Escaping Facebook

Daydream

Yesterday, for the first time in a week, I opened the Facebook app on my phone and began scrolling.

I checked my notifications.

Caught up on my friends’ lives.

Aimlessly scrolled.

And then deleted the app for a second time.

I was as surprised as anyone. I told myself I’d take a week away from the draw of Facebook in an effort to limit my obsessive timeline scrolling. But after feeling the freedom that comes from not worrying about status updates or notifications, returning to Facebook was a great deal less enjoyable than I expected. I imagined feeling comfort at being “reconnected.” But all I felt was the pressure to catch up and “participate” by liking and commenting on posts.

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Please don’t think that I’m disinterested in my friends’ lives. I genuinely care for their well-being, and I’m curious about their experiences. But the cost has become too great as of late. I’ve let the pressure to be connected and up-to-date build to the point that I feel forced to keep up with Facebook “news.”

Until this week, I didn’t realize how much I’ve let Facebook distract me. I used to spend every spare moment on it, always afraid I’d miss something.

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But this week I accepted that I don’t need to know what everyone is doing all the time. In fact, I feel saner if I don’t. Consequently, I had more time to focus on things I do need to keep up on, like grading papers, planning lessons, connecting with family, and cleaning my home. Instead of clicking on Facebook while my computer loaded or the oven heated, I looked up new recipes, caught up on world news, or drank in a few moments of unscheduled peace.

It was lovely.

For the first time in ages, I enjoyed the freedom of leaving my phone in one room as I made my way to another.

Honestly, I feel more centered, more capable of focusing. As an active proponent of living consciously, I believe this is a step in the right direction for me.

I still see the value in Facebook as a tool to connect friends and family, and I have not deleted my account completely. But I have accepted that I am happier without Facebook as a part of my daily routine.

With this realization, came the desire to keep Facebook off my phone. So, unlike the first time, I felt no apprehension when I confirmed my desire to delete the app that has eaten up so much of my time.

Oh, I’m sure I’ll check in at some point.

But it feels wonderful to say I’m not sure when that will be.

Daydream

 

photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc
photo credit: Viktor Hertz via photopin cc
photo credit: Mark J P via photopin cc

You Are Welcome Here

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I’d like to begin by apologizing for the lack of a blog last week. The past two weeks have been a complete whirlwind of gluing, stapling, and syllabus-making. All leading up to today…the first day of the new school year.

It’s funny how much preparation goes into a classroom. What seems like it should take two days to decorate and equip, really takes six because every detail matters. This year the details seemed even more important because it was my first school year with a new philosophy.

In years prior, I focused on efficiency. How could I streamline everything so that I could get the most done in the shortest amount of time? In my defense, I feel every year’s added responsibilities and expectations of teachers are partly to blame for making this a common educational philosophy. In response to this pressure, I spent the minimum amount of time necessary throwing up mis-matching, educational posters and random classroom adornments. The result was less than visually pleasing, but it passed as a decorated classroom, and I quickly moved on to more demanding tasks like analyzing my students’ past test scores and trying to develop lessons to meet the county’s ever-changing standards.

This year, however, I was on a mission to change my approach. After my transformative experience last school year, I vowed to make my classroom a space where students felt safe and comfortable. I wanted it to be a clean, bright, inviting space.

So I began with my physical environment.

I left my tattered posters in the closet.

I framed things.

I installed more group workspaces.

I brought in nature with plants and wide open windows.

I focused on creating an environment that would send a positive message:
You are welcome here.

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It took over a week to decorate. But the effect was exactly what I wanted. I can feel it every time I walk into my classroom. The words greet me at the door:
You are welcome here.

It’s my hope that these words will reinforce the barrier that I’ve tried to create between the political bureaucracy that’s taken over education and how we approach learning in my classroom.

It was in this spirit that I found myself repeating my convictions to every class today:
What we do in here matters.

I want them to believe that. I want them to embrace it.

Not because an end of course exam says so. But because right now they are determining how they will communicate with the rest of the world. And more than anything, I want to give them the tools to speak confidently, convincingly, and in a grammatically correct manner (still an English teacher). I want them to know that I take them seriously, and they should, too.

I want them to know they are welcome to be themselves.

My walls are the first step.

Hopefully, I can do the rest.

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Accepting When It’s Time to Let Go

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An errant feather.

A stray bit of seed.

The ding of a toy bell.

The chirp of another bird…not mine.

It takes only the smallest reminder to bring forth a wave of emptiness…each time.

And yet, the words for tonight’s blog have been with me all week:

It was his time to let go. Now, it is my time to let him go.

But after sixteen years of his proud, exuberant personality, I’m having a great deal of trouble letting him go.

Because I’m reconciling with the fact that I’ll never again see all four ounces of him march down the hallway as if on a mission. Or watch him walk right up to a thirty-five pound dog and nip him on the nose. Or perch on my book and lean over as if carefully reading upside down. (He was an unspoken fan of Jane Austen’s work.)

He was the embodiment of a big bird in a little lovebird’s body, and I adored him for it.

Now, it is too quiet in the house. No one chirps or rings bells in greeting. And every time I go to talk to him, I encounter only the emptiness that accompanies loss.

It was his time, and I must let him go.

I remember being afraid of these words nearly a decade ago as I stood in my parents’ back yard, listening to him chirp delightedly from a neighbor’s tree, several houses away. While I was cleaning the summer room, he had flown out and decided to visit with some of the local birds. Given the size and distance of the tree, I knew then that there was a possibility I’d never see him again, that he’d abscond with his new friends and spend the rest of his life in the trees.

But he didn’t. Instead, he flew back to me, unceremoniously landing on my head and remaining there as I proceeded to his cage.

I distinctly remember reveling in the fact that he could have left me that day, and I would have had to let him go.

But he chose to stay with me.

And now I can’t completely let him go.

I realized this the other day as I selected a new fabric for my classroom bulletin board, and I was reminded of it yesterday as I carefully anchored the fabric to the panel.IMG_0390

Stepping back, I couldn’t help but smile at the array of birds gracing my classroom wall. Suddenly, I felt less alone.

IMG_0391It was then that I knew he had once again flown back to me.

Somehow, I’d managed to both let go and hold on.

And while this doesn’t erase the emptiness created by his physical absence, it does ease the hurt of losing a life-long friend.

Released, but never forgotten.

Goodbye, Fawkes.

 

Quiet Mornings

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It’s early morning on the last full day of vacation.

We’ve showered.

We’ve consumed breakfast.

And returned to our room.

Except for the woosh of an efficient fan and the slight rattle of an antique air grate, it’s silent.

But it’s not an uncomfortable silence. For it has nothing to do with dissent or frustration.

It is a mutually-appreciated silence.

Anyone who knows us will readily attest to the fact that we are not morning people. We don’t have much to say in the early hours, and we rarely display any kind of recognizable exuberance before noon. Even my students learn very quickly that I’m not to be tested until at least 10:30.

This, however, doesn’t mean that I resent being awake early in the morning. No, I truly enjoy the cooler hours before the sun begins scorching the earth, and I love the calm that pervades the air before the commuters begin their morning treks.

For my husband and me, it is an opportunity for peace before the demands of the day begin.

When it comes to vacation, this is a luxury we gladly embrace.

While many devoted travelers set schedules and wake up early to enact them, we choose a quiet peace. Sure, we’ll see the sights, but later in the day and at a much more leisurely pace.

Our mornings will be spent in an unspoken agreement of quiet reading and sipping coffee.

An onlooker might assume we are ignoring one another, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. For I have found that over time, my husband and I have developed a sensitivity toward one another that requires no words. We might be reading different texts on separate couches, but we’re still connected in the experience.

This understanding works well for us because we’re independent people who need solitude just as much as we need our date nights.

It concerns me that our society promotes the idea that couples have to do everything together, have the same hobbies, like the same television shows, attend the same pottery classes, and read the same books in order to be considered truly in love. The media suggests that having a clone for a partner is considered romantic despite the fact that it’s impossibly unrealistic.

Individuals, even ones in relationships, need independent pursuits. It has been my experience that those who can embrace this instead of trying to cover it up are the happiest.

Which is why I’ve been able to write this down while contentedly sipping my coffee on my last day of vacation. Thank goodness for quiet mornings.

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Redefining Family

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After a restful week at the beach, I can think of quite a few topics for this week’s very late blog. Yet the one that keeps coming to mind is family.

Extended family, immediate family, work family.

Anyone can qualify as family because, in my mind, the uniting factor is dependability. I can’t think of a stronger depiction of love than knowing without a doubt that these people will be there for you, and you will do everything in your power to be there for them.

While I cherish all of my family, today’s blog is for those closest to me.

20140726-105619-39379964.jpgFrom hospital visits to beach trips…

From pharmacy treks to coffee dates…

From crunch-time hors d’oeuvres to lengthy family dinners…

From tears to laughter…

From terse words to enveloping hugs…

From devastation to elation…

We depend on one another.

And yet, I don’t know that I’ve ever met a group of more independent people. You see, we’re the ones who want to take our luggage down six floors rather than wait for the bellman. We’re the ones who decline a ride to our car, even though we’re parked a mile away.

Yes, we’re stubborn and difficult and intense.

Our expectations are high and our hopes are higher.

We’re silly and proud and flawed.

We’re perfectionists…enough said.

Which makes it even more important that we stick together.

20140726-104827-38907636.jpgI realized this today as two very special people saw me floundering and, without a word of protest, jumped into the mayhem to help me get my hors d’oeuvres completed on time.

You know you’re loved when a vegetarian begins arranging salami for you—and doesn’t even make a face.

It is all too often that families function out of a sense of obligation, as though they are forced to help or listen. But I don’t see that with my family, and I don’t feel it. Instead, there’s only the desire to make their lives easier, to do whatever is necessary to provide relief or support. Today, as so many times before, I saw that in their calm assistance and willingness to rearrange their schedules to fit mine.

I’m lucky. Not all families are so inclined.

Instead, family is frequently seen as a burden. Too often, there is no sense of balance, and individuals are expected to go above and beyond out of a sense of duty. While this is a reassuring concept, to know that you always have that safety net, I much prefer the gentle give and take of a family made up of members who all want the best for one another.

Sure, we’re a mess. But maybe that’s why we balance one another so well…we’ve had lots of practice.

For this reason and so many more, I’m incredibly grateful for a family who embodies dependability.

With love,

Emma

The Underestimated Importance of Couch Cushions

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With thirty looming on the horizon and my disdain for fast food at an all-time high, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up.

However, adulthood is a slippery concept. When I was in my early-to-mid twenties, I felt like I was pretending to be an adult, as if deciding which brand of dish soap to buy or framing art and hanging it on the wall were part of the game of “being an adult.”

After getting married and putting away our new dinnerware, the concept appeared more solidified. I mean having various sets of champagne glasses has to qualify you as an adult somewhere, right?

Then, realizing I’d been in the same career for over five years helped further distance me from that feeling of a recent college-graduate. How can you have students you taught in middle school go to college and not feel like an adult?

But it wasn’t until recently that I formed a more distinct and fulfilling idea of what it means to “grow up” and why I’m content to step into that realm.

20140716-130639-47199548.jpgMy conclusions were actually drawn in spite of an article I read about expectations of thirty year-olds. It was one of those ridiculous list-type articles that detailed things, according to Elle Décor, that you shouldn’t have in your home once you turn thirty. I remember laughing to myself as I sat, in what I considered my fairly adult living room, and read that my couch pillows, television stand, and unmade bed were completely unacceptable. Really? Considering all the things that we associate with adulthood, this magazine was concerned with decorative pillows?

Apparently, maintaining cushions that were purchased with the couches is childish, as is an unmade bed. Sure, because I often bring my adult friends over to hang out in my bedroom nowadays. Oh wait, I don’t because I have a living room. But most absurd was the reasoning for vetoing the television stand. Basically, the article said that a stand is too “functional” and should be replaced with something more “decorative” in order to create a mature atmosphere. Decoration over function…not exactly the formula I associate with adulthood.

So you can imagine that I felt a strange mixture of childish and irritated throughout much of article, and I would have resented it all together if one key idea hadn’t been tucked in with the rest of the consumerism nonsense: the idea of transitioning from a temporary state to one of greater permanence.

The article was concerned with getting rid of temporary furniture, but the philosophy behind it made sense. Essentially, becoming an adult has a great deal to do with moving toward greater permanence. It’s so much more than choosing a different brand of laundry detergent than the one my mom bought when I was a kid; it’s creating traditions that will endure and developing domestic practices that will become a part of the weekly routine. It’s deciding what ethical and moral principles will guide my daily actions. It’s the ultimate embodiment of “finding myself” and proudly declaring it in the way I live my life.

Seeing these words in black and white makes the concept fairly intimidating. A lot of people haven’t “found themselves” by the age of thirty and might not by the time they’re forty. I think it’s important to focus on the “moving toward” part. This whole adulthood experience involves a lengthy transition.

20140716-130636-47196487.jpgSo while I may still have a television stand for years to come—but hopefully not these decorative pillows since they’re pretty worn looking—my transition has begun elsewhere. I can feel it in the move toward a more sustainable lifestyle. From growing fresh herbs on the porch, to buying pasture-raised beef and poultry from a local farm, to trying to replace my Starbucks addiction with conflict-free coffee and organic milk, I can feel myself embracing a lifestyle that I want to be a permanent part of my existence.

Everyone knows that adulthood is exhausting, overwhelming, and complicated, but it holds the promise of being very rewarding. That’s why thirty doesn’t seem so scary right now. Hopefully that’s not a temporary feeling.

I guess it will all depend on the future…or the state of my couch cushions.