So, Seemingly, Google Thinks I’m Dead
If you recall the TV sitcom Seinfeld, you might remember that their tagline was “the show about nothing.”
Life is nothing, it seemed to say.
I always thought that was a boring tagline. But aren’t all those experiences we feel are too dull to tackle in a blog post what life is really about? And wasn’t that part of what made that show so popular?
This is why I am taken with the concept of pure blogging.
Pure Blogging At Its Heart
To me, pure blogging is all about creative freedom. The freedom to write about the things that make me wonder, laugh out loud—cry, even.
Something happens and we think it’s sad. Or funny. Or infuriating. But it isn’t meaty enough to write about.
No one would be interested in that, we say. There are no instructions, there is no lesson, no boulder of a point to drop on the reader’s head .
It may be nothing in the whole scheme of things, but, still, we want to write about it.
We want to release our true stories, to reveal ourselves, warts and all.
In the end, we blog to tell our truths. And if readers take something away that adds meaning to their lives, that’s just icing on the cake.
Now if that doesn’t free you up to write your best stuff, nothing will.
Pure blogging doesn’t always mean pondering the big stuff (although it can). Sometimes you will find a glimmer of a truth in something as mundane as a death notice with your name on it.
When that happens, if you are a ‘normal’ person, you might find it mildly amusing and then just as quickly dismiss the whole thought.
If you are a blogger or a writer at heart, you toy around with it and find a story of your own.
The Day I Died
I don’t use Google Alerts anymore but a few years back, every day, around about 2pm, it would pop into my inbox. It was my free, easy and automated web search tool that gave me real-time information on the appearance of my name online.
With Google Alerts, I got links to some of the stuff I had said and, sometimes, the scoop on what someone else had said about me.
Through these alerts, I also came to know some of my name-alikes (because Google isn’t smart enough to tell us apart, we all appear in the same report).
The other Judy Dunns held a strange fascination for me. Sometimes I thought what it would be like to live their life instead of mine.
Take Judy Dunn, distinguished professor of psychology, author, and expert on sibling relationships who lives in the UK. She wrote a paper on “A cross-study of prosodic modifications in mothers’ and fathers’ speech in pre-verbal infants.” Not sure what that even means, but I’m impressed.
I might have been tempted to spend my life wandering the walkways of an ivy-covered campus like this Judy. I could imagine myself sitting at my desk, reading freshman research papers, my name etched in brass on my office door. Dr. Judy Dunn. Sounds safe, protected—comforting in a way.
Then there is Judy Dunn, writer of kids’ books: The Little Duck, The Little Pig, The Little Puppy, and others.
She appears to have a franchise going, this animal woman. Still, I might get bored and decide to write a book called Mean Old Mr. Stingray. That would surely frighten the toddler crowd…
Or Judy Dunn, polymer clay artist. Necklaces! Origami clay cranes! Sparkly stuff! This Judy Dunn sounds like she has way too much fun. Maybe I should trade places with her.
There was even a Judy Dunn in Canada who thought her condo management was spending too much money on carpet cleaning and she said so at a homeowners’ association meeting. In a strange way, I bonded with her on that.
But Then One Day I Died
Sometimes a Google Alert comes in that makes you sit straight up. Like that Wednesday when I found out I had died. I wasn’t really expecting it, wasn’t even feeling sick or anything. I was just reading along and, bam. There it was.
In the days before Google Alerts, Paul, Jamie’s husband on the old TV sit-com Mad About You, had his credit card gobbled up by the ATM machine. When he went into the bank to complain, they checked his account and said he couldn’t have his card back because he was dead.
Sounds about right for a bank.
He spent the rest of the episode trying to prove he was alive. The woman at the bank just wasn’t buying it.
At the end of the show, he attended the other Paul’s funeral. It was that morbid fascination some of us have about death.
What will my funeral be like? Who will show up for it? What will people say? A touchy topic played funny?
In the post-Mad About You days, we didn’t have to attend the service. We could read about it in Google Alerts. The link took me right to my obituary. It was all there in black and white.
According to my death notice, I was born in Birmingham, Alabama. I stayed a hometown girl. I was a banker (how frightening) and had worked at six different branches over the years.
I had a husband, a son and a granddaughter. It said that I will ‘intern’—not sure that word meant what they thought it meant—in Austin, Texas, to be close to her husband and son.
Wait. Why was my funeral in a church in a little Alabama town, but I would be buried in Texas, near my husband and son, who were evidently still living? Why were they in Texas? Was there going to be two funerals?
What happens when Google tells you you're dead? Why, you blog about it of course!
Since I was the one who died, I felt I deserved answers.
Being a solopreneur, branded by my name only, I continued to monitor my name mentions on the web.
Because, though I may not have actually expired, one of my name-alikes might have done something truly dreadful, like embezzling the company receipts or breaking into a neighbor’s house and drinking all his Scotch.
Dying Can Shake Up Your Life
You are left with questions. What was life about, anyway?
Whether I believed that there was a higher purpose in life and the promise of a Great Beyond, or I was convinced that I lived a bunch of pieces of nothing strung together and then I died, wasn’t the most important thing I could have done was to live in the moment, do what I love and screw the rest?
Was the Judy Dunn who died that day happy with the life she had lived? Did she always want to be a banker?
Or was there something else? Like that that book shop that she dreamed of having since she was in third grade?
I originally changed my social media and online presence name to Judy Lee Dunn. There was already an author out there publishing by the name of Judy Dunn (the above mentioned children’s writer).
But subconsciously, I wonder if I was also trying to separate myself from the other Judy Dunns. To carve out a life and identity of my own. To plant my own flag.
I left a comfortable classroom and a steady paycheck to try this writing thing.
I pondered this decision, but not terribly long.
I asked myself just one question.
If I stayed in teaching would I have wondered, as I sat in that assisted living center making fake pieces of jewelry and watching reruns of Family Ties, if I could have been a writer?
Why didn’t I at least try?
How did all the time go by so fast and I never got one story written?
My days have been filled with random moments. When I string them all together, it’s called a life. Some days I struggle to find meaning in it all. Some days I don’t.
But I get to write about all that stuff.
Sometimes I am even lucky enough to write on wonderful new sites like Pure Blogging, where nothing is off-limits, all ideas are on the table, and I can pick them up like jewels, holding each one up to the light until I find that one that is the shiniest.
Or most intriguing. Or the downright silliest.
Like the time I died.
Danny Brown August 20, 2015 at 9:55 am
Ah, Google Alerts….. these were the days!
I recall I used to “own” alerts for my name back when I was monitoring it more heavily, and then that damn Detroit rapper by the same name took over everything! Although it did start a fun conversation with my wife when an alert came through about me getting oral on stage in Minneapolis….
Interesting questions, Judy. There’s a UK comedian called Dave Gorman, and he thought it’d be fun to find other Dave Gormans. What started as a quest in the UK quickly became a global one, and it was followed by the BBC. Some wonderful stuff.
Here’s to silliness and shinyness.
Judy Lee Dunn August 20, 2015 at 3:43 pm
Haha. Your “other Danny Brown” story? That would be WORSE than dying.
BBC always has the most interesting stories. I might be tempted to sign up for cable again if I could get that station.
I raise my glass to yours and toast to silliness. I can only think of John Cleese/Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.” God, how I miss that show.
Danny Brown August 20, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Ha, ah, the Ministry of Silly Walks – classic! I have to admit, Monty Python was always hit-and-miss for me, although I loved Life of Brian – probably the pinnacle of the Python comedy for me.
Ironically enough, I first saw that movie because our Religious Education teacher showed us it, before I fell away from religion and took the world in a far different way. Good times!
Judy Lee Dunn August 21, 2015 at 12:22 pm
Never got into Life of Brian. Always meant to watch that. The fact that your Religious Education teacher introduced you to that movie is an amazing, amazing thing. We all go our own ways .. and chart our own course when it comes to figuring out the meaning (or not) of life. This is turning into a philosophical discussion. (I LOVE philosophy.)
Danny Brown August 24, 2015 at 1:59 pm
Wait, what – you’ve never seen The Life of Brian? I may have to reconsider our friendship…! 😉
Yep, philosophy is something that interests me immensely – I’ve never really seen myself as religious, or overtly spiritual. Philosophy, though?
Kit August 20, 2015 at 12:15 pm
I am halfway through your fabulous post, but i was COMPELLED to STOP and commend you for always blending humor and hope to create something that awakens the songs of my heart.
Judy Lee Dunn August 20, 2015 at 2:34 pm
I know that we both share a love of stories. Thanks for the kind words, Humor and hope is a damned good combo.
Nancy Davis August 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm
Having a comnon name makes life fun at times. When I first got online, my name was always taken.
Thus, Nancy D was born.
I have had a close call with death. It got me thinking about my life and how I want to be remembered.
Thanks for sharing.
Judy Lee Dunn August 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm
I can only imagine what it’s like online with a name like Nancy Davis. I always longed to have a simple, pronounceable last name as a kid. Mine was butchered regularly. I decided to take Bob’s last name when I married. Maybe it was because I figured people wouldn’t screw up with that one.
I know what you mean about the close call with death. I had a near-death experience when I was eight. In fact, I was pronounced dead in a drowning accident and then brought back. It definitely gives one a new perspective on this thing called life.
Joshua Wilner August 20, 2015 at 10:56 pm
I always enjoy your posts, you have a writing voice that never ceases to entertain. There are several Joshua Wilners out there, but I didn’t run into any until I was in my thirties.
I exchanged email with one of them, he is about ten years younger and if memory serves he wasn’t born a Wilner, he became one after his parent’s divorce.
There is another who is an English professor in New York. He often shows up in my Google results and I am guessing is about ten years older than I am.
Sometimes I wonder if that means he thinks he has ownership of our name. I would say no and I would add I hope that none of the others tarnish the name with any wrongdoing.
I have to imagine that it would be strange to come across an obituary with ones name in it, even if it wasn’t you.
Judy Lee Dunn August 21, 2015 at 10:28 am
Thanks. You are also a favorite blogger of mine, though we haven’t talked lately (my fault for that!). You found another Joshua Wilner as a prof? When I looked at all my name-alikes, and if I had to trade places with one, it would be the Cambridge professor. To “live” on a university campus, a world of its own, and read and study and teach? Sometimes it just feels like it would be heaven.
But then I probably wouldn’t get much writing of my own done, so, maybe not.
Looking forward to reading some of your stuff again.
Joshua Wilner August 21, 2015 at 11:49 am
I could see the university life as being very attractive, might even blog a bit about it.
Anyhoo, the professor who shares my name is certainly better educated in some areas than I am.
A.B. in French Literature, Cornell University, 1969
Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Yale University, 1980
He is at City College New York. One of these days I may actually show up at his office hours.
Judy Lee Dunn August 21, 2015 at 12:24 pm
French Literature. Sigh. It was one of my many majors at the University of Washington (during the period when I just couldn’t make up my mind). I thin k you should definitely go meet your name-alike.
Kaarina August 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm
So nice to see you here my friend:) Feels like the “good ol’ days” when we wrote with abandon, connected and conversed with friends and not-yet friends, wrote for the sheer joy of writing and spoke when we had something to say.
Delighted to see Danny’s new site and its purpose, and I look forward to perhaps contributing some time once my new writing site is up and running. Seems like some of us are pretty darn tired of chasing and are ready once again to burst forth with sharing, letting the chips fall where they may.
And I say YAY to that!
Judy Lee Dunn August 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm
The good old days, indeed. I know, with that incredible new site you are about to launch, that you are looking forward to “writing with abandon,” too. Love what you are planning and can’t wait to read more of your stuff—wherever it happens to turn up. These are exciting times for you.
Thanks for visiting and I owe you an email. This weekend for sure!
Frank Dickinson August 22, 2015 at 12:42 pm
I sure am glad that you are not dead.
So you can write great stuff like this….
and keep Mr. Bob in line….
and feed gourmet meals to stray cats.
Keep on keepin’ on my friend!
Judy Lee Dunn August 22, 2015 at 2:16 pm
Ha! Yes, Mr. Bob needs constant monitoring…he does tend to get into trouble if I don’t keep him reined in.
I am glad I am not dead, too. That means I get to have all those strange conversations with Frank Dickinson.