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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Who is DukkhaGirl and Why is She Writing on this Blog?

Home » Religion, Spirituality, and Philosophy » Eastern Philosophy and Religions » Buddhism » Who is DukkhaGirl and Why is She Writing on this Blog?

This post started its life title, “I Used to be DukkhaGirl, but I Drifted?” I didn’t like the title, nor did it get across the post’s intent, so I changed it. I’m leaving the original post-as-is but came back to tack on this addendum as I’ve finally decided what to do with this particular blogging dilemma — pretty much what it says in the post.

I’ve created a separate category on this website specifically for “DukkhaGirl” posts and given DukkhaGirl her own authorship so when she finds a snippet she wrote before or wants to write something new she has a place to put it without needing another blog. 

What to do with an old Twitter account was also a dilemma. When I returned to start blogging, DukkhaGirl had a Twitter account with some followers who, somehow, hadn’t left during the years she was off social media. It was tempting to just make that a general account for this blog. But then I thought some people may be surprised if, suddenly, they start getting tweets about what the best Twilight Zone episode was, a trivia quiz about book titles, or an opinion of a video game. So DukkhaGirl gets to keep her own account, and I’ve created a general one for the blog.

I’ve asked myself if DukkhaGirl needs reviving. The answer is probably “no.” There’s so much on the Internet now about meditation and the like that the stuff I wrote that felt funny, fresh, or “new” to me back when I wrote the original blog (though it wasn’t) has been written over and over again since. Still, now I have a place to scratch the itch to bring Perplexity back when “she” wants to come out.

Mae West once said something like, “I used to be Snow White, but then I drifted.” When you’re DukkhaGirl, is there anywhere you can drift? Dukkha (if you don’t know, it’s the term commonly translated as “suffering” but more accurately describing something like a pottery wheel being off-kilter) is ever-present.

Let’s back up. DukkaGirl was a blog I wrote between (approximately) 2009-2012 or 13. The title came about, like most titles of blogs I’ve ever tried to write, on impulse. But it described me at the time — struggling.

My struggles were either internal or the normal, every day, types of struggles that lives are made of — struggling with parenting, with marriage, with money, with my own personality style and disappointment in the things I thought I had wanted to achieve but hadn’t.

So what do you do with these types of struggles? You look them in the face, find out who they are, and call them by name so they’re not so scary. You meditate — you sit through them, let yourself feel through them, and breathe. And you write about them on the Internet.

DukkhaGirl was not my first foray in writing online. I had been intrigued by the Internet since the first time I got a 300 baud modem and listened to its lovely screeching (do you even remember that?) as it connected to AOL.

In the mid-90s I bought a domain name, seasonalcelebrations.com, which sounds like a food and entertainment blog. But I used it for writing an online essay/website about the origins of most of our well-known holidays. For instance, thinks about how we celebrate Christmas in December because of the Roman Saturnalia.

The website had a rudimentary comment system and, being that there wasn’t as much stuff online, I started to get a lot of comments. Maybe if I had been smarter then than I was, I would have posted recipes and entertaining tips and would have had the #1 food blog. Nah. Martha Stewart I have never been.

But my life has always been a tug of war between my work, my desire to write, my family. So I’d start an online project and stop. I’d send some essays out and maybe get a couple published. And then stop. I’d start writing a novel (usually because I thought I “should” — I’ve never been a fiction writer) and then stop when some life event would throw me off track.

Fast forward to 2009 with my eldest daughter getting invited on a trip. Suddenly, I had time on my hands and decided to use WordPress to write a blog about meditation and my struggles with practice. This would not be my first attempt. Abandoned before that was MonkeyMindManual which hosted a banner with colorful Barrel of Monkeys monkeys. Sometimes it’s easier to create funny website headers than to actually sit down and write.

But I dubbed my blog DukkhaGirl, branded myself Perplexity, my usual state of mind, and proceeded to write sometimes somewhat sarcastic Buddhist stuff anonymously. Anonymous, because I wanted to write about the “Desperate Housewives” in my neighborhood. I wanted to do that precarious juggling trick of writing about that gossipy person in my life, how I hate gossiping, how gossiping is bad, why there’s a precept against gossiping, while simultaneously gossiping (it’s not gossip if it’s anonymous, is it?) about those awful gossipy people I know.

I started writing online not to make money (though I seem to recall a brief stint with Adsense back then), and I’ve never felt like it was about “making a name” for myself or “getting big.” DukkhaGirl was never going to be the Girl Croosh of Dharma. But writing for an audience, even an imaginary one, made me actually work on editing my writing vs. writing stream-of-consciousness stuff in my journal (which, still, can be an excellent practice to do.)

And at some point I found that I had an audience, at least a small one, that was not imaginary. I find that I often express myself more completely and accurately in writing. Writing gave me a voice. And, sometimes, writing about a topic on the blog would initiate a conversation about that topic. I also, at the time, was an avid reader of other blogs on the same topics. Sometimes a sense of community can form.

I also appreciated feedback, which prompted me to continue writing. When you write online, you open yourself to the inevitable troll. But you often open yourself to gratitude for the encouragement of others. One blogger wrote, “DukkhaGirl is one of three Buddhist blogs I actually read.” I appreciated hearing things like that.

But there are downsides to writing online, particularly on your own blog.

One is that pushing “Publish” is much fun. In the absence of an editor, you can publish whatever you want — not all of it good. If you have someone you can share your drafts with — great. But your family and friends may not be the people you want to edit your drafts.

Another potential downside is an adjunct to the first: what you put on the Internet may stay there. A later internet search revealed two cartoons and part of an essay that was posted in a way to make me ask, “WTF?”

And, finally, writing a blog isn’t entirely about the writing. You’ll spend time maintaining things. You’ll avoid writing by making endless header banners with happy golden Buddhas and rainbows. And you might get hacked.

Which is, eventually, one of the things that led me down the road to finally abandoning DukkhaGirl.

That…and life. The hack happened around the same time that my younger daughter was having difficulties with school and, eventually, getting a diagnosis of high functioning autism. The economy had changed and I had returned to work during the time I was writing the blog. My mom was diagnosed with ALS and was starting that all-too-quick decline. After the hack I decided to move what I spared to a new domain, but finally I decided that I just didn’t have time and needed to attend to other things in my life.

But I have not managed to defeat the nine-headed hydra of blogging. If I kill one blog, five blogs will start-up in their place, eventually. So here I am, back on the Internet, blogging.

Sometimes I question this move. There’s more content being published online now than in the entire history of publishing. The amount of essays, articles, videos, and the like is overwhelming. Social media seems essential to “promote” a website, but studies have shown — and my own life has validated this — an inverse relationship between social media use and happiness (don’t get me wrong, Twitter people, I like many of your accounts, but I’ve started timing my daily social media browsing, posting, and responding so I don’t end up in the social media vortex.)

But I will blog, I have learned. I started to revive DukkhaGirl, but then I realize she was something else. Maybe DukkhaMiddleAgedWoman — but that’s not easy to say. And this person didn’t want to write about Buddhism all the time, was not really even any kind of an -ist. She sometimes wanted to write about meditation. But sometimes she also wanted to do a book review, or write about TV or daily video gaming with her daughter during COVID-19 isolation.

So I’m going to pick up the pieces of DukkhaGirl that still exist on the Internet, pull them back over here. Possibly, rewrite some of my better posts from that blog. And continue to sometimes write about the difficulties of dharma while also writing about cute animals or cultural trends. You probably won’t find me writing here about travel or blogging (except for this) as I have blogs devoted to those — I just don’t have the energy and motivation to devote a blog entirely toward meditation and such.

Should I do this? Who knows. But I will, so here goes.

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Perplexity is the pen name of a perpetually perplexed person who used to write and is writing again as DukkhaGirl. She tends to write about Buddhism, meditation, and the like. Her superpower, she thinks, is making herself suffer, thus her superhero name. She tends to write about Buddhism, meditation, and the like though if she's a Buddhist, she's the "bad" type.
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