The beauty, freedom, productivity, and revised perspectives of getting snowed in alone; cheerful yellow birdhouses and the smiles that they bring; Sweet 16 celebrations, complete with candy bars, helium songs, and photo booth shenanigans; continued reminders of the crazy left behind with a smattering of hope for those still entrenched; hectic days that pass right by, filled with enough challenge and grace to make it all worthwhile; finding the positive sides again; neighborhood watches and awareness of the fires; employing that skill of perspective gained; boundary establishment in the face of heart string pulls; embracing RBF in all the right places (like the Macy’s at Green Hills Mall, pffbt); finding two perfect fits (without having to have one); circling the gratitude wagons; getting all the sleeps and finishing another quiz; lavender everything; turkey confit; and gearing up for a massage to knead the way into another productive weekend, with little bits of fun built in.
Over the last few years, and this past year in particular, I’ve thought (and posted) a fair amount about my love/hate relationship with Facebook. It seemed to weigh heavier on the “hate” side – increasing on a daily basis – until finally I came to the conclusion that it was time to sever ties completely. And so on January 1st, I did. At the risk of beating a dead horse, since I know there have been myriad articles and think pieces and studies published about the topic as well, I’m finally diving into writing about why I’m so much happier without it.
2015 was, for me, filled with some good, but mostly a whole lot of toxicity in the form of other people; I’ve done a banner job of simply cutting all of that out and moving on and away. Deleting my FB account was like the final step, because there was something toxic about that site, too. It may have been my own personal experience and interaction with it, it may have been my own inability to moderate usage, it may be due to my own sensitivity to overload, it could be a hundred things that have little or nothing to do with the site and everything to do with my reaction to it… but whatever the case, I can’t tell you how much lighter, happier, and clear-minded I feel as a result of no longer being connected in that way.
Before the advent of social media… how did we stay in touch? How did we interact? How did we connect and STAY connected to the people we loved and the ones who mattered? I mean, were we okay with not staying in touch with that one kid you knew in 6th grade? How on earth did we survive without knowing everyone’s opinions on EVERYTHING? The internet provides a forum for everyone’s thoughts, opinions, attitudes, beliefs, etc., and while this can be a good thing – I’ve met some amazing people through the internet and wouldn’t trade them for the world – this can also be a really, really bad thing. Have you read a comments section lately? It’s like the floodgates opened and everyone’s inner ugly got conjured.
What Facebook turned into for me was a place where people were inflicting everyone else with their thoughts, opinions, pithy quotes on photo backdrops, political discourse, and what basically felt like no one listening to or actually TALKING to each other anymore. It was all just noise, and it seemed to feed into peoples’ misguided belief that everyone else wanted to hear it all, or cared, and that their opinions on things – no matter how ill-informed or bigoted or small – were paramount to truth or the art of active listening. “I don’t care what you think or have to say, but here’s what I think. About everything.”
Everything wound up feeling overwhelming. Superficial. Empty.
Full disclosure: I had over 400 friends on there. Most of them were people I’d gone to school with at some point, worked with at some point, met somewhere along the way in my pinball ricochet moves around the country… only a very small handful of them were/are people with whom I am maintaining an active friendship or relationship. Family, too, but mostly it was people I wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with. Not because they aren’t good people (because they were, otherwise I wouldn’t have added them in the first place – or I would have deleted them, which happened pretty regularly once true colors came to light), but because I just don’t have the emotional or mental bandwidth for maintaining that many relationships or interactions. By being connected to a person on Facebook, I felt some kind of responsibility to try and maintain active contact. Otherwise, what’s the point?
A lot of the people with whom I’d reconnected when I first moved back to Nashville had mostly faded into “acquaintance-land” for reasons I won’t get into here (I’m not sure I could do it justice from a one-sided perspective, anyway), but staying connected to them on FB meant I had access to see all the things they were doing, places they were going, and lives they were living that no longer involved me. This is not a condemnation, because it was a mutual (albeit unspoken and passive) parting of ways. It probably would have benefited from calling it out and owning our parts, but at the same time… eh.
Anyway. All of that to say, it simply reinforced the feelings of “apart” and lonely to which I have always fallen prey, especially in conjunction with my ongoing experiencing of anxiety and depression that crops up in wintertime; FB did a banner job of exacerbating all of that and extending the life of the struggle well beyond the winter months. Instead of being happy for people that they’re out there living life – at least, the little bits they were portraying on FB – I found myself falling into feeling left out. So by deleting those reminders and effectively removing myself from the mindset of being “left out” where I’m sitting at home looking at everyone else living life, I’ve made it so that I’M living life, too. In person, out loud, and I’m no longer being presented with reminders of what I’m not doing and who I’m not seeing. Who needs those reminders, anyway? People with whom I am not actively engaged in relationship of some kind are really none of my business… just as I am none of theirs.
Which leads me to the flip-side of it all, where people had access to me, but hadn’t earned (or no longer had) the right to be there. One major event: someone I thought of as a friend decided to delete me from all social media without saying anything to me about it, and then, in a private group in which we were both members, made multiple comments about how she’d removed two toxic, triggering people from her life without saying anything to them and how it just had to be done for her own sanity (YO I’M SITTING RIGHT HERE). While it sucks to realize and own that sometimes you’re a trigger for other people, it sucks worse when you bear witness to them calling it out, knowing full well that some folks in the group know it’s you, and no one is saying anything. Mind you, I didn’t say anything either – I just left the group, because it wasn’t worth it to me to pursue; I’m happy to let everyone have their own experience and give whatever space is deemed necessary.
And then there were some overt, extensive, and extended attempts at manipulation from a few people with whom I no longer engage, one person I hadn’t seen or talked to in over 6 years sending me some unexpected, nasty, off-base words (someone I wasn’t even friends with on there, mind you), and a whole lot of other messy stuff… done. No thanks. People sometimes use the internet – and especially FB – in a lot of terrible ways, and I was tired of being on the receiving end of that, even just a little.
Not to mention the manipulation of Facebook itself. Controlling who and what you see, how much of it you got to interact with, the push for advertising to infiltrate your timeline, and all the ways they were trying to make themselves an invaluable and irreplaceable means of staying connected – or at least convincing you that you NEEDED the site in order to stay in touch, social, and relevant…
NOPE. Nope nope nope, and nope.
At the end of it all, there were maybe two things I knew I’d miss. Pictures of far away family or friends and their kids, and the occasional big life updates from folks I care a great deal about who only seem to share that stuff on FB. Also, occasionally hearing about cool events going on around town. So, three things I’d miss. But those three things are manageable and surmountable. I can poke around online to see what’s going on in town. I can reach out to friends & family and get them to send pictures via text or email, or if they’re local, I can actually, you know, make plans to see them in person. Picking up the phone, firing off a quick text or email, hanging out in person… it all works for me just fine.
I knew there were people who enjoyed the things I’d share and write about on FB, but all of that – or some of it, anyway – gets posted here, too, for anyone willing to follow a separate link. Otherwise, I way prefer to update my people on my life in real time and in person, because that’s how you engage and build connection. By having a conversation. And while I’m overloaded with grad school homework, I can just reach out to let people know I’m thinking of them.
When was the last time you did that in some way other than on FB? When was the last time you sent an email, or hell… wrote a letter, or sent a card or postcard, or picked up the phone to call someone and hear their voice?
By deleting FB, I’m no longer on information/opinion/social media overload. I can hop on Twitter for the occasional 140 characters from smart people I want to learn from, with links to articles I might not otherwise see. I can peruse the Instagram accounts of my friends for a quick peek into their daily lives. I can write here, and if folks want to read it – and even respond to it – they can.
I guess it all comes down to priorities and boundaries: prioritizing relationships with those who are important to me (and, honestly, the people who show that I’m important to them, too, because the effort shouldn’t all be mine), and erecting some real and serious boundaries with the rest.
I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who love having contact with/access to hundreds of people, but for me, it was just too much. By deleting Facebook and severing unnecessary ties (as well as eliminating the weird expectations that come with them), I’ve effectively right-sized my social circles and interactions, and have begun making the transition back to real life interactions and in-person connections. It’s really been nothing but a huge relief.
Kicking it old school, y’all.
Update (later that day):
After writing all of this out, the conclusion I finally reached is that ultimately, Facebook was doing nothing to encourage or enable me to be my best self. Instead, it was enabling me to get lazy with my efforts at friendship and family connection; it was enabling me to let the FOMO get out of control; it was enabling me to beat myself up with all the presumed lost opportunity; it was enabling me to maintain one-sided engagement and espouse my beliefs and thoughts mostly unchallenged. So, it really had little or nothing to do with everyone else; it was all just me, not being the woman and the human I want to be.
With all the other major steps I’ve taken toward cutting out the unhealthy influences in my life, this was just one more step in the right direction.
After my trip back to Portland last year, I realized just how important good food is to me, and just how much I desperately miss living out there because of it (among other things, but I’ll save that for another time). As a result, one of my (many) resolutions for 2016 was to dive back into my current hometown and give it a chance, food-wise.
Twenty years ago, Nashville didn’t HAVE a food scene (edited to clarify: no food scene of which I was aware at the time!), but now that it’s enjoying an extended reputation as a hot destination to visit (and to move, as evidenced by all the overpriced apartment and condo buildings going up everywhere, ahem), we have a more than respectable burgeoning food scene, with new restaurants cropping up all the time and all over the place. Even more exciting is that they’re not all trying to duplicate the hot chicken/shrimp and grits/fried everything fare that has permeated the city’s menus for so long.
I don’t know many people who get as excited about food as I do, nor do I know many here in town who have any interest in trying out all the restaurants I want to try. Between that and my status as a single lady without a whole lot of free time flexibility, I decided I’d take it upon myself to just start eating my way through Nashville’s restaurants, flying solo (unless someone opts to join me along the way).
Enter the Table for One series. My goal is to average 2-3 restaurants a month, if at all possible. The photos may not always do the food justice, but I’m hoping my enthusiasm will!
Last week was Restaurant Week, courtesy of Nashville Originals, a local organization designed to highlight and promote locally-owned/run restaurants here in town. They do this twice a year, I believe, and participating restaurants put together a special menu for the occasion, allowing diners to try out a selection of dishes at a reduced price. I love this idea, because it can get people out of their dining comfort zone, and also opens the door for people to go places they may not otherwise because of cost.
I’d already decided to check out Americano, primarily because I know someone who works there; he also happens to be a mutual friend of one of my new co-workers who’d been raving about the food. Small world + great food = perfect reason to go in, I figured. It helped that they were participating in Restaurant Week, and I figured I would just load up on tapas – trying everything I wanted to try, which would have been a pretty valiant effort on my part (have you seen the menu??).
From what I hear, the line is often out the door and reservations are recommended, if not necessary, to get in there. It worked out for me that we’d had snow that day, so I think a lot of people just stayed home; the restaurant was comfortably full, but with plenty of room for me and my plans to eat. A lot. I had every intention of ordering off the menu and being able to recount and recommend whatever I’d tried and liked, but as it turned out, it pays to know people, and I wound up being served off-menu for the evening. And since I had three glasses of wine to go with it, my memory of what all I ate is a bit… fuzzy.
I do know that I started off with Crispy Brussel Sprouts, and it was close to the menu selection (which comes HIGHLY recommended, btw) but not exactly the same, because while there was pork belly in there, there was also kimchi. And it was glorious.
Along with that were steamed bao buns with seared duck. Also fantastic.
And then there were these… well, I hesitate to call them chicken nuggets, but lacking the proper verbiage, I’ll just say it’s that best part of the chicken you find, that one little piece under each leg, I believe, and these had a sweet sesame sauce.
Next up, completely switching flavor gears: a mini-paella. No saffron, but there WAS oxtail that had been braised for a long, lovely time.
And, finally, a beautiful French-style dessert of poached pears and cake, with crème anglaise.
Also, Prosecco and St. Germain, because I am nothing if not predictable.
I have to say, it was a fine way to dive into this endeavor, and I’m really looking forward to going back. Even if I’m never permitted to order from the menu, I feel pretty certain I would always leave well-fed and sated. ❤
Friday night family time girl time fun time; early morning auditions and leisurely afternoon lunches; new running kicks and muscle rollers; afternoon naps on a different couch in a warmer house; celebrating a dear one’s 40th at one of my favorite (old) haunts; realizing it’s been more than a year since setting foot in that joint; systematically replacing old associations and memories with new ones; early morning store and coffee runs (er, not those kinds of runs, FYI) and getting right back in pajamas afterward; when your favorite team is beat out by your second favorite team so it’s all gonna be okay (go Panthers!); surviving the chaos surrounded by kindred spirits; boot camp enthusiasm, even with the shin splint onset; knowing well enough to take care and take it easy; taking advantage of restaurant week, and being rewarded handsomely for the slush-braving efforts; the return of regularly-scheduled awkward; and the unexpected work reprieve (which translates into: study break) resulting from the equally unexpected 6-8 inches of snow currently occupying my outside space. Working from home means jammies, cookies, and now… naps. Heart: FULL.
Saturday massage, followed by football, followed by a long-awaited Yule gathering of friends (it was a really pretty wonderful and much-needed day and night); Sundays spent in jammies doing the nest/cook/clean thing that always feels so good; the Seahawks doing THEIR thing (even though, really, it was the Vikings just not doing their thing, but still) and keeping it alive for one more week; waking up to news of a loss and taking the time to reminisce and sit with the sadness; Tuesday night boot camp goodness; already feeling the difference, paying attention to small, good changes; continuing to build those habits; refusing to answer the door when negativity comes knocking; spring semester startup and the giddy excitement over psychopathology; friends who think of you and reach out to say so – even (and especially) over an Onion article about horrible online dating (sigh); resisting urges, questioning motives, and once again learning to just sit with things; proving myself to be invaluable; and the arrival of another weekend promising to be another few days of greatness.
I’ve had a few light bulb moments lately that seem to be pointing in a pretty positive direction, all things considered. It’s kind of funny to be 43 and still have these realizations, and to still be so impacted by them, but I suppose that’s just what life looks like when you’re paying attention. Always learning and growing, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Anyway. The first came as a result of my new job and managing people for the first time. There was a part of me that felt like I needed to be a certain way, look, talk and act a certain way, and basically be someone I’m not, in order to be a supervisor. But in the last few weeks, after taking the bigger picture of my entire life experience into account, I realized I’ve had bosses of all shapes and sizes, and none of them ever felt the need to pretend to be someone they weren’t, just for the sake of managing someone else; at least, I never got that impression. Instead, they could absolutely be themselves, and what made them good managers was a willingness to engage, listen, ask questions, and actually lead. I’ve had my share of really BAD managers, too, but I won’t get into that. The bottom line was the realization, for me, that I can continue to be my quirky self and still be an effective manager; I don’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything else.
Another thing was having gone on two good dates with someone I met through an online dating site, with tentative plans to get together again after the holidays, only to have him fade and disappear, with no explanation. Like, I sent him a message to which he never responded, and I haven’t heard from him since. Ghosting, I think they call that.
It was a little surprising and a little confusing, but I pretty much immediately came to the conclusion that whatever caused it – he met someone else, he got busy, he lost interest, etc. – meant that ultimately he was doing me a favor by dropping off. It may go without saying, but I’m not a fan of the ghosting method unless the other person is dangerous or toxic in some way and it’s just better to cease all contact for sanity’s sake; that, I 100% endorse. Otherwise, it seems the least you can do, whether in friendships or dating or whatever, to say SOMETHING before making your exit.
But in this case, the disappearing act wound up offering insight into some things – like character. And also, the fact that I didn’t just assume I must have done or said something wrong. It’s possible I did or said something that struck him the wrong way – I (obviously) have no way of knowing. But the realization that I’m not in the mindset to immediately assume there’s something wrong with ME like I would have in years past… that’s pretty nice. I’m more than happy to just move on and wish him well.
So with the disappearance of the one person of any interest or promise from that particular site, I decided to shut down OkCupid. I was getting too many messages from guys I had no interest in. Even if the original message wasn’t offensive, if I opted not to respond then I’d often get a second message going off on me for not responding to the first one. And that’s one of the big issues I have with online dating sites – the sense of entitlement, but also the sense of responsibility. I feel bad every single time there’s a message I don’t respond to, but it would be a full time job to respond to every one I get, even accounting for removing the gross/ugly ones no one in her right mind would respond to. I’m not sure there’s a good answer to that.
When I deleted my Facebook profile, it took Tinder with it. I’m okay with that. Although that app has actually done me some pretty huge solids over the last year and a half, oddly enough, so I would have kept it, had the connection between it and FB not been necessary.
I’ve had a few people suggest I reopen a FB account just for the sake of having access to Tinder. I’ve also had people suggest I reopen a FB account and add back all the “good” people in my life so I can stay in touch. I have a whole lot of thoughts about Facebook, though, and why there’s no way in hell I have any intention of getting back on there again, even as the rest of the world seems geared toward requiring it in some way. That’ll be a different post.
So school starts back this week, and I think the dating thing is just going to take a backseat for a while. I’m totally good with that, too. Especially since I’ve been working towards living life in person rather than online, and am hoping to meet people that way instead. Which leads me to…
The final realization I recently had was that I no longer want to sit around and wait for someone to come along who will want to do things with me, like going out to nice/new restaurants, exploring, the symphony, opera, events, etc. Most of my friends are happily coupled up and spend most of their time with their partners, which I understand. I am not a priority to most people, and while that may sting sometimes – if I let it – what that means is it’s entirely up to me to get out and do all the things I want to do, whether I’ve got company or not. Actually living life, instead of waiting for it to happen.
So that’s what I’m gonna do.
The first day of the new year absolutely well-spent, between sleeping in and cleaning up; the joys of takin’ it old-school; canceled plans making way for further productivity; farewell-for-now dinners and eating ALL THE SUSHI; homemade ice cream sundaes, warm brownies, laughter, and camel masks; shopping with the ladies; late afternoon lunches over which to impart some wisdom; braving the unknown and getting out of my own way; parking pass commitments; boot camp butt kicking by one of the very best and in some very good company; self-selecting ghosters who make it easy to move on without a whole lot of WTF residual; no longer allowing for unwelcome entitlements; those little sparks of insight blasting room for bigger wisdom; losing the feelings of incomplete impostor; daily reminders of how far we’ve come; retail therapy to remedy the holes in socks condition; the joy of an early bedtime; magic hands and magic hearts; Saturday afternoon playoffs fun; a belated Yule celebration with good-hearted friends and much-needed hugs; and the quiet of a Sunday morning giving way to an afternoon of nesting, cooking, gearing up for next semester, and watching the Seahawks win. Of course.
In writing the piece about my intention for the new year being one of reclamation, I found myself thinking more about what it is I truly value. What it is that lights me up, you know?
Travel and exploration, yes. Going somewhere new as a stranger and doing my best to fit in and do as the locals do is always fun for me. Going somewhere to rest and recharge is huge; I haven’t really found that place around here yet, but I’m working on it. Going somewhere familiar and soaking up the comfort of “home” is also one of my favorite things. Road trips, weekend trips, even just trying new places and things here in town. I’d like to challenge myself to do that once a week, if possible – at least for the local stuff, and at least one road trip and one bigger trip each semester I’m in school.
Learning and education, absolutely. I’ve got a stack of books, ever-growing, that I fully intend to read this year. The Undercover Economist, for one. Between the World and Me, for another. The new Jenny Lawson, the old Howard Zinn, and so many more. Plus, school starts up in a few weeks, so I’ll be reading up on the DSM-5 as well as another social work-focused text. So much information to seek out and absorb; it’s daunting, but appealing just the same.
Food, food, food, and more food. But eating WELL, and healthfully. I’m starting to get excited about the suggestion posed some time back by Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I want to find recipes for vegetables/plants that will have me looking forward to dinner, something that’ll tide me over but still be healthy and varied and exquisite. I think it’s possible. For instance, when I was out in Portland recently, I had a dish with beets and cilantro that was just outstanding and I’d like to recreate that. The thought of eating seasonally and locally again also sounds good to me, although the produce in TN isn’t nearly as abundant or varied as it was back in OR/CA… anyway. Something to dig into.
There’s more, of course. But what it all comes down to, what I realized the other day and have been sitting with long enough for it to believe it to be valued: I want to live a life that takes my breath away. I want to see things, do things, go places, eat food, drink wines, tell stories, try the new, and read, watch, and experience breathtaking things. I realize, of course, this isn’t a sustainable thing, nor would it happen all the time, or even a lot. But the more I can do to live a breathtaking life, I believe the better off I’ll be, and the better I’ll feel at the end of it all.
So here’s hoping the end is a long ways off, and here’s to many more breathtaking moments, until then.
Christmas (and weathering the winter blues) with loved ones; Saturday morning massage as regular practice; coffee dates with out-of-towners; impromptu beers with a LinkedIn lurker; wiping the last part of a particular slate clean; second dates for dinner with ice cream on top; finally getting productive instead of just talking about it; lavender, peppermint, and rosemary (oh my!); bringing the sound of the ocean inside; acknowledging the anger and making space for all of it; finally moving through and past a bit of the annual darkness; friends who extend – themselves, and invitations; joyous co-workers; holding hands across the miles; ringing in 2016 in the company of really good humans; finding ways to always tell the truth; and choosing to spend the first day of the new year clearing away the literal, figurative, and emotional wreckage.
Every moment is another chance to get things right.
It’s also a chance to post a picture of a goat.