As I scroll down my news feed during my ‘in between this and that’ hours, I realize that Facebook is doing to me what the women’s magazines have done to me for years.
That feeling of inadequacy.
That feeling of I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never make the cut, I’ll never get a passing grade. Judging myself for years (and falling so short I couldn’t even pick myself up off the ground) against airbrushed faces and bodies on magazine covers and advertisements has left that stamp of imperfection on my mind and soul that will probably never be overcome.
Who cares that I graduated from a prestigious university? That I had a great job in my twenties and amazing kids in my thirties? I never could fit into a size 2 bathing suit; I still have no idea how to properly apply contouring blush; and my hair, no matter what, frizzes in a rainstorm.
I have to work hard to keep in shape and when I gain weight, I gain it in all the wrong places and when I lose it, I lose it in all the wrong places, as well.
My news feed at times brings about the same levels of inadequacy onto me. The picture perfect meals on a plate. The Pinterest house decorations. The knitting accomplishments, the fancy hors d’oeuvres. The workouts. The spotless homes. The vacations. And the glamorous lives!
I want to post pictures of the dead flowers in the vase next to my kitchen sink that I haven’t gotten around to throwing out; the dog hair clumps on my bedroom floor; the piles of laundry needing to be put away and the bills and paperwork I just threw into a cardboard box and hid because company was coming. The weight I’ve gained.
But I don’t. I succumb to the social, nonexistent-except-in-my-mind pressures and post happy smiling pictures of people who honestly don’t smile all the time. The dogs at their cutest, not after they’ve been sick all over the rug or they’ve rolled in something that takes hours to wash out. I push the clutter out of the way before I shoot pictures of Damon’s recovery, while he’s in the middle of doing something incredible. With almost a professional photographer’s eye, I survey the background to make sure the setting is Facebook acceptable. Wait, hold on, keep that stand, Damon, while I move everything that will show people that my house may not be in perfect order. Or any order.
Am I being judged? Held to Martha Stewart standards? Especially now in this new role in my life?
Probably not, but it only takes one slight negative to pull down all the positives. It takes one comment regarding my recovering-brain-injured son such as “Damon, you need better oral care” to reverse the 30 other comments about how handsome he looked in his selfie with his new hair cut. That day I scrutinized that picture that the not-so-sweet woman commented on, and then also his mouth afterward, and even though I knew she was wrong, I knew he had beautiful and clean teeth, I allowed her to put a damper on my pride.
I allowed it.
I allow others’ holiday pictures to put a low on my own holiday; I allow vacation shots to send me back to the days before the accident when vacations were plentiful and exotic and, if I’d had Facebook back then, would have been plastered all over my wall. I allow happy smiling faces of my past friends living it up at bars or concerts or parties to bother me, because, one: they are no longer in my physical life, two: they obviously did not need me in theirs to have a good time; and three: well, I just don’t have that freedom any more to be much fun.
I wonder if my posts and pictures of Damon’s recovery bother others in that same wistful way….others whose loved ones haven’t made as much or any progress after their own brain injury. Or others who have lost a child. …do they feel I’m gloating because mine is still alive? Do they judge themselves against me more than against their friends whose kids are in perfect health? Do the people who have progressed much further gloat to themselves? Do they feel more blessed?
I don’t want to nor do I try to be a measuring stick for anyone, in or out of my shoes. Not so long ago my posts regarding Damon’s attendance backstage at a concert bothered a fully able bodied young person, to the point she told me I was rubbing it in her face by posting that Damon had Luke Bryan’s autograph. I was shocked that we were on that side of the measuring stick. That others would compare themselves to our not-so-glamorous life.
Do I need to word things about my compromised, dependent, brain-injured child as he and I are going through the slow process of his recovery, a journey I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, so as not to instill any jealousy in anyone else?
It sounds crazy, but others (as I do in my times of insecurity), may interpret something totally different than the writer’s intent. Like me, the reader needs to understand as she peruses her newsfeed and compares herself to what she reads that it’s not always, if ever, about her, about me. I also need to understand, like my picture perfect backgrounds in pictures of Damon, it’s not always real. It’s just what I allow myself to show, to see, what I allow it to be.
The poem ‘Desiderata‘ by Max Erhmann, that I had hanging in my college dorm and then years afterward in my apartments and my house says, ‘If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.’
I loved that line forever, but I never took its advice fully. Or at least I never felt worthy of being vain, only bitter.
Don’t get me wrong, I count my blessings every day. My three biggest blessings of my children are super huge, and of course my blessing of watching my son recover, albeit slowly, rather than the alternative as bleakly misdiagnosed by the doctors almost four years ago, takes me to my knees daily. But those glamorous Facebook pictures of those glamorous lives! Why can’t I have that as well?
The smart thing to do would be to post my updates and then close up shop for the day. But I can’t. I’m an addict. I need to know who adopted what dog, how cute the newest baby is, who broke up with whom, recipes and helpful hints I’ll never use, and funny memes. I don’t have time to read an entire book, or even a chapter at one sitting, so a quick article on what’s trending at the moment fills the perfect amount of time I have.
But mostly, the real reason I don’t close up Facebook and continue to allow myself these crazy feelings of inadequacy as I fall short in life’s comparisons, is because I’ve connected to the most wonderful people from all over the world. Some people I knew a different life time ago but lost years and years of being in touch. Other people I’d never have met if not for Damon’s accident or Facebook. Beautiful people who offer support and ideas and advice as far away as California, Australia and the UK. The virtual hugs and love and light sent to me from these total strangers, now Facebook friends, help counter my wistfulness at the exotic lives of others, making my jealousy dissipate and then sometimes almost disappear.
My closest friends today were mere Facebook friends right after Damon’s accident and total strangers before. Others are people who have reached out to me, or me to them, because we share life’s journeys and only we know what’s behind each other’s Facebook smiles and pictures of recovery.
“Are you awake?” The message rang close to midnight not too long ago.
“Yes” I answered my long ago friend whom I haven’t seen in almost 30 years. Another night of no sleep. “What’s up?”
“My dad passed today” was the answer.
I was never so grateful for the opportunity to be an ear. To be a shoulder. To virtually hug. I would never have had that opportunity outside of Facebook.
That’s my reason for constant scrolling, despite any feelings of inadequacy I allow my news feed to give me. I want those connections. I want those words of understanding. I want to help. I want to pay it forward. That and the fact I don’t have time for a more exotic life right now. But I just need to keep in mind that someday I will. And I’ll post all about it.
After I clean up the mess from the background.