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4/2/13: Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Facebook is NOT real life

I gave up Facebook for Lent. I felt that I needed to do this because in the months leading up to Lent, Facebook had taken on a new dimension for me. I found that I was spending hours reading every article, watching every video and reacting to every divisive thing that I saw. Facebook debates were quickly becoming vicious, and even the “safe” ones, the ones among friends and like-minded people seemed to result in misunderstanding and hurt feelings. They certainly resulted in frustration for me. I was checking constantly…from my computer to my phone, regardless of where I was. I needed to know the latest thing that someone had posted on the last topic that had upset me. It just wasn’t healthy.

On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, my daughter sang in church. She read Scripture aloud and I was moved to tears. I took a few pictures and videos and decided to end on a high note, a few days before Lent actually started. I posted those pictures and a video and signed off. In order to avoid temptation or the possibility of clicking on it by habit, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I soon realized how much of a reflex it had become for me to type Facebook in my computer browser or go to that app.

It turns out that I really didn’t miss it. The stress of dealing with all the drama was gone. I was still aware of it because even though I wasn’t on, occasionally, I would hear about a Facebook “battle” and I could feel the wobbly feeling in my stomach that I had become so familiar with as the “someone is wrong on the internet” button was pushed. What a relief that I didn’t have to go fight that battle, that I COULDN’T go fight that battle.

What did I learn from all this? During my Facebook fast, I learned that not only has Facebook become a stressor for me, but it had also become a crutch. I realized that there were people that I interact with on Facebook and although I may run into them at a school function or something, I had absolutely no other way to get in touch with them. I didn’t have their email or a phone number. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO FIND ME TO GET ME MY GIRL SCOUT COOKIES??? (Facebook fast crisis #1: true story). There isn’t necessarily anything bad with using Facebook as the primary mode of getting in touch with someone, but the result was an unwanted DEPENDENCY on it. (Dependency on technology could be a whole post by itself).

What I really learned didn’t become apparent until Easter afternoon when I logged in again for the first time. It took me 30 minutes just to get through the news feed updates for about 1 day. I clicked on an article that someone had posted on some political or religious topic (can’t even remember what it was) and after reading a couple of sentences, I realized that if I let it, Facebook could suck my life away. Before I was done with that first login, an hour had passed…an hour I had intended to use for something else, an hour that was gone forever. What had I gained in that hour? I got to see some cute Easter pictures, which was nice. I got to get caught up on all the nice birthday wishes that people had left me. But other than that…I gained nothing. I didn’t get smarter. I didn’t become a better person, wife or mother. I didn’t learn anything new about the hot topics of the day that I hadn’t already heard by spending a few minutes listening to the news. The cute cartoons and shared pictures didn’t give me new insight into people or myself. All that happened is that I donated another hour of my life to Facebook. Dependency is the Facebook game. And Facebook is winning.

I realized then that the personal interactions I had over Lent with people far superseded anything I could get from Facebook. I learned that in order for people to feel “safe” discussing a highly charged topic on Facebook, a closed group was important. And closed groups tend to attract people who think similarly, and although valuable and interesting in some ways, also tend to create a group think atmosphere that ends up being more about my ego than a personal interaction would be.

I learned that you cannot possibly get to know someone by what they post on Facebook. We present a different persona to the “public” world than we present in our daily interactions with people. Life is glossed over and reduced to the latest accomplishment of our children, the latest vacation picture or what I had for lunch. The things that are really important to me, that really matter…my STORY can only be known from spending time with me. That time can be virtual, but it isn’t Facebook. Before you get upset, I’m not saying that the things we put on Facebook don’t matter, because when I see a picture of someone’s child and it makes me smile, that is good. It just isn’t real life. It isn’t the same as being in the same room as that child and hearing the giggle first hand and being a person that they KNOW.

At one point during the 40 day hiatus, Mark and I were talking about this and he said that Facebook is evil, and he wasn’t jesting. At first I thought that seemed over the top…but it made me think. Is it really good? Is it good that I have too easily replaced personal interaction with a computer screen? Have I judged someone or jumped to a conclusion or reduced someone to being not much more than the latest political/social stance they have taken? Have I let Facebook replace personhood with snippets of a life that may not even be real? Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is yes. I have done all of those things. I have done them because I confused Facebook with real life and it just isn’t so.

I am not giving up Facebook altogether, because at the end of the day, I enjoy those pictures of people’s kids, and seeing what my distant cousins are up to, and seeing what kinds of quirky posts my beautiful goofy daughters put out there. I like sharing ideas about my latest project (natural cleaning products) and Facebook is a convenient forum to do that. I like being informed about school activities and parent groups and other organizations that use Facebook pages as another avenue of communication. I like having another place for my blog to live (after all, MAYBE I’m going to start using it again). But I am limiting what shows up on my news feed. I am not going to be watching videos and reading controversial articles and digging into whatever stance my friends may be FOR or AGAINST. I’ll leave those things for real conversation. At this point, I’m not re-installing the app on my phone. I can still access Facebook through the browser on my phone when I want to, but it is just inconvenient enough, less easy to navigate that I will be more deliberate about it. I am not going to turn my email notifications back on. I just don’t need THAT much notifying and I certainly don’t need any more reason to spend more time.

Please remember that what gets posted on social media is not the whole of you, and it also isn’t the whole of anyone else. It is just a snippet, a glimpse, a piece. Real life is more than that.

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Lent Week 1

After the first 7 days without TV, I don’t have any earth shaking revelations, but I have had some realizations that I thought I would share.

First, let me say that in the first week, I went cold turkey. I decided that I wanted a full TV cleanse and therefore did not watch the allotted one movie, nor did I watch TV on the treadmill. I exercised outside 3 times and on the treadmill twice. On the treadmill, I found some podcasts to listen to instead of turning on the TV. The podcasts kept my attention as well as the TV and for the outside exercise, as usual, I had no noise. I found that my best thinking of the week came during those times. My thoughts on moderation, patience, etc…all happened when I was running without distractions (well unless you count my misery on that first run as a distraction). Since reducing distractions is the whole point of this, I have now changed my “rules” and will not be watching TV when I exercise. I’m pretty sure I will survive. In fact, this added restriction is in line with something that my pastor said in her teaching on Sunday….if I’m bored, I’ll just be bored. It is ok to just feel what I am feeling, notice what is missing and see what happens with that space that the TV would have filled. Thanks Becky.

I also did some more thinking about moderation. Putting my thoughts into my blog at the beginning of the week had an interesting effect. I no longer feel the urge to push myself on my runs. I have realized that 4 miles is a VERY respectable distance and when I set out to ONLY run 4 miles, I feel so much better for the whole time. The pressure is gone. I know I can run 4 miles, and when I do, I won’t be exhausted when I am finished and will feel good enough to run the next day. When I run 5 miles, I am always much more fatigued that evening and almost never run the next day. So the only thing I get from that extra mile is a day off…which really isn’t the point. I know I can run 5 miles (which was my original goal) and on really good days, may do it again from time to time. But since my goal has never been to increase my distance to run in a 10k or half marathon, 4 miles is just ENOUGH. I’m sure this seems eye rolling obvious to all of you, but to me, it was a bit of a breakthrough. I had to have a couple of quiet, no distractions runs to work that out. This also makes the no TV on the treadmill thing feel less intimidating. After all, how bored could I get in 40 minutes?

Many of you have asked how I’m doing without TV. It has actually been very interesting for me. I can honestly say that there has only been about one 30-60 minute time window when I missed it. It just hasn’t been that hard AT ALL…even last night, when I knew that the season finale of Parenthood was airing, I didn’t even have a twinge. The one time I missed it was just when I was between activities and it was very quiet. As soon as I started doing something else, I was fine again. This has forced me to start asking myself what permanent changes I may have to make in this area after the moratorium is lifted. In the meantime, I have been enjoying reading and Pandora Radio and quiet.

However, this TV fast has obviously become an issue for my sub-conscious. Last night, I dreamt that I forgot about the commitment and watched a bunch of TV. When I realized that I had done this, I felt pretty bad. I was glad to wake up and realize it was a dream. I think this falls into the same category as the dreams I have of being a waitress and forgetting to go to work, or forgetting to bring someone’s food to them, or forgetting a flag corps routine just before a performance or forgetting to put on clothes before being in public. Yes, I have ALL of those dreams on a fairly regular basis. I’m not sure it means, but it is always a relief to wake up!

As for what I have been doing to fill my time, well I have to admit that Facebook has taken up more time than is probably good. I’m going to pay more attention to that this week. But I also read three books and finished another one. I am tackling some weighty subjects in my reading but am reading something fun between every book that weighs me down. So far, it has been a good balance. This week, I think I am going to start to organize my thoughts on the weighty thing. I’m not sure whether I will be sharing that here, but you never know. I will tell you that the book, “Julie and Julie” by Julie Powell is better than the movie of the same name. It is funny and irreverent and flat out obscene at times. (After all, what is sexier than French food made by a Texan who swears like a sailor??) This book has confirmed my love of a new (to me) genre of books…memoirs. I have a bunch more lined up on my bookshelf just waiting for me to get to them.

My Favorite Mistakes

Over the last 10 years, I have spent a lot of time and energy focused on my mistakes, the sins of my past. I have also spent a lot of time and energy trying to free myself from those mistakes. I have wrestled with God over control of forgiveness in my life….His, and mine. I have accepted forgiveness and then thown it back in a fit of self-loathing. I have given that burden to God and then yanked it back when the peace that I found in my unburdening became too much for my guilty heart to take.

I have thanked God for the grace that is so evident in my life, for the daily proof that He has forgiven me and doesn’t define our relationship by my past. I have felt the guilt that comes when unforgiveness of myself is sharing space with abundant grace and I don’t know what to do with that tension.

Over and over, I have struggled with what my heart knows and what my heart will allow.

I was inspired yesteday, by a video of an amazing young woman, Sarah Kay, who uses spoken word poetry to make sense of her world. When she is trying to help young people to find a start to their own stories, she asks them to make a list. The first list is always “10 things I know to be true”.

Inspired by that and this morning’s message about Lent, I decided that the list was a good way to get my jumbled thoughts started into something cohesive that I could hold on to, and maybe the words in my list will create a space that God can move into. This list represents that intersection between what my heart knows and what my heart will allow. It is what I know about my favorite mistakes.

10 things I know to be true about mistakes:

1. We all make them. From before our faltering first steps to our last ragged breaths, our lives will be filled with mistakes.

2. We give mistakes more power than they deserve. A mistake is just a mistake, no more, no less.

3. A mistake doesn’t define us, but it can define a moment in time. What we do from that moment on has nothing to do with the mistake, and everything to do with us.

4. God cares deeply about our mistakes, because He cares deeply about us. But when His heart aches for us, at the same time, His tears and His blood are washing our mistakes away. Any scorekeeping that happens is done by us, not by Him.

5. When we refuse to forgive our own mistakes, or the mistakes of others, we are living in the past. When we live in the past, we are missing the present and robbing ourselves of the promises of the future.

6. Sometimes our biggest mistakes, the things we did wrong, are exactly what causes us to be in the right place today. A small wrong can lead to big rights.

7. A mistake can cause us to lose our way, but if we keep our hearts tuned in, we can always find our way back. God’s GPS always has a “take me home” button, and when we get there, He will have the lights on and He will be waiting up.

8. A simple apology (to someone else, to ourselves, to God) is the best first step after any mistake. We should never ever underestimate the power, the beauty or the grace that can be found in “I’m sorry”.

9. When the weight of a mistake is weighing us down, there is sweet relief is giving that burden to God. Sometimes we will take the burden back, but it won’t be because God handed it back to us. It will be because we took it. Sometimes it takes lots of tries to give it up completely. We should keep trying.

10. When we are at the precipice of a mistake, just before we take the leap, we should pause, listen then act. If we make a mistake anyway, we should pause, listen, then move on. The next opportunity to do the right thing will come quickly. If we focus on the mistake, we might miss the opportunity.

11. We can’t protect someone from making their own mistakes. Even if we know better. Even if they are about to do something stupid. Our mistakes are ours and they are valuable. Mistakes are how we learn, and when we try to prevent others from making mistakes, we are also denying them the opportunity to learn from their choices, and yes, their mistakes. Just because someone else may find themselves in the same circumstances that we were once in, doesn’t mean that their outcome will be the same as ours and even if it is, their experience will affect them differently than ours did. Mistakes are important for everyone to make because when we are making mistakes, it means that we are living.

I do know how to count to 10, but number 11 seemed important. As a parent, I put a lot of energy into trying to steer my kids away from mistakes. I don’t want them to feel the pain of the mistakes that I have made. But when I am really honest, I realize that my job isn’t to prevent their mistakes. My job is to equip them for their mistakes. It is to give them a place to return to when their mistakes have left their hearts tattered and their confidence bruised. My job is to demonstrate grace to them, and to give them the same forgiveness that I have revceived from my heavenly Father. It is to provide them with a no strings attached kind of love that they can count on ESPECIALLY when they make mistakes. Because depsite my best efforts, they will make mistakes and they will learn from how I react, not just to my own mistakes, but by the way I react to theirs. I can model apology when I am wrong because I will  mess up my job as their mom sometimes. And if I am really successful and I work really hard, maybe I can even show them how to forgive themselves by giving myself the gift of grace.

If you would like to hear more from the amazing Sarah Kay, I have linked the video below.
http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter.html

Lent Day 1

I won’t be doing this every day, but I have had some interesting revelations (may be too strong a word) today.

The first revelation is that TV is as much a habit as anything.  I have the TV on when I cook and tonight, the silence was weird.  When I sat down to eat (on a TV tray sitting on the couch), that was also weird, especially since nobody else was home at the time.  So what does one do when they are eating alone…on the couch…in front of the TV?  Reading a book was a little sloppy, but it was the distraction I needed.

The second (and probably more important revelation) was that it has already become clear to me that God is going to do some work on me during these 40 days.  I have a problem with moderation.  A big problem.  This applies to many areas of my life….TV, food and drink consumption, exercise.  I am just an all or nothing girl.  And sometimes when the pendulum swings too far in a particular direction, I use abstinence as a correcting tool.  In other words, I go from one extreme to the other.  My extremes are relative…I don’t go from drunken binges to detox, but I do tend to be more on the edges of what is comfortably healthy at times.  (That was hard to write, but is truth.)  Exercise has been an area that moderation has been a real struggle.  Once I set an exercise goal, I have trouble not turning the goal into my everyday expectation.  For example,  a recent goal was that I wanted to be able to run 5 miles.  I had previously only done this on 2 occasions ever. TWO!  So getting to the point that I could do it at all would be a major accomplishment.   The goal in my head is that I would be able to run that far on occasion and not die.  The reality is that as I increase my distance in pursuit of that goal, my goal becomes the new benchmark. I hit the goal two weeks in a row and then the goal somehow became the new benchmark.  And by the way….5 miles is a once a week deal.   I can’t do it two days in a row, and often have to take a day off after I do it.  It is NOT a good goal for everyday running.  I know this.  Yet, I still feel bad when I “only” run 4 miles.  Mark has tried to use logic to explain why my reasoning isn’t healthy.  Um…no kidding Captain Obvious, I have a problem!!  J

So back to today.  For those of you who are keeping track, my commitment for Lent was no TV with a couple of very specific exceptions.  The exceptions were specifically to address this issue with moderation.  I said that I would be allowed to watch TV when I am on the treadmill.  I need the distraction or the exercise becomes too much of a chore.  I don’t want to have the no TV thing become an impediment to regular exercise, so I gave myself this permission.  HOWEVER, today, I decided that I really didn’t want to start day 1 with even a little TV.  Cold turkey baby!!  So instead, I went for a run outside….in the rain…two days after a 5 mile outside run.  My bones are 41 years old next week and they tend to let me know that outside runs are great, but make me more fatigued than inside runs.  So I kinda knew the outside run thing could maybe not go well today.  I made up my mind that I would only go 4 miles and I would not feel bad about it.  At about mile 1, I tried to give myself permission to only go 3 miles because I was feeling kinda crappy.  No dice.  I went the full 4.  For the last mile, I was DYING.  My legs felt like they were encased in cement, I was gasping for air and generally miserable.  All the while, I am reflecting on this little problem I have with moderation and thinking, “So you think you’re trying to show me something God? Huh????  Well, I’ll show YOU!”  Ask me how that worked out for me.  But I know you already know the answer.

Tomorrow, if I can get myself up and down the stairs, I will WALK on the treadmill with the TV on.  Moderately.