Sunday, May 18, 2014

What has happened during my week off of Facebook.

A week ago I signed off from Facebook and deleted my shortcuts and bookmarks. It was kind of a mental health break for myself, I'd started to not like the person I was turning into as I peeked into other people's lives on Facebook and almost started to judge myself through the perspective of other people in other situations.

Now, a week later, I'm looking at a lot of things from a much more balanced and healthy perspective. It's been a busy week in many ways, and stressful things have happened, but without having the crutch of being able to vent about my stress on Facebook, I've been getting back in touch with some of my favorite (and healthier) ways to regain balance and peace when things get chaotic. Even just little things like a nice cup of herbal tea or reading a couple of paragraphs in a good book. Things that feel REAL, instead of that kind of creepy feeling of living vicariously through other people's experiences.

Here are some of the things that have happened in my life over the past week.

  • I've read a LOT of books. Mostly to my kids, but I've been turning to my books more and more, which is nice because I've always been a bookworm and I've come to believe that I "don't have time" to read. But even just sitting down to read with my kids more often has been really nice, for all of us.
  • My phone has needed to be charged every day. This is new to me! Normally I charge it every 3 or 4 days. It's getting a lot more use, since being off Facebook means a lot more texting and calling to keep in touch with people! And there are still more people I'm wanting to check in with.
  • I've written. Not blog posts, in particular, but actual work. Chapters of books I started months ago that have been sitting untouched, and very early work (outlines, mostly) of articles that I plan to finish writing and actually try to sell. Like a real grown up writer. It's been over two years since I had any paid writing work, so it feels a little awkward as I ease back into it but I'll get there.
  • We've done a lot with organizing the house to be baby safe, because our little Baby Bear started crawling and hasn't stopped moving since then. She took a few tentative paces forward, and then did it again, and then woke up the next morning crawling EVERYWHERE. Nothing holds this little girl back. So we've been working on setting up "baby stations" all around the house, while getting things that are unsafe up and out of her reach. The boys are so protective of her, so this is a project they've helped with very willingly.
  • We've had some unexpected days off from school for Bug. It was for a scary reason (wildfires, near our part of the county but thankfully still some distance from our town) but it was still nice to have him home and have that time with him. This mama is so ready for summer break to start!!
  • I've spent a lot more time being in touch with a good friend of mine here in town, an absolutely wonderful woman whom I've known since our oldest kids were in kindergarten, but who has more recently become a very dear friend of mine. Words can't even express how much she has meant to me! When I was struggling with depression on and off over the past few months, leading up to this time when I've decided to sort of hit the "reset" button and step back into my bubble, she has always been there reaching out to me and offering friendship and a helping hand and love, and that has helped so much!
  • Cooking! So much cooking!! I've taken away the temptation for myself to go "grumble grumble grumble, I just made dinner last night for these people and I've cooked them meals all day and I've got to feed them again?? Hey, what's your family having for dinner? Oh that looks good. Hey, you get to eat shrimp and I've had a craving for shrimp for weeks but it hasn't gone on sale, now I'm kind of jealous that you get to eat what I want. Hey, why do YOU get to have takeout? I want to have takeout. Grumble grumble grumble." You know?? I know you feel me, we've all been there on some level. I hope. Please tell me I'm not the only one. Anyway, so much cooking! I've made a lot of yummy dinners lately and I've been proud of the way I've been stretching food, using leftovers, planning several meals at once, budget shopping and so on. Amazing what I can accomplish when I put my full energy into our meals, instead of putting half of that energy towards procrastinating and wishing I was eating other people's food!
  • We've spent a LOT of time hashing out this car situation and trying to make a decision. Something needs to happen, because our old Subaru has so many things going on with it that it either needs to be retired or have an enormous amount of work put into it, and one of those things needs to happen NOW. We got an incredibly generous offer from my dad, who said that he wants to add to our car budget. He thinks that the plan that makes the most sense is to get a second vehicle, so that we can stop this terrifying juggling of one old and very tired car that is threatening to die completely, and he said that he wants to help make that happen for us. We were shocked and surprised and overjoyed, because this is something that will make a HUGE difference for our family. So we're back to shopping for a second car, with the plan that as soon as we find one, we'll start looking for another one so we can retire this poor old Subaru. It's going to be a big year for cars in our household! And I'll be honest, shopping for two new cars back to back and all of the change that is going to bring about, is kind of wreaking havoc with my anxiety. But I feel like I'm managing it much better than I have for a long time.
  • Baby Bear and I went up together to tell the "Time for all ages" story during the church service this morning. It was so sweet to talk to all the kids as they gathered around us, and it really touched my heart how many people told me afterward that they love watching her and our older kids growing up in the congregation. The connections we're making at our church really make it feel like home, and from my own perspective of remembering how much my high school youth group and the rest of the congregation meant to me, and how influential some of them were in my life, it makes me feel deeply thankful to have found this kind of spiritual home for our family.
I think that's about it, as far as major events. I'm missing the friends I keep in touch with only on Facebook, so definitely planning to sign on to go through my notifications soon and see what people are up to, but I have to be careful because it still feels too easy to get back into the habit of being on there way too much. It snuck up on me, I used to be much busier outside of the house and I don't have a "smart phone" so naturally I wasn't online as much, but since we've moved farther away from town and I'm spending much more time at home than I used to, it's been too easy for me to keep going back to the screen. Just to see that picture, just to check that notification, just to see the latest things in the news feed - well, it all adds up, not only in terms of time in a day but also in terms of my personal energy. It had become an energy drain, so that I had less to give to other areas of my life.

Some time soon I'll get a better sense of balance and I'll be on there more often again. But for now I'm giving much needed attention to many other areas of my life, and I'm feeling pretty good about that choice.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Period of introspection.

For almost the past week I've been taking a break from Facebook. It's been refreshing in a surprising kind of way. Since I'm cut off from being able to distract myself by peeking in on other peoples lives via my news feed, I've had to do some very real work looking at myself and my life and my own beliefs and priorities.

Six months ago we moved to a new home, and in almost every way it was a very positive move for our family. We're now in a much safer and more family friendly neighborhood, the children are growing up surrounded by animals and gardens and nature instead of pavement and dead grass, and they can run and play and use their imaginations and roam outside and do all of the wonderful things that little boys can do, without being limited by the restrictions where we used to live. Today while talking with a friend, I suddenly realized that here we feel comfortable sleeping with the windows open after a hot day, while at our old place I couldn't sleep without checking that they were all locked. So it's been a very positive thing for our family. But we have been a one car family for the past five years, and moving farther out from town to a nice rural area meant that I lost the ability to just load up the kids into the stroller and walk down Main Street to do whatever we felt like doing.

I'm a Sagittarius. I'm a wanderer, I can't help it, it's just who I am. I get terribly restless and require changes of scenery to keep my brain and my body active. A great deal of the support system I'd built for myself, building up our new home and new life out here in California, was based on what I was able to walk to, so within a mile and a half or so from where we lived. Not only was I the fittest I've been in my adult life, with all the walking, but I had a steady stream of stuff to keep us busy. Play dates at the playground, story and craft groups and children's yoga at the library, iced coffee and conversation at my favorite coffee shop, cheap produce-of-the-day at the little corner grocery store. You get the idea, it wasn't anything super exciting or elaborate, but it was what I kept myself and the kids busy with every day.

But out here at our new place, I've been busy for the past couple of months throwing myself a giant pity party. It's very quiet and peaceful out here, and there are gorgeous walks around the neighborhood and horses and dogs to visit and lots of wildlife to see, but I've let myself get stir crazy out of regret for what I don't have anymore. I miss the things that I used to do, but it's gotten to the point where that has interfered with my ability to be peaceful and present right here and now. So a few days ago I decided that I've had enough, and I cut myself off. I posted a status saying that I was taking a break, it was nothing personal to do with anybody, just something I needed to do, and I signed off. I deleted my shortcuts and deleted it from my frequent pages list. And it's been good for me.

Over the past few days I've been realizing that I often use negative words such as "boring" or "slow" or "same old" to describe my life and the things I do, but that's not true at all. However, when I spend my free time scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing posts about people traveling to interesting places, dining out at places that don't have a children's menu, or - to be perfectly honest - even just being able to load up in the car and go run errands without needing to wait for their significant other to get home, I can't help but start to compare what I'm doing with what they're doing. And it's not right, and not fair to myself or to my family and friends, so while I do miss seeing the updates about what my loved ones are doing, and all the beautiful photos of babies and special moments and loved ones, I realize that I truly needed this time to get myself in check.

This is MY journey, this is not anybody else's journey, and I can't compare myself to anyone else because this story is only our own. A year ago it was still a struggle to keep enough food in the house and we were still visiting the food pantry from time to time for some extra help, so to spend so much time feeling sorry for myself for not having a second car was unreasonable. We're finally in a position where, for the first time, all of The Man's income covers all of our expenses. We still have to be more tight in the grocery budget than I particularly care for, but we can feed ourselves without help. We don't have the fastest speed of internet available but we don't have to choose between paying the internet and paying the phones anymore. A couple of people I have great love and respect for have told me that I'm pushing too hard for something that's not ready to happen, and it's true. So even though on some level I truly believed that I needed to check in on Facebook every day to see all of the latest updates, I've discovered that life has gone on just fine without me knowing what's going on.

It's not permanent, but I'm not sure when I'll go back on and start reading my news feed and sharing posts again. There's not really a particular goal I'm striving for or any concrete way to measure the results of my Facebook hiatus, but I figure that as long as I'm content and able to distract myself out of the desire to sit and scroll through the latest posts, I'll just stick with it for another day. That's really where I am with it at this point, one day at a time. I'm remembering that my life isn't "boring" or "slow" or "same old" at all, and there are very important reasons why we've made the choices we've made along the way. Why we've decided that me being here with our kids right now is more important than having vacations or expensive dinners or new cars. And my wonderful husband has been here, while I've been in my funk feeling sorry for myself, pointing out that the things our kids have learned in their lives, they've learned from me. The way they are proud and confident, kind to animals and to other people, trusting, intelligent (and lots of questioning authority, does that sound like anyone you know?) And he's been reminding me that even though they haven't gotten to their playgroups or the playground for a few months now, they're still here with me and getting all of the care and love and nurturing in all of the ways that are very important to our family.

So this is me, retreating into my little bubble, focusing on my beautiful children and our home and my close circle of friends and family outside of Facebook. And our part of the state has been scorching with an intense and early start to wildfire season, so it's been tempting to go on there as an easy source for local news, but then at the same time I realize that my anxiety peaks during intense and scary situations where I keep on reading stories from other people who are freaked out. The hysteria builds easily, and just because it's over a social networking site doesn't make it any less of a crowd mentality situation. I've been getting my information about the fires directly from the Cal Fire website and sometimes going directly to the CBS website for news summaries, and keeping in touch by phone with local friends. My anxiety, after spending the past couple of months slowly building up as I spun around in frustration, is finally melting away and I'm finding my peaceful place again, so being aware of Facebook being a possible trigger for that is a huge deal for me.

This time has been helping me regain some much needed balance and grounding in my life. So while I am sending love to all of my friends and family, I'm still not quite in a place where I'm ready to get back into it, and I'm finding each day that I have plenty to do to keep myself very busy. This time has been good for me and it's been good for my kids, and at the end of the day, in my own life on my own journey, those are the things that matter the most.

Plus, I'm taking the time to work on my writing. Real writing, several different projects, and I'm feeling very fulfilled by that. And I had a great time organizing my Pinterest boards! You can't go wrong with productive writing sessions and Pinterest.