Saturday, December 19, 2015

Facebook: The Good, The Bad and The Salvation

Facebook can be a cesspool. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are wearing rose colored glasses with blinders on the sides. There are people you will find on Facebook who only put forth their most attractive moments, and will let you see just what they think will make you like them. More likes means better LIKED, right?

Whatever helps them sleep at night.

But if Facebook can be so phony and soul-less, why does someone like me invest so much time connecting there?

Let's start with parenthood. There are lots of parents who manage to maintain a healthy social life with a good amount of personal interaction with peers. Fellow parents connecting on the soccer field, attendees at monthly PTA meetings, coaches and dance moms can all be a social lifeline. Science has taught us, peer interaction is good for our mental and physical health, so these social outlets serve to keep lots of parents healthy and sane.

Not every parent has these opportunities. When both parents are working, or in single parent families, just trying to keep up with everyday responsibilities like laundry and homework can suck the energy out of any good mom or dad, making any kind of personal interaction an effort we just can't manage. We spread ourselves thin just to help our kids keep their grades up, devote a decent amount of time to an extracurricular activity, and pull off dinner a few nights a week that doesn't come from a drive thru. We have no time for personal relationships or friendly outings, and even if we can set aside an hour or two, we're too damned tired.

So if parenting the most typical of kids can run us too ragged to carve out an hour for coffee with a friend, I'd like you to imagine how difficult it is for some parents of special needs children. I've written before about the hardship of maintaining friendships as the mother of a child with severe autism. You can peruse the old blog posts to find those thoughts because I'm still navigating this "blog" thing and haven't figured out how to link that stuff yet. But rest assured, leaving the house for ANY social event is always a painstaking project, and most days and nights you will find me alone at the kitchen table, watching Criminal Minds, or playing Candy Crush, just killing time until I have to go pick up my daughter from whatever friend's house she escaped to, or drop her off at dance. Like so many other parents.

Until suddenly we realize, "Holy shit, I'm so fucking lonely".

This parenting gig was lonely enough when there was still a husband in the house. The fact that the marriage was dead long before either one of us would bury it surely contributed to the loneliness factor. But now that it's just me, there's a lot of silence around me. It's better than hateful silence, but it's still hard to endure. So how do I keep from banging my head against the wall, just to remind myself I'm still alive?

Oh, that's right...Facebook.

I have made some really great friends, from all over the world, thanks to the magic of Zuckerberg. Because I have set up a public Facebook blog page, I have found a way to interact with LOTS of people who can relate to the story I tell. I have (virtually and in a few cases, personally) met some amazing people who seem to think I am a writer, of sorts. I guess. I don't write the beautiful words so many of these friends are so skilled at expressing, but I guess if you like reading the story of some real life ups and downs, and you don't mind how they are expressed in exactly the same way they would be if we were sitting at a table, sharing a beer, then yeah, I'm a writer. I think of it more as being a storyteller, but if I'm writing it down, I'll suck it up and say I'm a writer.

Where do I write most of these stories? Oh, yeah...again, it's Facebook.

Once in a blue moon, I'll pop over here and tell some kind of tale to the blogosphere. But I don't submit my words to other publishing sites, because to do so would run the risk of having to give someone else power over my words. No, Scary Mommy...I don't want to put my thoughts in the form of a list. No, Huffington Post, I don't want to give you the right to change my words, or the title of my story. Whatever they might pay, it's not worth giving up my right to speak my own way. And I don't give a flying rat's ass how grammatically incorrect my thoughts might be laid out. I'm not fucking stupid. I KNOW how the words SHOULD be written in proper grammar, but most of the free world does NOT speak that way. So forgive me if I prefer to just tell it like it is, and not have to reconstruct my thoughts to follow some college English text book I never got to read. Believe it or not, I'm a pretty smart cookie, and I don't need to use fancy words and literary formulas to get my point across.

And before somebody else says it, I am NOT so full of myself that I think any of these publishing sites would actually pay for my words. My story is pretty simple, and not at all controversial, so I doubt any giant crowd would be interested enough to warrant a prominent platform such as a Scary Mommy or a Huffington Post. But the small crowd I have managed to gather, they are fierce. And they are loyal. And they are smart enough to decide for themselves that what I write about is real. And they can relate. That matters. It's why we connect.

So I tell my story on Facebook. Some people may think I lack ambition. Some people may think I lack any actual talent in the art of expressing the written word. That's fine. The truth is, my words are my words. And they tell my story. It's a true story. And those people on Facebook who have connected with me, (and I, so very much with THEM), they bring me validation, purpose, and the very real connection of friendship. Without them, I would truly be lost.

Some folks believe that Facebook is a dying outlet of social media. To me, it is very much alive, and bringing me the only interaction I have, some days. I hope it will remain the outlet that provides the greatest opportunity for me to find my peers. I hope these friends I have made across the universe will remain my friends for a lifetime. They have saved me in so many ways, and I hope they find something of value in our friendships as well. As for the phonies and the sharks in the cesspool, I'll continue to do my best to scroll on by and choose NOT to allow them to occupy my head. That's another saving grace of Facebook...I get to choose who surrounds me, and I can delete the rest. Now if only we could do that in real life...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Please Choose To NOT Be A Joy Suck

Some folks will tell you, there are two kinds of people: those who see the glass as half full, and those who see the glass as half empty. And then, inevitably there will be the smartasses who claim there are also people who see room in the glass for more vodka.

*flails arms, wildly

The truth is, no matter which kind of person you may have considered yourself to be at any time in your life, every minute of every day is a chance to be whoever you'd RATHER be. 

Since finding my voice on social media, I have made a ton of friends. I am closer with some of these online "strangers" than I am with friends I have known all my life. Some of these folks are friends I have reached out to, based on how much I might have related to a story they told, or the laughs they had shared. Some friends reached out to me because they felt connected to my own story. The one characteristic that draws me closer to one friend than another is the inclination to be a positive life force. It is my hope that I can be that light to others. 

Some of my friends I have discovered, do NOT see the glass as half full. They don't see room for vodka. Not only do they see the glass as half empty, but whatever is in the glass, they see as poison. 

Some of these friends are actually family members, or people who have been in my life for AGES. Some of these folks will wake up and before their eyes are even opened, they already see the problems that lie ahead. No matter how many good sides of a situation you point out to these naysayers, they can always counter with the equal or more urgent cry of doom. It is a RARE occasion these friends will offer a positive or happy story, and even if once in a good, blue moon they post a status update that doesn't make me want to jab my eyes out with a spoon, it will quickly be followed with a detailed account of all the ways the day managed to turn against this poor soul. These members of my social media circle are the ones who I have come to know as:


Right now, there are a few folks who are asking themselves, "Shit, is it me?" If you are wondering this, chances are, you may, at one time or another have been on the "JOY SUCK" list. Or maybe you are just a totally self conscious ball of nerves with low self esteem, but I have always found you to be a delight:) I am certain there have been times when I have been the JOY SUCK. But my friends, 

I have found a better way.

Life has dealt me a few rough cards. Some of those cards were drawn by my own choices. Some of them, bad choices. Some, REALLY bad choices. Some of my bad choices were made with the best intentions, making the road to hell seem sparkly and beautiful, but it was the road to hell, nonetheless. Now, I could have chosen to sit down on the road and cry. I could have chosen to point a finger at everyone who had a hand in leading me down that road. I could also have chosen to keep paving that road until I was too close to the rusty gates of hell to ever claw my way back out. I couldn't rip the road up, like it had never been there in the first place. Instead, I chose to use those painful bricks as the foundation for the road back to happiness. Instead of wallowing in sadness, on a road I probably never should have been on, I vowed to pave myself a new road by following a few simple guidelines. 

*I will never again wonder why people have mistreated me. I will feel sorry for them, for having lost the love and devotion of a good person. There is nothing I could ever have done to change what another person did or felt, but I can sure as hell choose NOT to allow it to define me.  

*I will not feel badly about having failed to complete everything on my "to do" list. I will forgive myself for whatever gets put off until tomorrow, and be satisfied with my best effort today. 

*I will not allow the fear of a particularly challenging day to defeat me before the day even begins. As long as I reasonably plan ahead, I will do my best to complete whatever I set out to accomplish, and be thankful for whatever I survive. 

*I will take responsibility for my own actions and for what I have allowed to happen. Even when the choices of someone else are the cause of whatever may have hurt me or caused me hardship, I will realize I had the power to walk away from a bad situation, (even the ones I preferred not to see), and I will make better choices to keep myself safe from the questionable intent of others. 

*I will NOT wallow in sorrow. Allowing sadness to consume me has been exhausting. While there are days I don't have the energy or the inclination to put on my "happy face", I have realized it is SO MUCH MORE energy consuming to give in to sadness. In much the same way as expending energy while exercising will give me MORE energy, forcing myself into a happy frame of mind will actually ignite a happy frame of mind. 

*I will always realize there are options. I can choose one action or another, and THEN I can choose one REaction or another. What I choose to say or do or be can dictate the temperament of a day. I will keep in mind if I approach a situation with an open, positive outlook, the chances of a positive outcome are much higher than if I am approaching with the JOY SUCKING negativity of a Debbie Downer. 

*Before I post any of my thoughts on social media, I will carefully consider whether or not those thoughts have the potential to uplift, or to be a drag to someone who might read them. Life is hard. Every day WE ALL encounter hardships. WHY would I want to ADD to someone's struggles? If I find a way to overcome whatever stressors I might face in the course of a day, why on earth would I not prefer to share THAT?!!! 

Now, with all these points being made, I feel I should point out, I don't mean to suggest we should NEVER complain, or whine or bitch. WE ALL do those things. We all NEED to do those things. It's part of our ventilation system. We blow off some steam so we don't spontaneously combust. But it's not healthy to STAY in that pit of sadness. We have to be able to draw the line. If you're unsure as to whether or not you are the JOY SUCK in your own circle, look back at your last ten posts. If you read them all through and come away feeling uplifted, it's not you. But if after revisiting the last ten thoughts you chose to share with your friends and loved ones, you feel feel terrible for the person in those posts, it's you. You are the JOY SUCK. And I have news for you: you are sucking the joy from yourself, too. 

There is a great big energy swirling around us. It's electric. There are positives and negatives. If all you ever put out is negative energy, that is all that will ever find its way back to you. It may feel like the world is dumping all its finest CRAP on you, but it may very well be because the CRAP is all you are inviting. STOP IT. 

All this "choosing happiness" is what works for me. I surely don't think anyone needs to be "more like me". Being me works for me. You should be you. But if you are a JOY SUCK, you may find that people initially feel bad for you. You may find people offering sympathy, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on. But eventually, all the JOY you have SUCKED will become a burden that is too heavy. You may feel like you are a victim of bad luck and the wrath of the universe. You may feel like people have abandoned you when they can no longer carry that burden and the sympathy runs out. But you  have to keep in mind, people want to be helpful and caring, but people don't want to feel oppressed by additional hardships. I promise you, they all have their own.

But fear not, my positivity challenged compadres!!! It's never too late to invite joy back into your being! 

Pay closer attention to the aspects of a specific happening to which you assign your focus. This week, I have $6 to carry me until Thursday. I am not focusing on all the things I CAN'T do because I'm short on funds. I'm grateful to have that money so I can make sure I have enough gas to get me to work. I just keep telling myself, it's only 3 more days. I can do this. I COULD choose to dwell on the hardship, but who does that serve? It creates a bad atmosphere for my kids, my coworkers, my family. I don't want to be that person. So I make the CHOICE to stay positive:) And maybe my positivity has me on some list of "obnoxious positivity pushers", but I'll take it. I much prefer to be the joy BRINGER.