Jovi video.

    It was both a pleasent surprise and a reminder to myself not to make assumptions. ;)

    I have tried to describe your writing to others but the best I have managed is that you cater to the senses of your readers. Your words pull me into your stories and envelop me. I have smelled the salt air, felt the pavement under me as I gazed at the stars and heard music playing. I so am very glad you didn’t let a mean spirited comment keep you from writing.


    What? You didn’t realize you were dealing with your prototypical closet rocker? I once broke off a budding relationship because the guy insisted on listening to big band music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand… ;-)

    No matter what else comes along, your comment has made my day, if not my week. It may have made my year, for that matter. Early on in this writing business I came across the famous quotation from Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass”. I’ve been giving it my best shot, and you’re telling me I’ve succeeded, just a little. So, on we go.

    I do love surprising people ;-)


  18. I hate how one negative comment can wipe out 100 good ones. I really wish it wasn’t that way, that I could be bigger than that.

    Thought provoking post. I love how you mark your way along life with your own personal soundtrack. You hardly ever do a post that doesn’t involve music in some way or another. I always find myself humming something after reading you!


    I suspect the power of negativity is far greater than most of us imagine. Did you ever come across the American cartoon character named Joe Bfstplk? He was from Al Capp’s L’il Abner series, and he always walked around with a dark rain cloud above his head. L’il Abner stopped running years ago, but I’ve never forgotten Joe. In fact, I keep running into him in real life. These days, when I meet him again, I go the other way if I can.

    In a way, a desire to get rid of life-destroying negativity was part of my decision to dump my television. More and more, programming has tended toward people yelling at one another, ridiculing one another or being flat nasty to one another. Who needs that?

    On the other hand, isn’t music wonderful? I didn’t realize how deeply it had woven its way into my life until I started blogging.


  19. Besides Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style” I think one of the best books I ever came across for writers is Stephen King’s (yes, THAT Stephen King) “On Writing.” I bought it when it came out years ago and then downloaded it from I’ve been listening to it, a second time, on my walks with Penny recently.

    Yesterday he was talking about daily output…This is paraphrased, more or less:

    A friend of James Joyce’s came to visit one day and found the author sprawled across his desk in a posture of utter despair.

    “James,” the friend said, “what’s wrong? Is it the work?”

    Without even raising his head Joyce acknowledged assent. Of course it was the work. It’s always the work.

    “How many words did you get today?” the friend asked.

    “Seven,” Joyce said still sprawled face down on his desk.

    “Seven. But James, that’s good, especially for you.”

    “Yes,” Joyce said, finally looking up, “I suppose it is, but I don’t know what order they go in.”


    I rarely need to use the word “guffaw”, but it fits here. That’s one of the funniest things I’ve heard.

    Someone else mentioned King’s book to me, but it’s been some time ago and I never followed up on it. I think perhaps I was put off a bit because it was “That” Stephen King. On your recommendation, and hoping for more funny, illustrative stories, I believe I’ll give it a go.

    I do have a semi-superstitious belief that we read books when we’re meant to read them. More than once I’ve had a book on the shelves for years before opening it and then, when I do, it’s somehow perfect for that time and place.

    Thanks for the great story!


  20. Guffaw is a great word, and sometimes it’s the RIGHT word. I guffawed myself when I heard it. Fortunately no one was around on the street when I did. One of the hazards of audio books on your iPod…the strange looks you get when you do something like that.

    I think you’d enjoy “On Writing.” Fairly short and to the point with excellent advice and self-effacing humor.


    Self-effacing humor is the best ;-) As for the ipod response syndrome – remember the first time you encountered someone with a bluetooth headset walking down the grocery store aisle or wherever, just chatting away, seemingly to themselves? It took a while to figure out they weren’t the people we’d been taught to avoid as kids!


  21. Guffawing (loudly)at Richard’s story. I believe you and Bellezza must have been on the same wavelength when you wrote your posts last week–at least I think hers was last week. She mentions(ed) a positive “giving up” or “giving to” as well. That is too much synchronicity for me not to pay attention!

    A couple of years ago, I began a now annual tradition of reading T.S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday” on…Ash Wednesday. Here are my favorite pairs of lines:
    “And I pray that I may forget
    These matters that with myself I too much discuss”

    “Teach us to care and not to care
    Teach us to sit still.”

    Even with Bon Jovi, I think they fit. Thank you for this. Blogworld would be a most empty place without you; I’m glad you had the courage to not listen to that “sock puppet”!


    Funny, but Eliot’s words about those “matters that with (ourselves we) too much discuss” are absolutely relevant to the blogging world. There are times when I carry on long, fruitless and ultimately exhausting discussions in my head with other bloggers. The good news is those dialogues help prevent me from recording things in cyberspace that are better not said. On the other hand, a lot of mental time and energy that could be put to better use is simply wasted.

    Long, long ago (maybe as much as a year ago!) I scribbled down these words from another blogger. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the link so I can’t even attribute, but I thought they were wonderful: “Blogging is really easy. All you have to do is figure out what you think, write it down and defend it.”

    That ought to keep us busy for a while!


  22. Linda,
    This post certainly came at the perfect time for me. I was surprised when I received that slightly negative comment on the post about sleep apnea the other day. I have to admit that it put a little knot in my stomach. Thank you for your supportive email.

    What a great idea to give up that negative voice in our heads for Lent. It’s so easy to allow one negative person or remark to influence our decisions. Of all the things I’ve heard about giving up, this one has to be the most productive.

    I love what you wrote at the end. “What surrounds us, becomes us.”


    Laughter being the best medicine and all that, I regularly go back and review Mike Reed’s Flame Warriors, which is a kind of Audubon’s guide to the strange birds flying around the internet. If you take a peek, the first thing that’ll surprise you is how many species you recognize!

    And keeping with the birds analogy, I’ve always appreciated Martin Luther’s sage advice: “You can’t keep the birds from flying around your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair”.


  23. The blogging world is a strange one. I’ve never understood those that leave nasty comments. Ultimately if a person has nothing nice to say, then they should say nothing at all. I’ve only experienced one dodgy comment and that was after Obama was elected and a commenter completely twisted my words and read something which wasn’t there. I was so very angry at the time and as a consequence it is now very rare that I discuss anything political on my blog.

    ‘“What surrounds us, becomes us. If we choose to tolerate an atmosphere marked by hatred, we are more likely to speak in a hateful manner. If we continually hear echoes of cynicism and negativity, we are more likely to become cynical and pessimistic ourselves…”

    So very, very true!


    I suppose there are as many reasons for nastiness as there are nasty people in the world. That may be another way of saying there are as many reasons for nastiness as there are unhappy people in the world. I can’t think of any reason other than profound unhappiness to waste a life sitting around littering other peoples’ blogs. Well, except for those times when the inner twelve-year old just takes over and there’s nothing to be done but apologize when it’s all over. ;-)


  24. I tend to save your blog for last because I spend so much time with it. The idea of giving up soul poison for Lent is great.
    Who would have thought that the internet and blogging would become a place to heal and even thrive as spiritual beings.
    Keep Shining :-)


    One of the greatest and least-understood tenets of Christian faith is the end of the sacred/secular distinction. There’s no reason Bon Jovi shouldn’t inspire as surely as Bach, or blogs communicate truth as surely as the Bible. The way I figure it, if it’s true God is everywhere, we’d better be keeping our eyes open ;-)


  25. love love love the wisdom of this post…(I normally don’t read other people’s comments because it sometimes causes me to second guess my reaction.. I did however just catch a glimpse of your reply just above (“greatest and least understood tenets of Christian faith is the end of the sacre3d/secular distinction. There is no reason BonJovi shouldn’t inspire as surely as Bach, or blogs communicate truth…etc” I agree w/ you 110% I’m going to have to listen to that Bon Jovi song . thank you for sharing. DM

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, DM. I’m sure you enjoyed the song, too. It’s still one of my favorites. It didn’t hurt me to read the post again, either, just in case. An ounce of prevention vs a pound of cure, and all that.

      Find “your song,” and have at it!

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