“Take the time to yourself for writing out thank-you notes: don’t try and wedge it in between laundry, a TV show and extra work from the office. You’ll be able to think more clearly and your focus will translate to the page. Above all, try to enjoy yourself. Giving thanks shouldn’t be a chore—and doesn’t have to be if you make the effort to keep it interesting.” Emily Post
I do not handle nice things well. I deflect compliments the way that Wonder Woman deflects bullets. I dodge praise and feel awkward if I receive it, opting to change the subject from myself to the paint on the wall, your shoes, bacon. The only verb for what I do on my birthday is “endure.” Random acts of kindness are treated like a direct sexual overture by Milo Ventimiglia, wherein the result is a deep red blush and me stammering, flabbergasted. I will promptly say the wrong thing. I like to ignore any sort of sweetness, opting to search for the crap cake where there is only icing. To put it mildly, I’m not so good at nice.
So when I posted on this blog that I needed a computer following my five year old Gateway — a graduation gift from my dad — giving up the ghost, I was totally floored when I received emails expressing concern and solidarity over my digital disaster. People reached out, said they had heard about desktop discounts at work, spoke of sons and daughters in companies where computers are practically for sale in vending machines, offered to ask around or slowly tailgate delivery trucks. I was shocked, once again, that anybody reads this shit. And I was shocked that anybody would be so compassionate. I was previously convinced that compassion was reserved for hippies and grandmothers.
Part of this is my New York-bred skepticism. When someone does something for me, I wonder what they want in return. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, that sort of thing. But the whole thing with back scratching is that you have to be itchy first, and you have to ask for that rasping relief. Even though I posted my plea on the blog, I really didn’t expect much to come from it.
As a sort of segue, I should explain that I have learned a lot about giving to others since I quit drinking. (Yes, yes, I know “a level of anonymity in press, radio, and film” but this is a blog, and if someone reaches out seeking help because of something I write, I’ve done my job. If you have a problem with me writing about my recovery, call your sponsor.) There is an obligation to be of service to your fellow man if you’re working a decent program, so I’ve started trying to be kinder to strangers, less of a cynic, and separating the sourpuss from the sweetheart in the centrifuge of my heart. But my nature is to expect the worst of people. The only benefit of this is that when I’m proven wrong, the definition of humanity as a whole becomes more rich and rewarding within my inner lexicon.
Since I started writing Jerk Ethic, weird things have happened. I’ve made friends through the Internet, been offered writing gigs, and discovered that, get this, there are literate blog connoisseurs out there who are willing to donate a few dollars for a girl to get a burrito. This was beyond what I could have imagined. I had been hoping to prove to my parents that I wasn’t a complete waste of fifteen minutes and a hotel room, as I had assumed they would be the only people to read this thing.
Everybody is going through hard times these days, we’re not special. I’m not going to whine about the fact that I ate canned refried beans for weeks ’cause they were the only things I could afford, I can’t complain about that because I don’t have children to take care of. My family is in tact in New York and Chicago. I have a human being who I love and I get to share my life with as his bitchy girlfriend; we might not have much, but we do have each other. I’m poor, but I’m happy. And these random-ass donations that occasionally come in allow us to pay our phone bills on time, they take away some of the day-to-day stress that comes from living hand-to-mouth, and they make us feel less alone in the struggle. In turn, we try to give to others in whatever way we can, even if it’s just through dopey emails, phone calls, or coffee “Tweet-ups.” (Hate that term.)
When you’re in need, every tiny gesture should come with its own soundtrack. It’s that dramatic and meaningful. I still feel uncomfortable and humbled when it happens, but receiving encouraging email, donations, or comments on this site has made this past year — while financially the most terrifying — the richest of my life. I know, I know, cue up the Sarah MacLaughlin and roll credits. Would you like fries with this corndog?
The other day I received a computer from a stranger who reads this blog. First of all, it wasn’t just any computer, it was exactly the one I wanted (a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 in pink), and secondly, it wasn’t just any stranger. It was a client, one who happens to read this drivel that I write for kicks.
My usual reaction to things like this is to return them. This would be impossible because a) he lives in Texas, and b) I really need a computer to do work, including the work for him.
I cannot say anything to Josh Fetner that would properly convey my gratitude. Perhaps it’s the true definition of irony to say that there are no words for it. Simon and I stood, dumbfounded, staring at each other when we opened the box. This was promptly followed by hours upon hours of cooing and squealing, so much so that I believe my neighbors think we’re either running an amusement park for porn stars. The first song I played on its curiously powerful speakers was Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love.”
Greenwood Insurance, the company where Josh is at the helm, makes sure that people and businesses are protected in case of disaster. I did not know that insurance salesmen actually sought out people who needed help, but apparently I had some sort of karmic policy on my laptop.
If anyone is in the market for a computer, let me just say that this netbook is badass. Lenovo has their shit on lock. I could never have afforded a computer like this on my own, and it makes writing this a treat. It makes doing everything a treat. It’s like a vibrator for my brain’s G-spot. I want to write more just because I want to use it more. I greet it in the morning. I haven’t started fantasizing about it while masturbating…yet.
When somebody does something this nice for you, what are you supposed to do? Simon astutely pointed out that doing things for others makes us feel good, so therefore Josh must be feeling pretty fucking high right now. But I don’t have anything to offer him to show my gratitude. Naming my first born after him would require me actually wanting to have children in some sort of active way. Other than that, all I can do is enjoy it. Soak up the good feelings I get every time I see its shiny, pink exterior, like a little sunrise inspiring me to spend my day plunking away on its dainty QWERTY keyboard.
My life is feeling very full at this moment. I have people around me who I love deeply. I have a job that isn’t exactly lucrative, but it pays in pride, pleasure, and promise. I have a new hometown filled with people who don’t stare (too hard) when they see my tattoos, who smile and hold the door, who own mountain bikes instead of fixed gears even though there are no mountains in the entire state. I have strangers sending me kickass computers. I have never felt better. So what do I do with all of this goodness? Let me just say that posting to Twitter while feeling this happy has been a motherfucking chore. The kindness of strangers has softened my edges, made me a little less acerbic, made me a trifle less panicked. It has made me want to write more, to do more, to give more of myself, may it be in words, editing, tutoring, or just loopy smiles that make Oklahomans wonder if I’ve been “rode hard and put away wet.”
I have to say to Josh Fetner, and the entire Greenwood Insurance team out there in Texas, I am truly, deeply, irrevocably grateful. Who know that something so small (10.2 inches, but 1.6 GHz!) could make an impact this big? In closing, the best advice I can give to anyone at this point is be good to each other. You don’t know how much it can mean. And if anyone out there needs tutoring or advice, this is the time to hit me up.
Email me – AinsleyDrew at the gmail one.
Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, or comments on it, or emails, donates, laughs, etc. You keep me going, and I mean that at the most visceral and basic level.
You can always hire us for a much more concrete “give and receive” relationship.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from addiction, you can find help at the AA website, or reach out to me and I’ll try to assist you the best that I can.
Did you read this all the way through? I love you more than…bean and rice burritos. Extra vibrator batteries. Gene Kelly movies. Comic books. Okay, some comic books.