Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

I am new to Facebook and have been rediscovering old friends from my childhood and high school days. Trying to summarize how I have spent the last 30 years since I last saw a certain group of friends, I rattled off things like going to college; studying Tibetan medicine in India & Nepal; living in a teepee on an organic farm; going to graduate school; studying Chinese Medicine in Maryland, New York, and England; practicing Chinese medicine in New York City; owning a dairy goat farm in North Carolina; selling antiques in Massachusetts; training to work with students with learning disabilities; and raising three kids (still working on that). A couple of friends commented on my “accomplishments” compared with their simpler, more consistent lives. I was immediately struck by the difference between “doing a lot of stuff” and real accomplishment. I may have “done a lot of stuff” in my life, but let me tell you some REAL accomplishments of seven people I know. I am not casting my net to include missionaries in third world countries, Olympic athletes, or other exceptional people. In fact, my point is, the ordinary IS the exceptional. These are a few real people from my real life; one of them might be you.

— 1 —

A mother who, every school year, prayerfully considers each of her many children, their personalities, their souls, their gifts and struggles, and diligently visits and interviews schools, teachers, staff, to find just the right school where each child will be nurtured and challenged in the ways that they need. While I am homeschooling, I think of this mother and how, though she chooses to enroll her children in school, she is mothering them every step of the way.

— 2 —

A woman who has had one husband and one job for 26 years. They have four children; two “came with the package” as she says, two they had together, and all four they have guided to a happy adulthood. When I think of my years spent flitting around the world pursuing various ephemeral somethings, she stands out as a model of stability and peacefulness.

— 3 —

A young man who has been searching for a job for two years. Not a week goes by that he does not pound the pavement, send out resumes, fill out applications online, check back at placed he’s applied. After two years of apparently fruitless searching, he has never become impatient or frustrated, and continues to say each day “God has a plan; I just have to trust in God and everything will work out.”

— 4 —

A woman on welfare who started long before Christmas each year, quietly setting aside a dollar here and there, seeking, finding, and tucking away special treasures for her children’s Christmas gifts, refusing to let poverty keep her from giving joy. An English teacher before her marriage, she trained to become a secretary, quietly supporting the office cleaning woman on her small salary. She also prepared and delivered a homemade holiday meal to an elderly couple each Christmas and Easter, delaying her own family meal till they enjoyed theirs.

— 5 —

A priest who was paralyzed on one side after a stroke. When his parish was closed, he broke down and wept, and retired as a pastor, but continues to serve Mass at other churches and do works of charity despite severe and incurable pain which he offers for others who are suffering.

— 6 —

A woman who, with her husband, carefully packed her family’s belongings and her young children for a move to South America, leaving behind home and friends. A year later, shortly after the earthquake, they again uprooted and moved their young family back to the U.S. This woman is remarkable to me because, in all the many homes she has lived in, it is she who is really “home” for her family, creating grace and peace wherever she is.

— 7 —

An elderly man who looks at his wife as if she was a new bride. He holds her hand whenever they are sitting together and uses terms of endearment whenever he speaks to her or about her. Though he can barely stand without tottering, he pulls out his wife’s chair at the table and remains standing until she is comfortable seated. He planted a flower garden outside her kitchen window so she would always have beauty to look at. At almost 90 years of age, he still tells his wife he is a lucky man to have her.

I might have done a lot of stuff in my life, but when I look at these examples, I think: maybe some day I will actually accomplish something.

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I have always had a conflicted relationship with the internet.

Yes, I use it. I shop, I email, I search, I sell stuff. But I am concerned that the internet takes us away from real life. There is truth in this; marriages have been broken because of connections made on the internet. People develop virtual social networks of people they will probably never meet (yes, I know I am writing a blog); time spent on the internet means time taken away from one’s real-life spouse, children, friends, job, obligations. It begs the question, what would I be spending this time on if there were no internet? The time has to come from somewhere.  It can be a form of escapism. It can be addictive. And nothing needs to be said about internet pornography.

Facebook has been a particular concern of mine. Some users frantically “friend” everyone they can, and people they barely know or may not know at all become Facebook “friends,” offering the illusion of true friendship when the stark reality is a solitary person sitting alone at their laptop instead of actually out being with people. When you are logged onto Facebook, you are NOT actually being with real friends, real family, in real life. Really “being” with someone means “in person”, or at least, a phone call, your own voice, in real time. Even a personal email is more “real” than a ”status update” on Facebook. Facebook is kind of  “friend substitute.” Or, it can be. Anecdotes are rampant of people whose Facebook personas are nothing like who they are in real life. It’s very tempting to give ourselves a personality makeover, to grab that chance to transform ourselves into who we wish we were in the eyes of the world. It’s sad, this perception that we need to be someone we’re not.

That’s all true. It can be like that. But something else can happen too.  And that something has to do not with creating false personas, but with abandoning the false impressions we held of people in our lives, and discovering that the newfound Facebook “persona” is, in fact,  gloriously real.

I recently opened a Facebook account. A few people from my past found and “friended” me; I sought out a few others and “friended” them. The connections began to grow. Names and faces long buried in my subconscious were unearthed and brought into the open air. I felt vulnerable because a number of things have changed in my life since grammar school, high school and college. I feared I would be judged and rejected.

Not only was that not true, but I was overwhelmed that some people had apparently been searching for me for years. And others were, to my surprise, thrilled to learn I had been searching for them. Here I was, letting the world know that I was no longer the artsy social renegade of my high school years, or the radical Buddhist hippie of my college years, but a fervent Catholic “revert” with a husband, three kids, five chickens, and a cat, and…they still wanted to be my friend. I still had an important place in their memories, in their lives. There was still something in me they cared about. It was very, very humbling. I had pegged them into a hole, but they hadn’t done that to me. I had assumed I had been forgotten, thinking this was humility, when in reality, I was selling THEM short. When I learned I had meant something to them, I felt deep gratitude.

But there is more. I discussed this phenomena with a couple of friends, this experience of uncovering people from our past and the assumptions that were turned upside-down as a result. Here is a sampling of our collective Facebook discoveries as we unearthed childhood and college friends:

The reputed bedwetter had become successful entrepreneur, was deeply in love with his wife who loved him passionately in return, and was happy in his life;
The kid who had to go to the local bar to ask his dad for spending money was happily married, had a respectable career, and played competitive tennis;
The frivolous girl who only cared about boys and clothes was a devoted mother, passionate about gardening, and enjoyed an enviable professional career;
The girl who had a reputation as a “crybaby” in second grade had endured serious health issues, yet sacrificed herself and put her life on hold to care for her aging parents;
The legendary high school “drunk” had become the tireless CEO of a major institution dedicated to the preservation of marine life;
The girl who stole one of our high school boyfriends revealed she had always had low self-esteem and was touched by the extension of friendship after all these years;
The college Don Juan who slept with every girl in sight had settled down, married, and adopted several orphans from third world countries.

Those are just a few examples. There was not one case where an old friend had fallen short of expectations. In each and every case, they had wildly exceeded them.

Another funny thing was, while some of us confessed how we’d grown older, gained weight, and turned gray, still, to each other, we looked exactly the same as we did 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. The thinning hairlines or expanded waistlines could not change that. We held on to what was best in each other, both the past and the present: our youthful faces and physiques, our youthful promise, along with our adult successes, maturity, accomplishments, wisdom, experience. We believed in each others’ best self. Dare I say, we saw each other as God sees us.

I have a different perspective about Facebook now. My heart goes out to those who use it to try to make themselves into something they are not, who can’t see that they are valuable and lovable as they are. I relate to that insecurity very deeply. Facebook is not the same as relating in person, and some caution still applies. But I am also grateful that Facebook has allowed me to tear away some false perceptions of people from my past, as well as to experience their mercy and acceptance.  It has been a little lesson in love: the enduring love of friends, and the love of a God who sees our best self, the person we were meant to be, and holds that image before us even when we can’t see it ourselves.

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