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

 

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The Logistical Issues with Living and Writing

Like so many other English majors, I have been working on the same book for years. And yet, in all that time, I’ve only managed to write a few chapters.

Life just seems to keep getting in the way.

As a teacher, I even have an entire summer off from work—the perfect time to hunker down and write for days on end! Yet, despite all my great intentions, every summer seems to be busier than the last.

There are always various appointments and tasks to accomplish that have been put off during the school year. The house is always crying for attention by the time June rolls around, and the yard tends to be in worse condition. Needless to say, there’s plenty to keep me busy.

Knowing that, I decided I needed a new approach this summer.

After being awed by The Tiger’s Wife, I was intensely curious how someone so young could write something so incredible. When did she have the time? How did she focus on tying together all the minute details in order to weave such an incredible story?

Apparently, I learned from an interview, she became nocturnal.

She slept through the day, woke at 5 pm, and wrote through the night. Basically she isolated herself from all of her distractions.

Impressive is the word that comes to mind. She was so devoted to her craft that she allowed it to dominate her life, and the result was a masterpiece of writing.

Unfortunately, becoming nocturnal wasn’t an option for me. I have a husband, family, friends, and obligations that require me to be awake and functioning during the daylight hours.

My alternative was to “treat my writing like a job” as many have suggested. I decided to set strict writing hours from 10 to 3 Tuesday through Friday. These hours were non-negotiable and would ensure that I made some serious progress on my poor, abandoned novel.

Now that we’re several weeks into summer, I’d like to tell you of my great success.

I’d love to tell you about all my progress.

But I’ve only written one chapter.

Even with the best of intentions, my new plan proved as ineffective as all the others. In essence, it can be summed up by a saying my husband and I adopted ages ago from the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall:

I was going to write daily, and then “I just went about living my life.”

You see, every summer it’s the same thing: I commit myself to writing, and then life gets in the way.

Of course, the clear answer is to be stricter about writing, to avoid distractions.

But what if those distractions are equally or more important?

Rare days off with my husband. Outings with friends. Adventures with family.

These things matter. They make up my life and shape how I see the world. How can I limit them or cut them out in order to write a book that may never see the light of day?

The truth is that the book can wait. It will always be there, waiting to be called forth from the recesses of computer storage. It will be my ongoing hobby, not a job.

The people in my life, however, cannot wait. Who knows how long I have with them? Who knows the importance of that shared afternoon coffee or the spontaneous decision to stay in a strange city and make s’mores?

Living life is what matters most.

Clearly, others have found a way to live and write. Hopefully, some day I will find that balance.

But for now, I’m going to stop feeling guilty for things not done and focus on the beauty of things that I chose to do instead.

Like making s’mores with my sister…

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Or going to gaze at a species that might not be around much longer…

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There’s no regretting that.

Accepting the Epic Fail

As I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, I have a preoccupation with perfection. I am not programmed to accept failure, so it goes without saying that I feel an intense need to reconcile my shortcomings.

I need to fix things.

I need to explain away misunderstandings until I have no more words.

I need for people to see my perspective, so that they’ll understand why I said or did whatever crazy thing it was that seemed to make sense at the time.

Yes, I clearly have issues.

I’m going to blame it on the perfection fixation.

And since we all know that the world is not a perfect place, and no one—especially me—falls under the category of perfect, you can see the inevitability of consternation, better known as failure, in this equation.

Well, this weekend resulted in what can only be called an epic failure.

You see, for the past seventy-two hours, I have said the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time over and over again. Even with the best of intentions, I have caused disappointment after disappointment. Worse yet, I have not managed to reconcile any of these errors.

When I recall the events, I can’t help but think if this hadn’t happened and that hadn’t happened…

But it did all happen in the worst possible way.

Maybe it was just horrible luck. Or maybe I just screwed up a lot this weekend.

Regardless, you can imagine my intense desire to continue an attempt at damage control.

Fortunately, I have friends who are much more sensible than I am.20140616-223253-81173965.jpg

Oh yes, it took an emergency, therapy coffee session with my best friend for me to realize that there was no fixing this weekend, no way to reconcile all the impossibly frustrating events.

It just wasn’t going to happen.

Instead, I had to do something I rarely do…take a deep breath and let it all go.

(I promise I’m not intentionally channeling Disney’s Frozen.)

I had to accept that there are things that cannot be undone, instances from which I can only learn. I can’t disregard these experiences. Instead, I can use them to shape my perspective and my response in the future. I can file them away like lessons about long division—I thought I’d never use that information, but every once in a while I need it.

So I had to accept that this weekend was an epic failure, and there was no fixing it.

Although I wish it wasn’t the case, I believe weekends like mine are not uncommon, and it’s important to know when to shrug it off—we carry too much on our shoulders anyway—and move on.

I needed a friend’s guidance and a strong latte to realize this. Then, I just needed to do it.

So, upon arriving home, I turned up the Jack Johnson Pandora station, started chopping vegetables for dinner, sighed deeply…and then let it all go.

And after that, I felt so much lighter. After all the tears and the obsessing and the self-doubting, it was amazing to accept that the only thing to do was move forward.

Thank goodness for brilliant friends.

So I invite you to do two things this week…

One.

Do yourself a favor and take a moment to consider all those frustrations that have been weighing you down—you know, the ones that require you to be more and do more than you realistically can.

Breathe in deeply. Then breathe them all out, and let them go.

Two.

Check out Starry Eyed Photography because not only does this girl give great advice, she also happens to be an incredible photographer with an amazing ability to capture beauty in the every day.

View More: http://amalieorrangephotography.pass.us/monicaalbertswedding

And with that, I wish you luck in focusing on what matters and shrugging off the rest.

 

 

Photo Credit: Amalie Orrange Photography

A Call to Savor…

I have been told on occasion that I don’t come off as the most hospitable of individuals upon introduction.

I know. I know. Those of you who know me are chuckling with bits of recognition, so I might as well admit that I have also been told that I have very little control over my facial features when I’m surprised or irritated. I’m just not very good about rearranging my face to hide my feelings.

Yet, I will contend that I employ a great deal more self-restraint and open-mindedness than I have been given credit for when it comes to initial meetings. I believe in giving people an opportunity to reveal themselves, rather than leading with judgment.

That being said, I am apparently—according to popular opinion—a judgmental person. My inclination is to spend the next few lines arguing against this claim, but I also don’t want to be called a liar. So I might as well qualify that statement instead…

I am judgmental in the sense that I believe in simplicity (my word of the year!) and detest unnecessary drama. I am no longer in high school or college. I do not have a roommate I secretly despise or a group of friends with whom I am periodically at odds.

I am beyond wasting time on such irritations. I’m an adult. I can choose with whom I spend my time, and I choose to spend it with individuals who understand the beauty of simplicity and living fully.

When it comes down to it, it’s all about savoring the experience, and I want to surround myself with like-minded people.

To my immense delight, I am lucky enough to have found a group of friends who embrace my fervor.20140416-222058.jpg

Just this week, we celebrated my husband’s birthday with a dinner outing. The restaurant was beautiful, and the private room was extravagant. The service was impeccable, and the meal was delicious. Sure, the salads were bold with trendy, nutritious kale and an enchanting bacon vinaigrette, the main dish was a whole, slow-roasted suckling pig, and the sides had modern, adventurous twists. But when it really comes down to it, we enjoyed salad, ham, mac and cheese, okra, and corn with the enthusiasm of world explorers.

Yes, it was an incredible meal. But the quality of the experience had more to do with the mindset of the party than with the dishes themselves. We had all come together in celebration of my husband, and we were focused on embracing every bit of the experience.

Fortunately, nothing disappointed. But you know, as I listened to the table exclaim their adoration for the corn (who knew that Carolina white sauce had a transcending influence upon corn?), I realized that they really could have served us anything as long as it was edible, and we would have made the best of it. We were there to enjoy one another’s company and celebrate the beauty of living fully.

Everyone at that table had to rearrange conflicts, stave off exhaustion, and arrange for the expense, but that evening we were all focused on enjoying the adventure, in a way that I think would have made Hemingway proud.

And later that evening, as I sat beneath a dreamy night sky, lounging on a cushioned setee, I surveyed our friends as they drank in the details of the enchanting rooftop patio, accessible only through a password protected speakeasy. Their faces mirrored mine on my first introduction to the small, Prohibition Era-themed bar. I watched as they sighed under the Orlando skyline, ran their fingertips along ornate frames on the brick walls, and sipped their carefully crafted cocktails.20140416-222140.jpg

I remember the feeling of elation when I realized that they felt the same as I had: the sense that what mattered most was sharing this experience with one another.

There were no shots, dancing, shouting, or wild outbursts that evening.

There was simply our conversation and camaraderie beneath an endless sky.

And best of all…I didn’t have to tell them to savor it. They already knew.

So, while I won’t embrace my judgmental label, I will gladly admit to being choosy…because obviously I choose very well.

And with that egocentric proclamation, I follow with a more profound request:

Savor the moment. You’ll be glad you did.