Privilege Blog

When You Learn You Don’t Know As Much As You Might Have Thought You Did, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:13am

Since I announced I’d be changing my writing practice, moving to Medium to write about politics, I’ve been reminded of two little truths.

First, learning something new presents difficulties you won’t foresee. Second, habits matter as much or more than intent.

Leaning something new, well, I’ve learned that politics are hard. Ha! Cue riotous laughter all around. I should be more specific. Politics are hard to write about.

See, while I can develop a political opinion pretty quickly – see a pattern and make an observation – this snap judgment methodology takes me only about 80% of the way to a substantive thought. In style, 80% works. The final 20% you can muster with bluster, impunity and good hair. But 80% in politics drives you to the border of insight and dumps you there, standing on the dry ground of your particular ideological camp. Surrounded by weeds.

Besides, political opinions affect life and death. Denim silhouettes, not. These days writing takes longer.

And the importance of habit? In the past seven years I had spent six days/week, 7-11am, either writing or pretending to as I poked around the Internet. Except when I was working, when I wrote from 6-8am and then all Sunday morning. A serious writing schedule.

When I decided to give up consistent style blogging, I also gave up  four mornings/week of those allocated time slots to volunteer teaching or yoga classes. Surprise, the remaining three don’t give me enough time and space, because it does feel like mental space, to publish regularly.

Why tell you all of this? Well, first of all, because you’re my community for thinking about life. But also, maybe, this is a useful story. If my experience is to be trusted, making changes can be more difficult than expected. If you are planning a shift, be ready for a bumpy start. I don’t think it means you’re doing it wrong. And make sure that you set yourself up an infrastructure of habit and ritual as support.

I’m sorting this out. After all, nobody depends on me right now. Few dominoes have fallen.

But if you’re in the middle of a more complex change, maybe it helps to hear how best-laid plans, even for the well-resourced, can sputter. I suspect you’re doing an excellent job.

Have a wonderful weekend and here’s to never ever giving up learning.

44 Responses

  1. One of your many gifts is succinctly and accurately expressing life’s truths. I have noticed this (“the importance of habit”) about my life. And I had a conversation this past week wth a former student who changed jobs, only to realize the new one didn’t work. And this is the reason! Honestly, for me, any change in routine gives me a chance to reboot and rethink and redo. Since retirement, this has been the norm.

    I admire your new forus/focus, as it is so hard, multi-dimensional, complicated, dynamic, etc. I appreciate your hard work before you write. In essence, you’re doing the hard work for those of us who trust you as a writer/friend who fact checks before you put pen to paper. xo

  2. I agree with you politics is hard. And, the real goal is to get through to the other ideological camp. Not many people have figured out how to do that yet.

  3. I wish you the very best and look forward to reading you in your new format!

  4. Dearest Lisa. I have no words of wisdom about forming new practices. I just miss your style/life blogging. So very much. There is an overabundance of political writing. I read and listen (and act upon) until I can’t anymore. The fatigue is immense now. Your voice was the fresh-air respite, the balm for all of that. Intelligent, insightful reflections on the things of everyday life. On family. On beauty. On fun. I confess I haven’t followed you to Medium. My brain has reached max capacity for political input. I need counterbalance, now more than ever. I truly hope I have not offended you by being honest. Sincerely, and with love, Linda

    1. @Linda, I truly didn’t expect many people to follow me over to Medium. And I am trying to keep posting here – in a way I can sustain and holds true to my beliefs and feelings right now. Thanks for hanging in there. It is a difficult time for many, for different reasons, on both sides.

  5. Oh Yes. Change is much harder (at least, for many of us) than we generally account for. This is why I’m ever so glad we decided to make our big move now, while we still have a relative abundance of energy (flagging more each day, though, it sometimes seems). Re-establishing a working rhythm — at the daily, weekly, monthly level and having that in synch with the space. . . . never quite as easy for me as it might appear in theory. Keeps us lively, though, doesn’t it, this change business. . . .I’m very curiously watching how you manage this one — you’re always so attentive and articulate.

    1. Needed to come back and add how much I admire that you’ve stopped to regroup, realising how complex politics is and how much what we say matters (or at least wanting your own words to have integrity where/however they matter). Longer-form writing in public fora has a certain weight and responsibility, and not all who get themselves to a keyboard acknowledge that. Thank you!

  6. OK, I have been very behind the times! Change – like legit change – is very challenging to achieve. That’s why I do it as infrequently as possible :-) But it strikes me you’re going to find your way very well, in your own time. And how awesome that you’ve side-stepped blogging with terrific community activities. There’s a time and place for everything.

    1. @K-Line, Thank you. Your writings on your own changes and efforts to improve underlying structures in your life and body have been inspiring.

  7. Ditto Linda’s comments above. Out of love of your writing style and loyalty to you over the years that I have enjoyed your blog, I have tried reading you on Medium, but I found your articles difficult to understand, plus, not being of your country, they weren’t really relevant to me. There is so much venting and outrage on that site over your new government that the competition to be read is fierce. I did however, find some who write about the human condition on there who I resonate with, and I enjoy the magazine style format, so I dip in to those every now and again. Wishing you all the best with your changes.

    1. @Tracey, As I said, I really didn’t expect many to follow me to Medium. More have done so than I expected, and I appreciate every bit of tolerance for my floundering and working to get better. I do appreciate that you’ve read and commented here for many years. I’ll still be posting, but, less often, and in ways that ask less of me. I hope it’s still entertaining/useful, at least a little bit.

  8. I’m afraid I agree wholeheartedly with Linda and Tracey – missing your wonderful life/style writing but wish you well in your new direction.

    1. @Chris, But then perhaps I should not write here at all any more if this post itself didn’t feel like life writing? I thought this was in the same vein as Privilege always has been but maybe not? So complex! Maybe I can’t have my cake and eat it too, which, I now realize was kind of what I was hoping for.

      Hmm. More lessons learned.

      Do you have any suggestions for what I might write here that still works for you? Or is it old Privilege or nothing at all? Which, hey, I could understand that.

    2. @Chris, I,too, miss Privilege. However, I respect Lisa’s new direction. Hey, Lisa, maybe you could write about your experiences with volunteer teaching.

      We love you!

  9. Hello lovely one. Happy Saturday. As a person who I know you know is in the middle of the “more complex change,” you mention, I choose to take your, “I suspect you’re doing an excellent job,” to heart. Thank you. Sometimes I think, “What have I been doing all this time?” It has helped to take out a calendar and go over it month by month to see what has transpired. Then, I feel less panicky. I’ve been struggling with the decisions that come with all of the changes that descended on me simultaneously over the last years, while trying to keep my sanity and my gratitude intact. Change is difficult, and changes piled upon other changes are yet more difficult. I think we take the protections we are lucky to have in place such as family, friends, a home, a significant other, a job, and then work to create the things we don’t yet have. Then, we move on from there. The shocking outcome of the U.S. election, and the painful knowledge that it is not an anomaly, but part of a world phenomenon, makes doing what needs to be done that much more difficult. I stay informed, but I control how much news I take in so as not to end up on a window ledge, and I do the things I know will help, which are more related to monetary donations, calls, petitions, citizen town halls, and such, than it is to adding to the information online, which I’m finding to be too much. For a time I was attempting to pass along good information from organizations such as the ACLU and the NRDC, but I often felt I was preaching to the choir, to other overwhelmed people, or to no one. I’m also increasingly put off by social media. Facebook and IG are Facebook, which I consider a part of the problem, and Twitter is increasingly a confusing, non-chronological cacophony. The bubble effect is significant. Each constituency watches its own news, reads it own news, believes in a separate reality. This morning, after I read the NYT, NPR, and TNY links I get in my email, I went to 45’s private Twitter account to see his alternate facts. It was a sobering and depressing exercise. Since I have so much to do for myself—a new home in a truly insane market, new work once I know where my home will be, and a master’s degree just because I want to accomplish that goal derailed years ago by the rape and its aftermath—I’ve decided I will keep up on news in a controlled way, follow my organizations and causes, donate when I can, but keep the majority of my energy for me. My current political focus is on any odious people or bills or laws that I can push back against in any way as they arise, and the midterms. As some people noted above, I enjoyed your blog in its former version. Would it be possible to add some of the things you write about on Medium into your own blog’s mix? I find Medium, which I originally enjoyed, to be overloaded and confusing to navigate, and I know how to navigate these things. Additionally, until I read the comments above, it had not occurred to me that you have a global audience, which complicates the issue in ways I hadn’t previously considered. I know also that your former blog’s contents were much less likely to stir up controversy than a mixed format would, and negative blog comments are not worth the price of admission. Volunteering in your community is a wonderful way to contribute to the health of the world, and yoga keeps you sane and healthy, and you can’t do anything if you’re not sane and healthy. I have faith in your ability to find a solution to this that works for you. I say back to you, sincerely, “I suspect you’re doing an excellent job.” xo.

    1. @Katherine C. James, What I plan to do is link anything I write on Medium back here. So nobody has to navigate anything if they don’t feel like it! And also nobody has to read politics if they don’t want to. Your changes have been enormous, they dwarf mine by an order of magnitude. I am always amazed by how articulate and optimistic your writing remains in the face of your experiences.

  10. I miss your comments about fashion and style and the many facets of your life that made reading your thoughts a delightful pleasure…Medium is also an interesting experience…I do read Medium…
    However, the truth, the complete truth is I am sick of the entire process as much as I enjoy debate and political intrigue and as much as I feel that we must keep a vigilant spirit if our democracy is to survive, I am bone weary from the day to day grind and challenge…I want my country back and I want to enjoy my life and not live in daily fear of the future…
    Perhaps I have said too much…Will go back and edit…You do what your heart calls you to do…Being true to yourself is an edict and a mandate…BEST!

  11. Life is static and writing about politics is extremely complex. So many moving parts. As we see, even our press has a difficult time. That said, journalism is not what it used to be. Newspaper articles were vetted. Facts were checked and verified. Today, newspapers are largely failing. Sadly, people are not well informed. Freedom of the press has a whole new meaning. Let the buyer beware is more key than ever. Maybe by exchanging political views, somehow, we all become more informed? Susan

    1. @Susan, If I summed up what I am working on it would be to understand if I can add any unique value to the political cacophony. Clearly it’s not going to be my reporting on intelligence activities, or my economic analysis of healthcare, so I’m gradually finding my way to a voice, an approach. Not there yet. Just can’t help but try, for all the reasons you mentions.

  12. I support what Lisa is doing on twitter and medium. She has a conscience and a strong sense of civic responsibility that there is a duty for ordinary people to improve living conditions for all people in the USA.


    Oh,and by the way, I am proud to live in a country that provides health care to its citizens so that they are not bankrupted if they should need expensive medical treatment.

    (It seems to me that one of the reasons President Trump gained power is that so many people have not cared about the inequality in the USA political system until now…)

    I totally understand if you don’t want to publish this comment. If I didn’t care I wouldn’t bother to comment, but I think the USA is better than that.


    1. @Sue, I believe inequity across all fronts is in fact the issue that’s underlying the conflict. I hope we are better than our current level of disconnect too.

  13. My five favorite blogs have left the building. All of them, beautifully written and illustrated, a huge loss. But all of them still have archives posted on the original page, including Privilege. So here’s an idea. All of us who crave what Lisa’s come to be known for around here, you’re in luck! Through an act of immense generosity, Lisa has catalogued her archives in the right margin, so just scroll through the topics to revisit the material [and comments] of your choice.

    1. @The Hunting House, You are very sweet. I wish I could take credit for the archives but WordPress, my blog platform, does it with a plug-in and all I have to do is label posts!:). Sometimes I go back and read my own archives and I can’t believe all those many words came out of my head and my fingers.

  14. I would add purses to your other 20% fashion analogy. Your purse game has inspired me to at least consider mine (no change yet but now on my radar!).
    Seriously – in the midst of life shifts here and yes, changes, even those we bring to ourselves and have excitement for, are bumpy. I appreciated reading that today….thank you.

  15. How did you know, Lisa?!? I’m determined to take on a creative endeavor….I can’t say what it is yet (No. I seriously CAN’T put together a cohesive thought at this point!) But I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic to help overcome my fear. That, and meeting with friends that kick my butt and encourage me that “I’ve got this.”

    You are not alone!

  16. I do read you on Medium if there’s a link here or on Twitter. From years of reading here, though I rarely comment, I feel I know quite a bit about how you think and what matters to you, and therefore I am definitely interested in what you have to say politically. It means a lot to know where the writer is coming from, and how to take what is said. You have a rigorous mind and an elegant way of speaking it, and I value that so much. However, I do hope, selfishly, that you continue this blog, because I think it may be the best out there, and I love it. (I bought the Bare Minerals lip, and you were right!)

    1. @Janie, Thank you very much and I am SO GLAD you liked the Bare Minerals liquid lipstick! I am waiting for them to come out in a fuchsia version since sadly the Sephora turned out not really to compare.

  17. I enjoyed reading this, and also thought it was “life and how to navigate it,” not “politics” at all. I mean, no, this post is not about the flutter of a new scarf or an interesting silhouette or other “style” things, but life has been a portion of your blog here as well for a while, anyway, if not always? (I don’t go back to always.)

    But I’m also actively interested in learning new things and how to adjust myself to be capable of different projects, so there’s extra savor for me in this which may not be the case for those not presently attempting New Things.

    All that to say, I guess: carry on? Please. :-)

    Thank you!

  18. All the comments here from your readers are so great, and I found myself nodding in agreement so often, especially with “Linda,” at the beginning (although I DO read you on Medium).

    Seems to me that we (your readers) have become so accustomed to “the whole Lisa” (or a carefully edited version thereof) every Saturday morning, that we’re having a hard time letting that “Lisa” go – because you have added so much to our lives, and because we love the interaction with you and your other readers.

    Like Linda, I have no words of wisdom – except to say that you are more than your thoughts on politics or purses (however insightful or useful those thoughts might be). You have offered a window into trying to live a life of truth, determination, and grace, and we love connecting with that. And maybe we need that connection …

    Sail on, silver girl.

  19. I didn’t finish my last sentence in my comment of earlier today – just left the impressionistic “…”.

    After some thought on my part, here is the complete final sentence:

    “And maybe we need that connection, to become our own best selves.”

    Dearest Lisa, please keep writing, and inspiring. You truly “shoot an arrow into the air” …

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