September 21, 2001


The name-calling and the mudslinging have escalated, this week, into outright threats of physical violence.

For months they've been tap-dancing, with barely-concealed contempt, over issues of character and territory. Recent events, however, have caused tempers to skyrocket and tolerance to plummet. I predict that by this time next week they will be involved in full scale combat.

And that's just here on the fourth floor of The Totem Pole Company.

As the world continues its inexorable slide into total chaos ... as the death toll in New York rises, and as our nation sadly braces itself for war  ...  the Testosterone Units of The Totem Pole Company continue their ridiculous, shallow, maddeningly self-involved little war over org chart position and office real estate. 

The nonsense isn't limited to the men, either. As much as I would love to defend my gender and say this is a *guy thing* ... I can't. The women at the TPC have been equally brutal to each other recently. Yesterday one of the women in Accounting quit her job in tears: later, I found out it was because she was being ostracized by the other women in her department. (No one from Accounting would stand with her at the candle-lighting ceremony last week, I'm told. I was on the other side of the fountain and did not personally witness the slight.) As I sit at my desk and observe grown men and women behaving like a bunch of eighth-grade Pep Club officers ... as I watch people cry and quit and call each other "Asshole" and "Bitch" and "Motherfucker" ... I just want to scream.

Why are you doing this?? How can you be so incredibly petty and self-involved?

Don't you know that there's a war going on??

Which, of course, is precisely what some of you are saying about me right now.

On Wednesday I posted a fictional journal entry called "Sliding Doors." This wasn't the entry I'd originally planned to post that night. Originally, I had a totally different entry written and ready to upload  --  complete with accompanying cartoon  --  all about my ambivalence over buying a cell phone. At the last minute I withdrew the cell phone entry, fearing that it was too frivolous, and I swapped it out for a more 'serious' entry I'd written a few weeks back: a fantasy entry about how differently my life might have turned out if I'd never stopped drinking.  I don't regularly write my journal entries in advance: this was a special entry I'd been working on in honor of the big three-year sobriety anniversary. (A recovery entry targeted, as usual, at The Tots ... and at those *FootNotes* readers still mainlined to their box of cheap chablis.)  When the terrorist attacks occurred, though, I'd forgotten all about "Sliding Doors" for a while ... until Wednesday, when I pulled it off the shelf, tweaked it a little to make it topical, finished the unfinished parts, gave it an ironic ending ... and tossed it onto the website with barely a backward glance.

And without a disclaimer.

It was a decision I've been regretting ever since. Not because I don't think it was a good entry. I do. As a matter of fact, I think it's one of the best things I've written in a long time. And not because I've spent the past 48 hours explaining and apologizing and turning down rehab recommendations, either. I expected a certain amount of that. And not because it was shamelessly manipulative and deliberately confusing and scared hell out of a lot of nice people who were sure I'd fallen off the wagon with a thud (with a married guy named "Stan"). It was written that way on purpose. That was me getting in touch with my Inner Orson Welles.

No, I would *undo* it because the timing was incredibly inappropriate.

I screwed up.

I'm sorry.

Internet journaling is a tricky place to be right now ... particularly when your 'specialty' has always been 1.) writing about yourself, and 2.) writing about the world as it pertains to YOU. All of a sudden that sort of gross self-involvement is in extremely poor taste. (Not that gross self-involvement has ever been in GOOD taste ... but you know what I mean.)  I care as deeply as anyone else about the events of the past ten days. The problem is that I'm not very good at insightful political commentary, like my friend Lynda. I can't take the events of the day and turn them into thought-provoking art, like Sasha or Viv (who probably come closest to expressing the things I would like to express ... but do it far more eloquently than I ever could). So I stick to writing about the things I know about. And the things I know about -- and write about -- are all part of a pretty tiny universe, I'm afraid.

My kids. My husband. My life. My job. My recovery.

*FootNotes* is likely to undergo a metamorphosis in the coming weeks, right along with everything and everybody else in the world. I don't expect to have as much time -- or heart, or energy, or material -- to devote to it as I used to. Eventually I expect I'll unplug altogether. (I only hope that when that happens, it will be voluntary.) When I do have time to post in the days and weeks ahead, though, I aspire to be a lot less inwardly-focused -- and a lot more focused on what's happening in the world -- than I've been in years past.

And it'll probably start out that way, too.

For about a month or so, there will be lots of inept but earnest political observations ... lots of uplifting entries about random acts of kindness witnessed on the streets of Oakland ... lots of poems about dewdrops suspended in spider webs, glinting like diamonds in the morning sunlight, giving us hope for a brighter tomorrow. But eventually it will probably always come back to the same thing.

How the war is affecting my kids. And my husband. And my life. And my job. And my recovery.

If that's not the sort of thing you want to be reading right now -- or ever -- then I would respectfully -- and I do mean respectfully, in the spirit of love and tolerance and trying not to make things worse than they already are -- suggest that you not read *FootNotes.* Seriously. There is a universe of thoughtful, insightful, beautifully-written journals out there that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me. 

Find one. Settle in. Read it. Enjoy.

We'll probably both be happier that way.

I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple of days, obviously. Just as it's probably unfair of me to label my co-workers "shallow" and "self-absorbed" and "unpatriotic," simply because they're beating each other to a bloody pulp in the hallways of The Totem Pole Company while outside a war is unfolding ... I also think it's unfair and unrealistic to expect everyone to process world events in exactly the same way. If we're going to start grading each other on perceived levels of "involvement" vs. "self-involvement" -- if the person who consciously chooses to try and squeeze a little bit of 'normal' or 'hopeful' or 'funny' out of her day, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, is perceived as somehow less traumatized or less caring or less human than the next person -- then we're in even deeper trouble than we thought.

Take care, everyone. Have a great weekend.

throw a rock