Since leaving Facebook

It’s been awhile since I did a blog post, but I would say it’s safe to say I’m officially back, and before I launch into other more interesting topics I thought I would start with a little update on where I’m at in life, and how I’ve been feeling since leaving Facebook.

I am not sure how many of you know but I teach at a university where we are literally under a 9 month contract and so I do have the summer’s off.  Now that I am department chair it is not quite true, but summer is still a time where I tend to shut down from communication in general.  This summer it is a confluence of factors that have led me to disappear for awhile.  The respite, I feel, has overall been a benefit.

I guess I’ll start with my leaving Facebook.  I said a lot of things about how I thought it would benefit me.  An important piece of wisdom that I’ve gained later in life is that it is important to change things up, to get out of habits as best as possible.  Habitual behavior tends to be what makes time go by more quickly and also I think has diminishing returns for things that even initially made you feel good.  So I’ll start by saying that I certainly don’t regret leaving Facebook one bit if not simply for the sake of just seeing how life would change.  And there is no question in my mind that it was in fact a habit, and that there were some signs of addiction.

When I left Facebook I deleted the app from my phone, and I was shocked to find out how many times I would pick up my phone to get on Facebook, only to stare blankly at my phone at an app that wasn’t there, and it took me a couple of seconds to remember that I wasn’t on Facebook anymore.  Despite consciously knowing that I left, my unconscious movements to reach for my phone and look really gave me some insight as to how much time I spent checking Facebook.  This made me happier that I left, but there was still this feeling of frustration that I assume to be akin to withdrawal symptoms.  Fortunately, after a month or so this diminished.  I’m in a place now where I spend very little time on my phone.  Sometimes now I forget to look at it for entire half days.  I also find that I spend much more time looking for my phone (which is annoying) but I think this is because I am not always looking at it.  It’s hard to lose something you are checking frequently and always have near you.  I don’t like wasting time looking for my phone, but overall I’d say it’s not a bad thing that I am away from it enough to misplace it.

One thing I expected, that didn’t happen, was having extra time.  I think this can largely explained by having another child.  We’ve had a lot of family visiting as well, so things have been a little hectic at times over the summer.  I guess I do feel like I have had more time, but that time has been filled and so I woudn’t say that I have had more time to relax.  I will say that overall, I feel a better sense of fulfillment with what I spend my time doing, even if it isn’t always fun.  There is a solidity to life now that I have a hard time explaining clearly, but overall I like it.

I think it was pretty clear that when I left Facebook that I was experiencing some depression.  I didn’t think that Facebook was necessarily the cause of it, but I didn’t feel like it was helping me overcome it either, and if anything exacerbating it.  Having left Facebook I have to say there are still times that I feel depressed about where our society, particularly in America, is going and I’m not sure how to make that go away.  I mean I could simply choose to be more optimistic and focus on that, but I somehow worry that this will make me less vigilant.  I feel this is a time for vigilance.  You can of course be so depressed to the point of apathy, but I think you can also be to cheerful and optimistic to the point of ignorance.  Neither of those are where I want to be.  Trying to find a state of mind that makes me feel strong without depression but without some sort of drug-like optimism is challenging.  Overall though I would say that leaving Facebook has helped me compartmentalize better, has allowed me to say, “Alright right now I have to focus on this…” and I am able to do so. There are times that I spend worrying as well, but I don’t think I do it as much, and sometimes I feel like I am able to filter out the noise much better and really think about, even some of the bad things, in a meaningful and deeper way.  This is something that I hoped for leaving Facebook.  The biggest thing for me is how noisy life felt and that I really couldn’t think deeply about things very well.  So maybe I’m not free completely from the state of mind I was in before, but I feel like I am progressing, and that is something.  Facebook seemed like a fairly endless stream of bad news, and people fighting, and being free from that, as often as I was on it, has been restful…peaceful…and given me more moments of contentedness.

There were many people who felt like was bashing Facebook when I left (there are reasons to be concerned of course about Facebook’s ethics) but my leaving was more a reflection of my personal relationship to it.  It wasn’t healthy for me, and I still maintain that can be used beneficially.  I know many people who aren’t on Facebook who are still as confused about facts from the media they consume, and so I certainly don’t see it as a soul source of how we can be misled in our society.  There is a larger problem with all sorts of media which has been discussed by ethicists like Tristan Harris on the “attention economy“.  This is something we all have to be mindful of, and getting off Facebook is no solution there.  The important thing to recognize also is that we are all being unconsciously influenced by the media we consume, and it’s important to be aware of that and be aware of how that’s affecting your life.  Think seriously about it all, weigh the pros and cons, and ask yourself are you as happy, courageous, and effective as you can be being plugged in all the time.  In a podcast I listened to recently a doctor was saying how boring the message of moderation is, and yet it’s probably the one we should be hearing the most.

My world has certainly gotten smaller, but I think there is just as much value at making the 10 mile radius around you a better place as trying to make the world a better place.  Moving the world requires a much greater force, and as an individual I constantly feel like I am inadequate to the task, and Facebook was a constant reminder of that fact, just as it was also a constant reminder of all the things that we need to make better in this world.  It’s important to know all of that, but it’s also important to recognize your limits.

There is much that I miss too, I knew this would be the case.  I wonder how a lot of the good people I got to know on Facebook, and think of them often.  But I have gotten to interact with more friends and people in my community than before.  There are a lot of people in my city who probably have quite different political views from me, but I haven’t talked politics with them, but I am getting to know them, and I haven’t met a bad person yet.  Maybe they voted for Trump, or maybe they are very religious, or maybe they have no problem with guns…I don’t know, but I think it’s important that we really get to know people first before judge the entirety of their being based on who they voted for, or what they believe.  There’s much more humanity there that I think we miss on social media.  There’s value in understanding where people are really coming from and recognizing their common humanity.  There may come a day when the truth of our political views comes out, but maybe then it will be a better conversation, maybe then there own beliefs will be as challenged as mine our and maybe even if we can’t be friends we walk away being better people than we were.  I don’t think this is possible on Facebook as we just tend to get to know the people who agree with us, and fight with the ones we don’t.

Well this is already a bit long, but I just want to say that, at best I can say that I am spending more time with my children and more time just enjoying a breath of fresh air.  I think that I will one day be able to return to Facebook and use it in a better way, but I don’t think I’m there yet.  I am thankful for all the good people I know and have known in this world even if there isn’t enough time to stay in touch as frequently as I’d like.  I wish all the best.

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For Victoria over at Victoria Neuronotes

Hello all.  It’s been some time since I posted I know.  I have them building up in my head and my blog is not dead, nor am I!  There has been a lot of family here, the world cup, and well an extra baby to take care of so I’m just trying to develop a bit of a new pattern in life, and right now that doesn’t give me much time for blogging.

For right now…well many of my readers know Victoria over at Victoria Neuronotes.  In fact it’s safe to say that many of my first followers found me from commenting on her blog.  Victoria has become an amazing friend and I want to try and help her break out of the rut she is in and have a some independence in her life.  You can read the narrative I wrote on the link I post below.  If any of you can help her out, that would be wonderful, but I have started a Go Fund Me for her, so she can hopefully get a reliable used car and be able to live on her own.

For those of you who don’t know her, your help would, of course, still mean a lot to me, and her.  You can check out her blog here if you want to learn more about the things she cares about and her experiences.

If you can help here is the link to the GoFundMe.  I also encourage you to share this link with others who you think might be able to help.  Victoria is a long time member of the WordPress community here and there may be others who don’t blog often, but have good memories of her, and maybe you are touch with those people through e-mail or Facebook.  Please pass it on.  Thank you in advance, and I will of course send you updates as the story develops!

To My Son: Year 4

Dear Son,

Since I decided to start doing the letter to you, it’s funny how I start thinking about all year as I note things I want to say.  But you go through so many changes that some new always inspires me to say more about it, that by the time I get to writing, I find it hard to focus on any one thing.   Ultimately this year’s letter is getting a partial eclipse from a new brother on the way.  But don’t get upset that your brother is already sharing the spotlight before even arriving, I’ll discuss more about this later.

There is no question that as each year passes I simply love you more.  As your personality evolves, as you start to develop your own identity, you simply are no longer someone I just love because you are my son, but because of the qualities you possess as an individual.  Love is a beautiful duality now.  My love for you both defies reason and is because of reasons.  It’s a wonderful place to be.  You continue to be sweet, silly, kind, and inquisitive.  I love the questions you ask now.  You often use the phrase “in this world”.  I am not sure you really understand how big it is, but I like the fact that you have started to think about that bigger picture.  It is also amazing how happy it makes me to see you be able to do things yourself.  A month ago, you went into a public restroom all by yourself and didn’t want me in there.  The other day you warmed up a waffle in the microwave all by yourself.  Your firsts have always made me happy, but as you grow and these things become more complex it brings not only joy, but even a sense of peace that you are a little closer to surviving on your own.  I suppose there will come a day that I will miss you being more dependent on us, but in the end parenting is to teach you to become more and more self-sufficient. I guess it just makes me feel satisfied as a parent to see these accomplishments even if they are trivial in the big picture.  It’s honestly why I am loving fatherhood so much, because of how much joy you bring to things that I previously thought of as trivial, if I thought of them at all!

You are also developing a strong will.  These last couple of months you’ve been getting a bit more angry when you don’t get your way and being more defiant.  Given how wonderful your disposition is in general, this is sometimes hard to take, but I sense this is just the beginning of a battle of wills.  But I just want you to know that we think, all the time, about the why you need to listen to us, not just that you listen to us, and so even though it breaks our hearts to make you upset at us, we know we are doing the right thing.  I know you have to test your boundaries, and I hope you keep doing that in life, because to go anywhere in life, you need to cross a few boundaries, if not many.

Your love of dinosaurs continues, and you don’t just love dinosaurs but know their names and things about them.  You’ve also show an interest in crystals, and plants.  You seem to have a very steady hand for using scissors and decorating cookies.  I don’t know what it all adds to but you have officially said you want to be a geologist because you want to dig up dinosaur bones and learn more about crystals.  As I look back on this year, all I can say is that I am excited to see you grow more as a person.  I don’t know how much you can project forward from the person somebody is when they are 3 or 4 into adulthood, but I feel like you are always somebody who is going to make me proud.

You’ve also become more fearful to the latter end of this year.  You say, “I’m not scared of anything, I’m just scared”.  You want us to go with you upstairs at night, stand guard of the bathroom door, hold your hand.  It’s natural I suppose.  It’s healthy to have a bit of fear, but it sometimes feels hard to know that you’ve become worried about harm coming to you, even though you’ve not experienced any real harm.    I guess it’s just part of your developing emotions, and also because the love you feel is stronger and deeper than before, loss must weigh on you greater than before.  I wish I could explain to you that fear is healthy, and that conquering your fears is a great feeling, but ultimately something nobody else can do for you.  In time you will sort out which things are worth fearing, but for now, I am happy to hold your hand.

There is an asymmetry of course to our relationship right now, in that I have the advantage of knowing almost everything about you, and having a decent chance of remembering much of it, but you do not.  Of course, I can tell that in this last year you are understanding more about what kind of person I am as well, the fact remains is that there is so much about my life that you do not yet know.  There is much about the world that you are not aware.  This year has been a tough year.  We live in one of the most powerful countries on the planet, and right now it is being run by a terrible human being.  The government at large is generally void of compassion, and everything I and your mother stand for. Times feel quite uncertain, and I’ve been more worried and down about the world than I’ve been in awhile.  I hope that things are much better by the time you are old enough to read this letter, but life may have bigger changes than I or your mother can imagine right now.   You will notice that as you get older and more aware of the world, that there are simply more bad things to know about.  You try to balance this out with the good, but it can be a struggle.  I know intellectually that all the goodness that humans have isn’t being talked about, and you just mostly are going to hear bad news, but sometimes knowledge can’t override your emotions.  Coupled with the fact that history teaches us countries do fall, and life gets significantly worse, there is a shadow on the future that I find hard to shake.  Suffice to say there have been times when I’ve let you watch a bit too much TV just so that I could sit next to you or cuddle with you on the sofa.  If a daddy’s arms make you feel safe, your touch makes me feel peaceful and lets me forget about the world for a while.

And so, in this next year, life is going to become very different for you as your brother comes into being.  Once again, the difference between what I know and what I feel clashes.  When we first thought about having another kid, it was our joy of being a parent to you that wanted us to multiply that joy by having another.  And yet as your mother’s due date approaches I find myself feeling a little sad in a way.  You have been my world for 4 years and now there will be another child to pay attention to as well, and I will no longer be able to give you completely undivided attention.  I don’t know how much other parents experience this, but all I can think about right now is what I’ll be losing, and not what will be gained.  It’s hard for me to imagine that there will be more than one child to love.  And while I know my love for you won’t diminish, the fact remains that there will just be less of me available to you.  At the same time, I know that your mom will have less time for you too with a new baby, and that we might possibly grow even closer now because you will not be able to rely on your mom quite as much, especially while your brother is very small.  And then part of me also feels bad that I don’t feel the same excitement for your brother as I felt for you, and that every first your brother does, will be something you’ve already done and wonder if it could feel as special as it is with you.  I’m probably overthinking it all.  There will be lots of love in this house and if my joy is doubled come April, I will truly be a fortunate man.  I also know for certain you will be a wonderful brother even if at times it will be frustrating to have to share attention.  I know your brother will come into the world a luckier baby than you, simply because he will have 3 people to love and care for him as he grows instead of just two.

Thank you for another wonderful year son.  You bring me more laughter and joy than I can describe. Happy Birthday!  I love you so much!

A Hero Rises

They say coincidences happen all the time.  Non-random acts, happening at the same time.  Such events amuse us, and sometimes amaze us.  So much so that we attribute meaning to these occurrences.  But sometimes these events create something unexpected.  Something that no person could have expected even if they were to expect coincidences to happen.  There is, at times, an alignment of coincidences so unique, so bizarre, that they defy natural explanation.  What should we expect from the following ingredients?

  1. A mother working with ancient DNA of extinct dinosaurs on the day of her ovulation.
  2. A careless lab assistant in a hospital who let a bit of a virus escape which activates previously inactive DNA.
  3. An unsuspecting nurse who picked up this virus while passing the lab assistant in the hall on her way to a birth.
  4. A solar eclipse.
  5. A sudden increase in the cosmic radiation from space due to an unknown alien presence.

And then a child is born.  A strange growth appears on his back, vestigial tail, and big feet with hardened claw like toenails.  The doctors and nurses are horrified and aghast at what they see. The mother, however, is determined to love her child, with that inspirational, unconditional love we all hope to have in our lives.

The growth on his back turns into a dorsal fin, his tail grows quickly and develops spikes.  His feet become weapons, and their large size and sharp claws also allows him to move swiftly over uneven terrain.

The child’s heart is still human, and like all humans full of dreams and passions.  In this case, for construction.  At the age of 3 he dons the hat that would define him for his life as he becomes:

DINOSAUR SHARK CONSTRUCTION MAN!!

Capable of building on land or water, and with predatory instincts he would become the wealthiest construction contractor in the world.  When he isn’t building, he fights crime on any Earth surface with lightning fast swimming and running speeds no human can accomplish.  Dinosaur Shark Construction Man could have become a menace if not for a loving mother, who Dinosaur Shark Construction Man still turns to in dark times for advice.

If you see Dinosaur Shark Construction Man, he is a friend, you don’t need to worry.  Unless you’re a criminal…then BE VERY AFRAID!!

The Understudy

He always liked to make people smile,
It was the way his daddy looked,
When he wasn’t smiling he was stressed,
Worried and wasn’t all there
And when he’d make his daddy laugh,
It all went away,
And so he tried to be funny all his days,
It became a craft and an art,
Something to fail at from time to time.

He always knew real beauty,
He liked to be around it,
Like wanting to be close to the fire,
On a chilly winter’s dark
The occasional dive,
As the smoke curls around the room,
But the romance was in his mind,
And love was in his eyes,
But never figured out how to make it work,
Not being mechanically inclined

He always had a gift for language,
He liked the way it moved and folded,
Slipping off the tongue,
Only to wonder if he should have held back,
And that was a way to move people,
But he never quite had the passion,
It wasn’t easy to express excitement,
When you’re too busy being amazed
If you can get him to be quiet,
He’d love to hear your voice

Scuttling along the sand,
He looks a bit odd
But I assure you he’s quite harmless,
It’s just an occasional tickle

To My Son: Year 3

Dear Son,

1470670647167It’s such a cliché to say, “I can’t believe you are already 3 years old”.  It’s amazing to me how life can be boring and routine and pass so quickly, and that alternatively life can also feel full and eventful and do the same thing.   As I look back on this year with you the beautiful moments you have brought to my life seem innumerable and in that sea of amazingness I struggle to think of memories that really stand out.  Somehow it’s the totality of the change that strikes me this year.   Maybe it’s because there doesn’t seem to be as many “firsts”.  Well that’s not strictly true, but they seem different than ones in your first couple years.  It’s more like this year is about things you could already sort of do, but now you can do infinitely better.  It has been still a joy, of course, to watch you get so much stronger and agile, but it doesn’t stand out as strong in my heart.  However, maybe the problem is that your firsts this year are much more related to your cognitive abilities and it’s hard to pick out the exact moment it happened, because it seems to get stronger so incrementally, yet the moment when I really become cognitively aware of your development seems sudden.  For instance, this year you started making connections between objects and shapes and likened them to things you already knew.  Like seeing 4 upside-down plastic cups next to each other reminded you of Lego, a song that wasn’t Indian but had Indian drums made you connect it to Indian music, having intention in what you draw beyond just the fascination of making marks on paper.  The best part of this year is how your imagination has taken off.  The scenes you play out with your toys, doing different voices and scenarios.  I think I could listen to you play like that all day.  You also became completely bilingual this year.  Your English was first and we were worried about how much Polish you would be able to speak.  But eventually we could tell that you were recognizing the differences between the languages and who spoke them.  Then, what seemed out of the blue, you started speaking Polish while your great grandmother was here, and now I think you speak Polish better than an English.  It is truly a marvel for me to see because I find the grammar rules so hard to learn, and you simply show why children are superior at learning languages.  This past year has in many ways been the story of your voice, and your talking fills the air like music.

img-20160612-wa0000Ultimately what stands out the most is how much you’ve become a person.  Gone is this little human I loved on what just felt like a biological level, but I feel like I actually know you as a person now.  Your personality shines, and I can begin to define you as having certain personality traits.  And I think you can do the same for me.  You also know me, and what I’m like.  We are father and son, sure, but we are also people learning about each other and growing together, and I love that.  So what is that personality that you are developing?  Well you are sweet and loving.  You are kind and you like to share.  You show concern for others including the cats.  You don’t throw tantrums, and you don’t get mad when other kids take your toys.  You just sort of stand there a bit stunned and wonder what is wrong with them. What’s most amazing about you is the humor you’ve developed.  You love to make people laugh, and you do a pretty good job of jokes for a kid your age.   A large part of you seems to be built on silliness.  Almost too much sometimes, because you can get unfocused from the task at hand.  It’s hard for us to not laugh sometimes, even though you are misbehaving, because we know a laugh from us only encourages you to carry on with your silliness!  But if being too silly is the worst trait you have as a toddler than I think we are pretty lucky.

To share with you an example of your silliness you decided one day to call my lips, pimples.  You touch my lips and say “I likes your pimples”, and then I touch your lips back or tickle your ribs and say “I like your pimples”.  You respond back saying, “No, I like yours pimples!”  This goes on for far longer than it should.  It’s complete nonsense. But it’s also sweet because you started playing it I think just because you liked touching my lips.  You often just put your fingers on my lips when you come into our bed and are still sleepy, or just before you fall asleep at night.  As a father we generally don’t get those kind of attachments with a breastfeeding mother to choose from.  I don’t know, there is just something deeply personal when there is just some simple thing about you that brings such comfort to another human being.

Also I am really happy that you like Mr. Bean so much.  It will make me feel less guilty about indoctrinating you into British comedies.  Pretty much the only way I am freely willing to indoctrinate you. 🙂

1456361504503Part of the reason why I want to write you these letters is to also let you know who I am at this time in my life.  Of course as much I feel you are getting to know me, there is so much more to go.  This year has been a tough one for a lot of people, but mostly because of how it has ended. Poland has become extremely restrictive, full of prejudice, religious fervor, and heavy nationalism.  It is one of many countries that have and may go that direction yet.  But Poland is your mother’s country and where she still has friends and family.  So it’s personal.  And the country we live in has taken it’s turn in that direction as well.  As hard it is to let greed win, it is much harder to accept that the world seems like it’s about to get a lot unkinder.  And as a species, we haven’t been the kindest bunch even in the best of times.  This age of information and global activity, breeds a heightened level of awareness to all our species is capable of, and as a result quite a lot of fear.  As I said, we aren’t always the kindest.  I hope that this is all just a pull back on the elastic that propels us forward.  Of course change happens slowly, so it may be a long pull back before we go forward again.  As we are now able to look around this world even more than before, we are starting to realize that there is quite a bit of suffering and we haven’t been very good stewards of the planet that sustains us all.  It’s a heavy burden to bear.  People deal with it in different ways.  Some better than others.  I am not sure why this really is.  Maybe it’s just the willingness to admit mistakes and try something else.  Maybe ignorance really is just bliss.  But I’ve always felt that at some level reality slaps you in the face no matter what.   I’d always rather just address reality come to terms with it.  Perhaps I’ve just had a kinder reality than others, so what do I know?  The point is that your life may be a greater struggle than your parents had for most of their life.  What I can tell you though is that whatever the future holds, I will always show you the light that is in this universe, the wonder in your world, and what’s best about humanity.  I’m going to make sure that even when I’m not there, you will look out with your senses and know there is beauty there.  Even if it is small, hiding, muted, or repressed, you will find a way to bring it to others, and have good and pure moments of joy.  Even if they happen more sparsely than I have been fortunate enough to have in my life.

1475702319255I suppose that parents must often question themselves in how they are doing as a parent.  I know I certainly do.  The truth is that I still feel like I have trouble relating to you.  As you get older it is very aware how much you are watching, listening, and learning, and I feel like I should be teaching you more.  Maybe I’ve just spent too much of my life talking to college students, that trying to explain things to a toddler feels hard.  And often I just feel I’ve aged past the point of remembering how to access my own inner child.  Your mother does not have that problem and I am so thankful that you have that amazing woman in your life.  I just want you to know that I am trying and that at the very least I can say that you are getting no shortage of love and affection from me.  I love the hugs, the kisses, the holding you on my lap, and the cuddles when you crawl into our bed in the middle of the night.  By the way, maybe that’s the best part of you talking now is that you can say “I love you”.  I suppose one could say that you are bound to say such things after hearing it so many times.  But I can tell that you are also beginning to understand what love feels like and there is no dishonesty in your expression of love.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There is a purity in it that I think we adults lose sight of sometimes.  Not that the complexity of love isn’t wondrous as well, but sometimes I think we over think it, and let the fear of vulnerability override the freedom and joy our heart could be experiencing.  And while I still have no idea how I would manage if something were to happen to you, it is a fearless love I have for you, because I know that whatever turns life may have, there is no value in holding back the love I feel for you.

img_20160512_114307These past 3 years of your life have been amazing for me.  I wish I really had the words, but maybe there are just some things in life you have to experience and words simply hold no value.  My greatest hope for you is that you get to love someone as much as I love you.  Happy 3rd birthday my son.  Thank you for making me feel lucky, even in 2016.

Love,
Your Father

Deconstruction

Cold titanium, metallic touch,
Protect from feeling far too much
Your crutch

Awaken darling, feel this flesh,
My hand conforms to yours,
Our eyes connect by unseen tether
Love dances across the medium.

Laser looks in calculated gaze,
Information fills emotionless days,
Safety pays

I have joys to show you, give you,
That surge you feel is chemical,
The heart throbs, blood pulses,
Cellular exchange renews you.

Corrupted memory banks are sealed,
Places your Designer never healed,
Must shield

Put your faith in something greater,
An idea to bring peace of mind,
I might have an idea…or two,
Let my lips help you think of something new.

Thoughts in circuits gridded tightly,
Produce their bedtime logic nightly,
So unsightly.

Pick wildflowers in the green fields,
And let them adorn your silken strands,
There’s a place you’ve never been,
Only you can go out, only you can let it in.

Powering down as eyelids close,
After habitually ingested prose,
Current slows

I’ll stand with you at the precipice,
Take that leap into the misty abyss
You won’t fall as hard as you think,
I’m already waiting on the other side.