This picture. This perfectly sums up my life and who I am. Look at it closely…doesn’t it look a little odd to you? Like maybe it’s a photo of an image on a screen? Like some idiot took a picture of her picture on her laptop? Because that’s what it is. A picture of a picture on my laptop. And what’s with that one curl, pointing away from me like a sign? No makeup, hair a mess, the face generally looking pretty shambolic. Who would use that picture on purpose? That would be me.
I created this website because I’m a writer, trying to get published and promote my work. Every article I’ve read about getting published, be it an essay in The Atlantic or a big ol’ book, tells me I need to have a platform so people can find me, see what I do, and so on. “You simply must have a platform,” cries everybody in the know. I have a Twitter account, but I don’t tweet. I don’t Instagram or Tumble. I do have a personal Facebook page, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a professional one. So I created a website as my platform (which, to me, just sounds like something I should jump off and be done with it). To be accurate, WordPress created my site, I only add the content. And not very well, as you can see. I’m no web designer. I’m a writer, which means I write. I let everyone else worry about everything else. But in this digital age, apparently one is only as good as one’s platform. So here we are, with a dodgy website and a crap picture.
This picture. Why did I select that image to represent me and my work? Because it embodies my life – slightly off, a bit weird, messy. Unable to do seemingly easy things, like add a photo to a website. Here’s what happened:
I wanted a photo for the About page of this site. Simple.
Step one, find a photo. I have an old iPhone and I’m out of storage (shocking). In an attempt to free up some space, I thought I moved my photos to some cloud somewhere. But the cloud turned out to be a friggin’ idiot of a raincloud waiting to get swept into a tornado, so what I apparently did in actuality is delete them. All of my photos of my kids and their adorableness and, oh yeah, me. Nice. Here’s where this simple process becomes more difficult than it needs to be. I don’t like any new selfies I’m attempting to take, so I head on over to my Facebook page, where I’m sure I’ll find something reasonable. I pick something I can tolerate and I say to myself, “Ok, I will simply save this photo to my laptop, then upload it to my site.” I’m so impressed with myself and my ability to use the modern lingo.
Step two, save selected photo to laptop. Easy enough, except I can’t do it. Facebook won’t let me. I’m sure there is a way, but I can’t suss it out. I’m not completely inept, but this is beyond me for some reason. Do I put out a call for help on Facebook and hope my friends respond with instructions? No, because that will broadcast my incredible stupidity to the masses.
Step three, give up and do it like Grandma would. After trying to figure it out for about a half an hour, I whip out my iPhone and TAKE A PICTURE OF MY FACEBOOK PICTURE. I’m so disgusted with myself, but it works.
Step four, post the damn picture to the page and walk away. And when I finally post it, I think, “Yes. That’s right. It took me an hour to do this, it looks ridiculous and I’m an idiot, but that’s the real me.”
Things don’t ever seem to work easily in my life, and this inability to do anything without constant frustration has unfortunately seeped into my children’s lives, as well. The simplest processes mastered by everyone else on earth will stump us and cause consternation. I won’t give examples from my kids’ experiences, because I don’t want to embarrass them, and my history should more than adequately make the point.
I consider myself somewhat tech-savvy, but sometimes… A couple of years ago I splashed out and bought a big, beautiful all-in-one HP color printer. I loved this thing, and found all kinds of excuses to scan and fax documents. It worked beautifully for some time, until I tried to replace the ink. All I needed to do was replace the ink. But when I did that, that beautiful behemoth stopped working. The error message said the print head was broken. How did I break the $250 printer simply replacing ink? Have I replaced that printer? No. We actually go to Staples, if John doesn’t have time to print something for us while he’s at work. Who goes to Staples to print homework in this day and age, I ask you?
HP isn’t the only company that hates me, so does Apple. Why, I don’t know. All I’ve ever done is support them. But my day takes a nosedive whenever I need to do anything related to any of my devices – all of which are iSomethings. What takes most people two steps to complete, takes 12 for me, with much going back and forth and searching old threads on out-dated message boards for suggestions. I have even stumped the Geniuses at Apple Support, and not because I’m unable to grasp their instructions, but because my stuff doesn’t work like other people’s stuff. I don’t know how or why, but it’s true. Put it in my hands and the inner workings will get screwed up. I can’t even wear a watch; it will stop working within days.
But this negative energy is not limited to technology. It’s pervasive in my life. Car registrations, health insurance, unemployment compensation, even voter registration – it all starts out normal, but somewhere along the line, it becomes a train wreck. I may have all my paperwork in order, but inevitably, someone, somewhere, will miss the plot and I will pay the price. As John says, repeatedly, “if something is going to go wrong for anybody, it’s you.” He often shakes his head in disbelief as he says it.
I have many times tried to explain to those curious about my habitual turmoil, that my kids and I are the type of family to whom things just happen. We don’t mean to cause accidents or chaos, we just do. If we went to the grocery store together, we’d be the family accidentally upsetting the mammoth pyramid of oranges stacked in the middle of the aisle. This is why I shop for groceries on my own; it’s a precaution. If we ever went to Disney, we’d accidentally burn Cinderella’s castle to the ground. We’d bump into a lit torch or knock over something equally flammable, most likely in an attempt to make way for other people or otherwise do a kind thing because we’re excruciatingly polite, and next thing you know – WHOOSH! Up in flames. We can’t go to the Grand Canyon, or anywhere up high, because one of us would trip and fall over the edge, and the other two would fall over trying to catch him/her. We’ll be the ones who die taking a selfie. We’re not idiots, we’re predisposed to disaster. “A catalyst for change,” as my dad used to describe me.
Most people say it’s Murphy’s Law or bad luck. We just call it “Heather.”
Being a writer, getting published, changing ink cartridges, living. It’s never easy. To get published, one used to send query letters and writing samples, but now one needs a platform, and must figure out how to put together a website and upload a photo. For others, it’s a snap, but, for me…eh, not so much. Fortunately, after 48 years of fretting and fighting this contrary force which makes everything problematic, I’ve come to accept it as the hand I’ve been dealt. And sometimes it’s pretty damn funny, once I step back and look at it. So I’m now putting my Heatherness to work for me, here, with my writing. This is my platform, and this is me, writing about my messiness.