I posted that last week on Facebook after I returned from a doctor's appointment. I've been having high blood pressure since Lucas was born and my doctor ordered several tests to determine the cause. An EKG and echocardiogram showed abnormalities with my heart (which may or may not explain the hypertension) and is referring me to a cardiologist. I was more annoyed by the time spent in waiting rooms lately than worried about what the tests meant and I intended my status as a joke--an attempt to make light of my annoyance at a serious situation. A broken heart. Ha ha. Romantic, no?
I was overwhelmed by all the comments and private messages that I received in response to that simple post. I was embarrassed by the attention. I hadn't meant for anyone to worry about me or spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what might amount to nothing serious. I had the same feelings of embarrassment when I posted several months ago that we were preparing to put our beloved dog to sleep. So many people commented or sent notes of support, that I felt silly for sharing my sad news with the world (or the 600 or so people I currently have on my friends list).
People joke about Facebook and Twitter, about the internet in general. But the social networks and the blogs bring us all closer. We share--and we over share. We learn. We educate. We empathize. We judge. We connect. It seems ridiculous to be thankful for the internet-- it seems... shallow, somehow. So be it. I am grateful for the internet. Go ahead, make fun of me. But if not for the internet, I wouldn't even know you were LOLing.
I honestly had no intentions of writing about Facebook or the internet when I chose the topic "Give Thanks." Yet here I sit on Thanksgiving night in the United States, connected to a world of people I have never met and people I've only met in person because I met them here first. I owe the bulk of my writing career to the internet, because so many of the connections I have made and the markets I have discovered have been because of websites and people I "met" via email.
The internet seems like such a cold, impersonal thing and it certainly can be when you're talking in terms of URLs and apps and browsers and the like. But there are faces behind the terms, lives behind the screens, real emotions behind every emoticon. (And imagine how grateful the @ symbol must be! Who used it before the internet existed?) So many people behind these screens have touched my life, both personally and professionally. I will always be grateful for that.
When Steve Jobs died, the cynics criticized the millions who mourned his death. There are people dying in anonymity all over the world, they said, and yet we mourn the loss of one very rich man. But it is people like Steve Jobs that have made it possible for us all to connect so easily. Through these connections we create awareness about issues beyond our own neighborhoods. We discover the world is filled with people just like us struggling with all the same problems and we reach out in whatever way we can to offer whatever we can. Sometimes, it's an "I'm thinking of you," comment on a Facebook page. Sometimes, it's more. Lives have been saved because of the internet.
When I posted my heartbroken status on Facebook, I was thinking I was grateful for health care that comes at an affordable cost because of my husband's military status. When I got such a heartwarming (no pun intended) response from people, most of whom don't know me personally, I was thinking about how grateful I was for the kindness of friends and strangers and strangers who have become friends. I am grateful for all of those things and so much more, including a family I love and a career I adore. But after my husband and my children and the other people who are closest to me in my real life, my life has been most affected by this:
That space above represents the internet. That place exists only because the technology exists. And that space can be filled with anything I choose-- surprise kittens, talking dogs, college classes, entire novels, every retail store in existence, WebMD to research my heart condition, knowledge on any subject under the sun (including the sun), parenting advice, recipes, friendships, relationships, new writing markets and, oh yeah, porn. That space is everything we know and everything we don't and everything we wish we knew that we once struggled to find information on-- but is now at the tips of our fingers. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic (in which case, I will blame it on the wine), the internet has changed my life.
I have met the lovely Grippers thanks to the internet. Every erotica story I've ever sold has been to a market I found via the internet (most often on the Erotica Readers and Writers Association website). The internet (specifically Skype) made it possible for my oldest son to get to know his father even though my husband was several thousand miles away for the first several months of his life. The internet bridges distances, physical, political and philosophical. It connects people. It has connected me to so many wonderful, amazing, inspiring people.
I am thankful for so many things in my life. I am grateful to you, whoever you are, for reading my OGG columns. For caring enough to remember my name, for taking the time to follow a link to my blog or my Facebook page or my books. For making this connection-- THIS ONE RIGHT HERE-- that bridges the distance between me in Virginia in the U.S. and you, wherever you are. If only for a few fleeting moments here on the screen, we are connected. This opportunity didn't exist twenty-five years ago when I was in high school and computer classes were cataloged as math classes. This is something amazing. And I am grateful I live in this era and am a part of it. Thank you for joining me on this amazing ride. Thank you for reading my words.
Oh, and if you'd care to tell me where you are and what you're thankful for, that would be really cool, too.