If You Keep Your Mouth Shut the Flies Won’t Get In


by Heather Murphy

I am a child with no boundaries. It’s best to start that way; with the complete truth just out there, in your face, right off, bang. Because that is the crux of it. It is the result of something it would take hundreds of pages to elaborate upon—and maybe I will do so one day—it certainly does bear examination, but I can only bite off little pieces at a time.

Speaking of biting off pieces, this is about that remarkable muscle which hides in the mouth. The tongue. Sometimes mine seems to operate independently without my true consent, and like a dog unwittingly leading a bear back into camp, incite a ruckus.

Let me tell you how my complete lack of boundaries with people is getting me into trouble in the here and now. But let me also make a disclaimer about how I will be doing so using metaphor, possibly impersonal, universal examples, hypothetical situational psychology, (I just made that up, doesn’t it sound good?) and other totally anonymous tools to get my point across. I have to show some restraint to reach the grace I am ultimately seeking or my words will brew me more trouble, after I’ve already had my fill.

Words have such magic, such power. They can do whatever they want with you, really. They can change your mood and your feelings—just like that. Once they are on the page or out of your mouth, they go out into the world and have their own life. Regardless of your intentions. You totally get that part, right? Regardless of your intentions? It’s like the Venus/Mars thing, where that author talks about how you say one thing but it passes through a filter like thingy in the brain and comes out as something else for the person, something you may not have intended, unfortunately.

But back to the point of no boundaries. I let people in too far, because I’m hopeful, and I don’t set proper boundaries for either of us. It’s sad for me, because it’s already in there, in me, and I don’t know how to un-do parts of me now that I don’t like, I’m already in my forties, though a lot of work in alanon has helped. I realize that what I have to do is just make the adjustments based on what I know about the other person who is disappointing me or pissing me off once I have gotten sort of close to them. I have to realize that it is something in them, and about them that I have reached as an obstacle because this is just how they operate, and it’s for a complex variety of reasons. Not because of some special grotesque and unacceptable fault of my own, but because this is how they roll, baby. Then, I don’t have to take it so fucking personally, I can cultivate some kind of logical neutrality that will ultimately defuse the situation.

So, hang on, are you into this astrology crap? Because sometimes, I swear, there are just certain people—regardless of how beautiful and amazing they might be, who rub you the wrong ass way. Do you have that? Why is that? All the components can be there, everything you need for some juicy material, something you could sink your teeth into…a friendship, a lover, a project, an idea, fantasies, but then…there is just this bad chemistry. Emotions run like roller coaster cars in opposite directions, wool grabs on sandpaper, oil floats atop water, blue and red don’t go…and some people just don’t mix.

Even when I want them to.

I could go off on a tangent about the strange and wondrous dynamic of meeting people and feeling the opposite—feeling instant camaraderie and familiarity, the fun idea you knew them in a prior life, all that good stuff. But this is not about that. This is the dark stuff, the people who are opaque to you, who are like a furnished room with no lights on. The people who tilt their heads to the side quizzically when the others are nodding. Because they don’t get you. And I told you, it’s nothing personal. Even when you like them and they can’t like you back.

But how are you going to handle them? If you’re like me–stupid, you’ll get miffed and run your mouth. The boundaries you’ve set for yourself—out the window. See where that gets you. There’s a big laugh out loud. Because no one of value wants to hear you running your mouth, or making drama, or any of that Jerry Springer shit. If they do, run and hide—find new friends, quickly.

Everywhere you go, you will run into these people. These people you might rub the wrong way. You say potato, and they will say you said, tomato. You will see the glass half full and they will see smudges on the glass. You will read something to them that you have written and they will look at you with pity or anxiety, with puzzlement, perhaps, or even outrage. Since you have no boundaries, you will take this badly and ruminate over it, like a squirrel with a nut, until you have decided you are unfit for human consumption and should live under ground with moles, or in another country where you don’t speak the language.

But wait. You don’t have to. Just because some people don’t get you at all and even think you’re an asshole doesn’t mean you don’t have amazing insights and talents. It just means your signal isn’t getting through to them because of wiring issues. No biggie. Let it be impersonal, please. It’s just like those chemistry experiments in high school. When you mix certain things together, nothing happens. You just sit there, staring, with your protective eye-wear, next to the beaker, but nothing happens. Or, there is this huge explosion. And it leaves a big mess.

I warned you it would be all hypothetical and anonymous and universal, didn’t I? This blathering around the bush. But, I’ve been miffed and pissed and misunderstood and misinterpreted and looked at funny. But because I am a former card-carrying Buddhist who’s been around the block a few times and just wants some freakin’ peace, I am taking the high road. I am thinking of my difficult situation as being an opportunity for growth. I am remembering that certain people will just not get me, and that’s okay, and I don’t have to take it personally or badly when things go awry, and unleash the tongue monster, I just have to find some grace in myself to get through it without looking like an asshole. And I don’t have to name names or point out times he has disappointed me, or she has misinterpreted me, or he has failed to respond to my sound logic, I just have to remind myself to get through it without blowing it, Jerry Springer style.

LMAO@(##) wtf?! Or: How I Used the Word “Hash” as a Tag on WordPress Unwittingly, and Got Freshly Pressed!


by Heather Murphy

That the above means something to almost anyone who reads it causes me undue stress. Not just the symbol (though that is producing some major stress) but the entire first part of my title. The descent into electronic grunting has got me down. The second part of my title will make you laugh when you discover my naïveté and how it led to a Three’s Company moment for me that caused my friend to actually physically drop her smart phone when the laughter took over her entire body and the phone was just in the way.

Ok, so I wrote a post called “The Case of the Missing People” and amazingly, it was freshly pressed and put on the front page of WordPress. I was new and had very little idea of what it meant to be freshly pressed. It was my third post on a multi-authored blog called Letters to Pomona.  It had been up for a couple of weeks or something, when suddenly, one day my gmail inbox was crammed, pages full, with comment and like notifications from WordPress concerning this post.

At first I thought there was some error and my post had somehow created a tidal wave of spam via some new virus. I worried that people I knew would be affected and get mad at me. My posts had never been read by more than a small handful of people, so something had to be amiss. I looked more closely at the avatars and names of the people and they looked…totally on the up and up. I was flummoxed. I wondered how the hell they found the post, why so many?

I logged onto our WordPress “Stats” page and began the process of decoding it. It had little maps of where traffic was coming from, a table showing the flow of traffic, and even a spot that showed from whence the traffic came, Internet-wise. I looked at the “Referrers” section and squinted.

I slowly realized I’d been freshly pressed. I thought, “Holy shit, this is like that thing on flickr, where they “explore” the best photography, through some mysterious algorithm and you hope they will pick yours up so it can be seen by like a jillion people all over the world and you can get tons of feedback from all kinds of characters and be thought of as not-obsolete for awhile and perhaps bask in it and feel groovy.” That’s what I thought. And I started to get excited.

Now, goddamn google had changed my inbox situation not long before this whole thing happened. They decided to put mail that wasn’t personal into two other folders, and I just went along with it and was like, “Oh, that’s probably a good idea,” or something like that, so I never got any letter from WordPress explaining what happened to me. I had to sleuth it out on my own. It was days later that I found the nice email from a WordPress editor named Cheri, hiding in another folder. The one that explained everything.

I found the “freshly pressed” page and decided to read some of the posts and damn, they were good. This was way cool. Now we were getting followers, people who would become an actual audience to consider. I started checking them out, these followers and comment makers and reading their stuff. I saw the little maps on the stats page showing that they were reading it all over the world, including countries I have never heard of. Or maybe it was a couple of islands with new names.

I was deeply curious about these people who had taken the time to read my work and I wanted to reciprocate. One night, while playing this fun game of spying on the likers, I noticed someone had clicked on one of my tags that was the word, “hash”. I read her blog and it was some young woman from a city who likes to smoke marijuana and make love to men and write poetry about it while smoking marijuana. It was good stuff. The use of the word in my post that led to it being chosen as a tag was something to the effect of, “When my parents held court with their hash and quadrophonic stereo…” so it wasn’t like I was discussing hash or anything. But I do like to use lots of tags, so it just got sucked in.

Next day, same thing, another interesting person who clicked on the word, “hash”. I didn’t think much of it. There were other words that got the real clicks, like “memoir” and “writing.”

So, finally to the funny part. With a preface, of course: I don’t currently have a cell phone because I live in the mountains and blah blah blah, and when I did text, on my last phone, I might have said “lol” and “ttyl” but I’m over forty and that is as far as my wisdom of using the choices on the pad to abbreviate my electronic communications go. I don’t employ symbols. It’s because they mean nothing to me, unless I am using them as answers because an automated voice has prompted me to do so.

That being said, I have no idea wtf a hashtag is, okay? It’s ironic because I just wrote a little story from a kid’s point of view where they assume “draft dodger” has something to do with baseball. I really identify with this kid.

Ok, the totally, really real getting-to-the-point-part is now. I went back onto freshly pressed again because now I wanted to read all that good stuff, and I came across this one freshly pressed post, and it’s actually right near mine and it’s this guy talking about how people have to do the dumbest things to get noticed and he’s using all these clever metaphors and it’s good writing and then he says something like, “and if you have to use hashtags to get noticed….” or something like that, and I think, “Oh my god! What? Does he mean me? Like I got noticed because I used a hash tag? Does he really think that? Only like four people clicked on that word, come on!” and I was hot-cheeked to write a response to his post, I hastily banged out, “Hashtags? I resemble this comment! Is it a coincidence that I read this post?!” wondering how long it would take him to respond.

And then I went to my edits page and I deleted that goddamn word, “hash” in my tag section, feeling like a small town slut in a room full of virginal Smith graduates, all squirmy and looking for someone to punch. Who the hell was he to judge me?

That was a month or more ago. The other day, was it today? I don’t know where, I heard it spoken aloud–that word that I never knew was a word, or is it two: “hashtag”! Was that from the television? On the phone with my text abbreviation expert of a best friend, though I had no clue yet what text abbreviations or phone pad symbols had to do with anything, I asked her, “Have you heard of a ‘hashtag’? What the hell is it?” I suddenly knew there was a blogger out there who thought I was nuts. No wonder he never responded to my comment.

She told me about the little tic-tac-toe symbol and the use of it to preface a tweet or something, and I didn’t know what the hell she was on about. It took a while to explain it, and how if you used two of them it was like grabbing someone’s arm instead of just yelling, like one hashtag denoted, and when I told her about my post and the use of the word hash and that guy who was ridiculing me, she dropped her smart phone, like I told you. She ROFL@me, just like when we were kids and she had to tell me that ‘soap boppers’ were shows grown-ups watched in the day-time, not something you take in the bathtub.