Make It Easy on Yourself

My husband: “Seriously, Jen. This Facebook post about your thesis defense must be your most popular post ever. People keep liking it.”

Me: “It makes up for the nine birthday wishes I got this year.”

My husband: “No, really. I think it’s because of what you wrote about me.”

Me: “What? Because I was publicly nice to you? That thing about love and support?”

My husband: “Yes. That. Exactly.”

Me: “I don’t think so. People just like milestones. And baby pictures. And cats.”

*   *   *

I love Facebook birthdays. Seriously, the last eight birthdays since I joined Facebook have made up for the 30+ birthdays prior.

My birthday is in August. Worse: the end of August. No one remembers your birthday when they are boogey boarding and eating funnel cake by the Jersey shore.

This year, as most years, I pretended to not be excited about my upcoming Facebook birthday. I also pretended to not be upset at 12 noon on August 19 when I had only received birthday greetings on my wall from my mother and my old friend, Sondra, with whom I share a private birthday challenge. (For decades now, we’ve competed to be the first to wish each other a happy birthday.)

Checking my watch as we set out for our family vacation to the Israeli desert, I silently pacified my ego by blaming the time difference between Israel and the U.S. However, later that evening, only a handful of greetings on “the wall,” I realized the annual sea of flattery and acknowledgment was not coming.

I would, I guess, need to feel satisfied by the real-time, in-person love of the people in my company: my husband, my three kids, and friends we were travelling with. That was new.

susan d note fb

*   *   *

When I turned 18, the week before we all left for college, my girlfriends bought me a book about sex and a package of Today sponges as a birthday present. A how-to guide with illustrated positions, that book might have been the most thoughtful birthday present I ever got from friends. I saved it for many years. It was lost somewhere between Elizabeth, NJ and the port of Haifa.

I wonder if writing today about this memory of the birthday sex book  is why I dreamed last night about a college boyfriend I haven’t seen in decades, and why I remembered this morning he said to me once, “Enough with the hand job. I can do that myself.”

*   *   *

The good thing about your Facebook friends forgetting your birthday is the idea that once something is on the internet, it might have a chance at one day being forgotten. That we don’t have to worry so much about naked photos of our children on instagram or that time we wrote a blog post about the color and consistency of our poop.

*   *   *

There’s a line in my thesis I love. In fact, it might be one of the most important statements in my entire thesis (a lyric essay memoir).

Despite my fears of saying what I really think, I am almost certain the people who have loved me over the years of my life love me because of the words I’ve spoken out loud, not because of the words I’ve kept to myself. 

This almost-belief is what allows me to sleep the nights I’m worried about the words I’ve written: on the blog, in old letters on frayed pages of spiral-bound notebook paper, or in emails during the late nineties. It makes me think I will one day be forgiven by anyone I’ve ever hurt. It gives me the confidence to continue sharing my internal truths, even when I’m so frightened by the consequences of admitting to them.

*   *   *

Truth: I suffered the absence of my Facebook birthday this year. I really did. And I will likely suffer next year, so DON’T FORGET!

I don’t like that about myself. I don’t like how much I want your attention, how much I want you to remember me…and fondly. I don’t like that I still struggle with loving myself enough so that I don’t need to be loved by you.

But I’m getting there.

Maybe this is why so many people liked my “thesis defense post.” They subconsciously know I’m getting there.

 I’m getting there.

Craving life

One of the major down sides of social media for me is access to second degree sadness.

I just don’t need it.

Sorry if that sounds cruel, harsh.

But it’s true.

I’m a sensitive girl already.

I feel people’s eyes. Their frantic glances, their furrowed brows.

I’m pained by the way they walk with their head down low.

I’m frightened when their steps get heavy behind me.

I’m deathly afraid of a silence that emanates from thousands of miles away. Because it must mean that something is very wrong.

I absorb another’s anger as if it’s mine

And I jump high at a cough from another room or from a firecracker from across the street or from a chair falling backwards with the wind.

I’m easily startled.

As much as I love how connected we all are through the technology webs, I am also overwhelmed sometimes by

sadness.

Death, sickness, loss, hunger, pollution, destruction.

Hurricanes, typhoons, murder, suicide, bullying, anorexia, drug overdose, car accident.

Cancer, anaphylaxis, SIDS, amputation, chemical warfare.

Cancer.

The photographs, the videos, even the messages of love and care sent from strangers to other strangers.

They all hurt my heart.

My heart can’t hold the sadness, though it’s soft with compassion,

it’s too too thin for the empathy.

And while sometimes my heart can hold it all,

Other times it feels filled up.

Like right now.

Tragedy, one-degree removed,

is life at 40.

Until it’s tragedy, no degree removed.

It was like this, I imagine, for my mother and her mother.

At 40, you start to know sick people, and people caring for sick people, and people who have lost people.

And you start to be afraid you are soon going to be one of those people. Or more than one. All three.

I am afraid.

And while I know that my fear is not a new one, not one invented by me or my generation, there’s something so much more vivid about this knowledge when it’s brought to you in full-color, in a row of announcements on the monitor in front of you via social media

every day, every few hours, every touch of a button

it’s there.

I need a newsfeed of life.

Call me naive, call me ungrateful, call me callous, call me whatever you like, but this is what I need.

A newsfeed of life.