It is a GIft to Exist


There's an excerpt on TikTok of an Anderson Cooper interview with Stephen Colbert from 2019 where they talked about grief. The whole interview is worth watching, and available on YT.

In the interview, Cooper asks Colbert, “You told an interviewer that you have learned to, in your words, love the thing that I most wish had not happened. You went on to say what punishments of God are not gifts. Do you really believe that?”

Colbert answers, "Yes. It's a gift to exist. And with existence comes suffering."

Yes, and then explains what he means by this. Certainly the pain was terrible. Of course he would rather it not have happened. It had happened, just as terrible things happen to all of us. We endure, we keep going, we live with the pain, we are changed by it. Our existing means we suffer.

"What punishments of God are not really gifts."

The interview was from 2019. Anderson and Stephen talked about it again in 2022 on Cooper's podcast All There Is with Anderson Cooper, S1E2

I saw an excerpt of the video on tiktok a while ago, unsurprising as the interview and its sequel happened years ago, but had come across it again a few weeks ago. It happened in a moment of openness. The catch of Cooper's voice, the answer of yes, the recognition of suffering and grief, all of them hit me hard, goosebumps everywhere.

Over a decade ago, at Brooklyn Beta 2013, I heard John Maeda speak to the whole of us. He talked about his response when something goes wrong: "Oh, how fantastic!" He recognized, and preached, that every problem, every mishap, every setback is an opportunity to improve the process, the design, oneself.

I liked Maeda's sentiment, but not particularly his words. My word upon exiting surprise, shock, or anger at some setback or injustice or problem or shitstorm, has become, "Adventure!"

Yeah, this moment sucked, but, hey, we are still here, lets fix it, let's laugh about this in the future, and deal with this now. Adventure!

Many of my friends have picked up on my response, and repeat it back to me, often with enthusiasm, even in difficult or dark moments. I love them for this.

For most people in this world, the monumental shifts in personality or outlook that happen in their lives are either unobservable as slow and subtle, or overwhelming as fast and hard. The latter are usually full of loss and grief and pain. We see those shifts.

My adopting Adventure! as a response was slow and subtle. It became a light in the dark, a chance for me to keep the flame of hope lit during my depression and denial of agency.

We don't usually have fast and subtle. We very rarely notice the subtle, slow or fast. And yet, I have this one.

My adopting, "It is a gift to exist" has arrived hard and fast. It has been the whisper when things are going well, and I want to remember the joy of the moment. It has been the gale force winds when things are going poorly, and I need to remember this moment so that I can be better next time.

I have a single tattoo. I got it to represent my "what I wish had not happened." I unbelievably wish the bad stuff had not happened, that I had made better choices. I would endure the bad stuff again for the good stuff, because the good stuff is and was that good.

That tattoo no longer represents the bad stuff. It is no longer a reminder to make better choices. It is a symbol of the good stuff, the love I found, the adventures we had, the laughs and joy we shared, the beauty in our mundane.

All of this is an adventure. It is a gift to experience this. All of this.

On Travelling


Every time I say something like, "My first time going to [some place in the US], I think of my dad, who has never had a passport, and has never been outside North America. He has travelled to Canada, once in his 20s, all the way to the other side of Niagra Falls for his "I went outside the US."

He often says, "Why would I leave the States when there is so much in this country that I haven't seen yet?"

Except he hasn't even tried to see even that.

Related and unrelated, hell, Canada is a damn big country, too.

Also related and unrelated, writing on a tiny screen is irritatingly difficult.

Thoughts for New Support People


Watching new people start working in technical support positions, especially when they are not in "classic" support roles, is a difficult experience. I can see their frustrations with people asking the same questions just answered. I can see the increased amount of documentation "to solve all the problems." I can see the exasperation oozing out of the screen from the new support people.

I want to give each them a (totally professional) hug and tell them,

Look, people asking for help are not going to read the pinned messages in that support channel. They are not going to search the archives or the help channels for their question. They most likely won't try to figure out the problem at all before they ask for help. They will not read the documentation.

People will show up with a "doesn't work" message. They will ask the same question you just answered last month, last week, yesterday. They will not know what version they were using, or if they are logged in, or what steps they took to be in this werid space, asking for help.

They will be in a hurry. They will want an answer now. They may not be kind.

This is not about you. You are not the technical problem.

Listen to their problem. Ask more questions to understand the root of their help request. Confirm you understand the problem correctly by repeating back to them your understanding of their problem. If they say no, that isn't what is wrong, start over and listen to them. When you understand the problem, then, and only then, help.

Go head and copy and repeat the answer you gave yesterday, last week. Link to the answer in the documentation. Give them the easy answers. Keep your tone light. Add lots of happy emojis.

If you cannot solve their problem, be clear about when someone will follow up with the solution, and actually find someone to solve their problem.
If the problem cannot be solved, be clear about the insolvability of the problem, and let them know that, yes, it does indeed suck.
If you solved the problem, thank them for bringing the issue up. Repeated requests for the same issue indicates a problem with the product or process and THAT is what needs to be fixed.

What won't work is posting "LOOK OVER HERE!" messages to documentation that is 10 pages long, tiny font, on a wiki that no one can access. Neither will posting "SEARCH FOR YOUR PROBLEM BEFORE ASKING" messages. Nor will a dozen pinned messages. People want help, they want to be unblocked.

Find some level of serenity that this is how people are, and have been since forever. Your posts with capital letters are not going to change that behavior. Tolerate the repetitive questions, and take A LOT of joy when someone arrives with a new question, a new problem to solve, a puzzle to figure out.

And maybe take some solace in Marcus' thoughts from 1900 years ago:

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own - not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”

Today was the Day


Last night, just before I plugged in my phone and left it in the kitchen on the way to bed, I wrote a note to myself. I left the Notes app open on my phone, so that when I unlocked my phone this morning, the note to myself would be the first thing I saw:

A message to me, from my past self. My past self had faith in now-me that today was the day.

And today was, indeed, the day.

Go me.

Now Vintage


I learned to snowboard with Guy way back in the late 1990s. I can actually say last century, I guess. I had tried snowboarding previously, but nothing really stuck until I bought skater / rollerblading kneepads, shoved a towel down the back of my pants to protect my tailbone, and started following Guy down the slopes. He picked out my snowboard and boots. I picked out my jacket (yellow) and sunglasses (shock, also yellow).

When going through a box I had not opened in a while, one containing the remnants of that part of my life, I came across my yellow sunglasses. They cracked me up. I still adore them, but I was unsure how much sun protection they provide. I put them in the donation / free stuff pile to give away.

Today I was listing items in the box on the porch, and pulled out the sunglasses. Wondering if they had UVA/B protection lenses, I searched for them online.

Turns out, Arnette Hoodoo sunglasses are now... vintage. And actually worth some money as vintage. Unsure about the yellow ones, though.

I didn't donate them.

Timing of the Rolling Waves


My freshman year in college, a group of friends and I went to the beach. I do not recall which beach, I recall that Jason was there. One of the group offered me a wetsuit, as the water was a bit chilly, and I said yes, gave it a go. I am pretty sure, though the memory is rough, that Jason was who offered me the wetsuit, a detail of no consequence. I went into the Pacific and was swimming around for a while before deciding to head back to the beach.

This might have been my first swim in an ocean, I don't know that this wasn't, but it wasn't my first time coming out of a large body of water. For the record, Lake Michigan waves in summer during weather when you would want to be at a Lake Michigan beach are not like Southern California Pacific Ocean waves in general. This beach in particular. I didn't know this, didn't think about it, didn't consider it, and swam for shore.

As soon as I was able to touch the sand in the water, I started walking out of the ocean. As I was walking out, a wave caught me from behind and took me under. I don't recall the details of that first wave, these many years later, but I do know that it started a cycle of my struggling to the surface to breathe, and going under as the next wave crashed over me. Over and over again. I was quickly struggling, unable to stand again. One wave shoved my face into the sand where I wanted my feet to be. I remember thinking keep moving forward, somehow I did. Eventually I was able to move into shallow enough water that I caught my breath, and crawled out of the ocean.

I looked up as I was crawling out, to see the lifeguard arriving at the water, an intense look on his face. He helped me stand and walked me out of the water. He made sure I was okay at our towels before leaving me with my friends. Did I almost drown in the ocean that day? I was totally safe. I had a wetsuit on. I knew how to swim. I was surrounded by friends. The day was sunny and beautiful. There was a lifeguard looking out for me. I didn't almost drown that day, of course not.

Let's be real, yes, I almost drowned that day.

In the active healing process I've been doing this last month or so, I can see the timing of those rolling waves echoing in my life. The effort of standing up, only to be knocked down again, time and time and time again, until nearly drowned. While metaphorical this go around, the relentless onslaught of the waves of consequences of my past choices, in a storm of my own making, nearly drowned me. With the help of friends over the long time, and at the end, some parts anger (his), some parts desperation (me), and all parts WTF (us), I managed to crawl out of the situation. Actually, let's be real, I was tossed out of the waves and somehow managed a shore.

However the method of arrival, I finally have the space to breathe.

In that space and time, I see just how badly I f'cked up on things. I look back on some of the decisions I made, and recognize now that I made them responding to that wave that took me out. They weren't what I would have chosen given the space to consider. They weren't in line with who I thought I was, who I want to be. My decisions, my responding to the waves, hurt a lot of people. I deeply regret those pains I inflicted. No one manages life without some pain, but, man, talk about doing things the hard way, leaving a trail of destruction in my wake. WTF, Past me?

Loss aversion is thing with me. I will be weirdly delusional about things around loss. Letting go, accepting things as they are, leaving space for others to be uncomfortable when I state what I want, hell, even stating what I want and, as Dena says, having a definite end, is hard for me. Some of those are the result of being a woman. Some of those are the result of my childhood. Some of those are the result of my brain. All of them landed me here.

Healing from my grief has meant radical acceptance of just about everything, no wishes of what could have been, should have been, no shuffling blame to someone else, no what ifs. Just this. Letting go. Seeing the beauty of the ocean without being in it. Sitting on the beach, sun on my face, gentle wind in my hair, sand caught in places sand shouldn't go, causing itches and pain in said places, and, I don't know, a calm, a space to just be, figure out what's next.