Not Very Sociable

These are my new “pick the kids up from the bus stop” sunglasses. Because a hobby of mine is to embarrass the kids as much as possible.

One month ago today, I got sick. I mean, not with anything horrifying like measles or leprosy or hantavirus. It was just an average cold. With fever, snot, coughing, and lots of misery. I guess you could say it was more like an above-average cold. An over-achieving cold.

Still going to give it an F for “Fuck that.”

On the second day of my feverish delirium, I was sprawled out on my couch, half-in and half-out of a blanket, watching the twelfth hour of a Mysteries at the Museum marathon, and scrolling through Facebook on my phone. It was at that moment that I realized I was tired.

Metaphorically tired. I mean, I was also literally tired because… sick, but I was also tired of what I was doing. Scrolling.

No matter how many advertisers I deleted from my Ad Settings, no matter how many offensive Facebook pages I hid, no matter how many times I excused inflammatory comments or tried to read past something with which I disagreed, I realized that it was my fault for coming back. Isn’t the definition of madness doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? But, if I hide those things with which I disagree, aren’t I creating an echo chamber? But, if I don’t hide those things, won’t my anxiety get worse?

When I first joined Facebook in 2007, I joined under my old blog handle and only accepted friendships from those who read Burt Reynolds’ Mustache, a comedy blog for which I wrote monthly posts. Eventually, I started getting emails asking, “Are you Heather Dobson?” After about the twentieth email sussing out my true identity, I changed my name and accepted friend requests from, well, everyone. Bloggers, high school friends, family, neighbors, old co-workers, you name it. It was the one place on the Internet where all parts of my life converged into a strange amalgam of memory and current events. My fellow high school Black Eagles learned I now cuss like a sailor while my blogger friends found out I was a Rainbow Girl in my youth.

Slowly, but surely, though, click bait, the almighty dollar, and political opinions have overtaken everyone’s feeds. Many days, Facebook feels like a crowded party packed full of people, each shouting about their own life.

My kid won a gold medal!
This politician is an idiot!
This politician is a genius!
Thoughts and prayers!
Ban all the bad things!
Those things aren’t bad and this is why!

I fully admit that I’ve been part of this conversation for over eleven years, filling the feeds of others with my opinions, pictures, and thoughts. And you know what “they” say about opinions… everyone has one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks. After a huge familial blow-out over the Cheeto-in-Chief, I vowed that my Facebook feed would only be lighthearted, full of pictures of my family and pets.

And while that’s been true, Facebook in general is still a web site that exists for its own purpose. It is there to make money and in order to make money, it must convince us to click here, there, and everywhere. And that? Has gotten to be too much for me. I don’t mind attending the party where we’re all sharing pictures and hilarious stories of how that friend fell in a puddle and this other friend’s baby pee’d on them. But, when the party also includes arguments, disagreements, hurt feelings, relationships that end over opinion, and fights that never seem to end, never seem to find resolution, it gives me large amounts of anxiety.

I won’t deactivate my Facebook account because I need it in order to post on my paranormal group’s page, but I can tell you that this month off social media has been an eye-opener for me. I’ve had MUCH more time to listen to podcasts, read books, cross-stitch, and, more importantly, to listen to my inner voice. Social media had become my entire life and that wasn’t healthy for me.

I know that a number of you have texted and emailed me, asking if I’m OK. Yes, I’m fine. And I have decided that at the end of each month, I will post that month’s pictures and the goings-on of the Dobson family. But, my day-to-day social media interaction will have to be cut off for my own mental health. I’ll always lurk on my paranormal group’s Facebook page. My own page, though, will have to take a back seat to my life. But, if we’re friends on Facebook, it’s easy to get in touch with me. Just go to my page, click on About, and there you’ll find my address (physical and email) as well as my phone number. Feel free to contact me there!

Sick and Twisted

"Looks like a Bataan death march." -Brad Finn

“Looks like a Bataan death march.” -Brad Finn

No one gives you instructions on how to be a mother when you’re sick. Oh, sure. You receive tons of advice about feeding them and changing their diapers. Everyone scrambles to help you snap up those onsies and cuddle the cute, wittle, sweet, BABEHS! You give birth and there’s a multitude of opinions about sleepless nights, growth spurts, and the sometimes endless crying. “Sleep when they sleep!” they all chant to you. And then those sages of advice eventually went home and I was left with one twin who slept like the dead and another who was so colicky that sleep was only something I read about in magazines. And when the third one came along? Sleep became an extremely rare commodity. They all had competing schedules and I, somehow, kept three children and myself alive and fed for six months with just a few hours of sleep each night.

In retrospect, that’s nothing. What’s really hard is being a mom while you’re sick. Nobody tells you how difficult that is. It’s like this huge secret, a motherhood initiation. When I finally experienced it for the first time, I imagined all the other mothers giggling and snorting behind my back, whispering, “IT’S HAPPENING! Let’s watch the carnage and see if she makes it!” As I imagined them pulling up their chairs and digging into buckets of buttered popcorn, I bitterly dove head-first into my first-ever “sick with kids” episode.

The twins were three months old and still latching on to me at all hours of the day and night. Not only was I exhausted, but my throat started feeling scratchy, and then I couldn’t talk, and then I was using up every tissue within a six-mile radius of the house, and then I was hacking up both lungs.

There’s nothing more miserable than breastfeeding twins while surviving a nasty upper-respiratory something-or-other. And the worst part? I was on my own. Tyler had to work and none of the grandparents wanted to catch what I had. So, there I sat, at home, alone, and wondering why in the world I decided to have kids and wanting nothing more than for my mommy to tuck me into bed and bring me warm soup and Sunkist.

The above picture was taken last Wednesday, during the kids’ “Walk To School Day.” It was an official event, full of county deputies directing traffic and hordes of kids and their parents, converging (on foot) onto the school. Heck, the Chick-fil-A cow was even there! (Do we Southerners know how to do up an event, or what?) The kids had been looking forward to this morning for a week. And I started experiencing my tell-tale scratchy throat and low-grade fever the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I looked and felt like death warmed-over and knew I had nothing but misery ahead of me. That quote? Up there on the picture? Actually kind of apropos considering how awful I felt. It was 1.7 miles of speeding up, slowing down, stopping, chit-chat, and trying not to trip over those new-fangled rolling backpacks.

Yeah, I was miserable, but I was also surprisingly content. I had 45 uninterrupted minutes of my children’s time. We talked about school and friends and the cars passing us. We paused to smell late-blooming gardenias and observed a golden orb weaver spider on its web. I sipped my coffee, more for the soothing effect of the warm liquid than for any caffeine rush. And we made it. Tyler picked me up at the end and I collapsed into his car happy, yet thankful to the stars above that it was over.

In the nine years I’ve been a mother, there’s only been a handful of mornings I’ve woken up and said to Tyler, “I can’t do this. I’m too sick. You’re going to have to take over today.” No, being sick and being a parent is no fun. In the beginning, the kids don’t care. They will still expect meals and answers and activities and your undivided attention. I learned early on how to just lie on the floor as they played. They would treat me as a wall for them to climb and tumble over. I felt useless, but they would giggle and have the greatest of times. I would get up from time to time to feed them and change diapers, but I adapted. I realized that when I was sick, I was allowed to be less than myself. When the twins started first grade, I spent two bronchitis-filled weeks on the couch, with Jarrod, watching the London Olympics. And that was OK.

Now that my children are older, they are able to empathize and take care of themselves. When I say I don’t feel well, they back off, they let me have that rest, and they demand less of me. They are able to pick up the slack. All that stuff we’ve been teaching them? It’s finally paying off and it’s an amazing thing to see happen after so many years of dependence.

I decided, quite a long time ago, that if any of my children have children of their own, and they find themselves on the receiving end of a cold or the flu or some other nasty illness, I will be there for them. I will fix them soup and Sunkist and fluff their pillows, stroke their foreheads, and wish them rest and wellness.

And then I’ll tiptoe downstairs to my grandkids and take them out for ice cream, water gun battles, and Legos. Because I’m thinking that’s what all the cool, hip grandmothers will do sometime around 2030.