Saturday, December 17, 2011

Social Media Ponderings

I've been thinking a lot about social media lately.  I've been thinking about how it both adds to and detracts from my quality of life.  I'm writing this post, in short, to see what others think about these issues.

I am not a big social media user.  I have a twitter account which I mostly use to keep up with a few friends.  My few twitter broadcasts tend to be announcements of my postings of my three blogs.  I don't have web service on my phone, so Twitter is not really useful to me.  I originally subscribed to Facebook for work purposes;  I wanted to make it as easy as possible for WOW prospects and participants to get in touch with me.  When I stopped coordinating WOW, I did not take the time to reflect on whether or not to close the account; I just left it open by default.

On the plus side, I can say that Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with old school mates and even cousins I don't often see.  Likewise, it allows me a glimpse into the lives of many friends oversees and even in my hometown that I would otherwise have likely lost touch with.

The flipside is that I do need to pause and ask myself this, "How important are these relationships, really?  If they were truly important, mighten there be a better way to maintain them?" 

It's food for thought.  Is the time spent on social media truly improving my quality of life?  In some venues, I can say yes, definitely.  For example, many years ago I (somewhat stupidly) moved 2500 miles away from my family.  Facebook allows me to keep in touch particularly with my nieces and nephews -- and their kids -- and promotes a sense of closeness so that when we do meet, we're more familiar.  I love that.

On the downside, I think Facebook and Twitter promote a false -- and weird -- sort of grandiosity or fake fame.  Most people have that secret desire to be famous.  We all want to matter in some way, right?  And let's be honest, how many of us show our true selves on Facebook?  Don't we all show our best side?  How many people do you know in flesh and blood whose profile pic looks nothing like them?  I've noticed how often people compliment me on my parenting.  I'm no saint!  I just look like it on Facebook. I have a messy house, I yell way more than I "should' or really want to, I'm frequently frazzled and let's face it -- I'm a little lazy!  But that does not show up on Facebook because I'm so darn proud of my Fab Five, that tends to be what I talk about. 

Let's talk about blogs now.  My first blog was my weight loss blog.  I started it for a simple reason; I was going to keep a "word" journal of my weight loss learnings and then thought, "hey, I might as well do it as a blog."  It was that simple.  This blog was meant for my coaching clients -- a sort of gimme.  And my "Bright Love" blog was started because with 5 kids, keeping our large extended family abreast of the news was a logistical nightmare.  The blog simplified all that.

But then I started feeding the blogs to Facebook, mostly because someone couldn't figure out how to subscribe.  Then I started getting a lot of readers from Facebook.  Then my ego swelled and now here we are.  In November, Facebook threatened to stop all blog feeds, but didn't.  But the threat got my wheels turning.  Do I really "need" people to read my blogs.  No, of course not.  I'm writing them for me; I don't need people to read them.  So why am I still feeding them?

So I'm stopping the Bright Weight Loss and Bright Love feeds in January.  Not now because I'm too lazy to figure out how to stop the feeds when I'm so busy making a beautiful advent happen.  But if you are still reading at this point, and want to continue, you can "follow" or subscribe;  both links are at right on each blog.  Unless you can give me some good reason to continue, of course! 

I am going to spend more time next year taking real time for my most loved friends and family.  I will still keep my Facebook feed but I will use the tools  to "sift to the top" my nearest and dearest;  just seeking authenticity here.

What do you think about these ponderings?  Am I just taking myself to seriously?  Or do you see problems with yourself and this way of relating?  (We'll see if anyone actually reads this stuff!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Consciously Acting

One of my biggest challenges as a parent is to teach my kids about acting consciously.  It's hard because I don't always do it myself and it's also a challenging material to teach.  In schools, kids are taught to follow the rules, which isn't quite the same and acting consciously, although it is a subset of it, to be sure.

Here's an example.  The Captain, age 4, has attachment disorder.  He's simply often dis-regulated.  We have been trying to teach him that he doesn't have to come unglued when things don't go the way he expects or wants them to.  We want him to be able to identify that what is really happening is that he is afraid.  This is difficult for young children; it's hard to pinpoint that feeling when everything in you is screaming, "run!" or "fight!"

Ditto for the teens in the house.  In their case, it's more learning to choose what comes out of their mouths.  Learning to regulate your tone is a bit of a fine point for a teen because you can only do that if you are able to take the quick inventory and notice what is going on inside.  Also learning to recognize that when you say something blatantly untrue or reactive, it is okay to say "Hold on, I didn't really mean to call you that name."  It's challenging and takes maturity of the internal kind.

All of this is made even more challenging by social norms.  These days, people curse or "tell people off" in public settings.  We seem to be revisiting the self-expression era of the 60's and 70's. I am a child of those decades and I am all for self-expression;  that said, it's helpful if  a little self-consciousness goes along with it.

I notice how hard it is for me to self-regulate at times.  When we are getting ready to go somewhere -- always a challenge in a family of seven -- I get stressed out.  I am driven by fear.  Deep down, I'm just a little kid -- afraid of getting left behind.  It's not a logical thing; it occurs on a cellular level.  I notice I have a similar reaction when the house is very noisy, not an infrequent thing with 5 children.  A panic rises in me and if I don't pay attention to it, I am soon going to be yelling for quiet.

What I am striving for in myself and trying to teach the kids, as well, is to take a moment to check in.  I want to take that deep breath (or two, maybe three) and calm myself down a bit. I stop and ask myself, "Am I acting from love or fear?"   It makes a huge difference.

I am putting this on my self-improvement priority list as the holidays approach.  Not only am I  unplugging the Christmas machine, I  am consciously acting to dial down the stress around here too.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Unplugging the Christmas Machine

'Tis the season.  The season of shopping, decorating, holiday parties, baking, wrapping, and anticipating.  All too often in my life, it's the season of extreme busy-ness, "have-tos" and unmet expectations.  This year, I'm unplugging the Christmas machine.

The reality is that with 5 kids, a certain amount of "busy" comes with the territory.  And the equal reality is that much of what is on the family calendar and on the to-do list does not "have" to be done.  This is going to be an Advent season of conscious choices.

Yesterday, for instance, was our foster care agency's Christmas party.  We'd have enjoyed that so much.  But that fun would have been sandwiched between church, picking up a child from a slumber party, my week to cook for the youth at church and Pepper's RE class.  It was already a full day; that "one more thing" was the thing that threatened to be the apple that upset the whole cart.  I said, "No thank you."  I felt a little guilty.  Instead, we had a great day.  There was no pressure getting home from the Second Sunday of Advent.  I had plenty of time to both hang out with the little ones and  get ready for my team's cooking evening.  Everything simply went more smoothly because of that one less thing. 

"Advent" means the beginning, the commencement, and a new start.  Instead of seeing the Advent season as the weeks we speed through to get to Christmas, I'm looking at Advent as a new beginning.  We are preparing our hearts -- and maybe we will have time to prepare the house too.  We are slowing down and taking the scenic route through Advent to Christmas.  By the time we get there, we'll be ready -- I'll be ready. 

Part of BLORA lights display at Fort Hood (2010)
Yes, we will decorate and listen to the Christmas music;  we will bake and shop; we will wrap presents and celebrate with friends but we will not join in the holiday madness.  We'll have no batting coaching, no piano lessons and no "routine" doctor's appointments.  We'll choose carefully the holiday parties we attend and discern between true traditions and holiday habits.  We're unplugging the Christmas machine and plugging into family life.  Happy Advent!