Friday, October 21, 2005

With apologies to Spec (but he's got nothing to worry about)

(click on post title to understand my title)

I sit down on the folding chair. At least it's one of the "fancy" ones with padding. I remember some that my church used to have back home (they probably still have them come to think of it) that were nothing but metal. Maybe they chose uncomfortable chairs so that you would have to sit upright and pay attention. Not that these "fancy" chairs are La-Z-Boys or anything.

Snap out of it! You're here for a reason, not to wool-gather about hometown churches.

As I shake my head to clear it, I notice that others are coming into the auditorium and slowly choosing their own chairs. No one is taking great pains to look each other in the eye (who can blame them?) and at most we just glance at one another long enough to catch a glimpse into each other's eyes to acknowledge existence. Then we quickly look away again. So you've got lots of people with constantly shifting eyes.

Just then the moderator speaks up. "Everyone; I'm glad you are here today. This is an important step to making your recovery a reality. Admitting that we all have a problem is difficult and it can be embarrassing, but we need to take control of our lives and our failings. Not until then can we truly be free. But, you didn't come here to hear me pontificate, did you. Who wants to go first?"

Years of training (or would you say conditioning?) made me almost stand up first. It must have been my earlier thoughts about church that made my muscles involuntarily force myself to a standing position. All those times that mom and dad would encourage me to take the lead on something (You can be an altar boy. You do such a good job up there; you look very dignified. And then, in later years You should be the trainer for the other altar boys. After all, you've been doing it for so long and you are very good at it. It's your responsibility.)

Yeah . . . responsibility almost made me stand up first. But some eager beaver stood up lickity-split. It's like he wanted to get up there and get it out. (Did he think he'd be able to leave when he had spoken his peace? Sorry fella, but you're just gonna have to sit there and hear us all say the same thing. Hope you like your "fancy" chair.)

So, The Eager Beav starts yammering away and I tried to give him my full attention. At first it was easy. Hearing his horror stories about his "problem" (you could hear him put the word in quotation marks as he said it) had a sick fascination at first, but after a while you realized that he's only saying what you have already experienced in your own damaged life. My mind started to wander.

I drank some of the cheap coffee and wished I had put sugar in it. The powdered cream wasn't taking the bitterness out of the extremely cheap coffee that they served at these things. Oh well. The Beav was wrapping it up while I swirled my coffee around in my styrofoam cup. And then, there was silence. He was done.

Who would go next? No one charged to the front and an uncomfortable silence began to float above us. The moderator seemed content to let the silence linger. Was he trying to goad us?

Finally, I bit. I shifted forward obviously to signal to anyone else watching that I was claiming the right to speak. Luckily, I didn't see anyone else picking that moment to rise as well. Nothing is more emasculating than choosing to take center stage and then having to be polite and cede the floor to someone else.

And besides, I was screwing up my courage. "This was My Turn," I thought to myself. "Get it out in the open. Take Charge of Your Life."

So, I stood.

"Hi," I said, not quite loud enough. "This is my first time here (TOO loud), um, and well, I have a problem."

A few murmurs of encouragement, a few nods of the head from the men around me.

"I am a blogger," I say. (They are not, of course, surprised by this.) "I've been online for a bit over a year now and I really love it, but my problem has just gotten more out of control as I get more into the blogging lifestyle."

No more murmurs. They are gonna let me take it from here.

"At first, I was just reading up and finding out stuff. Seeing what I could do here and there, just playing, really. But now . . . well, now I can't stop myself. I'm always opening up my template, you know? I'm constantly fiddling with my html code . . . moving this chunk of code here, trying to widen the sidebar width over there. I . . . I think I spend more time looking at the template than I do writing new posts!"

"Why do I care whether my badges are all the same and grouped together? Why do different elements have to be separated by underlines? And why am I constantly trolling other blogs, looking for a good idea? At first it was just a small thumbnail picture of a book that I'm reading, but it started escalating. That didn't do it for me anymore. Now I'm desperately trying to find the perfect way to display my Netflix queue. And don't even get me started on my title banner."

"It's getting so bad that I have to slam my laptop shut when my wife comes into the room. I'm getting so I stay up late so she won't see me."

"I need help!"

And then I sat down. The deed was done. I could go back to my cold coffee and try to get a handle on my problem.

Take it easy, Burb, I say to myself reassuringly. Remember what the lady said when you fell down the steps at the stadium: "It's simple, son. First the left foot, then the right foot. One in front of the other."

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