Tuesday, February 10, 2015

21: On Eyelashes

On Eyelashes

Today, a friend at work chimed in to a lively, intelligent conversation about last night's episode of The Bachelor. He mentioned that one of the ladies who got sent home had insane eye lashes; I believe he called them caterpillars. He's right. We laughed for a sec, made a few more wise insights about helicopters and roses and back tattoos, and then got back to work.

The discussion of eyelashes, however brief, reminded me of something. I couldn't remember what, until I got home. And it's this: I've written about eyelashes before. I know it was a piece that I liked, and I know it was a piece about having them and then losing them. I remember it felt a little melodramatic to me, but at the same time very real.

Home in my chair, Fergus snuggled up too close against my left arm (so much so that I have to keep pressing delete to retype words that require me to use my left hand--which are surprisingly many), I sat down to answer the day's emails, finish a letter I've been working on, read the LostAngeles Blog I so adore . . . but I found myself distracted by eyelashes.

So I peeked into my electronic file cabinet, and there, deep within the heart of my Mac, was an essay I had originally called "Surprise in the Shadows." I'm fairly certain I posted it on my Caring Bridge page way back when, because someone told me recently they think of me every day when they put on their mascara. And now I think of them thinking of me. And now I'll think of Ashley from the Bachelor. . . . and so on.

For old time's sake, I'm going to post it here. It felt strange to re-read it. Like I was reading someone else's journal, or, rather, watching an old home movie. The part that got me the most was remembering the fatigue--that feeling of not wanting to move an inch. No, scratch that. The sentence that got me the most was when I mentioned the feeling of my girls' little fingers on my bare head. That, I remember perfectly. Literally, perfect-ly.

Here it is. So I'm kinda cheating by posting something I already wrote, right? Maybe you'll forgive me since the above poetic masterpiece paragraphs are original and fresh. I'm glad I kept track of a few thoughts from a grody time, because they keep me grounded, appreciative, super-duper happy to be here.

Surprise in the Shadows (written in fall 2009)

The official word came on May 27. Today is October 8, and at times, I am still surprised. It makes sense, I suppose. Do you ever really expect to hear you have cancer? Even now, months later, without all of the tests, without my hair, and without my breasts, I still find myself thinking, “I can’t believe this is happening. This isn’t me.” The moment passes, as reflective moments tend to do, and I get back to whatever it is I have to do at the real-life, pressing-needs moment. Mostly, that means taking care of my two girls. These days, it includes taking care of me.
Reflective moments are a luxury, after all. Especially for moms. But diving into these luxurious moments head-first helps me to slow down time and decipher what all of “this” could possibly mean. Like many folks living with cancer, too afraid to yet call ourselves “survivors,” finding the larger purpose, the life lessons, becomes somewhat of a past-time. We discover much about our selves. Besides, that's what just about everyone seems to want me to do: Slow down. Breathe. Relax. Heal. Thinking (and then more thinking) comes organically.
This much I know: My family has embarked on quite a little adventure these past few months. That much is for sure. To say that the journey we've been on is a lesson in self-discovery is to say we've learned only one small bit of what this journey can teach us. Because there is oh-so-much to learn about life and love and everything that fills each day, only a fraction of which have we been blessed enough to know so far. I certainly don't know everything I'm guessing I'm supposed to know. I'm left, between rounds of chemo when I actually feel like thinking again, with that nagging feeling like I'm supposed to be learning a larger lesson here. 
And for me, left alone with my thoughts more than I probably ever have, that objective--self-discovery--is certainly the most powerful. I'm guessing its effects will be the most lasting. The urge follows me around like a shadow so that even when I laugh, I can hear it whispering, reminding me that I have much to learn about myself before I ever again take anything for granted. I sense it lurking when I am in the open air, breathing deeply on a sunny rock or praying quietly beneath a particularly beautiful sunset. 
There are times when its presence is much more obvious, its lessons more acute. My third grader is learning about geography. “What is a symbol?” I quizzed her the other day, while I lounged in my recliner, still woozy from last week’s chemo. “Something small that stands for something greater,” she paraphrased, and I nodded, giving her credit for virtually nailing the definition. I liked the way she said it. Confident. Natural. And I liked the definition, too. It made me want to do something with all of this thinking, with the quest to learn something larger, so I decided to write about a few symbols of my own. Tiny moments of self-discovery that will, I have no doubt, lead to more and more as the weeks, months, and years of survivorship that I pray for come into focus. 
First, I no longer wear mascara. True, this may be in part because I am running a little thin on the eyelashes these days. But lately, even when I'm officially dressed up (i.e., wearing my wig) and have something other than my Levi's on, I can't bring myself to wear any, no matter how much of a wardrobe staple it was for me mere months ago. The truth is, I'm afraid. I've become superstitious to a fault, and I realized something this spring: the more mascara I wore, the more I cried it off. I cried it off because I was given something to cry about, seemingly over and over. The diagnosis of my daughter's diabetes in February was only the first of it, and the months following seemed to bring bits of bad news after bits of bad news. When the heavy hitters started coming in--the doctors' visits, the tests, the biopsy results, The News of the C-Word . . . well, I just didn't know I had that amount of tears in me. Nor the need for that amount of tissues.
And it was the tissues that did me in. Or, rather, that forced me to seal up my mascara tube for good. Loving friends looking kindly at me, not knowing what to say; well-meaning, concerned doctors speaking softly to me; my dear family being strong for me to hide their hurting  . . . all the while, there I was, pathetically covered in smeared mascara, looking even worse than I felt. The mounds and mounds of black-covered tissues eventually got to be too much. Mounds in my hands. Mounds on the bed. Mounds in the trash can. Reminders everywhere.
So one day, as I went to put on my make up, it hit me. If I didn't put on mascara, I wouldn't have to wipe it off later when I would be, invariably, crying. There wouldn't be the mounds of tissue, the proof of sadness. I'd at least look stronger. Without it, there would be no evidence to the contrary. As days came and went, I found myself picking up the pink and green tube and then dropping it down as though it burned me. 
In the hospital after my mastectomies, I didn't wear it for obvious reasons. Those few who saw me there know I didn't even wash my hair for days (much to the dismay of my insistent nurse who made several comments of disgust regarding the matter). But then, out of the hospital, home greeting visitors, and eventually out and about, I neglected my lashes each day. Until one morning I realized something else entirely had happened--a twist of my original intent. I went to apply my mascara and physically could not. My heart started beating a bit too hard, and at that moment I knew, I just knew, that if I put that mascara on, I'd cry it off later. Something bad would happen. Some news would come or some test result would appear and there I'd be, a black smeared, shiny-faced mess again. Without it on, maybe nothing would happen. Maybe things would go well. Just for that day.
Now, I have no eyelashes. Well, I have one or two pathetic stragglers poking around. Who knows when I'll wear it again. But I know I will one day.
A second discovery has come with some shame. It involves my sweet friends and family, folks who are sending me love in the form of letters, notes, gifts, and packages. These arrive at my doorstep or in my mailbox daily, and I am in awe of the support and continued (for months now) outreach from those who just want to show me and my family how much they are thinking of us. But I've discovered my weakness: the emotions that come with opening them.
There lies, on the floor beside me right now, a different mound. Not of tissues, but of love. Packages, letters, cards, and loving notes from loving people await, but I have avoided opening them for weeks. Is that rude? Hell, yes. And if any of the packages contains brownies or other perishables, then it's also considerably unsafe. The list of thank-you-notes-owed is growing at an astounding rate, even if no one really expects one. But I’m a coward when it comes to facing the insane rush of emotions that these gifts will bring out in me. I simply can't do it to myself every day. 
So instead, I wait for the mound to get to the point where it endangers my small dog, make myself a cup of coffee in the quiet hours of the morning, and go through each note, card, thought, written prayer, kind deed, and loving moment shared with me. Doing that helps me. It helps me to have an outpouring of love and laughter and occasional tears, while I open each item one by one. In that way, I can wrap myself up in the blanket of prayers and love that is inevitably left lying in my lap. And I love that. 
Each day brings another symbol of self-discovery. Among them, the following precious gems: that chemo creates in me the ability to burp more impressively than any drunken sailor. That the sound of ice being crunched will make me either want to vomit or want to punch someone in the face. That I rather miss the sight of my C-cup breasts shoved in a camisole under a sweater, looking like a curvy girl. That I don't know WHAT I would do without reality t.v. That the sound of my daughters' giggles can make me feel better than any medicine possibly could. But that the sound of the kitchen cabinets being slammed can echo like a sledgehammer in my brain. That I can (and will) cry at the drop of a hat and in the most public of places. That losing my hair was by far the hardest part of this journey, for both me and the children. But that being bald oddly liberates me, and nothing beats the feeling of their little fingers rubbing my scalp. And that I will never take for granted again the fact that I can get up and go for a walk or to the gym or have coffee with a friend or lunch with my girls or see my daughter on the field hockey field or my other one singing her heart out on stage.
But perhaps the most vital lesson in self-discovery is also the one that has been the most surprising. That there, in my shadow, following me around where ever I go, is more strength than I ever knew I had. I've never really considered myself a strong person. In fact, if you had asked me last year to divulge the truths of me, I would've called myself "disorganized," "lazy," and "flat-out exhausted," but never "strong." Now, though, I've gotten myself through all of the muck of these days somehow, waking up each morning first to the beautiful ignorance that sleep brings, and then to the drowsy realization that yes, I still have cancer, and yes, today may suck.
On days when it hurts, emotionally or physically, to get out of bed, I do it because I can. I do it because I want to. I do it because thousands of other women who have been faced with this nightmare disease before me have done it and have survived and are living to help others (like me) through it. I do it for my baby girls, and I am bound and determined to do it for them every day until their 80th and 82nd birthdays (at least).  I do it for my family and friends and for all the love they are showing me, not just in the mound on the floor, but in the hugs, the kisses, the laughter, and everything else I can't possibly list here. 
I do it for my future, the one I deserve to live.
My diagnosis on May 27 surprised the hell out of me. But this strength has been the greatest surprise of all. Did it take The Big C to make me slow down, think, and prioritize? Maybe. Maybe not--maybe I would’ve done it anyway. But the reality is, it may have taken losing pieces of myself, including my eyelashes, to discover what makes me whole.
I'm on my way.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Catcher in the Parking Lot

There are a few lines in The Catcher in the Rye about holding hands. Holden, being Holden, over-insightfully analyzes the process of holding hands with a girl he loved. I don’t recall the exact words, but I know he discusses how, with this girl, he didn’t feel awkward; he probably said something to the effect of it being “Goddamn swell.” The girl didn’t need to move her fingers around; he didn’t worry about sweating. They could sit there in a movie and hold hands, in the same position, and it was just great.

I love this part. I love it for a few reasons, one of which being that it’s just so Holden. Another is the beautiful weight, the simple significance Holden puts on the act of holding another person’s hand. Typical Holden, he manages to mock convention while discovering beauty in it at the same time. Ever since I was 18, there’s probably not a time in my life when I’ve held hands that I haven’t thought of Holden, of his sweet observation about how much love can transpire between palms. 

Today, at 45 years old, I was reminded of Holden yet again.

After driving 45 minutes, I finally found the suburbanly hidden, supposedly “less busy” Social Security Administration office I’d been meaning to go to for months. Just there to take care of some long-ignored, mainly irrelevant old paperwork, I was hoping it’d be a quick visit, but as soon as I pulled up, saw all the cars and the security guard out front I knew I’d best get ready to settle in for a long winter’s visit.

Initially chastised by the guard for bringing my delicious Panera Iced Tea TM near the building, I had to run back to the car. Walking across the parking lot in my second attempt to enter the building, I was approached, rapidly, by a 20- or 30-something short-haired and serious young woman. She walked awkwardly, stumbling a bit, and was focused intently on getting to me as quick as she could. Behind her, a tall, beautiful, well-dressed young woman of about the same age followed, calling her name, urging her to wait, to slow down. Putting two and two together, I figured out that the woman approaching me had some sort of special needs, but I had no time to be nervous about how to respond to her or worry that I was ill-equipped or awkward or anything of the ridiculous sort, because suddenly, she was close. Then, she was beside me, reaching for me.

“Hi!” I said as she grabbed on to my arm, holding on tight. Her caregiver was right behind, clearly on her way over to intercept her approach. She called her name softly and urged her to get in the car so they could finally head home. The woman holding my arm I guessed to be nonverbal, as she was trying to tell me something important but couldn’t. I said hi to the caregiver, as the caregiver explained to both of us that it was time to go home and get something to eat, since [name of other young woman here] had been so patient and good for such a very long time. I said that sounded like a great idea, and that’s when it happened.

The young woman holding my arm slid down toward my hand. I was distracted, talking with her caregiver, when all of a sudden, I felt a tightness around my hand. It was then and only then that I looked into her eyes.

They were huge, almost black, and beautiful. They spoke loudly, urgently. In the bottom of each of them, settled deeply in each lower lid, were tiny pools of tears that seemed to ebb and tide as she rocked back and forth. Beneath her eyes, her brown skin was streaked, lighter brown tracks streaking downward, indicating the path where many of the tears had recently fallen. It was these streaks that held my gaze. They told a story, a story of being trapped, both in a small, somewhat smelly waiting room and in a tiny body.

She held my hand oddly--tightly around it, closed like Pac Man, like a puppet eating its dinner. Somehow her tiny hand engulfed mine. At the exact moment I became mesmerized by the streaked face and pooled eyes in front of me, I felt the hand around my hand tighten. I looked down, saw her dark skin surrounding my pale hand, and suddenly felt a small jolt, an unyielding electricity transpiring between us, a story unspoken. I couldn’t have let go if I tried. Instead, I looked upward at those giant eyes. She was telling me she was ready to go home. She was asking me to take her, I knew it. I knew everything she was saying, all at once and with all kinds of energy. Pulling her caregiver back into our moment, I told the young woman I know you want to go home, and you did a great job. That wasn’t fun, I know. You can go home now. 

Her sweet, quiet caregiver unlocked our hands, told me to have a great day, and guided the young woman toward their car. I stood there for a second in the middle of the parking lot, iced-tealess and alone, watching them walk away, and I could still feel the tingling from the jolt in my hand. Then it was gone.

Inside, waiting (and waiting) for my number to be called, I just sat there. Instead of answering emails on my phone or checking Facebook, I thought about Holden Caulfield. I’m still not sure what transpired out in that parking lot, but I am grateful to have been part of it, because I know it was something really cool, really special. Those are the kind of moments in which you have to listen, to open your eyes and ears and realize that something wonderful is taking place and that you’re a part of it. 

That jolt invigorated me, and that young woman made me feel special for approximately 25 seconds. It came out of nowhere, but, like Holden, I know it was swell. Like Holden, I won’t forget it. I don’t know what this connection was or what it meant, but I do know it was wordless and it was wonderful.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Dreamer of the Dreams

We met with a financial planner today. 

The simple fact that this was on my calendar was enough to send me into fits of grumpy pouting. “But I don’t waaaannnna go to the financial planner,” I imagined myself whining to my husband for several days once the meeting was set. “Finances? Ewww.” Instead of saying anything, though, I pretended to be a grown up about it. Yes, it’s good for us. Yes, we’re good about saving but really need to make a stronger plan to take care of our future. Yes, blah blah blabbity blah blah bluh.

Financial planning, the term itself, embodies all that just isn’t “my thing.” I want to save for the future, retire on time, be comfortable and not make my kids suffer in the future because we were dumbasses back in the day. But call it my probable (according to my therapist) ADD, or the fact that I’m an ENTP, or the fact that I’m an Aquarius on the Capricorn Cusp . . . whatever. The fact is, “financial planning” bores me. 

I worry about this. I don’t have a spending problem, or at least I don’t think I do. Mine are not outfits adorned with designer logos or gold thread; rather, they sport the Mossimo tag from the Bullseye Boutique (aka, Target) or the Gap signature “outlet” dots under the label. But homeslice does like to travel. And nothing strikes my fancy more than eating out with friends or, occasionally, my family. Budgeting is not my strong suit, but I’m not out of control. Money comes in. Some of it is spent, some of it is saved. That’s really about all I think about it.

And that’s why I worry. I’m an intelligent person, after all. I know what I should be doing to prepare for the future. But financial planning? So. Many. Numbers. Guilt builds as I realize I rely mostly on my husband to do both the budgeting and the worrying. I tell myself, it’s what he’s good at. It’s his job, like I cook and grocery shop and figure out the fastest shortcut behind Target to get to get the carpool to dance on time. I juggle our family’s social commitments and calendars and appointments like a BOSS. Packing lunches, writing emails to teachers, organizing rides to and fro . . .I’m on it. So is it a bad thing that I withdraw from something that is so mind-numbingly gross to me? Maybe not. So why can’t I let go of the guilt.

Thus the trip to see our new best friend, Financial Advisor Mark. I tell myself (and my husband) that I’m on board, I’m ready to manage a budget and keep receipts more organized than strewn in the bottom of one of seven purses I may be using at the time. Walking into the office, I pep talk myself through the parking lot. “You GOT this. Focus.” As I open the door, my husband, who is waiting there and not one for mushy or superfluous compliments, tells me, “You look like a movie star.” Random, but praise accepted. I feel good. I’m ready to focus, make some money for my family, prioritize, become so financially savvy that Trump will weep.

Within minutes, sitting across from Financial Advisor Mark, I’m bored to tears. Of course. Self doubt creeps in, as my mind wanders. What color is that on the wall? Who are all those kids in that beautiful black and white picture over there? My husband, however, is on his game, firing questions and responses with ease. He’s in his pleasure zone, so I force myself to focus. I nod, I truly listen, and I learn (even though it actually hurts my brain. I have to take three Advil when I get home).

Why are we here, Mark wants to know. Why now? “What are your financial goals?” he questions earnestly. Oooooh, fun! I think to myself. Make-believing, dreaming about the future, setting lofty plans? This I can do.

I think about his question and, while Mike speaks responsibly about providing for our family in the future and blah blah blabbity blah, I dream about what I’d like to say:

My financial goals? I’m glad you asked. More Disney World trips. Tickets to see each Tony Award nominee on Broadway, preferably every spring. My very own segue to ride around the neighborhood, mostly because it would be funny as shit. A red Toyota 4Runner that I will dub Big Red. My very own pair of Frye boots, just because they seem indulgent. A trip to Belgium and Amsterdam (and perhaps we can swing by Paris, a few towns in Germany, because I heard it’s so damn beautiful there, and Prague . . .  via a quick cruise of Alaska). A couple of writing workshops at the University of Iowa, which I dream of attending every year but it feels so far out of reach to do so. Box seats at every NFL stadium in the US, but just for one season because I need to be fiscally responsible. An apartment in San Francisco, my favorite city, for future visits. Annual and indefinite season passes to Austin City Limits music festival. And a family 1,000-pack of movie tickets. But those are just off the top of my head.

As I sit across the composite cherry L-shaped desk, looking back and forth between my husband and Mark, I suddenly realize that it’s my turn to speak, and I think better of being honest. At least for the time being. Instead, I said, "Um. College for our girls, hopefully two weddings, and retirement." It seems cruel to sum up our savings and planning and next 20 years so succinctly. But it must be done. I’m a mom above all, and the other stuff may work its way in there here and there in the coming years. I can make it happen. It’s my job to plan the fun, after all. To daydream some of the unrealities into our actualities.

For now, though, I better get to work on my book(s) ideas. That 4Runner isn’t going to drive itself off the lot.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015



In my last post, I wrote ad nauseum about the highs and lows, contemplations and revelations of being an active Facebooker today. The primary thing that keeps me coming back again and again to the addictive little pain is the connection to other friends near and far. There’s that word: connection. In the hectic, sometimes claustrophobic world of a part-time working, middle-aged mom, connection feels more important now than ever. 

Aside from the general connectivity Facebook affords most of us, deep within its “Likes” and emoticons and memes and videos of sharks dancing at the Superbowl, there are delightfully juicy and groovy specific examples of human connection at play. Any Facebook user knows what I’m talking about: instances that make you want to share immediately with others in the room or that cause you to giggle aloud when you’re sitting alone in a coffee shop. Moments of “No Way!” coincidences or heart-tugging sweetness. Pictures of old friends who now look more fantastically gorgeous or woefully bedraggled (or a combination of both) than they did when you last saw them face to face. Teensy weensy threads in the broader web that trap us with their sticky appeal.

A recent example, so you can get what I’m trying to say in my rambling. This story is just so cool that I had to share. Through Facebook, I keep in touch with a friend of mine from a publishing job I held 20 years ago. My friend is a gifted painter, editor, writer, you name it. And he’s got a great wife whom I adore. He’s also a little older than I am, and he’s jam packed into all of his years activities, jobs, travels, and more that are also just so cool. Recently he wrote about an experience he had as a “liquor delivery driver” in Los Angeles many years ago. He mentioned that at one celebrity’s home (whom I shall not name here since it’s not my story), he was instructed to leave the liquor at the end of the driveway, at which point the celebrity would wave down and say, “Just leave it down there,” the actor would yell down from a random spiral staircase up the driveway.

My friend, let’s call him John, posted this the other day in connection with a mutual friend’s new project. Just so happens, however, that one of John’s friends just happened to be on Facebook and saw John’s post. As it turns out, John’s friend’s dad knew this celebrity back in the day, and his friend had BEEN IN the celebrity’s home once or twice when the liquor was delivered! He remembers the celebrity calling down to the liquor delivery guy (John!) and telling him to leave it there . . . so he wouldn’t have to tip him!

John responded, of course, to this crazy, crazy coincidence, made even crazier by the fact that we live across the country from Los Angeles several full decades later. For me, it was a cool story. For John, it was an exhilarating story, one that also answered an age-old question: Why did I have to leave the liquor at the bottom of the driveway?

I’ve seen old elementary school friends post pictures of long-since-forgotten Halloween parties (with me dressed like, of all things, a cleaning lady, standing next to a drink-swigging hobo). We, the friends in the photo, had a full “discussion” in the comments section, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel pretty close to hanging out with them. People I know from around my huge neighborhood simply by passing them in a school hallway or beeping at them as I drive by have the ability to make me laugh out loud simply by sharing a Jimmy Fallon video or making fun of my dorky ways. Seeing my friends’ kids grow up on screen may not be as good as giving them hugs in real life, but it’s pretty damn close. Dozens of ways each week, I see, feel, read, hear, marvel at, and yes, even occasionally roll my eyes at these little threads in the web.

Believe it or not, I feel like I’m getting to know the folks around (and not around) me through little “likes,” “dislikes,” status updates, and other correspondences on Facebook, and I really like that feeling. Like being connected to a community, making my great big giant global existence feel a bit smaller, a bit more understood. Sorta like college, when, for the most part, we had no heavy duty worries or responsibilities weighing us down. All we “had” to do was hang with our friends, act like idiots, and laugh. For me, that’s the gift FB gives me: a little escape time.

I encourage others to give it a try. If it annoys you or if random crazy folks (and they are out there) start to post mean things on your wall or rant out of control, either de-friend them or get off the ‘Book. But I think you may like it. It feels good to be connected, after all.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Social Networking

Today's topic is a bit controversial. Most people stand solidly on one side or the other, for or against, while some straddle the fence, juggling the pros and cons in the thick air of cyberspace.

I speak, of course, of Facebook.

In the past week, four people (that I can remember) have remarked that I’m “always” on Facebook. The response this elicits in me is sincerely juvenile--I become both defensive and embarrassed. “I’m not always on Facebook,” I apologize, “I just check it whenever I have a few minutes.” This is not the first time I’ve heard such proclamations about my time on the ‘Book. On and off throughout the years, friends both close and not-so-close have commented that I spend a lot of time on the site. Most often, I genuinely feel that I’m not being judged--that they are, for some bizarre reason--impressed at how I spend my time. They comment that I make funny observations, or my friends and family from afar say how happy they are to feel like they’re in touch despite the miles. 

But occasionally, I do feel like I’m being judged a teeny, tiny bit. As though I must not have enough to do in my life or important things to occupy my time. I suppose that’s part of the reason why I get defensive. If I were to be honest, though, it’s not the only reason I quickly respond as such; in truth, I think I have to defend myself from myself. From my own judgment, my own fear that there are a zillion things I could be better doing with my free time. From berating myself that, by focusing my attention on a computer in front of me, I’m not reading, hiking, playing tennis, spending time with my family, walking my dog, writing, or any number of activities that make up the very-favorite-things-of-Tracy. From neglecting real-life humans in favor of invisible ones, devoting more of my wit, love, and even compassion to the people on the screen than I am to those around me (friends, family, dogs). 

Therein lies the rub of social networking in this day and age. How do we stay in touch in a digital age while not losing touch in an actual age? I’m a straddler on that fence, for sure. I’m a Luddite who loves, loves, loves being with, learning from, and connecting with people. What’s a gal like me to do?

The answer may be quite simple. Perhaps it’s just a matter of doing what I feel is right for me. That goes without saying in real-life after all, a rule of thumb that’s been pounded into our brains from the time a parent first muttered, “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?” Going with what feels right to me, without judgment on others (or, heaven forbid, myself) may be just the solution to quiet the dueling should-I-or-shouldn’t-I electronic communication doubts that whisper to me every so often.

For me, this involves setting some rules:

  • I will try not to invade my kids’ privacy by posting personal crap about them. They deserve their privacy; having someone’s mom comment on their teenage quirks or silly mistakes invades that privacy and makes them trust me less. I know. I’ve screwed up a few times on this end for sure, and I’m sure I will again. 
  • I will put down the phone more, watching, experiencing, being there instead of recording. 
  • For me, it’s important to stay positive, so I’ve tried harder and harder to post things that help others feel that way, too. It’s not always easy, and again, I’ve made the mistake of groaning in my status updates, but I want that to be the exception, not the rule.
  • I will limit my Facebooking, as a verb, to times when my kids aren’t necessarily around: take a peek around over my morning cup of coffee, or when sitting in a waiting room alone, or when I have a rare five minutes to catch up with peeps electronically.
  • I will look at the positives of what other people post: calls for prayers, exciting news, pictures of big events, achievements, honors, and other causes for human connection through the screen.

Because, when all is said and done, I do find more positives than negatives in the Great Facebook Debate. I’m able to hear news that my best friend’s husband’s cancer scans are clear. I see how my friends’ children in California and around the country are growing by the day and embodying the spirits of their parents (whom I miss) in the process. When I’m feeling grumpy, I can watch a damn adorable video of cats and dogs cuddling. I can stay tuned to big goings on in those whose lives I care about, if they're thousands of miles away or just around the corner. I can regularly laugh at my friends’ wit, humor, ironic senses of self and life, and ridiculously funny insights on what it means to be a middle-aged parent, employee, spouse, and friend. After all, I fell in love with Facebook initially when I was on chemotherapy, occasionally homebound and lonely, and people from all over my digital world sent me words and photos full of love and encouragement and humor. They were important to me. They still are. I can feel part of something bigger by remaining tuned in a touch to the Big Blue F.

I can connect. So Facebook, for now, will stay a part of my life. Because for me, that means a bunch of really cool people can, too. That brings me joy and makes me feel the invisible ties that bind a little more deeply. This silly little thing called Facebook may be a passing fad, but for now I’ll enjoy it for what it is: a way to stay in touch in a world (or perhaps a stage of my life?) that doesn’t make a whole lot of time for that any more. Are there negatives? Absolutely. So checks and balances shall and will remain in place. And I will learn to not cringe when “complimented” on my Facebook “prowess.” 

I’ll just be me, enjoying this fun, odd way of maintaining and making friendships. Next post, I’ll talk about some of the amazingly groovy connections Facebook has treated me to. For now, I’ll work on my clever Bachelor insights and look to my friends to do the same.

Reporting live from my living room, I give FB a hearty thumbs up.