Someone else’s cancer doesn’t open your jar of salsa… and other life lessons from Facebook.

 

I was late to Facebook. My friend Shelly finally convinced me to join the cyber-social circle of “cool kids” for the sake of my business. I have posted on occasion, but continued to judge others (not YOU, of course) for living virtually by checking their friends’ status updates (I’m at the store buying green tomatoes!) or “check out this new purse I found on sale!”) instead of enjoying real live moments. Or for being controlled by the that little ping on the phone that says someone has commented on your status, and how can you resist checking? Even  if you are on a date, reading to your kid, or getting a papsmere. But then I figured out how you can send pics directly from your phone to Facebook (this was a revelation for someone in the dark ages like me), and I have begun posting more since then, and enjoying the little pings’ myself, that validate my very existence in the universe. “Yes, your sleeping daughter is beautiful.”…or “No, I’ve never been kicked and licked by my daughter in the same day, but good for you!

I realize now how sometimes these little virtual “interactions” are my substitute for interacting with my husband. (But I DO have an excuse: my husband is not usually here to interact with!) When I am alone in the evenings, there are those little things that  one would typically share with a partner: those funny, sweet or frustrating moments from the day like,

Tonight in my freezer: an ice tray containing clear Elmer’s glue poured over a beetle, a cicada shell, a mosquito, rolly pollies, a bee, and other dead insects that MJ found in the yard today. He is experimenting with a new insect preservation process as a possibility for the upcoming invention convention. Possibly inspired by the Animal’s Inside Out exhibit we saw last week… LOVE my crazy little scientist!

I see now it has a potentially positive power to decrease someone’s loneliness by simply connecting them with others when they would otherwise be isolated.  Of course,maybe I should reach out and make a call in person to a friend, and sometimes I do. But the truth is that many of these FB friends are not people I ever talk to on the phone. It really is a different kind of “community”, but a community none the less.

My revelation and new-found fondness (well, acceptance) for Facebook stems mainly from a particular “facebook” experience I had a couple of weeks ago. I had finally gotten the kids to sleep after a day of teaching and solo parenting, a rough evening of misbehavior and madness and good stuff, too. The bites of leftover “peace pasta”, broccoli, and pepperoni I’d eaten off the children’s plates at 5:00 had worn off, and all I wanted to do was to sit down with my the bag of chips and new jar of salsa in front of the TV. But Alas, it was not be. In my frustration, I sat on the couch and posted this at 8:59 pm:

Sometimes it sucks to have an absent doctor husband. Like no Daddy for “Donuts with Dad” at school with MJ in the morning, and tonight, I can’t get the darn jar of salsa open!!! But people keep getting cancer….poor me. (It also sucks bc I can never get away with feeling sorry for myself!)

(I only used the word “darn” because I know some of the teachers and parents from the school where I am the chapel teacher might be reading it….so I’m holding myself to a higher standard. No drunken topless pics either.)

Dustin was on call all week, working an incredibly long day – the kind of week where we just don’t see each other and hardly speak. But I did know from speaking with him that he had stayed late to tell a young mom that she would soon die, and to try to convince another family to sign a DNR for their wife/ mother. Awful, right. Well, Ellie had thrown a book at me! And Michael James had told me that I was “bad mommy.” I needed some pity, too! The folks on FB didn’t have to know that I had actually shed a few tears of frustration at my situation, not just this particular one, but my life represented by this jar of salsa.  If I’d called a friend in that moment, it would most certainly have led to a breakdown, but I really just wanted to relax and watch “Project Runway” on DVR. But as the pings came, I paused. And one by one, the little messages of support helped me to feel noticed and loved in that moment. My friend and neighbor Heather commented that I could totally get away with feeling sorry for myself, and that she has a jar opener if I need it.  And I even learned an importatnt lesson from my wise cousin Kelly in California, a fabulous Facebooking and busy, working, garden-growing mom of 3 young girls! Kelly gave me permission to feel what I felt: “Someone else having cancer doesn’t open your jar of salsa, sugar. You keep having your feelings no matter what.” And it meant a lot coming from her because she actually has cancer right now!  (Thank God it’s the “best” kind to get – Thyroid, and has been treated well.) Still, with her authentic permission and the good wishes of other “friends”, I  finished off that bag of chips (minus the salsa), allowing myself to feel a little perturbed along the way, and somehow I stopped feeling alone on that couch.

I’m beginning to realize that there actually can be some authentic stuff out there on Facebook that helps make authentic connections for people – stuff like love, support, advice, encouragement, co-misery . My real and virtual friend Heather (the neighbor with the jar opener) garners support for her family as they deal with their sons’ cancer, and now it is a tool for her “community” to celebrate the end of treatment for him!

 Counting down! Only 100 days left of Chemo for this brave boy....

Counting down! Only 100 days left of Chemo for this brave boy….

My friend Tiffany got lots of heartfelt messages when her father recently passed away. Another friend got some great book recommendations for an upcoming trip. And just a few nights after my jar of salsa post, I turned once again to my FB community, this time to share a little more perspective and send an important message:

Date-night with my Doc finally started when he picked me up at 8:30, multiple phone interruptions during dinner, and he dropped me off at 9:30 to return to the hospital. But it’s for a 30-yr-old who is on her way out, and she has kids. I’m not complaining. But I will preach: Please give your girls (and boys) the HPV vaccine!

OK, I get it.  If not abused or misused, FACEBOOK can be a “good thing.” It might even save you money on a therapist. Thanks, “friends.” I “LIKE” you!