Celebrating “friends”, poking and narcism, oh my…

Ten years ago, on Tuesday, marked my decade long relationship with Facebook. It was my son, Lucas, who originally urged me to sign up. I was on Myspace and pretty happily connected with my friends and little writing community that way. I signed up, unsure of how it even worked. I mean, seriously, why did I want to poke someone? I mentioned it to a then-good friend and she confided that she was friends with Jessica Simpson, a couple of country singers and a few other random celebrities. Hearing this actually made Facebook a little worse for me. I wasn’t stupid, and I had spent more than a handful of years working within that industry. None of those people were connected to my friend, not even by social media. I have always hated superficial and fake things, and from the beginning Facebook struck me as such. It wasn’t too long though, until friends turned me on to annoying games that I lost hours in. I got caught up in the seven stages of facebooking, after a while. The incessant status updates that no one should EVER do. I shared photos of every little venture away from the house, I made. I checked in at restaurants, shopping, the library… I don’t anymore. Now, I allow myself one hour a week to catch up on people’s news, and that’s it. When I mentioned this, recently, to a friend, she was amazed. How could I do it? She was jealous. I explained to her that the ONLY “friends” I had on the social media site were people I genuinely had relationships with/interactions with/and an interest in having relationships and interactions with. If you’re my Facebook friend I either really respect and admire you, love you a lot, or have a real life, interactive relationship with you. (Most friends make up two or all three of those descriptions. I do not collect people.) Just because went to school together, worked together, grocery shopped at Kroger at the same time or both enjoy Method cleaners does not mean we need to be connected via: Facebook. Also, I explained, the people I have real, interactive relationships with know that I am not really on Facebook regularly and when they have news to share- they send it via a letter/card/email/text/call/vox/marco polo/coffee date/etc.

When I was 31 I apparently joined Facebook. Ironically then too was a time of transition, in my life. If memory serves me correctly however, I handled it much more like a champ than now. (No, I do not credit Facebook for this) Over the past 10 years though, so much has happened. Relationships were built, healed, shattered, splintered. I moved back to the one place I’ve never loved. My mother had a series of small strokes which changed her life, and by extension, mine. My mother had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. I became ill and was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I nearly died from a serious case of pneumonia. I have made it through the HARDEST years of my life, as a daughter, as a wife and especially as a mother. I have not made it through unscathed and I struggle with some resentments and issues resulting from such things. I have had a small, but successful photography business which completely transformed my love of photography into something I no longer loved. I have traveled throughout California, watched fireworks from a hilltop cemetery, jumped on the Twilight bandwagon, came to my senses and jumped off. I have camped on the Oregon coast, learned how to do dozens of new things, delved deeply into paper crafting and then reluctantly climbed out of that. I spent a week along the coasts and ports of Washington state, road tripped throughout New England, spent part of the Christmas season in New York City. I have been a cleaner, trained to be an Esthetician (which was a long dream of mine), worked in retail, worked in marketing, both renovated a beautiful home and been homeless. I have had the distinct honor of witnessing marriages I am so proud of, met beautiful babies I adore. I have been there when two of the most precious babies in the world to me, have been born. I have had anxiety ridden, ICU bed side days, sleepless nights and dawning moments where miracles and answers to prayers happened. I have seen my faith weaken, grow and embarrassingly numb in the in-betweens. My two older kids have both married and become parents. My son enlisted, has deployed and I see him far more seldom than I ever imagined I could live with. I attended the memorial service of a girl who died far too young, and far too tragically, whom I loved a deeply embedded amount. I have lost 130 pounds, gained twenty, screamed, cried, cursed, shouted, sobbed and at times wished I were dead. I have contemplated, prayed, praised, laughed, embraced, nurtured, comforted and had to come to terms with so many things. I have heartbreakingly buried two beloved dogs, and gone through the deaths of several family members. Ten years ago I had so much hope in my motherhood, my daughterhood, my marriage, my writerhood, my life. Today, at 41, I can no longer find much of that.

Again, Facebook is not responsible for any of those things, but it certainly is a scrapbook for most of them. It is a record of a decade spent living, most of the good and enough of the bad. It is the place where friends of my husband attempted to tarnish my reputation, further poison him against me and drive a wedge deep into our marriage that will likely never be repaired. It is the place where people resort to sharing their big news, leaving their own parents and children to be heartbroken that they had to learn it from Facebook. When it is said and done, aside from the chronicling of our moments, I have to question if it does more bad than good, consistently.

Honestly, I have a pretty hate/hate opinion of the website. I do not keep it on my phone. I only keep it at all, because I am connected with my son & daughter-in-law on there and don’t want to miss something that doesn’t really bridge the thousands of miles otherwise. I keep it because, as a writer, it is a powerful tool and since I do freelance work for PR companies, on occasion, it is a necessary evil. This week, however, I am feeling grateful for the mark of this decade together. Good or bad, Facebook was there for me through ten big years and that isn’t something to take for granted… And if we are friends on there, thank you for that. For me, that is a real thing…

The deep mundane…

Last week I received a lovely direct message on Instagram from a fellow writer. We had crossed paths over the social media platform and she had been led to come follow my blog. Her message was heartfelt and encouraged me to write, within this space, more. Honestly, when I read her words I nodded and thought I couldn’t agree more. And yet…

And yet, another week went by of parenthood and exhaustive defiance. Another week of ridiculous traffic, appointments, stocking the fridge, preparing meals, folding laundry, friendship, etc. What would I write about? How I disliked folding laundry that sat overnight in the dryer? How it is flip-flop season and I am in desperate need of a pedicure. How graduation and an open house are approaching at rocket speed and not fast enough, all rolled into one. How I am packing to move out of this temporary apartment and I am beyond tired of transition and moving. How my puppy is the most stubborn potty trainer and how, with Fibro, I am as consistent as I can be but that every moment of every day feels like I simply am not doing good enough at anything. None of these things are blog worthy, dwell worthy, or really worth any thing at all. They are what they are. Some days are better than others. Some days full on blow, while others are exceptional. This is life for each of us, with our own details.

Writing, (something I haven’t been doing much of, beyond the occasional freelance piece) requires deeper than that. If my eyes are trained to see the mundane, the details, the nows and the this minutes, I am unable to plunge. And so, for a blog post you’ll get surface level stuff, unless I resort to the fake. Truthfully, I can’t take either of those options and so, best intentions cast aside for another day, this space remained silent.

Part of my problem, I’ll admit, is that I haven’t had a designated writing space. As I type this very collection of words, I am writing from my bed- my least favorite place to write. I do not have a dining table, as of right now, my bar to bar stool ratio is too much for my little t-rex arms to comfortable type and my living room is cluttered with boxes and mess. Every week I declare that I will take one to two days and go to the local coffee-house to spend a few hours writing from there. In theory, this is great. In reality I have an adult child who makes this idea hard, coupled with a stubborn and needy puppy- and so… So I tell myself a routine can be established later. (Later: tomorrow, next week, next month, next year) and I cope the best I can through the seconds turned to minutes, which link together, arms tight and unforgiving.

This morning I woke up, having survived the various elements of the three-day weekend, motivated. My to-do list was ready. I threw my collection of frozen and fresh fruit into the blender, along with some spinach and various additives to make my breakfast smoothie healthy and filling. By the time I got the blend point, however, parenting frustrations had already occurred (actually about half had carried over from the days of the last few months, hurtful and unyielding) and so when the first sip of my smoothie tasted like a cross between toilet cleaner and a thin mint cookie, I had to take pause. What was going on here? Why wasn’t I writing? Why didn’t I just sit down and do it? Why wasn’t I looking beyond the surface, beneath the BS and in between the lines? Why wasn’t I transparently sharing whatever came to mind? Why was I continuing to sip a smoothie which sort of burned my taste buds and reminded me of my short stint as a professional cleaner in a small hospital?

So many questions, (the “smoothie” is almost gone, by the way, in case you were curious. I’m thinking the Tumeric is where I went wrong- though that it has the power to transform EVERYTHING to such wickedness is a terrifying thought.) with no real answers. So I sit here, feet slightly numb at this elevated position. Stubborn puppy is crated for a two-hour stint of further attempts with project potty train. My stomach is currently unsure of how to digest the new market cleanser I seem to have whipped up, (All natural!) and my laundry sits folded beside me, begging to be put away. Today I will walk the dogs, take some photos of swans, pack a few boxes, list things on Ebay, drive Gen to work and return an insane amount of books to the library. This week I will wrap gifts and put a few last-minute details together for my mom’s 70th birthday, further progress on my daughter A’s birthday and Gen’s graduation open house. This week I will also, hopefully, know exactly where we are moving to. Let’s put it this way, I care a little- Mostly though, I am just excited to get out of this transition. It has been a year of transition. (and over paying for a dump, but that’s a whole other issue.)

The takeaway that I have from our three-day weekend is this: long weekends have a lot more room for the unexpected. While sleeping in and leisurely brunches are lovely, life still happens and stuff has to get done. I think, when I imagine the looming extra long weekend, I forget that part. Furthermore- date nights are so cathartic, and fun, but also sort of pricy. The new Pirates movie is seriously better than I expected, and late night John Cusack marathons might be a little too wild for this girl, as I slept through most of it. (#41isold #canistillcallmyselfagirlifimold) All in all, life is about balance. Sometimes, for various reasons, a fun adventure really can be a run to Sonic happy hour, an hour away. Sometimes a hard day really can be a result of an overcast sky and you feel sad. We are where we are. Period. I suspect I keep waiting for something else, looking for something a bit more to push me to that point where I can be a real writer. There is no point. This is it. The quest of the writer truly is to find the beauty and story within the mundane pile of laundry and accidentally abrasive smoothie. Message noted, and so I will try my best to do better, sweet Instagram friend.

Perfecting imperfection…

3ll_nlvpl08-matthew-henryI sit here, laptop flat on the deep grey quilt. To my left there is that one thread, unraveling big. To many, this would mean it is time to shop for a new one, while to me it simply makes my heart soar a little. This quilt makes up a small piece of the larger picture of home. It has wear spots and snags, like all good home things do.

Me too…

To my write sits an unfinished library book balancing a long, cold cup of coffee. My day, before it unfolds, holds hope of laundry, quiet time, a face mask, bottles of water, chapters read and a heavy word count written. So many things scribbled out on my to do list. Drink water. Record food. Take a walk. Wash the towels. Hang up the closet clothes. Wash face, and moisturize. Put dinner in the slow cooker. Address the envelopes. Make some calls. Work on that project. Write a blog post… The list of things tick out, both equal measures of daunt and comfort.

I love lists. They keep me grounded and in line, until they don’t. The don’t, these days, begins to strike about Wednesday. The rest of the week has taken up the bad habit of rebelling against everything good, healthy and necessary. I am watching and listening, careful to try and find the place the days snag.

Do I not have enough grace for myself? Am I driven by lists until I simply cannot drive any longer? It does not seem so, or feel that way, but why else?

What is it I want? Really? At the end of the lists, when the day’s sun is disappearing behind the skyline of that moment, what is my goal? To have a clean home? To feed my family clean, healthy and yet delicious food? To find joy in every experience and make joy when I don’t find it? To be a slave to nothing other than the moment and making the best of it? To be a writer/artist who creates? To further grow and nurture relationships? To read a book every week or two? To lose 50 lbs? Why can’t I do all of these things? They don’t seem too big, they do seem like every other wife and mother gets them done without much effort.

My apartment is thick with the smell of barbacoa in the slow cooker. Today’s organic grocery delivery is put away, nestled into a freshly clean refrigerator. The laundry basket is stacked high with clean and folded clothes, the dryer humming with another load shortly on it’s way to the same. Music softly plays in the back ground and I feel a slight twinge of frustration that I didn’t even manage to open my laptop until 3:30 in the afternoon, which means that not only will I not accomplish much writing today, but that I MUST prioritize and manage my time better. I must… I must. But I don’t know how. How do I do it all? I do I get it done? At what point do I decide the things which are accomplished, (and accomplished well, at that) are insignificant to the contrast of what remains incomplete or left for abandon? How fair is that to myself? I have a clean fridge, food prepped and put away (or cooking), laundry in progress… Once things are done, do they lose their importance?

I’m also, in the back of my mind, packing and preparing for the few days I am going to spend with my older daughter for her spring break. That little voice, in the back of my soul, is saying why? Why try so hard to figure out how when you are just going to be gone and ruin it all anyway?

I do not want my life to be a slave to the daunting list to check off, missing the heart in the moments written there. I do not want to live my life by check marks, missing all that might happen when I am not looking. I ache, simply, to live my life. To live it well, with intention, and still manage to get the necessary responsibilities done.

If nothing else, today, there are successes. I have managed conversations with each of my beautiful daughters, reminding me gently that I am so blessed to be their mother. I have sang along with songs that stir my inner self with so much love and goodness. I have began dinner, lived Monday with open windows and fresh air. I have washed, masked and moisturized my skin to the point of glowing-smooth (and healthy) goodness, (my absolute favorite part of Mondays.) I have prep-work done for a tasty snack for our tv-catching-up evening. My laundry isn’t done, but it is getting there. Mason’s birthday gift isn’t wrapped, but it will be before Friday so I can relax on that one.

So I don’t write today. There’s always tomorrow. If I set my alarm, I can do it. If I clear out and set myself up somewhere inspiring, a place which does not remind me of the undone list and unfinished snags of home that sit all around to call my name and distract me. I can do better, or at least, different. It can have both to-do lists and grace. It can be imperfect.

I can be imperfect…

Connected…

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As I was plugging right along with everyone else, moving toward the beginning of 2016, it was hard to catch my breath. While everyone else seemed to be swimming and gliding along, just fine, I was drowning. I knew that every area of my life was in complete disarray, it was completely unmanageable and I knew the only answer was to let go.

Somehow, amidst the depression, thoughts of suicide, long days of sobbing and aching in my bed and the overall absence of self, I began emerge and realize how disconnected I was. It was on January the fourth, 2016, that I finally realized what my word was supposed to be. Connect…

At that point I identified as a Christian, yet had no actual connection to God. I was technically a wife, yet my husband wanted nothing to do with me. I had a hard time finding anything that defined me outside of motherhood, and my kids were all three spread out over the country, and terribly far from me. I had not seen my son in two years, I was as disconnected as humanly possible from the very small girl I had raised into the 16-year-old she was. I was of no value or worth to the most important people to me, and it was on this tide that I had floated until my life became something more akin to nightmare than what I had hoped for/dreamed of/worked towards. I remember telling whoever would listen, in those early January days, that I felt like every morning waking was like waking to a nightmare rather than from one. I wanted to sleep all of the time because sleep held dreams with my husband, with my kids, with moments which had once been true but no longer were… Awake rhymed with ache, which was all I did and let me tell you- it was excruciating. In my 40 years of life I have never known anguish like I did in those days.

How would I connect? I did not know. What would it mean to me? I could not say. Was I terrified? Absolutely.

Today, on December the 30th, I can’t help but look back.

Important things to note:

  • I no longer feel like that upon waking.
  • I no longer need to sleep to be.
  • I no longer struggle to know who I am, outside of being a wife or a mother.
  • I am both a wife and a mother, by choice. It may aid to define me, but I am something more.

When I was least expecting it, still drowning a little, I found my way to God. It was raw and ugly because I was ugly and raw. It involved Sunday mornings in church alone, (something I had never, ever done before) and these Sunday mornings always involved tears. Words were sung and spoken which reached deep inside of me and began to stitch and sew me into something new, deeper and better. I began meeting and praying with someone who, alongside of me, dissected me, my depression, my need to take care of others and cast aside myself. I bared all to her and she met me there, without judgement and together we trudged through. (This is something I had never, ever done before.)

Slowly I allowed my need to control the perception of others and just let go of that too. It didn’t matter what they thought. I evaluated, with honesty, whose opinions of me truly mattered and the list was very small. As time passed I began to let go of the toxic ones I thought I’d needed. My relationships with my sister and a few friends grew deeper because I found I was more able to engage in those ways, when I wasn’t tugged in unhealthier ones.

Still I ached for my marriage and my motherhood. As the other things seemed to clear and grow me, these two things seemed to kill me more. It was a journey. A necessary journey which I probably could have gone through while still in my family, but life played out differently and I went through it alone. I learned a lot alone. I learned about me, my motivations, patters, limits… These were things I had never really known before. Being the product of a society that touts sentiments such as Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I had naively believed if I could write it on a to-do list or if _____________ over there could do it, I could too and if I didn’t I was lazy and worthless. I grew to not only admit, but fully accept that I am not _______________. What works for them may not work for me… I am a woman whose body has had a hard life. I have a chronic condition which gives me limits and in order for my body to last many more years, (and my heart, and my soul, and my mind) I need to have grace for those limits. They too, do not define me.

I was able to see my son and spend time with him; take an emotional road trip which led to confrontations, endless laughter and healing; I was able make a handful of precious friends; I worked in two entirely different job fields which each taught me a lot about myself and my goals/heart; I reconnected with my mother with whom I’ve been estranged for what feels like a lifetime; I came home and am working on my marriage (something that felt impossible 9-12 months ago); I was there for the birth of my grandson and cut his cord (something I was certain I’d miss so far away) and have been able to spend endless amounts of time loving on him; I was able to fulfill a life long dream of exploring New England in the fall; I reconnected with an old friend who had severely wounded me some 11 years ago; I got back in touch with the writer inside of me who had been buried under so much gunk… And it goes on and on and on… The people I’ve had the chance to meet, the unexpected experiences I have been privy to. Along the way, every second of this journey I would say to myself over and over again: Connect. Connect. Connect. Connect… And I did.

The lamp is worthless unless we plug it in. I had been for years, like that socketless lamp. I am no more.

My word for 2017 is MOVE. The depth of how far this word can reach is intimidating. I knew weeks ago that it was meant to be my 2017.

How will it look? I don’t know, but I am ready…

Beneath the view…

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Beneath this multi color sky rests a village.

Villagers close their days, in many ways. Some are laying the tableware down, while the stew is simmering. Others slap turkey and thinly sliced swiss between two slices of rough cut baguette. There are homes with shingle tile roofs, where beneath them families interact little, instead losing their best selves into their screens. Some homes have single-paned windows, no television and their dinner of lentils and tofu will be followed by board game and laughter.

One or two of these homes likely have pictures of Jesus on the wall, angry hearts seated in plaid patterned recliners, bottles of cheap bourbon stashed about the room indiscreetly.

Across town perhaps a father is sincerely praying a prayer of gratitude for the meager meal his family is about to dine on. In another home a mother is crying while her pork chops burn on the stove because her four-year old drew all over the newly painted dining room with sharpie, and she’s tired.

Beneath many of these roofs there are tired and weary souls. Tired from working, tired from living. Tired from living to work, lack of connection, poor nutrition, fitful rest, marital discord, and so on. Tired never ends…

One woman, down there, in one home hiding behind one porch light miscarried a baby today. Behind another, a spouse hides the secret of an affair. One home holds an empty bed because their teenage son ran away, choosing addiction over the tough love of a mother and father.

A fraction of the homes have held cancer, loss, bankruptcy and enraged anger.

Beneath the view, an artistic photograph with which one took pride and many admired, there is life. Life is ugly and lonely, life is messy and hard.

Though much is speculated about these nameless, faceless people below, a few things are certain…

There are hurting, aching and broken people down there, hiding behind their front doors. Neighbors don’t know. Many neighbors do not want to know. The Villagers are consumed with their own empty, lonely aches.

No one grabs the hand of the stranger next to them, no one says “We’ve got this, you and I. You are not alone.”

Wednesday morning the sun rose, and people felt crippled with fear. Not just these villagers, but most of us. Our financial system took a hit and the optimistic ones placed their hopes in a man who isn’t ready to be our everything. No man is. Until we take the faceless and broken and learn their names, learn their stories, and decide to set our aching down to help them carry theirs, we will continue to fall downward.

Today let’s go love someone. Let’s call a friend whom we know is hurting, and let’s not ask if you need anything, let me know. No, let us say “I am bringing you a well needed chocolate bar that I am instructing you not to share with a single soul!” And then do it. And when we see them, hug them with as much sincerity as our arms can contain, and let them know by our gestures that We’ve got this, together, and they are not alone.

Shame, fear and hatred bread in the dark. Let’s be the light, and shine and shine and shine, until there isn’t a square inch left untouched. Let’s make America great, finally...