Making Social Media Work For Me

Writing about the loneliness of social media was an eye-opening experience for me.  It was more transparent than I am accustomed to being and, I think maybe, a little uncomfy for you, my friend.

Yet, in spite of or maybe because it is awkward for us to examine closely, I believe it remains an important conversation to engage.

My children think I live a pseudo-life through the computer and frequently inform me I should “get out more”.  Of course, as brilliant and on-fire extroverted teens, they not only hold the market on all wisdom and insight (just ask them, they’ll tell you) they are absolutely dumbfounded by my happily introverted reluctance to fill my world with as many faces as possible.

I can easily forget the world around me while enjoying a safe, busy, consuming, and completely imaginary life.

It wasn’t until I became conscious of this little truism, how “I have never been aware of loneliness as I have since the Internet revealed how I should live…” that I was able to see how I had made a critical, blue-screen-of-death quality error.

Comparing the brilliant, Photoshopped, perfectly posed imagery to where I was living….

Read more over at Heidi Stone – Thinking Aloud

The Choices That Make Or Break Marriages

pathsMisty, frosty, tiny flakes of icy snow prickled on our cold cheeks and glittered in the darkness of last night’s inversion.  With a laugh and a flailing hand, I tucked the other hand more tightly into the crook of his waiting arm and held on for dear life while rubber, textured soles fought a losing battle with mischievous black ice.

Although the roads were treacherous,  the hour was late, and we’ve been together for 20 years, somehow, there was still a delightful anticipation toward spending those few minutes alone, together.

We used to take long walks more often than we’ve been able to lately and I missed our technology free chats about life, the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI – WTSHTF), parenting together, dreams and visions, what bills we need to pay, or the silliness of life.

Yet, last night, under shrouded lights while the black and white faded to a shimmer of grays and silver, we talked about all the friends we have had, in the past few years whose marriages have dissolved.  So many.  Too many.   Some not surprising.  Some gut-wrenchingly, breath-suckingly, heartbreaking.

Like hoar-frost disappears in the morning sun – just gone.  Over.  Done.

What seemed vibrant, living and breathing love has turned into empty promises on shaky foundations.  What had been shaky love, just dissolved.  Leaving empty-eyed children, desperate housewives searching for gainful employment, and heartbroken men eating dinner for one in diners built for families.

It breaks my heart, friends, when your marriages fail.  You tell me, “We are happier than we’ve ever been.” and assure me, endlessly,  “This is better for the kids.”   “It’s for the best.”

But I wonder…  Is it? Are you trying to convince me?  Or you?

Why am I walking down a quiet road, laughing and baring my soul within the deepest friendship I’ve never imagined possible while you, my friend, make dinners for three instead of four, and count yourself among the “lucky ones”?

Sometimes, ok, honestly, a lot of the time, I feel a bit guilty for being so well-loved.

Sure, the things that speak my love language are rarely the things that show up on quizzes from Cosmo or in books from experts. I really dislike roses (seriously), and sometimes the perfect evening my husband can give is the one where he and the boys disappear for a few hours.  But he knows that and I am thankful for the unique gift of a partner who has taken the time to study me.  More importantly? He isn’t afraid to be his own person and pushes me out of the nest when I need it, bars the door when I need that too…

He’s not nervous if I succeed in any arena.  In fact, he is more interested in my becoming the person God has destined me to be than for me to meet some mysterious status quo for women that either the church or society has set out for me.

Yeah, I’ve got it good.  Now.

But, see, here’s the difference between who we used to be and who we are today. Nearly every good choice we make today is thanks to a life lived and loved poorly and it cost us dearly.  Surely, we could do better?

choices2.jpg

We don’t go to bed angry.  Ever.  Oh, we go to bed frustrated or with feelings bruised from a long day of miscommunication and fighting over really, really stupid things.  But we resolve to love one another, even just a bit better, before we sleep.

We make little choices, all day long, to remember the gift of our companionship.  I make the coffee and bring it in before I leave on an early morning.  He makes sure there is gas in the car when he knows I have a busy day ahead.

We defend and prefer each other in front of the children.  They know better than to try to pit us against each other and nothing gets my blood boiling faster than cocky arrogance directed at the man who makes their life possible.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard those words, “You will not treat my wife that way!”

We apologize often, for we live all flawed and broken, selfish and foolish.  And we forgive wholeheartedly.  Without looking back and without bringing it up later in a dirty fight.

It’s more than just date night that keeps us sane and moving forward.  It’s not just the couple’s retreat or the finished book on how to be awesome in marriage.

It’s these little choices.  I make them even when he doesn’t.  He makes them when I don’t want to.

That’s how we ended up on a dark, cold, foggy street at 9:45 on a Tuesday night laughing and enjoying the comfortable silences of life lived together instead of dinner for one and a bed with only one side slept in.

Maybe you didn’t have a choice.  Maybe you are making the brave choice of life apart from abuse.  Maybe you simply didn’t make little decisions, all day, every day, to love as you would be loved.

I’m sure, today, my friends would say it’s not really that simple.  Maybe…

But, what if you start becoming, today, the kind of person who lives intentionally toward the slice of humanity in your sphere?  It couldn’t hurt.

These aren’t just ways to a good marriage, they are the lynchpin for parenting, for friendship, for fellowship. 

 

Are We Really Friends?

“Brian, you have to take these calls, I can’t handle it anymore.  Can you just tell me what you know I can handle?”

After years of investing ourselves into these people, what appeared as a normal bump in the road became significantly more. Seemingly overnight, the dialogue had turned sharply ugly.

When it had started to go wrong, I wondered. When had we shown that we accepted insults and angry accusations as the right way to handle differences?

Surely, if I’d been a better friend we wouldn’t be here.

Willing to carry all the blame for the failure of this relationship, my heart broke over and over when my children were hurt repeatedly by this poison from those I had encouraged them to trust.

My husband, being amazing as always, again stepped in and screened communication so I could process what had already been said without the increasing pressure of more vicious words, more angry outbursts, et al.

We prayed a lot.  We talked a lot.  Alone, together, and with the boys, we tried to find a place of peace.

Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and the shock subsided. We began to share some elements of this relationship which hadn’t worked so well for us. Unhealthiness was uncovered so we could look carefully at ourselves in the light of day.

unfriendly

Of course, that was when the real pain surfaced and the genuine healing could begin.

Initially, I was angry for not being wiser, more intentional.  I had disappointed myself for not recognizing dangerous situations, or looking beyond a selfish desire to “help”.  Having missed the opportunity to know what it means to really, really build a lasting friendship we ended up in chaos.  Eventually, I began to realize, before this communication fiasco, that other meaningful steps and boundaries had never been addressed.

Unless you are 5 years old or have been extraordinarily sheltered, you have also  lived in the sunset moments when relationships, once beautiful and golden, faded to black, right?

We wonder what happened and look for blame in ourselves and our antagonist.

The number on caller ID which I would have answered, no matter what, becomes the reason for silenced cell phones and closed computers.  I dreaded hearing from the people I had trusted with my children.  They have become the dangerous ones we want to protect our children from meeting!

Retrospectively cringing at the thought of careless words, intimate confessions, and the time spent investing in someone who no longer cares about my well-being but would, without hesitation, use those very vulnerabilities to wound me again and again, I feel lost.  Confidences become ammunition.  Affection becomes acid eating at the sense of identity and public confidence.

When this happens a couple of times, it’s easy to begin to questioning whether it’s worth it to even have such close confidantes.  Pulling close to our families, or the one or two isolated relationships which have proven  safe through years and tears, maybe you, like I,  give into the temptation to believe new friends just aren’t worth it.

How can we protect ourselves in the future? 

Recently, I wrote “The Measure of A Friend” and looked at a biblical viewpoint of what friendship is.   In that thought process, I realized, “It’s obvious I have a lot to learn about being a friend.”

But, that’s not what drew me to the keyboard this morning, to talk about friendship.

At a certain stage of the game, we aren’t in high school anymore and can’t afford the luxury of just wandering through relationships and discarding or being discarded all willy-nilly.  We don’t bounce back as quickly and sometimes we don’t recover at all.

The impact of broken relationships greatly affects my husband and children. Personally, a once robust ability to function is compromised,  impacting work and life performance. The confidence and ability which propels me to be involved or invested in fellowship and other “people-centered” environments dwindles to a near non-existent trickle.

Knowing yourself, how you fit into the world, means more than simply taking a Myers-Briggs  test online and pairing yourself only with complementary personalities.  As though you are relying on some sort of psychological astrological chart or horoscope.

From a few years (read: many years) making the same mistakes over and over, here is the little I know about how I can navigate friendships.

  1. I can never be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Any person who thinks this is a healthy part of a friendship should probably look elsewhere. Really far, far away.
  2. I promise to love your kids, wholeheartedly, but I will not parent them. If you want to parent my children, we cannot be good friends.  I am pretty confident in my responsibility here and fiercely jealous of my privilege.   Don’t assume you are my village or that I need one.  It makes me cranky.
  3. Be direct.  I am not so much good at subtleties and innuendo.  I say what I want to say and assume you are too.  If you aren’t and you expect something different?  Refer to #2. It makes me cranky.
  4. Organic relationship.   Just let the friendship happen, yo!  So what if we have a great time at coffee today.  That doesn’t mean we have to have coffee every day for the next two weeks or revel in our awesome.  Maybe it was just a great day!  If this is going to grow, remember  it takes time for friendships to develop.  Let it happen. Organically.
  5. Speaking of time… I don’t trust you at first.  I don’t have a “you shaped hole” in my spirit begging for completion.   In fact, if there is enough going on, I might not even notice if you got up and left the room.  Doesn’t mean I hate you. Maybe I just haven’t decided if I  like you yet. This also means I don’t want to be the next place you barf all your heart’s deepest, darkest secrets.  I am the world’s worst counselor.  Promise.  Especially?  Please, for all that’s holy and sacred to you, Don’t TALK ABOUT YOUR SEX LIFE.  I don’t care.  I would compare my non-existent fascination with the sex habits of dung beetles to the interest I have in your intimate affairs.

In fact, until we have an established history, until our organic relationship is healthy and developing, and we realize the limits and  respect each other’s boundaries? We aren’t really friends.  We are only acquaintances.

But that’s really cool.  All by itself.

Knowing the difference makes me friendlier longer and gives us the opportunity to become true friends.

What are your Cardinal Rules of Friendship?  The ones that make or break who you spend time with?

FMF – Listen

Five Minute Friday

Listen

“Mom, I’m working on this song.  You don’t even have to look at me. Just listen.”

The halting, choppy chords of a shy beginner are making way for the more confident note by note plucking of a classical song and his face beams when I express my appreciation of his endeavor.  His passion made audible in a few notes of Fur Elise.

But was he really asking me to listen to the guitar?

Or was this the common cry we share of wanting those we love and know to hear more than what we produce and to “shema“, to hear with our heart, soul, mind, and body the call to action and to respond because our lives have been shaken from the moment to join the ripple of another’s voice.

“Recognize my value to the life you live for you are precious to me.”

Since the beginning of time we have relied on song, spoken word, written word, and imagery to draw those we around us into an inner circle of our heart’s understanding.

We yearn to be found noteworthy in a cacophony of clamoring voices all vying for the finite human capacity to understand.

I write to be heard, I write hoping that you can see beyond text on a page, a screen, a scrap of paper and bear witness to the things hidden deeply in my heart.

Is this so different from the clasped hands of Helen Keller and her life’s translator,  Anne Sullivan? The blind, deaf, mute woman who urged us to listen.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” ― Helen Keller

We pour our lives out, syllable by syllable, note by note, with bated breath.

For is there anything more painful to the one who cries out than when our words are crushed and reshaped into weapons to be used against us?  

Unheeded, unheard, our heart remains unseen.

In the quiet of this broken and unrecognizable thing that remains we are once again taught to Listen to the One who speaks most perfectly until we can once again open our hearts to speak.

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 ESV

 

Dating Advice from Teen Boys

heartsadvice.pngDriving my little white SUV down to the skate park today, filled to the gills with adolescent boys from 12-15, I decided to ask some questions about relationships. They are all thinking about it, right?

We laugh a lot, these boys and I, so I wanted to be sure to give them a second to speak comfortably about the issues on their minds.

I had recently seen a video about communication and, after almost 19 years of marriage, found it hilariously relatable.

So, in keeping with what I had seen, the first question was this:

What should I do if I’m talking to my boyfriend about my problems and he won’t listen?

Boy (age 12): Punch him!

Boy (age 13): Keep talking.

Boy (age 14): Ask him what he thinks. Break up with him if he won’t listen.

Boy (age 15):  Maybe come back later?  When he’s ready to hear you?

Madonna is singing about dancing with somebody, we’re cruising down a main street looking for somewhere for me to hang out while they get their cool on and I’m thinking, “Not bad, boys, not bad at all.”

Second Question, this one a bit more challenging:

You are hanging out with a bunch of your guy friends and a group of girls comes over.  You only know one girl, who is seriously friendzoned but she has a crush on you.   You think her friend, whom you have never met, is cute and looks like someone you’d like to get to know.  How do you proceed….

Boy (age 12):  Punch her!

Boy (age 13): I’d just hang out with the whole group and get to know the other girl as much as I could.  Maybe see if both girls would want to hang out with me and some of my friends some time.

Boy (age 14): I’d hang out with all of them and then invite the other girl to something separate.

I interjected, “What about the girl who had a crush on you? What would you do about her?”

Boy (age 14): big sigh Well, I don’t know. That’s hard.  Probably hang out as a group longer?

Boy (age 15):  I’d fake my death, get us passports and take the girl I like on an international trip.  I would change my name to Frederico.

Raised eyebrows all around… Laughter echoed over the sound of the AC and Madonna.

Boy (age 15):  Seriously, that’s hard.  Maybe I’d have to have a real talk with the girl who likes me.

I unleashed the third and final question as we are turning onto the street leading to the skate park.

You have a friend with a girlfriend who is really possessive and controlling. She calls your friend all the time and doesn’t “let” him go out and see you any more.  How do you respond to your friend?

Boy (age 12): Kidnap him, tie him up and force him to break up with her. (Are you sensing a theme?  He’s really not a violent kid.  It is just SUCH a perfect 12 year old boy answer!)

Boy (age 13): Maybe            I’d talk to him about how I miss him and how his behavior is making me feel.

Boy (age 14): I would tell him he had to choose between her and me.  (laughter all around)

Boy (age 15): I wouldn’t want someone like that.  I’d let him know that I’m going to go do a bunch of stuff; he is welcome to join me whenever he wants but I won’t wait around for him to decide.  He’ll have to come find me.

Overall, I thought the boys did very well.  Such a different response than I would imagine in a car full of girls. Not that I often have a car full of girls.

No one offered an intervention, no one wanted to cry, and no one talked about hurt feelings.

Only once was I asked, “Is that the right answer?”

Relationships are tricky things for adults.  Even when we have had years, even decades of practice we still, so often, get it wrong.

Our experience certainly doesn’t mean we are any better at it than they are.  It could be that we’ve been building relationships upside down and backwards and no one ever took the time to tell us there was a better way.

How many young men go into the wilds of relationship interaction with young women and have no idea how to navigate those waters?  It’s really not like riding a bike. Not even a little bit.  The hard earned maturity required for the subtlety and nuance of loving another person is not easily gained or maintained.

As inherently selfish critters, we all too often, forget the other person in our quest for personal fulfillment.  And even if it DOES go well?

Just because one relationship was easy, doesn’t make it possible for the rest of the world to fall in line.  It’s a scary world out there.

As a parent, in the safe cocoon of a strong marriage, a deep and growing friendship with my spouse, I long for this same joy to be experienced by my sons and the women they find.  At this stage, though, my heart cringes at the bumpy road they have ahead of them.   And, to be perfectly frank, I sincerely hope my children don’t date casually.

Casual dating is not the TV version. All too often it is hopping from one engaging heart to the next with minimal attachment until they are either broken down and don’t see the importance of the person in front of them or become immune to the sweetness of love.

Our society has an obsessive fascination with the pairing off of young people in a Hollywood plastic version of love which has created a soda pop romance incapable of standing up to the rigors of lost jobs, lost babies, and lost infatuation.

“Find the right one!!!” is heralded as the pinnacle of life’s greatest achievements.

“What about being the right one?” I often ask.

Oh… big sigh

That is our goal, you know?  To teach our sons about what it means to become the right one while we continue to work on doing the same.

Those boys… They sure taught me a lot this week.

A Common Love Language

lovelanguage.pngNever, in my ENTIRE life, have I been asked more often about my “love language” than I have in the past few months. 

Seriously… I don’t know if I have enough love or language for all this personal introspection!

I am not eager to be some sort of rogue enigma but, friend, I don’t get it.  Is it gifts or affirmation, physical touch or quality time… Or is it acts of service?

Oh, heavens, who am I?!?!?

Is our fascination with these quantifying labels stemming from compensation and insecurity masquerading as an attempt to manipulate others into noticing our existence?

We all need to be celebrated, remembered, cherished, touched,  and served.

How do you pick just one?  Doesn’t it kinda depend on the mood or depth of relationship?

I really don’t get it.

On the flip side, once one is neatly compartmentalized, then everyone, including yourself,  can pin you neatly into a formula and if, just ONCE you pegged out on physical touch the world will nod knowingly when you hug or hold your spouse’s hand.

But, what if you were just feeling a bit starved for people when you took the test?

What if you love to give gifts but getting them doesn’t register on your radar and awkwardness is the only feeling you can muster when some daintily wrapped present shows up at your doorstep?   What if your gift giving is simply out of a self-imposed ideal of “doing the right thing?”  Manners still matter somewhere in our casual world.  Right?

Oh… Five Love Languages, I detest your testing.  Your abbreviated paragraphs of black and white identity induce panic as I wonder what to do with the quality time friend… I am slammed in the middle of a busy season with no time to give.  It is agonizing to be browbeaten by guilt and a weighty battle with compensation giving rise to all manner of speculation.

The very real fear of disappointing someone for whom I care a great deal prompts decisions not based on a mutual foundation of understanding and relationship but in the crucible of an emotional linguistic disconnect.

Don’t even get me started on the gift friends whose birthdays I forgot…

In the middle of all this confusion, I ask:

What if we discovered each other instead of  trying to find which box to fill?