Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Category: Self-improvement (page 2 of 2)

Social Media Disconnect Challenge

This is a departure from my normal mushy essays on kids and faith, but I thought I’d share my reflections on my two weeks without social media.  This was originally sent to the folks at Mashable.com at the conclusion of the challenge. 

I spent the last two weeks disengaged from social media.  Well, that’s not true entirely – according to the terms set forth in the Mashable.com Social Media Disconnect Challenge, we could still SMS text and email.   I stayed away from blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Picasa.   And now, I feel like I’m a three-year-old at the beach with a bucket and shovel.  It looks like fun, but there is so much sand, and I’m not sure where to dig in – or how to dig out.

I spend my days at home with my two children, ages three and one.  I rely heavily on social media to keep connected with family, friends, and social groups…and of course, sometimes I spend more time than I need to online.  I thought I would end the challenge with new insights into how my life was richer when the time I spent on social media was replaced with real-life activities.  Instead, what this challenge confirmed for me is that social media isn’t at odds with real-life; it’s a way of doing real life.  Often, it’s the preferable way.

My sister-in-law and I live on opposite sides of the country.  She’s a doting aunt, and we both work hard to make sure that she and my kids aren’t strangers.  We do this through frequent photo updates, Facebook messages, and the occasional video chat.  A few days ago, I got an email from her that said, “This social media/Picasa ban stunt you’re pulling needs to end…SOON. I think I heard a rumor my niece was getting married or something….its been so long since I’ve seen her! But seriously I miss you!! The time change is so hard for me to connect except through social media sometimes.”  It’s true.  By the time she gets off work each day in her time zone, my kids are on their way to bed here.  Social media keeps us connected despite time and space differences.

My local relationships were affected as well.  I get together with a group of moms every other week.  I saw them on the last day of the challenge, and as soon as I walked in, a couple of them said, “We’ve missed you!”  Even though we met as frequently as we always do, my lack of online presence created a distance.  A few other friends also mentioned missing me online.  I change diapers and play with dolls for a living, so the things I share online tend to be mundane.  It’s pleasantly surprising to realize how much value exists there.  Sharing the little details of our day-to-day lives on Facebook enriches our relationships with one another and strengthens community.

Each day in the challenge, I challenged myself to use my extra time in a different way.  One day, I beautified an ugly area of our house.   One day, I volunteered at my friend’s neighborhood association office.  On other days, my challenge topics included physical activity, a road trip, personal interactions, organizing, and visited a new place that has been on my radar for a long time.  These experiences were fulfilling, but their success was due to intentional time management rather than a lack of social media.

There were times when I actually found my life less productive without social media, like when I had to contact people for information that was readily available on Facebook, or when I tried to do my normal shopping routines without the assistance of my favorite deal blogs that list the sales each week.  I actually failed at two of my daily challenges, and they were both simple – reading, and calling people on the phone.  Before I became a mom, I was an avid reader, but now, sitting down uninterrupted is hard to do.  Social media lends itself to multitasking; reading does not.  Also, I detest calling people on the phone.  I guess I figured that if I didn’t have the crutch of social media, I’d be better at keeping in touch via phone, but I wasn’t.

This challenge also made me realize just how deeply social media is ingrained in our society.  I’m in my mid-thirties, so I’m old enough to remember a time before email.  Now, even when I avoided YouTube and Facebook and Twitter, social media was everywhere.  I read news articles, and immediately following each article, I found myself reading comments debating and discussing the article.  I watched reality television, and competitors’ Twitter handles pop up on screen.  I don’t know if it’s possible to use a television or the internet today without being affected by social media.

The Social Media Disconnect Challenge refined my understanding about how social media shapes my life.  I have a greater appreciation for social media’s role in maintaining and enriching my relationships, and an awareness of what I can accomplish both outside of the realm of social media and within it.  As much as I am thankful for the opportunity to learn, it feels great to be back.

 

Net Balls

Once there was a girl who tried volleyball.  She didn’t really know anything about volleyball.  But there were no cuts, and she thought it might be fun, and her friends were joining the team so she did too.

She attended every practice.  She did every drill.  She was easily distracted and she talked too much, but she had a lot of heart.  What she lacked in skill, she made up for in passion and volume.  For small private-school junior-high athletics, that was enough.  She loved being part of the team.

There was only one problem: she could not serve the ball.  Without fail, at every single practice, she would lob into the net.  She moved forward.  She angled her body.  She tried a little hop first.  She tried overhand.  One hundred percent of the time, she failed.

The coach made accommodations.  In every game, the coach would let the girl rotate around the court until right before the serve, and then substitute.  And it worked…. Until one day when the coach just didn’t send in a substitute.  And suddenly the girl found herself with the scuffed leather ball in her hands, standing behind the line.  So she served it.

Right over the net.

The other team missed it, so she served again.  And again.  Three beautiful serves soared right over.  The coach left her in.  She rotated around the court, and when it was her turn, she served again.

At the next practice, she was back to her old net-lobbing.  And at the next game, her serves were perfect.  That’s how the rest of the season went.  The girl wasn’t even that bothered about the net-lobbing, though, because she knew that when she needed to, she could serve.

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The same girl hated gym class.  Her teacher was a bit of a misogynist, and even though she hadn’t learned the term yet she knew the definition.  He was also someone whose pet peeves included sulky attitudes.  She carried in her head a bowl full to the brim with the many small ways he had maligned her over the year, and when her mind moved too quickly some sloshed over the sides and she oozed little rivulets of sulkiness.

The gym teacher loved basketball.  He loved basketball drills.  He divided the class into four relay teams and gave them the instructions to dribble the basketball to the far basket, make a layup, and then pass the ball on.  If a student missed the layup, they would shoot the ball until they made a basket before passing the ball on.

The girl was second in her relay line, with four more students behind her.  Her classmate passed her the ball.  She missed her layup.  She missed the next shot, and the next and the next.  In fact, she was still shooting when every other relay team was finished and had sat down criss-cross in their short little lines.  Only her four teammates were still standing, waiting for their turn.  Everyone was chuckling a little by this point.  And she shot, and she shot, and she shot.
Finally, the gym teacher told her that she could just pass the ball on.  It felt a little like putting a bullet in a horse with a broken leg (and truthfully, a horse with a broken leg would’ve been equally successful with a basketball by that point).  She laughed, and her friends laughed, and her teammates laughed and were a little relieved, and in her heart she sent little sparks of forgiveness to the gym teacher who, for that day at least, was spared her sulk.

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Of course – those were both about me in middle school.  I’m grateful that both adults gave me a chance to fail.  The coach thought I would – even I thought I would fail.  What an awesome thing to prove both of us wrong.  If the gym teacher had known ahead of time that there was no chance of me making the basket, he probably would’ve modified the task.  I’d rather fail at a bar set high than succeed at a bar that was lowered because no one thought enough of me to give me the chance.

A blog I love frequently reminds its readers that we can do hard things.  I believe that.  Also I believe that sometimes we cannot do hard things, and it is OK to pass the ball on and shrug it off when that happens.  The only way we’ll know for certain, though, is if we step up to the line and take the chance.  And keep taking them.  Sometimes, we lob them into the net.  And sometimes, we soar.

Running

I sometimes dream of running away. Here’s what I have so far: I find myself stressed out and overwhelmed, so I fling open the front door and take off at lightning pace. After about twenty feet, the details get all fuzzy. It isn’t the most well-thought-out dream, I admit. And, really, my endurance for running is only about two minutes long. But still, running away is one of my favorite dreams.

Truth is, I don’t really like running. I have bad knees, foot issues, and I hate the way my throat gets all dry. So I’ve surprised myself with my affinity for the treadmill.  Before I was a parent, hopping on a treadmill was a boring alternative to going outside in winter (and if there’s one thing I dislike more than running, it’s outdoor winter activities). But not anymore.

Now, it’s so appealing that I feel a little guilty when I head out the door and go to the Y.  I finish entire thoughts. (I forgot I had entire thoughts.) My heart rate rises for good reasons. The loud crashing sounds are infrequent and are not my responsibility anyway. Everyone cleans up after themselves – usually, quietly. They wait their turns. They maintain appropriate personal space. No one tries to climb up my leg or pokes me in the face while shouting “Eye! Ear!” And when I decide to stay for thirty or forty-five minutes, I’m usually finished exactly thirty or forty-five minutes later. It’s very grown-up and blissful and a little miraculous.

Ultimately, I don’t think escape is what I need. I think it’s rhythm. Space. Time to pray, and search out the foggy parts of my dreams. Time to engage my heart and muscles and brain all at once and let them take off together like unleashed pups. And when I’m done, I get to come home to my three-year-old and one-year-old, freshly bathed with hair that smells like strawberries, running little circles in footie pajamas because mom is home.

And that, I realize, is the perfect ending to my dream.

A Little Bit Brave

I joined the gym.

Actually, I joined the YMCA. Besides having a contract that doesn’t involve the life of my firstborn child, it also has a fun theme song. The people there are friendly, too, which is important. I need all the grace I can get when it comes to athletics.

The first time there, I didn’t bring a lock. I ended up hanging my jacket on a hook near the front-desk staff. The next time, I showed up with lock in hand and went into the locker room, only to have a bunch of ten-year-olds in swimsuits grow silent and cast sidelong glances my direction. Turns out the Y has a girls’ locker room and a separate women’s locker room.

Today, after locking my possessions up in the grown-up locker room, I found a treadmill in between a runner and a very petite, toned lady who was tearing it up on the stair machine. I always want to run on treadmills, but I have a tough time staying upright when the ground is standing still. So, I put on my headphones, started playing some David Crowder, and began my brisk walk.

About twenty minutes into my walk, I was feeling great – heart rate up, muscles engaged, spirit buoyed. The music was a little quiet, so I turned it up. It still seemed quiet, so I tried to adjust my ear bud. That’s when I realized that the headphones were not plugged in all the way. The stair machine lady and the runner had been listening to my music whether they wanted to or not. I apologized. The stair machine lady complemented me on my music choices. Grace.

After the runner and the stair machine lady finished their workouts, I was still walking. My program on the treadmill ended, and I started it up again and kept going. I thought of my mom who just started college after graduating from high school forty three years ago. She’s brave, my mom. So I figured I could be a little bit brave too. And I ran. I watched myself in the mirrors on the walls, and actually I didn’t look very clunky or cow-like. If someone blurred there eyes a little, I could even pass for an actual runner.

I was graceful. I was fierce. I was brave.

After the workout, I went into the hallway and got a cup of water. My hand bumped into the tank as I raised the cup, and water spilled all over the hallway. So my fierce, brave self got to go back into the room for paper towels. And then return for more paper towels. And a third time. The others in the room were polite enough not to stare. Grace.

I am learning that it’s OK to be vulnerable and a little unsure at times. Being vulnerable means being honest, and it gives me a chance to grow braver in big and small ways. It also gives me a chance to practice grace with myself and to savor it from others. I’ve learned there is a big difference between gracefulness and grace. I don’t have a lot of gracefulness, but I am surrounded by grace.

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