Fahrenheit, facebook, focus 451

I’ve got that brimming feeling, the one that comes when I haven’t been writing much, like I’m carrying around all kinds of thoughts and impressions and feelings but they’re all a jumble in my head and body. It helps to get them out of myself, and writing is so often the way I do that. Sex too. And running. And napping restores.

I woke up with a big ole cold sore this morning, which is always my body’s final frontier, its way of saying: REST. In this case, it is also my body’s way of telling Pearl to sleep through the night. Poor kiddo, she was sick for most of last week. Holding her head Saturday in the middle of the night, I felt like such a mama. I vividly remember my own mother holding a cold washcloth to my forehead as she supported me through that most awful experience of throwing up. It is a blessing, this kind of intimacy, the ability to comfort. And simple too – when your four-year old (or seven, or fifteen, or fifty) daughter (or son or partner or mother) is throwing up, you go to her, you hold her head, you wipe her face, you know exactly what to do. It is so comforting, knowing exactly what to do. So often, the habit is to question, to doubt what I am doing, to think of myself as lurching and lunging and retreating, to perpetuate that awful, pervasive lie: “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Today, I heard myself tell someone that I was feeling “so unfocused,” and as soon as I heard the words come out of my mouth, I knew they weren’t really true. They were just habitual.

At one point this weekend, the girls were playing with their friends up the street and Greg and I found ourselves on the deck, just us and the dogs. And the birds. The birds! Singing up a storm. It was truly surround-sound. Chickadees, cardinals, robins, and surely so many others whose names I don’t know but whose calls and responses were nothing short of symphonic, soothing. I felt so grateful to be there, to be here, in a leafy backyard among birds. And to be aware, to sit and let that be the only “activity” for a few minutes – ten, twenty? For once I didn’t know exactly what time is was. It was just time for listening to birds.

Earlier today, I wanted to write a brilliant post about facebook. Even after years of using this space to practice being enough, practice checking in, practice letting whatever comes count, I still have that urge to knock one out of the park most every time I sit down to write. But you can’t really try to do that. All you can do is show up and be one with the bat and keep your eye on the ball and not think. Not think about how you’re hoping it’s going to go. Not think about what if you miss. Not think about what kind of pitch it’ll be, or whether you practiced enough, or what will happen if you miss or what will happen if you don’t. You just focus. And you are focused, more than you realize. Sometimes it just seems to take me a few moments to realize, to own up to, to embody. To arrive where you are already standing, right there on that dusty home plate waiting to swing.

OK, enough with the baseball.

I’ve been thinking a lot about facebook, and the fact that I somehow have 451 friends there. I am seriously considering deactivating my account altogether. I am sitting on the impulse to do just that, aware of my penchant for quitting things cold turkey after long periods of pre-contemplation. Like a child: She’ll do it when she’s ready… So, I am not quite ready to pull the plug, but am pondering the place facebook takes up in my life, in my days, in my headspace, and questioning what it’s really for – for me. Like many people I know, there are aspects of it I truly enjoy – namely, the ease with which I can be in touch with people I love. I like the sense of sharing and connecting it can engender. But the truth remains: I spend plenty of time on facebook not sharing and not connecting, or sharing but wondering why I am bothering. It has become a habit – like saying I’m unfocused – to see my life through the lense of what I would say on a facebook update.


held Pearl’s head at 3am while she threw up. Poor baby.

listened to birds in the backyard. Bliss.

is pondering baseball metaphors.

The question is this: how is it affecting or even altering my experience, my ability to be present? At what point does something become a compulsion or even an addiction? I have had my share of both, and definitely can see some of the tell-tale signs. At one point before I quit smoking for good, I remember wishing I could simply cut it out – cut it out of my life, of my psyche, somehow cut it out even of my knowing it existed. I longed for that freedom, to just be, to be able to be in present time without the distraction of smoking, or wanting to smoke, or thinking about smoking. Even when I wasn’t doing it, it was taking up room, it was a place to escape to, a way to not be really in my body or in the world.

Fahrenheit 451, facebook 451. What’s the difference really? If I didn’t have a facebook account, would I really lose friends? Of course not. If anything, I’m feeling pulled to re-enter my pre-facebook life with gusto. I want to get your email address, or better yet, your REAL address, so that I can send you a postcard with a real update. In real handwriting. There is some fear here. Fear of loss. Fear of losing connections. It’s good to play with these, to invite them in. That’s part of why I’m just hanging out here, not jumping on a big all-or-nothing kind of decision, but just fiddling with the feelings and seeing what kind of music they make. When I listen, really listen, I hear only this: trust the connections. Trust your life. And this: be quiet.

I look at my kids. I look at Aviva, who is watching our every move as she works out her own dance with herself, with us, with friends, with the worlds around her and within her. On her desk is a “laptop” she made out of paper and an envelope. It is carefully labeled, “PRIVATE.” When you open it up (with her permission, of course), you will see a full keyboard, along with little “email” notes to and from her friend. Email is what grown-ups do.

I want her to see me sitting on the deck doing nothing but listening to the birds. I want her to see me working, coaching, connecting. I want her to see me reading a book on the couch. I want her to hear me say “Yes” when she asks if I want to hear her new song she made up, or see her new trick she figured out, or her ant she captured in a glass jar. She will do what we do. She will do things we don’t do, too. The best I can do, at this point in the game, is to watch for gaping chasms and deep crevasses between what I say I value and my actual, well, actions.

It’s spectacularly beautiful out right now. The hard rain this afternoon took all the humidity with it, leaving us with such clear evening light. The girls are all lined up on the sidewalk with stuffed animals, books, and some wayward toys, each one carrying a hopeful little price tag. Pearl and I played some t-ball, and now she is buying Aviva’s discarded treasures with last night’s allowance money. The lilacs are beginning to flower. Little voices fill the street as dinner gets later and later. Tacos are in the oven staying warm. A hear a chime, feel a breeze, see some other neighborhood kids zoom by low on their scooters. For this moment, for a moment, everything is in absolute focus.

6 thoughts on “Fahrenheit, facebook, focus 451

  1. The Other Laura says:

    I’ve wondered about this too. How much time do I spend on Facebook just because I’m bored or procrastinating?

    (I just made a pledge to leave the computer off completely on Sundays. We’ll see how that goes!?)

    I value the connections and re-connections I’ve made on FB, but I wonder sometimes if they are real, real connections or just a kind of cyber illusion?


  2. Karen Pery says:

    A) Holding the cold washcloth is a definite mama moment. I had to consult with my husband on this after an unfortunate ending to a lovely day at Jazz Fest last weekend: dearest, next time, note that you’ll want to wring *out* the washclosh before holding it to a neck or forehead. It’s nicer.

    B) Even without trying, you still hit it out of the park.

    C) I think noticing the signs of a soft addiction is probably useful, as is examining the reasons around it. I attended a lecture (in person!) of a Rabbi last week who cautioned us about behaviors that might keep us away from the divine within us. For me, FB still allows for meaningful and real connections & support, and that makes me Me. And yes, I’ve also noticed that I’m stalking more and posting less (sometimes).



  3. Paula says:

    Honey, you always hit it out of the park. I recognize a lot of what you’re saying, but I think harmony is the key here. The trick for me with FB is using it enough to be a tool for connection, but not so much that I am less present for my family. However, it has been amazing for this longtime resister (only on since last summer) because I have reconnected with friends from ages ago, become more connected with family, connected with people like you whose work inspires me, and learned about things I would never know because of it. Also, I work at home, so it’s a quick, albeit shallow, way for me to check in with other adults during the day if I don’t have time for a lengthy conversation with a friend. Like anything else, good in moderation, something I’m not always good at practicing.


  4. Beth Patterson says:

    Ok, mi amiga–
    Why don’t you design a retreat for FB addicts that is full of laughter yoga, cooking together, dancing, writing and reading aloud, making music…that will get us all back into our bodies and out of our Faces?


  5. Lucille says:

    I think of quitting Facebook almost every day. When I got an acct a year or so ago, I quickly reconnected with about 20 girls who graduated with me whom I hadn’t been in touch with in 25 years. It was really cool to see their “grownup” faces, and find out who was married, and who had kids, and what their kids looked like, etc…. But I lead a very busy busy life. I don’t ever post on Facebook, so there’s really been no “real” reconnection with people. I can just about connect with the friends I have in my life today!

    The people on my friends list (less than 60) vary in who posts what. My sister, however, posts updates several times a day—very much like those statuses you posted above about the baseball metaphors and about the birds.

    She’ll post what she’s craving, what she just did, what she is going to do, how it smells on the train that day, cranks about the people she works with. She’s even posted about how she forgot how much she hated Monopoly (WHILE she was playing Monopoly with the fam at my house one night!)
    No one on my friends list posts as much or as maniacally as my sister….but when they do post, I sometimes wonder. Like when someone will post a status like “can’t take it anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”….and that’s all they’ll post. What is UP with that? What does it mean? Who are they posting this for? Are we supposed to ask why?

    Sometimes people do, and I never see a reply. So then I think, well, maybe he/she picked up the phone or texted that person directly and told them what the story is. But then if they did, what was the point of posting that status at all. WHO CARES?

    And that’s when I think about getting off FB, because that “who cares” makes me feel cranky and jaded and judgmental. If people like to post what color nail polish they just painted their toes, or what they ate for dinner, or that they’re a “fan of Walgreens”, who am I to judge? But do I really need that in my life?

    Now that I’m writing all this, it occurs to me that maybe FB is not a good thing for me. I think I check it (every few hours when I’m online) just to see what people have written and then I’m just mocking (to myself I guess) their inane posts, and what good is that?

    I never feel that way reading blogs though, and yet all the blogs I read are people I don’t know, and Facebook posts are of people I do know.

    Do you think it’s because for the most part people who blog are usually expressing something with some intention and Facebook for some reason (at least in my circle) tends to be random and pointless?

    Don’t get me started about Twitter!

    Sorry about posting SO VERY MUCH!!!! I think I need to get to bed, ha ha!


  6. Lisa says:

    Great post, Jena!

    You may (or may not) have noticed that I quit FB back in February. It took me over a year to agree to an account (immense, unrelenting pressure from a friend or two) ~ and then I was active for all of 6 weeks.

    In that short time I recognized the dangerous and time-sucking symptoms of addiction and, as quick as I joined, I gave it up. I found myself saying, “When it comes my time to die, I will not find myself wishing I had spent more time on Facebook!”

    Go for it.



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