Forty Seven

A little more than a year ago I deleted my Facebook account, as an early birthday gift to myself. Today on my 47th birthday, after a good solid year cashing in on that gift, I’m finally getting around to the item I put on my to-do list shortly after taking the action – “blog post about leaving FB.”

I have a whole page of notes I started to help me write this post, which I might get to later. But here, in no particular order, are some things I love about this choice, as I reflect:

My life feels less like a spectator sport. I am no longer a little avatar inside my skull peering out through my eyes thinking about if and how to post about moment after moment of my day.

Time flows differently. Most obviously, I gained back minutes, and let’s be honest – sometimes hours – of my days, by no longer scrolling the newsfeed. But also, I feel like I experience time differently. I actually choose to just sit still in my back yard with nothing else to occupy my attention besides what’s already there – the birds and squirrels, the trees and sky, maybe a loved one nearby. I read more long-form things – books, actual paper magazine articles – and just consider them, maybe talk about them with the people I encounter in real life. Rarely do I feel the need to “share” by clicking on a device. As I consider the latest news event, I give myself time and space to process it. Which leads me to my next thought.

The world does not need to hear my opinion or reaction about every current event. Oh I could go on about this one (but does the world need to hear it all? I don’t think so). I do pay attention to the news, maybe not as close as I have at other times, because learning what’s going on in the world – and contemplating my place in it all – is important to me. But after forty-seven years of living, I’ve changed my opinions and overhauled my values and priorities enough to forecast that it’s just going to go on like this, so maybe it’s not all that helpful to instantly share with the world what I think about what just happened on a regular basis. If I’m honest, which I’m working to be, at least some of my virtual sharing and posting about the news had been more about building a desirable image for myself than actually caring about the world and the people in it.

Joy and gratitude live more deeply in me. I still experience depression, boredom, envy, frustration – but those feelings were amplified by my Facebook habit. I feel more truly a sense of enough and steadfast goodness in my life every day.

My actual, real-life friends and family mean more to me. Leaving Facebook, for me, meant I lost touch with many people, because I’m not outgoing, not the type of friend who will call or text at random just to talk. Or I hadn’t been for most of my life, and Facebook just further encouraged a habit of passive engagement with people. Getting off of Facebook meant I had to be more active in maintaining the relationships I cared about, and I’ve gotten in better shape doing just that – routine texting, an occasional postcard or note to long-distance friends, and more intentional physical gatherings with loved ones who live closer. As an introvert, I have more energy for social interactions because I haven’t been passively depleting myself through social media.

Full disclosure, I did start a new Facebook profile that I connected to the pages I run for my bands, and I also use that profile to occasionally (as in maybe for two minutes every couple weeks?) check in on two groups that are important to me – my church and my songwriter group. I send and accept no friend requests and don’t do any scrolling – just click through my notifications and respond as needed.

After a year, I’m happy with my choice and have no desire to go back. Nothing I’ve written here is meant to cast judgment on anyone else. You, wonderfully, are you, gifted and freighted with your very own life to live, and I hope you feel empowered to make your own decisions. My experience may or may not resonate with you. But if you, like 45-year-old me, have been wanting to try getting off Facebook or a different social media platform, I hope you feel encouraged to go ahead. You can try to calculate the pros and cons and worry it all out before you jump – it took me a long gradual time to finally shut the thing down – but looking back now, it feels like it never needed to be such a long drawn-out decision. I didn’t really have as much to lose as I thought.

Now it’s time to turn off the laptop and get ready for a celebratory dinner out with my family!

**Below, I’ve just copied and pasted from the notes I mentioned above. Very random thoughts and links to other people’s thoughts that impacted my decision:

The article that pushed me to pull the trigger – https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/11/facebook-authoritarian-hostile-foreign-power/620168/

https://breakingground.us/be-not-afraid/

Stress of always needing to have an opinion and express it – dumbing down our thinking and our conversation to likes and sound bytes.

Wanting to be “friends” with everyone, feeling “like butter spread on too much bread,” to be hobbity about it. 

The endless news feed.

Feeling like I’m always standing and yelling in a crowd, everything I say blaring out to everyone around, and I don’t even know who all is there listening.

The increasing feeling of giving up, giving in to a system I increasingly hated. “I don’t like it but . . .” This isn’t about trying to make a perfect life (I’m still a consumer of Amazon, Apple and Google – will probably be more invested in Youtube now) – but feeling like staying on FB just pushed me too far into that territory of compromising values and joining the evil empire.

I can remember FB before the like button, before comments (really?) and feel a little wistful for that. We used to go look at each other’s walls and not just endlessly scroll the news feed. Then communication happened through more long-form and/or human means (email, phone calls, in-person gatherings). It’s harder to be troll-like in person or one-on-one.

You can stay. There are good reasons to. I did for a long time because I wanted to be a positive presence. 

Ideas for improving your experience – turn off all notifications except inside FB itself. Make it so you have to open up FB to see what’s happening there. (No pings on your phone when somebody likes or comments or posts). Remove FB from all but one device. I liked it best when I only used FB through my laptop. I used the Messenger app on my phone.

Choose times when you open FB and stick to them. Limit your time spent there. Write down what you plan to do on FB before you open it so you don’t fall down the rabbit hole and forget.

Take longer breaks from it.

https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/galaxy-brain/618ad9942e822d00205a26b3/facebooks-vast-wasteland/

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/12/ai-ad-technology-singularity/620521/

The Road the Day the Ground the Clouds

At last, my #songaweek2022 group used a photo for a prompt instead of a word or phrase. This felt like a game-changer to me in terms of connecting with a prompt for inspiration. I think the photo was of the Great Wall of China, but I thought of a road, then of the song from The Hobbit that starts, “the road goes ever on and on. . . ” and I went from there.

I felt like deliberately slowing down in the writing and playing of this song, and so I did.

If you listen closely and/or with headphones you might be able to hear the crickets singing along outside the open window.

The road goes ever on
And over it a song
That if you hear will draw you near
to where you never know where you might go

The day lies before you
And with it much to do
But there’s a song that draws you on
To where you always know you’re going home

The ground carries your load
The clouds catch evening’s glow
They’re changing you, and changed by you
Till everything will never be the same

The Way of Wonder

Life continues to be a bit crazy around here as we moved our oldest to college last week and two of us go back to school here at home (middle school lunch lady and high school sophomore). I mean not here at *home* but in our hometown. I mean not actually our town but the next one over, which is only a few blocks away. But I digress.

All that to say I’m still not back to finishing a song every week. This one was started last week and wrapped up and roughly recorded this week. Not one of my favorites but it’s just good to write again!

Here on the water in the middle of the land
You can hear the wind, it’s whispering through the wings of birds above you
And here in the forest surrounded by the trees
You can feel the pulse of all the being things around you
Ooooh. . . . and that’s called home

Deep in the hollows of your heavy heart
There is still a song reverberating in this moment
Lapsing synapses at the back of your brain
Keep trying all the ways they know to tell the story how it goes
Ooooh . . . . and that’s called life

And you
You will be well
You will find wisdom in the way of wonder

Summer ’22

Here’s a song exploring the balance of individual freedom with community responsibility. The first lines came to me soon after I heard the news that Roe v. Wade had been overturned. They might just as easily have come from the mouth of an anti-masker a couple years ago. The next lines are a reminder that I have changed my opinion multiple times in my life and I’m likely to do it again – so I’m learning to hold less militantly to any position, and trying to pay closer attention and care to the people around me.

The prompt for this week 31 of #songaweek2022 was “armed and dangerous,” which brought to my mind the awful number of gun fatalities we’ve had right here in my city just this summer, not to mention the wider world.

The first lines of the little bridge at the end (“the rains come down and the floods go up”) came from a song I learned in Sunday School many years ago – about the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish one who built his house on the sand (thus the “sands of time” line for my further allusionary pleasure). I’m thinking here about actual flooding and wildfires, resulting from our foolish refusal to build sustainable systems that acknowledge our limits and our need to care for ourselves and our planet.

More than ever, I’m convinced that the way forward is the way of love – not blind sentiment but thoughtful, engaging, respectful and compassionate care for whoever I find myself facing, physically or virtually or however else, at the present moment.

Here’s something I read this week that I immediately cut and pasted in my notes, said by Valarie Kaur – “Listening does not grant the other side legitimacy. It grants them humanity—and preserves our own.”

I would probably do what they want me to
But since they took away my right to choose
I feel uneasy

So many things I used to rail against
Now they kind of make some sense
I take it easy

Think for yourself but please don’t stop there
Think about everybody else

I’ve been trying hard to hear the truth
But with all these voices shouting the news
It isn’t easy

And the heat sets in and the tempers rise
And the guns come out and somebody dies
It’s far too easy

Think for yourself but please don’t stop there
Think about everybody else

And the rains come down and the floods go up
As we race against the sands of time
And the fires burn and the tanks roll in
And the wide world weeps and the hearts of humans break

Think for yourself but please don’t stop there
Think about everybody else

I Can’t Forget How it Felt

We’re back from a 16-day, 15-state road trip over the course of which (including prepping for it) I missed three weeks of songwriting. But I spent good time with lovely people in beautiful places. Not a bad trade!

Every summer, fragrance or music or the way the light falls or the wind breathes recalls to me other summers – and I’m inspired to write songs like this one, feeling again those summers of my adolescence, that felt deep and wide and like I lived whole wonderful lifetimes through them. And – part of the joy of aging is that I think I’m once again starting to live more like my favorite parts of those summers – rediscovering the beauty and joy of my life through all my senses. It is good.

Silver starlight, lilac breeze, windows open wide
Something ventured, something lovely gained
Spring becoming summer, woman grown from tender child
I was never going to be the same

I can’t forget how it felt, can’t remember what happened
I fell under your spell, got mixed up in your magic

Moonlight on the road, whisper of leaves through the yard
Evening breathing cool upon my skin
Music in the wind and new horizons in my heart
I close my eyes and it comes back again

I can’t forget how it felt, can’t remember what happened
I fell under your spell, got mixed up in your magic

Sunshine and the birds are singing, cold rain, I’m alone
It doesn’t really make much difference
I hold you in the deepness where I keep the love I’ve known
And spread you out in everything I bless

I can’t forget how it felt, can’t remember what happened
I fell under your spell, got mixed up in your magic