Wobbly

We were gathered around a table for book club — a book club that does include some discussion of a book, but mainly provides a chance to decompress, to gather a group of women around a patio and chat without being needed or summoned by anyone else for a few lovely hours.

Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

One of my friends mentioned she spent the afternoon at a minor league ballgame with her kids, and that someone had snapped a cute picture of her family. She explained that she had started to post it on Facebook, on Instagram — but stopped because it just didn’t feel authentic. That shiny moment wasn’t reflective of the messy reality of the day. It didn’t seem to tell the whole truth: the overstimulation of the crowds, the innings of whining, the exhausted tantrum on the way home.

Few people overtly lie on social media — but most of us would admit that the whole system is based on selective truth-telling. We get to decide what milliseconds of our lives are put on display and which ones aren’t recorded. We miss all the moments that are deleted or when no one would think to reach for a camera.

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This summer, I’ve headed back to yoga. My friend and I haven’t been able to coordinate our attendance often, so I don’t usually know anyone in the class and most are older than me. Tree pose is a favorite of the instructor and each class I find myself (clumsily) attempting it: one foot rooted firmly to the ground, the sole of the other foot placed upon the standing leg. It’s a posture about stability, about staying rooted and strong, even when my body begins to sway.

Like many things involving grace, it appears easy at first glance, but as I am asked to hold the pose, the seconds tick by and what is only one minute feels like five.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Balance-challenged, I do my best.

Yet, as I stare ahead, trying to center on a focal point, I’m so grateful for the wobbly women in my periphery. I’m grateful for those who stand in front of me without perfection, also tapping an occasional toe to the floor. I’m grateful for those who push themselves enough to struggle with unsteadiness, and thus give me silent permission to do the same.

Can’t you feel the exhale in the room when we wobble together?

It’s a conversation I’ve had so often — how social media can make us feel unhappy, but yet we’re drawn to it. We feel a tug toward community, even a fictitious one, even if it can make us feel “less than.” Recent headlines and research tell us social media leads to depression, and yet very few walk away completely once that app is downloaded and is just a touch away.

I am, at times, an obsessive picture-taker (ask my family…) and I admit to feeling the tension between posting versus posing. I’d like to believe my propensity to share on social media comes from a place of gratitude rather than measuring up, but I often find myself checking my motives, adjusting my balance.

When I post a picture on social media, I understand that I’m sharing a millisecond of something that feels like — not perfection — but goodness. I’m close enough to my own reality to know that the majority of my day has not been photo worthy: bickering kids in the backseat, clogged toilets, and a stack of work that never made it out of my bag.

The problem is, it’s easy to forget that when you’re the one sitting behind the screen. It’s easy to forget that you’re looking at highlight reels — not the mundane, not the outtakes, not the deleted scenes.

A few things that help me when I lose my ground: humor, authentic captions, sharing with a smaller audience, and celebrating those who remember not to take themselves too seriously. Also, being self-reflective enough to know when I’m better off putting the device down or closing the tab and tackling my to-do list, picking up a book, or taking the dog for a walk.

Here’s the thing:  comparison or envy are not new emotions — social media just provides a breeding ground for it.

 So when those emotions of inadequacy start to surface, when I feel irritable and annoyed with myself because someone else’s post has made me feel like I can’t measure up, I need to find a new focal point.  The solution isn’t pretending I don’t wobble — it’s remembering to take my turn doing so in the front of the room. 

Real life in my writer’s notebook.

 

Turn

I’m a sucker for all things nostalgic — old photo albums, worn notes or ticket stubs. I can’t resist the “On this Day” Facebook pictures that pop up, showing me my posts and memories from this day just two, five, eight years ago. I’m a slow, distracted organizer because I’m constantly pausing inside drawers and cupboards to reminisce, to remember.

I tend to be better at hanging on than letting go.

Ever watched someone do this when water skiing? They’re no longer sturdy on their feet, but toppled forward, being dragged along by their arms, a face full of lake water.

Photo by Simon Caspersen on Unsplash

I find myself doing this with seasons of life. I get comfortable, get accustomed, get used to the way things are — the ages my kids are at, the activities that fill our days, the rhythms we find ourselves in. And then seasons change, the kids get older, and I find myself still holding the rope, drinking too much murky lake water.

It happens especially in the summer — when I’m at my most nostalgic, when my camera is the busiest, when I have the greatest freedom over our calendar. When I have the greatest expectations about how things are supposed to be. Or how they’ve been in the past.

There were the summers of babies, when naps governed my days — demanded that we slow down, stay in one place for stretches of time. There were the summers of early rising toddlers,  settling on the couch with cartoons and blankies until I was able to schlep everyone out to play at the park, beach, or pool. Little sleepy heads bobbing in booster seats on the ride home. And now my kids are a bit older, busier — and it’s summer baseball, taxiing, sleepovers, and puppy training. It’s balancing their push for independence with my pull for structure. It’s my oldest moving toward middle school and resisting the things my five-year-old still loves — needing permission, prodding, and space to discover that it’s still okay to play, to build a sandcastle or to run through a splash pad.

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That mellow refrain of “Turn, Turn, Turn,” from Ecclesiastes (and The Byrds) keeps repeating in my head: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…”  

These words are often sung or repeated in a comforting, mellow tone, but aren’t they unsettling? The idea that things keep on turning, that life is forever changing, that the comfort of sameness is rare and is not to be our resting place? 

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Lately, I’ve been feeling off balance from holding on too tight. But writing it down, whispering it in a prayer, confessing it aloud to a friend allows me a little to space to lament. It allows me to feel a smidge of melancholy, even on the brightest of summer days.  It allows permission to let go of that rope, climb (or get clumsily pulled) back in the boat, wrap warm towels around myself and the boys, and turn my focus to the horizon.

Photo by Simeon Muller on Unsplash