I Gave Up Facebook Again

Photo by Brandon Russell
Photo by Brandon Russell

I gave up Facebook, again. Anyone who has read my blog over the last couple of years knows that I have one of those personalities that struggles with temperance when it comes to Facebook. I like to read the news, watch the Church, and engage in discussions with people. What I have discovered over the course of the last few years is that most FB conversations are not discussion, they turn into fights that typically end with ad hominem attacks. For whatever strange reason, I get sucked in.

Facebook is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be used for great good. It has allowed people to stay connected well past the relationships of previous ages. We can stay informed in real-time and share a bit of ourselves on our tiny slice of the Internet. For someone who tends towards introvert in social settings, it is an opportunity to express myself without all of the awkwardness of idle small talk. It is also a great place to share writing projects, get feedback, and have people share your work. I am very thankful to the people who have shared my writing over the years. I want to be honest, though, in the hope that my weakness will help others. I have allowed my iPhone and Facebook to take over my life.

I have forgotten how to sit in stillness. I cannot even seem to sit for five minutes in the car without my phone when my husband runs in the store. At night, my husband sits and watches TV, I am on my phone or laptop, and our daughter is either vying for our attention or on her tablet that we got her for school use. I have become one of those mindless drones. I have forgotten how to live in the present.

I am ashamed admit this out loud. The only other people who are aware of it are my regular Confessor and my family. I am sure people have guessed who are friends with me on FB. They see my frequent posts and know that I have been sucked in. That I have chosen to use the distraction of Facebook to try to quiet the restlessness in my own heart. It became my go-to “distractor” (as my husband calls it) after my miscarriages and when the post-partum depression/anxiety was so bad. It became a way for me to engage in adult conversation when my husband was traveling for work. It started off as simply a way to connect, but then I allowed it to consume me.

I have seen people argue that we should not leave Facebook because we have an obligation to evangelize. I disagree. Perhaps God is calling me to evangelize in a different medium than social media? If I cannot use it in a temperate manner and I allow it to take time away from my family and my life, then it is no longer a good in my life.

I convinced myself that I needed it to be a writer. If I was going to get my work out there and find writing gigs then I need a social media presence. That is a lie. I am already a regular contributor for one of the largest Catholic websites available and the other sites that interest me are only looking for submissions, not my blog presence. I do not need Facebook to be a Catholic writer. I am already a Catholic writer.

How many of us struggle with our isolation or loneliness through an overabundance of social media? I suspect it in a few of my former Facebook friends who like me struggle with living in that moment. Mine stems from periods of existential dread and a battle with sloth. I realized the answer to my struggles in two very different experiences.

Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Archangels. It is a huge feast day in our home because our daughter is named after St. Michael. I went out of my way to make it a special celebration. We made cookies, cards to deliver to Catholic friends, and I made a nice traditional dinner. I was living the rhythms of the Church and sharing it with my daughter. I felt the most profound joy and peace. It reminded me of what kind of life I want to live and how I want to lead my daughter.

Today is the exact opposite. I woke up tired from my hormone issues and didn’t want to accomplish much. I spent the morning on my laptop while my daughter played and watched PBS. We did about an hour of school with her practicing her writing. I am a bit of a zombie today. I then got into an argument with someone on Facebook in which we were probably both a little right and then I got irritated with my daughter. After that moment I could see clearly, once again, what I was doing. I was wasting my time arguing with someone whom I do not even know in person. Yes, a fellow brother in Christ, but he was not the flesh and blood daughter standing in front of me.

Our culture tells us social media is wonderful and that it is okay to be on it all of the time. To be clear, I am not condemning social media. I am cautioning against its overuse, especially in the face of loneliness. It quickly becomes the way we see the world. We are constantly looking at our phones or computers instead of the people around us. There are plenty of people who use social media in a healthy manner, at this point I am just not one of those people. So this is me being honest. I am addicted to Facebook and I just gave it up again. This time I pray for the long run. I have gone months and months without it, but then I get back into it for whatever reason. This time I want to focus on the gifts of my husband and daughter and see where God leads me. I want to quiet that restlessness through the stillness of God. Giving up Facebook means that I can devote time to my family, studies, and write the books I want to write. So I am walking away from it. God bless.

Falling Short and Conquering Sin

I am having one of those days in Motherhood and as a Christian when “I do the very thing I hate” to quote Saint Paul.  I have allowed little things and my own failures drag me down.  That is what the Devil wants.  He would rather I wallow in self-pity rather than ask The Lord for the strength to keep moving forward.

 
I was watching Fr. Barron’s Catholicism series on prayer (episode 9) yesterday.  We own it thanks to my parents and their generous Christmas gift last year.  I pull it out a few times a year and watch an episode.  My daughter even knows who Fr. Barron is and watched part of it with me.  She would point to the screen and say “We watch Fr. Barron”.  I was so proud.  Anyway, I digressed a bit there.  In the episode on prayer, he talks about St. John of the Cross, that great mystic.  St. John of the Cross tells us that we must free ourselves from those things that enslave us so that we can be filled up by God.  He calls this process of emptying the dark night of the senses and then the dark night of the soul.  Both order us properly to God.  I don’t know about you, but I am in major need of proper ordering.
 
It got me thinking about how right now, I really need to work towards conquering my sensual addictions: mainly food and coffee.  I have lacked discipline in this regard since I left the Navy.  I am getting older and eating poorly impacts me physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Food and coffee are meant to be enjoyed.  They are gifts from God.  However, they are not supposed to enslave us.  When we say we “need” something every single day, we are enslaved by the thing, rather than being the master.  That is the point of Temperance.  We can enjoy something as it is, but we can take it or leave it.  We do not have to have it.  We can enjoy it in the moment and then move on.
 
So, I have decided to embark on a journey through battling those things that I am physically addicted to: bread, sugar, coffee.  It is not going to be fun.  I will have a caffeine headache for a few days and crave sugar like crazy. When I get up at 5am this coming Saturday to go to my Lay Dominican meeting I will really want a cup of coffee, or two.  This will be much harder than when I gave up Facebook.  But, the question I must start asking myself is: does this make me a saint?  Does overeating make me a saint? No.  Is not eating right good for my family? No.  It’s not about me!  I am still trying to drill that into my psyche.
 
When I don’t take care of myself, I end up in a cycle of self-loathing, which I then take out on my husband and daughter.  My husband can tell when I feel like a failure because I have a short temper.  The process of holiness is not about self-pity.  We should see our failings and then fall on God’s love and mercy, praying for help and grace.  On days I fall short, I have  tendency to let it get the better of me until I drag myself back to Confession.  Like Father told me in Confession this past Saturday, holiness is a one step at a time process.  It does not happen overnight. 
 
So say a prayer for me as I embark on a dark night of the senses.  Are there areas in your life that you need to free yourself from so that you can be more open to God?

It’s Small Success Thursday at CatholicMom.com 11-21-2013

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Once again it is Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com.  Have you thought about some of your successes for the week?  Share them with us here.  Here are three of mine:

1. I got moving again.  I spent months training for a 5K and ran my first back in September.  A week later I found out that I have a pinched nerve in my neck.  That explained why my neck and right arm hurt so much when I was running.  My neurologist told me that I need to rest.  So for the last 2 months I have been pretty sedentary.  Earlier this week I saw a runner and I actually missed running.  Me?!  I have always loathed running.  When I was in the Navy I would run 2 miles and then switch to the elliptical machine because 2 miles was the farthest I ever wanted to run.
My neck and arm still hurt, but I took my daughter out on the trail to walk.  It felt good to be out in the November sunshine along the river.  It gave me the motivation to want to get back on track with exercising, even if it is limited by my body.  Michaela loved running along the trail.  This time of year kids have to spend more time in doors.  Taking her out on the Greenway lets her get rid of some of that energy she has stored up.
2. After tackling my Facebook addiction, I have decided that coffee is next.  I really enjoy sugar with a side of coffee.  I don’t particularly enjoy the taste of coffee, but I like sugary drinks like pumpkin spice lattes, peppermint mochas, mocha frappes, or white chocolate mochas.  Not exactly great on the waistline, my energy levels, or anxiety.  My doctor is still trying to normalize my estrogen levels (I have estrogen and progesterone deficiencies which explain my 3 miscarriages) so I still have periods of anxiety and depression (Prozac is not a quick fix solution, especially when body chemistry is as complicated as mine).
With my struggles, coffee is not good for me.  I know this, but I still drink it.  A lot of caffeine makes my heart beat faster and I get anxious.  The other thing that I have noticed is that my energy levels plummet in the afternoon, a few hours after my cup of coffee.  So, even though I really enjoy a hot mocha on an autumn day, it is time for me to start doing what is best for me, rather than doing whatever I want.  It is a great spiritual lesson.  God wants what is best for us and that is why we have to look at ourselves and decide if something is good for me as an individual.  Lots of people drink coffee without the issues I have, but they are not me.  God wants me to die to self, and that means sacrificing certain things.  It is a part of detaching from the world.
3. Homeschooling has begun.  Okay, not in an official capacity, she is only 2.  I have started taking her out and working on counting, letters, and numbers, though.  When we walk on the trail we count ducks, bicyclists, walkers, and look at the color of leaves.  We also work on new words.  My daughter is a parrot right now.  She tries to say anything and everything, that also means we have to watch what we say and what she sees on TV.  I also picked up some educational DVDs for her at the Library.  She has finally developed an interest in reading and wants me to read the same story to her over and over again.  It is called Pinkalicious.  It has absolutely nothing important to say, but she loves it.  I am more of a Dr. Seuss fan myself.  I am just happy that she wants me to read to her now.  I have that book memorized now. Want to make some pink cupcakes?

Why I am Giving Up Facebook

This morning I got up at 5am.  My daughter started to cry for me at 457am, so I put her in the bed with my husband and then I got up for the day.  I started coffee in the coffeepot and made a frittata for us to eat for breakfast.  I then prayed Lauds, and continued work on my re-write of chapter one of my novel.  I am taking it one chapter at a time.  I also got on Facebook for a few minutes via my husband’s iPhone.  He chided me, and he had every right to.  Friday is supposed to be a fast from the Internet for me.  Yesterday I had pulled out an article that I had printed off a few months ago and I set it in the living room to re-read.  It is from Matthew Warner’s The Radical Life, The REAL Reason to Quit Facebook, and I sat down to read it again today.

You see, I contemplate deleting my Facebook account almost weekly.  It is a major time suck for me and I am clearly addicted.  I have given it up 3 Lents in a row and I end up right back where I started a few months later.  Yesterday afternoon, I took my daughter to the library to let her get a couple of DVDs and to play with her.  They have some educational toys that are perfect for working on letters and colors.  I also brought the iPad.  While we were there another girl started to play with Michaela.  She must have been about 4 years old.  I bounced between playing with them and the computer, but then I noticed the girl’s mother.  She was sitting across the room, glued to her smartphone. Not even paying any attention to her daughter. It hit me like a ton of bricks.  This is what Michaela sees from me almost every single day.  I ached for this little girl, and I realized that I do not want to live my life this way anymore.  I do not want that to be the most vivid memory my daughter has of me.  I only get one shot at raising my daughter and she should not have to compete with a computer screen.  I made a decision, it is time to delete my Facebook profile.

Here are my main reasons for deleting my Facebook account.

1.  God, my husband, and my daughter.  My husband and daughter are my vocation. They are the greatest gifts that God has given me and I have spent hours ignoring them while I pour over news stories, debates, pictures, etc. on Facebook.  They suffer when I am distracted.  They suffer when I get overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed about the Fallen world, because I have spent too much time dwelling on it.  Instead of leading them to Christ, I am leading us all to sin.  This is not the example my family needs.  It is not what my family deserves.  They should have my full attention and should not have to compete with a cyber-world.  My daughter has literally climbed on to my lap to remind me that she is there, to my utter shame.  My husband has tried to carry on conversations with me, while I have been glued to his iPhone.  This is what I have become, and it is not pretty.  Overcoming sin never is. God also has blessed me with a secondary vocation of Lay Dominican.  I need to live out the Rule of St. Dominic, pray, study, and preach.  I can’t do that while in a trance on Facebook.

Should my daughter look like this all of the time waiting for me? NO!
Should my daughter look like this all of the time waiting for me? NO!
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.
I waited a long time for the right man to marry.

2. Facebook leads me to sin.  I struggle greatly with the virtue of Temperance and if there is one thing that keeps me from that virtue it is Facebook.  I cannot limit my time.  I start off doing well, but eventually I fall right back into my old patterns.  This pulls me from my vocation and my path to holiness.

3.  I am not the center of the universe.  I couple months ago I read Elizabeth Scalia’s Strange Gods. If you need a hard look at yourself and your false idols, then you need to read this book.  Facebook, for a lot of people, is an homage to “ME”.  Every thought, family event, picture, idea, has to go out into the world for approval.  Anyone who clicks on Facebook dozens of times a day knows what I am taking about.  How many people “liked” my comment? Or status? Or meme?  Or did that “idiot” respond to my witty comeback?  And the cycle continues at a dizzying pace.  I am not that interesting.  I am not that witty.  And, yet, Facebook gives us a false sense of importance.  If I am honest with myself, I am not on Facebook to keep in touch, I am on Facebook to get approval.  How many sins does that cover?

Nope.  I am definitely not even the center of this galaxy.
Nope. I am definitely not even the center of this galaxy.

4.  Facebook creates more noise in my life.  The Devil is cunning.  Social media is a great invention, when used properly.  But, since when have human beings been good at moderation?  If we are constantly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other website, we are distracted from the world around us.  We are not giving thanks to God.  We are not praying.  We are not taking care of our families, friends, neighbors, etc.  In fact, the more I am on the computer, the more everything else falls apart.  I have to fight and force myself to pray.  I have to battle to play with my own child. I am so much more interesting than God, becomes an inadvertent mantra.  Oh, yeah, brutal honesty.

5.  Facebook does not take away loneliness.  I am a stay-at-home-mom.  I made this choice.  It is where I belong, but I get lonely.  I need intellectual stimulation that is more than watching Tangled or WordWorld for the 50th time.  I love teaching my daughter, but she is two.  Her attention span is only slightly longer than 5 minutes.  When I get sucked into Facebook, it usually is because I am lonely.  I am filling a void.  That void has an awful lot to do with my Faith, as well as focusing on my family.  I also am blessed with wonderful friends, who I never seem to call to get together.  We all live 10 minutes from each other, but we talk on Facebook, so why get together?  I need their physical companionship and conversation, not a computer screen.  Facebook makes me a worse friend.  So friends, expect me to call for lunch or coffee soon.

I have awesome friends, who I ignore except on FB and at church.
I have awesome friends, who I ignore except on FB and at church.

6.  How many of the people on Facebook are still in our lives.  The people I am friends with on Facebook meant a lot to me, most of them, years ago, even decades ago.  We have all moved on.  Our lives have changed.  Do we really care that much about each other?  I have three friends who have asked to see me when I have been in the same city as them: 3.  That tells me that our friendship is at acquaintance stage these days.  That is okay.  That is how life works.  People come into our lives for a short time and then we part ways.  I have fond memories of all of them, I still pray for them, but let’s be honest, we are not really friends anymore.  I am not being mean, just honest.  The people I am friends with now will call, email, or see me.  I am looking at you OLPH folks and Dominicans.

It was great while it lasted.
It was great while it lasted.

7.  Privacy.  This is becoming more and more of an issue.  This is not high on my list, but it is on my husband’s and I respect that.  I used to work in a national security position for the government, so I assume they monitor me.  However, I am appalled by what my former employer is doing these days.  Given the way things are going, social media could eventually be used against any of us.  I am a devout Roman Catholic, Veteran, Lay Dominican (does that make me double Catholic????), who works in the pro-life movement, works with women in crisis pregnancies, and supports traditional marriage.  Yeah……I think the real question is: Is there really any privacy online anymore?  I highly doubt it.

8. Facebook takes away from my writing.  When I spend too much time on Facebook, my writing and blogging suffers.  I get distracted, so my novel and the few blog posts I write a week get pushed back.  I really enjoy writing.  Writing is more important to me than Facebook.  If, by the grace of God, some day someone publishes my work, it will be because I stopped focusing on social media.  I will still blog here and at CatholicMom.com, by the way.

Facebook = low creative flow
Facebook = low creative flow

I am sure there are people who use Facebook in moderation.  They have a healthy respect and balance.  That is wonderful.  That is not me.  It is time for me to be completely and painfully honest with myself.  I am not proud of any of the things that I have done.  I started Facebook in 2008, when I was looking at a career in politics.  I should have deleted it when I left DC.  I pray that if you struggle like I do, you will consider a fast, delete, or deactivate those social media websites that are taking you away from your vocation.  Life is so unbelievably short.  It was only yesterday, that I was holding my newborn baby in the hospital, and now she is speaking in complete sentences.  God bless you and have a great weekend!

*Update: I have since abandoned my personal FB page. I have a FB page where I just post my writing and other authors I enjoy. It is quite freeing!

Giving Up Coffee, Again

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So here’s the thing, I love coffee.  Okay, maybe I like the sugar, cream, and syrups that make coffee taste good to me.  I am not a black coffee drinker.  I need sugar and a flavored creamer, or better yet, a pumpkin spice latte, or white chocolate mocha to really enjoy coffee.  My addiction to coffee started slowly in the last year I was in the  Navy.  I would make a couple of trips to Starbuck’s a week.  It was funny that I made it through three years of miserable shift work without drinking coffee, but then, I was introduced to the gingerbread latte and it all went downhill from there.  In my world whomever came up with these delicious, creamy, holidays in a cup, is either the greatest person in the world, or the worst.  Not really, but my addiction thinks so.

 
I really started drinking a lot of coffee when my daughter was born.  I mean, come on, no sleep and I can have an immediate energy boost in a cup? Yes, please.  It started with one cup, that I would have to re-heat over and over again because I had an infant to care for.  Then it became two.  My problem is that coffee is not good for me.  I am a neurotic person by nature and the last thing I need is lots of caffeine coursing through my veins.  Thanks to my doctor, we now know major hormone deficiencies are a reason for these issues, that and 9-11 and some other things.  
 
I have decided that I need to work on giving up coffee all together, again.  I have battled this for years now.  But, my sanity, our pocketbook, my family, and my waistline all need me to quit.  I have noticed that when I drink regular coffee, non-espresso, I feel like I am shaking all over and my heart is pounding.  That is not a good physiological response to something.  Oh, you’re an anxious person by nature, here drink this cup that will cause you to spin into orbit.  Espresso drinks are not as bad, but I still notice a change in my body, and its not just my weight.
 
When something is so addictive that you think about your next cup or try to find the money somewhere to buy a cup, it has become sinful.  I don’t think all coffee drinkers are sinning, so please do not misunderstand me.  For me personally, I have crossed into the line of “false gods” and sinful addictions.  My husband sees it and I see it.  Truth be told, this gets harder for me to battle when I have to take anti-depressants.  I had to go on Prozac again, but hopefully hormone injections will make that a non-issue very soon.  Unfortunately, all the medical community knows to do with women like me is throw a pill at me and not see if something might be wrong.  Chemical imbalance, indeed.  Thank God for NaPro!!!  You will probably hear that a ton from me.
 
Today I am starting to detox from coffee, for the 353rd time, give or take a few.  I woke up and drank a glass of water and then proceeded to eat four rice crispy treats.  It’s a process.
 
I am thankful that we are Catholic.  We have religious art, prayer cards, Bibles, theology books, etc. strewn all over the house.  That means when I start struggling with temptation I have reminders.  I don’t always listen, but it is a big help for me.  I truly believe that some things have to be cut out of us by “prayer and fasting” and this may seem silly, but it has become that imbedded into my routine.  I need a new habit, hence the drinking a glass of water when I get out of bed.  The rice crispy part probably won’t be a part of my new habit.
 
This process is teaching me a lot about the  nature of sin.  We may desire the good, but we are weak and need Christ to help us.  Even though this may seem small to society at large, it is a great battle within me.  It is a fight to become who God created me to be and that means working to prune those things out of my life that are not good for me.  Even though I greatly enjoy coffee, I know deep down that it is not good for me.  So today is day one and I hope and pray to make it stick this time and if I don’t, I will pray that Our Lord picks me up and we keep going.