Once upon a time in the land of Chicago, I was on a panel of women who blogged and did not concurrently have children. Suebob Davis was on that panel with me.
I had never met her, but I knew of her, and oddly enough, I was a little intimidated by her. I don't know why. She's not particularly menacing in person. She doesn't carry a gun or any weapon, other than her brain, and I guess the stapler could be used as a projectile. She is a peace freak of sorts, and a smiley person, too. But regardless, I was intimidated. Sometimes I'll randomly decide that a person doesn't like me for no reason at all, because I am a special sort of paranoid when I get anxious. And that BlogHer, I was anxious. After a few years of flying happily under the blogging radar, I was on that panel and I was also a community keynote reader, so I was operating at a high level of Xanax need for pretty much the whole conference.
So when the lady who was moderating, who herself did not have children, asked the final question -- "Just what was it we ladies on the panel did with our lives, as we were not busy parenting?" -- my mind started racing.
I blog! I, uh, take pictures! I work a mind-numbing, soul-sucking job that nonetheless helps people! I take care of my grandmother sometimes! I manage my life and work out and eat and go on vacation and screw around on the internet! I see my friends and my family and listen to music and take long walks in the suburbs!
Sue, however, wasn't having any of that. She calmly stated that she didn't feel that she needed to reel off a laundry list of activities to justify her existence. She lived a life, and it was good, and that was that.
And then she stopped talking. She wasn't going to entertain it, which was then a much more foreign concept to me than it is now, due to the example of Sue and other women in my life, who have shown my by example and a well-placed "Oh God will you please just cut that OUT" as I reached my 40th year that just because someone asks a question, it doesn't mean I have to answer it. I do not -- I DO NOT -- have to justify my existence or my choices or myself. That panel was the first time, but not the last, that she has said something and I've thought, "Damn. I need to be more like that."
Time and months and years went on, and that panel turned into a community keynote that turned into a Twitter relationship that turned into hanging out at BlogHers and every year. I've been pleasantly surprised that this very well-regarded, powerful source for good in my blogging world has sought me out and wanted to spend time with me. That is no kind of false modesty, either. These events are zoos, yes, but they are also populated with hundreds of people, and the basic truth is that there are a lot of people there that we all want to see. They come alive from the internet for just a few days, like toys in an animated film, and then they go back in. You have to take what you can get where you can.
And as I get older, I realize the honor it is for any human being to want to spend their limited time with any other one. Time is all we have that makes any nevermind, and when someone I respect and admire and find interesting chooses to use it up with me? I appreciate it, and I acknowledge it as a meaningful thing.
Since then, Sue and I have hung out in New York and Chicago again, and this year we will spend some time together in San Diego, I'm sure. We sat together in a canyon in Ojai last fall, and one of the greatest days I've had, she drove me and Deb up (down? I fail geography) the coast to her house and then on to L.A. I got to see her adorable house and eat at her tacqueria that I would transport to DC in an instant, if I could. I got to meet Goldie, and her mom. It was a great day. She came here once, too, and Sarah and I met her for brunch on our turf, which was fun.
Virtually, we have spent hours Gchatting about jobs and family and writing and just what on earth it is we're here to do. And there is, of course, always Twitter, for good or for ill. (Just please don't say the p-word.)
I am lucky that she is my friend.
But beyond the micro-confines of this particular one-on-one relationship, I find Sue worth celebrating for a very simple fact that goes far beyond me. And that is that she is always the one to see the good in other people. She gets pissed off, sure, at situations, mostly, and the occasional blowhard with a vuvuzela or what have you in her neighborhood. But when it comes to people she knows and cares about? Super forgiving. Ridiculously forgiving, and, most valuable: preemptively forgiving. Even that time I broke my phone and never answered and she texted "Fuck you!" to me so that was the first thing I saw when I turned the replacement back on? I knew it was only temporary.
I admit it, there are times when I read stuff on the Internet and I think "Holy hell, what is that person's deal. Could they shut up already? OMFG." And that is unfailingly the moment where Sue will pipe up with a tweet to that person that offers some kind of kindness, a good word or a comment or a thoughtful detail about her life that acknowledges not only their current situation but in a broader sense, what is redeeming about them. And I'll think, why didn't I notice that first? What is she, some kind of friggin' saint, showing me up, as I sit here in my living room all judgmental and dark-hearted?
No. It has nothing to do with me. It's just her. She sees the goodness. She sees the gold, and that is a remarkable quality. I don't always understand it, and I sure as hell don't always agree, but I always admire it.
Happy birthday, Suebob. I hope you enjoy the good words of people from around the internet about you today, and know that they couldn't be offered in more friendship, appreciation, kindness and love. We owe each other a 40/50 toast in San Diego, for sure. I thank you for everything you have done and said to make my world a better place, and I love you very much.
Suebob's favorite charities right now are Write Girl (an amazing organization in L.A. that supports self-expression for young women, where I wish I was the director) and Planned Parenthood, which has obviously suffered major cuts in funding and support this year. I have set up a fund via my PayPal, and bloggers have already kicked in a few hundred dollars. When it is all done, I will be splitting the proceeds in half and donating equally to these organizations, taking care to make sure that the funds are diverted as closely as possible to her region.
If you would like to participate in this birthday gift for Sue, please leave a comment below, and I will send you my PayPal contact information. (I am documenting all donations, so there should be no worry about fund transfers to me for this purpose.) I'd like to finish this up by Wednesday of next week, so please get your messages to me by then. Thanks!