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  • My family and I have just returned from a five-day motor trip to visit old and new friends together and separately up in New Hampshire and down in Maine. Had enough down time out there to make the driving tolerable when it wasn't fun. Our interactions were most enjoyable, easily exceeding my basic expectations. Two of my friends I've known for upwards of 40 years, their wives a bit less. The other couple I'd only socialized with three or four times. But everybody, including Deniz, got it on and gave as much as they got. Altogether, we got more than we gave. That's how it should be.

    I feel triply blessed by the experience: Blessed once that it all worked out so well. Blessed twice for uniting with friends with such good feeling. Blessed thrice for my good health after learning of the disease states my friends have been experiencing. Oh, and for traveling four hundred miles on one tank of gas in a 17-year-old wagon with 199,000 miles of seniority. I hope I'm as robust when it comes time to trade me in.

    When I got home I caught up on chores, then triaged my queue of email, which included more than 60 cowbird stories posted from my crew over those five days. Now, I take my responsibility as an audience member seriously and always read the stories sent to me (or at least skim them) and take whatever action feels appropriate. Stories I really love and don't want to lose track of I save in an email folder. Others I delete, perhaps hearting them first.

    It will take me another hour or more to work through my current cowbird backlog, and they keep on coming. Meanwhile I'm writing this to explain how I feel, function, and figure my cowbird obligations out.

    I don't feel compelled to respond to every story that tugs on my sleeve. Still, I'm often at a loss to know how to respond in any given case. Whether I want to second, rebut or elaborate a story, I'm never quite sure what is the most appropriate way to respond. If a story annoys me – as a few do – I generally kiss off the urge to react to it. But sometimes I can't stifle myself. So then, what should be the tone and subtext of my writing be?

    These things matter to me because they matter to the community. Cowbirders don't take kindly to snarky sprouts or anti-anything. So how can I express my dislike for stories along the lines of "Dear Diary, today I managed to avoid eating fried foods" or "I wonder what I should wear when I go to meet my sister's ex-boyfriend"? Should I just grin and bear it and move on?

    I guess what I like least here is reading stories describing raw events with undigested or predigested sentiments without providing any kind of takeaway – what the writer learned as a result of that experience. Without an assessment, what's the point of the exposition?

    Diary entries can be tweet-like. I don't do Twitter because it's a pain to filter out the noise and contextualize tweets. Also, I have no desire to make sense of other people's experiences when they don't make an effort to interpret them themselves.

    What makes me a reluctant diarist is a fear that I'll waste everybody's time describing experiences without offering a sense of what they signify for me and might mean for my readers. That would be lazy and would short-change you. See, I really do have your best interests at heart.

    @image: From Getting enough sleep?
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