Will the Real So-and-So Please Step Forward?

Last week I received an invitation that I sat on for a few days before responding to. There were a couple of reasons why I wasn't quick to offer a "yes," but when it came down to it,  finances was chief among them. Finally, it occurred to me that--rather than cite other reasons and then have to come up with *other* other reasons the next time around (as this was already the second such dinner I'd opted out of)--I'd just come clean.

I Replied All (nooooooooooooooo) to the original invite email with the simple (if wordy...it's me we're talking about here) request that people not take it personally if I don't attend these dinners for the foreseeable future as, in my current focus on paying off debt, spendy sit-down dinners were not in my budget.

I took in a little breath before hitting the "send" button (I am still pretty new to my current location and this was something of a naked confession) but for the most part I felt good about sending the email. As I stated in the message I wrote, it's always my preference to be honest about things and (as this blog clearly demonstrates) I don't mind people knowing my business.

A few people reacted with surprise to the email and assured me it was not necessary for me to be so revealing, which got me thinking about the concepts of "my business"/"personal business."

There was a time in my life during which I felt like a was one version of myself in some scenarios and another version in others. Actually, I still feel that way at times. The way I experience it now is not necessarily negative. I'm reminded of the Walt Whitman quote "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself (I am large, I contain multitudes)." I have a lot of thoughts and reactions going on in my brain and every "version" of myself reveals another part of who I am. They are all the real me. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about living through a period of my life where I felt strongly the desire to hide or even bury/destroy/erase parts of myself. I tried so hard to kill off these parts that when one of them surfaced (for example, I laughed at something I felt some people would not approve of my laughing at) I felt overwhelming guilt and a sense of failure. I was failing at pretending to be somebody I wasn't. And as profound as my desire was, I could not get myself to buy the lie I was selling.

With some distance and perspective, I came to realize that I no longer wanted to hide parts of myself (except, you know, my actual physical parts. This is not a blog about the journey to Nudism). I no longer wanted to sign up for any kind of friendship or activity that would require that of me. 

This went for work as well. I didn't want there to be a version of me meant for work and one meant for real life. I mean yes, of course to some extent we ALWAYS have to keep some thoughts or the more colorful descriptive words that come to mind to ourselves if we want to remain employed, but my word! I spend 45 hours of every week in that location, surrounded by the same coworkers. I don't want that much of my life to be passed in the dazed, semi-human state that is a person trying to fake it.

Ok, let me just disclaim a bit to say I understand people in management roles need to keep up a level of professionalism and should probably not blur too many lines with their employees, but I also appreciate that both my bosses reveal their senses of humor openly and celebrate with us openly as well. Neither pretends to hail from some sub-category of humans better suited to rule and immune to the desire for camaraderie, conviviality, co-conspiracy even (within audit compliance, of course).

Life is simply too short, the portion of it spent at work too great, to be any other way.

And it's more than that. It's more than just the desire to be open and have fun at work. That's pretty easy. I've finally realized it also turns out to be not as difficult as I'd imagined (once over the initial fear of it) to let my faults show freely as well. I shared with my coworkers that a nice dinner wasn't in my budget because the thought of being honest about the things that aren't perfect in my life no longer embarrasses me. I was never trying to pretend anything else was the case. It's okay with me if everyone knows that about me because trying to pull off any other version of reality sounds exhausting and stressful, and to what end?

How liberating it feels be to my authentic self, even while sporting the synthetic fabrics of my uniform.

I don't want to have anything to hide. I don't want to be terrified of a chink in the armor. The armor is heavy. It's unwieldy and unflattering and I couldn't even dance in it anyway. 



This will likely be the briefest Manzanita Project post I've written. It's Mother's Day, and I'm taking a break from the work of writing as well (is IS work...it's the most satisfying work I've ever though, so it's work of the best variety).

Today was a day of pure indulgence. Not the champagne and strawberries kind (though there were mimosas), the kind that involves sitting back and doing nothing while other people buzz around, doing nice things.

I was treated to coffee while Kevin made biscuits and gravy to take to my folks', where we were meeting Kevin's folks as well. When we got there, I sat down with my fellow Mamas and relaxed while the boys (the men, really) prepared a breakfast FEAST!

We exchanged gifts. I received a sweet card from my Mama, a beautiful homemade card from the boys and a super cool, custom-made photo card from Kevin's folks.

Then we all went to Monkey's t-ball game and baked in the sun.

When we got home, Kevin did four loads of laundry, went shopping and made dinner, all while insisting I not lift a finger to help. It was a really weird feeling, having to sit on my hands...made me antsy for sure. But I felt cared for and looked after and appreciated and loved, by all the people that matter most in my life.

What a beautiful gift.


Facebook Isn't Making You Sad

In the past couple of years a few friends told me they'd quit using Facebook because they were sick of people trying to make their lives look perfect via status updates and shared photos; comparing themselves and their own lives to these "perfect" friends was depressing/annoying enough that they'd preferred to opt out altogether.

I pressed one of my friends on this to learn more. From her perspective, people were always trying to one-up each other and to make other people feel bad in their Facebook posts. This worked to make my friend feel self-conscious, angry, and in a state of disbelief about the true happiness of these friends whose so-called perfect lives were clogging up her newsfeed.

I have a hard time identifying with this outlook.

It's not that I don't believe it may sometimes seems people are trying to make their lives look perfect on social media. In fact, I imagine people may put me into that category, given that I choose to keep what I post mostly positive and I generally post pictures featuring smiling people (though I stop short of untagging myself from unflattering pictures). I am not such a simpleton that I can't understand where this sentiment comes from.

I just find it unfortunate that anyone would choose to internalize these posts from others and let them ruin their own experience with what I think is a pretty entertaining way to connect with people and learn more about their lives.

There are a few ways to look at the people who seem to share nothing but their own perfection online:

Perhaps they refrain from posting the less-than-glowing moments because they are embarrassed or ashamed about them. Who can't relate to that?

Perhaps they don't like to dwell on the negative because they believe it prolongs the return to happier places. I respect that and I fall into that category as well. Yes, lame stuff happens or I get into a funk for no reason at all. I will allow myself what I believe is an appropriate amount of time to feel shitty, but I don't necessarily want to post all over the place about it and drag every friend, family member or acquaintance into my little mud pit. I will share those trials with my honey or a trusted friend or family member and work on through it in a less public way (unless I'm working through it on this blog, haha). Maybe happy over-posters are annoying, but if so then so are super negative people who are always posting complaints and rants.

Perhaps people are choosing to share the good and happy and cheesy-as-fuck stuff going on in their lives because they're operating under the preposterous notion that their "friends" are actually their friends. They imagine these friends may be interested in the positive things happening in their lives. They imagine it would make their friends feel joyful to know one of their own made good or found a nice person to love or has a child he adores or is just so damned excited to be where she is at the moment that she had to stop and "check in." It makes me really sad to think these people are mistaken about their "friends"--who, it turns out, are not truly friends at all but rather ill-wishers there only to spy on and measure up against and make fun of and resent.

Finally, there is the possibility these perfect posters truly ARE out to make themselves look better than everybody else and to make other people feel jealous or inferior. I believe this would have to be the rare exception. If I know anybody like this, I am unaware of it. If I know anybody who exhibits behavior even *close* to this, I may also know of some insecurity there that is being (over) compensated for. While I may experience annoyance, I should simultaneously strive to be compassionate and to give the benefit of the doubt. So Janie Awesome wants to make herself look good. So what? So crucify her.

To me, the interesting question that arises from Janie Awesome's posts is not so much "Why does she do that?" but "Why does it bother me?"

People are annoying sometimes, people! I mean, that's the nature of people. I don't think Facebook is to blame here. It's just that Facebook concentrates all those potentially annoying behaviors into a condensed little feed, and seeing a few of them in a row can just smack some people down and leave them feeling done with the whole thing.

But this is really too bad. If somebody's behavior were really that annoying to me via Facebook, chances are it would be pretty annoying to me in real life too...and I wouldn't be hanging out with that person.

Which brings me to the bottom line question that I think arises from my imagined annoyance with Janie Awesome's posts, which is "Why am I "friends" with her?"

As I write this, I'm thinking of a few situations in which I've experienced the very dynamic I referred to in the beginning of this--negative reactions to posts I've seen in my newsfeed. There have been times I've felt pressure to "friend" a person for political reasons, or as a seemingly complex matter of fairness. I'm sure I've been "friended" for similar reasons. It happens now and then. Sometimes I don't consider these people true friends, and it's posts from people in that category that leave me feeling most likely to having negative reactions.

But I don't like having ill feelings toward people who are just sharing what they feel moved to share on a site I joined voluntarily and which I voluntarily visit. I also don't want to unfriend these people because it violates the principals behind my accepting the friend request in the first place.

I think one viable solution in this situation is to hide the posts of that person. I save both of us whatever invisible, yucky outcomes are resulting from my negative reactions to their posts.

A more ambitious and grown-up solution would be for me to move ever more diligently toward true authenticity...to be in a place where I would never be fake "friends" with somebody for "political reasons or seemingly complex matter of fairness." I'm getting there.

An even more ambitious and grown-up solution would be for me to take absolute responsibility for my own life and my own emotional responses. In so doing, I'd realize there is nothing in the world a person can post about his or her own life or state of happiness that should cause me to feel bad about myself or what's going on in mine.

Happiness should perpetuate itself, and if I am in a healthy emotional place (regardless of my current circumstances), I will see that one person's expression of joy should not feel threatening. On the contrary, it is a wonderful reminder to me of the joyful experience available to all of us. I am reminded again of the Marianne Williamson quote at the bottom of this blog.

As is true about most things, getting to this ideal place I'm speaking of is a process for me and I don't believe it to be easy. I will see posts that I react negatively to from time to time. I just want to remember that Facebook isn't causing me to feel unhappy. My friends' behaviors (unless they are cruelly and unkindly directed at me) are also not causing my unhappiness. Whatever is at the root of it is within me, and it is there that I can turn things around.

So please, don't desert Facebook just yet. I still want to see what you have to share, even if it makes you appear outrageously content and well-adjusted.