Facebook Retired and Life Rehired

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When daughter Heidi went to Iraq for a second tour of military duty as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, she emailed me to ask if I’d sign up for Facebook. “It’s the quickest, easiest way for me to keep people up to date…and for me to keep on top of what is going on with friends and family.”

Sounded good. Signed up. I was amazed at how quickly I could find people I had known decades ago. I was thrilled to show them I had turned out okay, married, had four daughters, and even had grandchildren. I was becoming one of the old people without all the equipment.

Then Heidi told us that we had to be careful with what we said. If she was captured as a POW, what we said on Facebook would be used to harm and hurt her. We quickly adjusted our information so it did not reveal personal information about her or us. No happy birthdays, no references to hometowns, birthplaces, or even photos of us. Dogs were okay, but the kiddos were not. We were careful.

When she returned from Iraq after her fourth tour of duty unscathed, we were deeply entrenched in our involvement with Facebook. Friends from around the country, colleagues I’d worked with at a national journalism fellowship in Missouri were on my friends’ list. I spent longer time on Facebook, and occasionally would entertain the brief thought that this might be an addiction. After all, I preferred to scroll down and view the cute videos, the hilarious memes, and fume at the one-line “exposures” of Congress members gone wild, or a president unleashed. I engaged in arguments and smack-downs with people I would never meet…while my life became more tightly confined to that one endless page.

When  my  husband had a devastating and catastrophic stroke, and was permanently disabled physically and in his ability to communicate, Facebook was a comfortable sofa I could sink into…I could disappear for awhile from the grief, the sense of loss, and the overwhelming tasks which my daughter and I faced in caring for this wonderful man. However, one night, as I sat on the real sofa…the one with cookie crumbs from the grandkids’ last overnight visit…I stared at the screen and knew that there was no one else who would handle the task of finances…taxes, disability benefits, savings and checking…I was it. I could not keep avoiding the real desk in the basement where the real bills and statements were piling up. I was creating a geological time scale of hospital bills, ambulance bills, and all that came out of the real mailbox.

I found the way to deactivate my account. I recognized quickly, as I sat at the kitchen table, that if I didn’t handle household tasks, my family would suffer the same dark chaos I had suffered when my own parents avoided the responsibility of money management. I could not do that. It was not fair to my husband, whose whole life was one of personal responsibility and accountability, not avoidance.

Each night, I spent time cleaning a closet, throwing out items which hadn’t been used in years. I graded students’ papers and enjoyed the best parts, gave feedback on the tough parts. I bought my 9-year-old granddaughter a basic telescope for Christmas, and on New Years’ Day, we viewed the super moon that night. It was cold – foot-numbing cold – but glorious. I vacuumed my carpets more than once a week, replaced light bulbs in the cathedral ceilings of my kitchen. I took down decorations and cleaned out the decorations closet. When I walked into my house at the end of the day, it was my house. I wasn’t subconsciously waiting for a maid I had never hired, who had never stepped into my house, who had never had to clean up after me.

I didn’t wonder whether my Facebook friends missed me. Their lives would continue, just as mine has. If I need help, I have neighbors, and I have family. I have colleagues, and I have a community of students who demonstrate the art of living. They play basketball, baseball, play musical instruments, play with their dogs, cats, horses, and birds. They clean their room because they want to – or because they are grounded if they don’t. So they do. They try out for school plays, for team sports, for special musical groups. They run for student offices, and stay after school to get help, socialize, or participate in business clubs and agriculture clubs. They have a life. And, they have parents who tell them to get off their rear ends, get off the devices, and…live.

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Facebook Retired and Life Rehired