Into Darkness: The FB Experiment

Tomorrow starts a little experiment to see what it feels like, after 6 years on Facebook, to take a break.

I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that a website has me thinking myself in circles, but there it is. And I suspect I’m not the only one to be thrown by how ingrained this particular piece of social media has become in my public and inner world.

The notion has been on my mind for a while, but there always seemed to be so many good reasons not to take a break, among them:

  1. I’m a stay-at-home mom. There are days (sometimes 2) I don’t leave the house, much less see anyone outside my immediate family (and let’s face it, most of my favorite people live an hour or 2 away, minimum). Giving up Facebook seemed a possible ticket to more potent loneliness.
  2. I’m sensitive and easily feel awkward/overwhelmed in most social situations — but I’m still an extrovert who wants a sense of connection. I’ve been surprised at how I’ve stumbled into some kindreds via Facebook and didn’t want to give up that connection and mutual support.
  3. It’s fun keeping my family knee-deep in updates and photos of the boys.
  4. I enjoy being knee-deep in photos of my friends and their families and living a little vicariously through their adventures.
  5. The journal-keeping aspect of FB is amazing. There’s this long, detailed record of what we were doing during a given year. Especially since the kids came, that record is kind of priceless.

All those things are wonderful, but for me they come at a cost.

  1. Connection is constant, but it’s cheap. On the one hand, we are always caught up with one another. On the other hand, we are always. caught. up. with. one. another. Example: “Hey, did I tell you about such and such?” “Oh, yeah, I saw that on FB.” End of conversation. It ruins the face to face stuff sometimes.
  2. I strive to be honest and authentic but immediately after sharing, I often worry about how I come off. This has been a problem for me in real life too, as long as I can remember. If I share the good stuff, I wonder if it’ll discourage someone who’s having a crap time. If I share the tough stuff, I worry that I’m that needy Debbie Downer, out for attention and sympathy. I don’t need help overthinking things — social media put it into overdrive.
  3. The audience is WAY too big. Filtering takes energy and culling the herd hurts feelings. I wanted connection but felt exposed.
  4. Despite my efforts, I’ve made an arse of myself more times than I care to admit while discussing charged topics, especially in conversations with my conservative church friends. More than once, I’ve thought, Who needs this added stress?
  5. I worry all the time that I’m over-posting. “Enough! We get it! You are obsessed with your kids, which, let’s face it, are simply average, normal kids!”
  6. Holy time-suck.
  7. I write less. It’s much easier to write a status update than an essay and so I let myself off the hook a lot. It’s like I want to fill my brain with writing inspiration/blog fodder/what-have-you, but there’s no stopper in the drain.

Lastly, this:

It’s changed my lens on the world and on myself. So embarrassing to admit, but there are days I think in status updates. Funny moment? Time to share it. Look at the cute kids! Let’s post a picture (where the dirty laundry is moved just out of frame).

I’m never quite in the moment because I’m trying my hardest to somehow capture it — at its best angle, even. I’m all for writing down the good stuff and hope to do more of that here, but the immediacy of Facebook — the instant-share — it steals the ability to savor the moment. And then the moment is gone.

It brings to mind an early John Mayer song (Isn’t that somehow a fitting way to end this holy disaster of a post? I don’t care. I love John Mayer songs FOREVER.)

I’m writing you to
catch you up on places I’ve been
And you have this letter
you probably got excited, but there’s nothing else inside it
Didn’t have a camera by my side this time
hoping I would see the world through both my eyes
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I’m
in the mood to lose my way with words

Today I finally overcame
tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to
lose my way but let me say
You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
it brought me back to life
You’ll be with me next time I go outside
no more 3×5’s

We’ll see how the break goes. I’m hoping for a little inner quiet, some better conversations, more writing, a little less over-thinking. I’ll keep you posted.

Intersections

All it takes is a quick glance at my Facebook page to see evidence that two of my loves have intersected perfectly.

Photographs (of the Instagram variety). My family. Two things that come beautifully together whenever I happen to have my phone handy.

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It’s not quite a compulsion, but let’s be honest — it’s close. Already the boys’ days seem to be passing so quickly. I snap away, attempting to capture moments that make my heart come alive at the wonder of being mother to these small, wide-eyed creatures — and with such a partner by my side.

The moments of transcendence are many. It’s been 2 1/2 years and I still can’t stop staring at my eldest simply for the beauty of him. The past 11 months, I’ve split awe-filled time between two brothers. Our home is filled with hugs and kisses and laughter in huge quantities (most days).

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But there’s a lot about this experience that the camera doesn’t capture. And here, my friends, is where it becomes tempting to talk about the common complaints of parenthood. The endless diapers. The sleepless nights. The tantrums. The mess. The missing my partner.

Those are the safe things. We talk about them all the time. They actually make for funny dinner party conversation, especially if you like a good poop story, which I do.

For good or ill, I’m not interested in talking about those tonight.

The thing is —

The thing is —

Okay. The thing is: the pictures don’t show how much I’ve been white-knuckling it this whole time, how long I’ve been parenting scared. I knew parenting would be hard, but I didn’t know I’d spend so long after the babies came struggling with depression. I didn’t expect such huge waves of anxiety. Or such loneliness. I didn’t know that the innate sensitivity I had long thought would make me a tender, affectionate mother (true) would also cause, at times, a severe inward panic at normal amounts of chaos and any prolonged crying (also true).

Motherhood is the best, hardest thing that’s ever happened to me. All at once. What do I do with that?

I spent the majority of my teens and twenties fumbling to gain some level of mastery over my canary-in-a-coal-mine sensitivity, some nice middle ground between the highs and lows that people of my somewhat artsy-fartsy temperament tend to feel. I’m not sure how much was me and how much was simply the stability of finding a partner who set up camp in my corner and relentlessly cheered me on, but I felt pretty good as I hit thirty.

Then I had a baby.

And there were a lot of things in his tiny body that didn’t work like they should.

Goodbye, safe middle ground.

He was my first baby, so I had nothing to compare my experience to. I was blown away by the love I felt for him, by the euphoria of having a child in my arms. But the lows were so bad and came so often, along with lots and lots of doctor appointments, many over an hour away. All I knew was that, beautiful as the experience was, motherhood was seriously, heart-breakingly hard and that I seemed to be not handling it as well as my other mom friends were. I felt inferior and weak, never more weak than when I admitted to Justin and a few close friends that I thought I was dealing with at least some mild PPD. A was 10 months old.

I should have stopped and asked for help right there. I didn’t — primarily because I felt like asking for help would somehow make it official that I was failing. I wasn’t snapping out of it enough. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t a good enough mom/wife/friend.

Who starts falling apart the moment they get the life they always wanted?

I should have gotten help. Justin would’ve supported me. Instead, I threw out a timeline that said, “If I’m not feeling better by xx, then I’ll go talk to someone.” Instead, I got a few massages. Instead, I got pregnant the week of A’s first birthday, before we knew A had a speech delay and muscles that don’t work quite right.

“Xx” kept getting moved out. Turns out it took a speech delay/low tone diagnosis (A’s), a painful client breakup (mine), a surgery (A’s), a liver enzyme being 6x too high for a few months (A’s), a birth (F’s), a failure of ligaments to heal after childbirth (mine), super stressful genetic testing (ours), and a month straight of crying literally everyday for me to be desperate enough to admit that I didn’t have the tools I needed to deal with this on my own.

Guess what? I waited way too long. But in May I looked up a name, made a call, and sunk down on a leather couch in a small office 5 minutes from my house.

It hasn’t been the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It’s work to look at your internal junk and try and work your way free of it (more work if you feel guilty for being a total navel-gazer and simultaneously worrying about what your own freaking therapist thinks of you).

Easy, no. But it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I just wish I’d done it a long time ago.

***

Here’s why I finally got up the nerve to go:

In the middle of our big genetic testing scare, when I was out of my mind with worry, I got desperate and asked someone on my son’s care team if their group had any names of counselors that work with parents of kids with special needs. She smiled and said, “No, but do you want the number of my therapist?”

I’m sure my jaw dropped.

She’s this smart, stylish, beautiful woman. She’s brilliant with kids and has been such a consistent and powerful part of A’s growth.

She’s someone I tremendously respect.

And even she doesn’t have it all together. Not without some help.

It was her openness that helped me. It was the way she said it with no shame. I figured I could use a little less shame myself.

***

I’ve been sitting on that couch once every week or two since May.

My daily life is largely the same. But in ways large and small, I am different. I’ve dealt with some stuff that needed to be addressed years ago. I’ve said some I’m sorrys, lightened some loads, banished regret. And for the present, I’ve got some simple but powerful tools for dealing with my current everyday craziness. Even better, I’m starting to see it as simply “normal,” not some problem I need to stress about how to fix.

I’m in the middle of my busy season at work, my first since F came. I’m very tired. But I’m okay. More often than not, I’m okay.

And I can’t tell you how good that feels.

*If anyone out there needs an ear, I’m in. Write me. myfirstnamelastname@gmail.com.

if you don’t think poo is funny, you won’t like this post

I knew I’d be in for lots of poopy diapers. I don’t think anyone enters parenthood without knowing it’s all part of the deal.

I just had no idea of poo’s explosive nature when it comes to newborns. Yeah, I’d heard stories, but had dismissed them as nothing more than hyperbole.

Turns out I was wrong. Baby bums are cute, but the vileness they bring forth . . . there aren’t words.


Unless you’re a Lawlis, in which case the words come rather easily. Or unless you’re our friend Katie, who has turned the Gift Poo (and discussions regarding it) into an art form.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, we here at the Casa Lawlii tend to have, among other lovely quirks, the humor of 7-year-olds when it comes to bodily functions, so we’re making the most of it coming up with charming nicknames for these special biological events.

For the record, I blame Justin’s good friend Chris, who sent us “What’s Your Poo Telling You” for Justin’s birthday. We will never be the same. I think it’s worth mentioning that their other book, “What’s My Pee Telling Me,” is also worth a read. (Katie is the one who recommended the Pee Book.)

The Soup of the Day

This almost isn’t worth naming because it’s so common. I’ll let you use your imagination.

The Phantom

Parent brings child to changing table, certain that a poo has occurred, only to experience bewilderment upon finding a clean diaper.

The R. Kelly

Child sprays pee in all directions, usually soaking the wall, parent, and himself.

The Poetry in Motion

Parent is mid-diaper change when child decides he wasn’t quite done pooping yet. Usually results in shrieks of panic and disgust. Loud cries of “Make it stop! Make it stop! Make it stop!” are a typical response.

The Two-for-One Special

A Poetry in Motion and R. Kelly simultaneously.

The Triple Play

Mother is feeding child when she realizes there is somehow poo in her hand and rushes to clean up her child. While on the changing table, child pulls an R. Kelly. Because mother had no time in her panic to replace appropriate clothing items, milk begins to squirt out, further adding to the spectacle. Rare occurrence.

The Backburner

The force of a poo is such that it goes straight up the back of child’s onesie. Particularly horrifying to parents.

The Donald Trump

Happens when the a Backburner is so severe there is no way to remove it from the child except that it gets poo in child’s hair. Also known as the “Instant Bathtime” or “Grab the Scissors.”

***

I think that about does it for this installment.

You are welcome.