So Long, Social Media

So Long, Social Media! Pic.png

“You haven’t posted in a while. Are you ok?”

“Is everything ok? I can’t find your Instagram.”

“Do you and the girls need anything? You haven’t posted a story in almost a week.”

Those are actual quotes from real texts I have received in the past month. Yes, I am fine. The girls are also fine. No major events have rocked our family. The truth is that I have been focusing on deleting stress-triggers from my life. Some letting go has come easy, like decreasing the girls’ activity commitments. Some of it has been hard, like letting go of my gym membership. But the one that seemed impossible until a few weeks ago was letting go of social media.

I know the dangers of social media. I know how addictive it can feel and how harmful it can be to one’s self-esteem and self-worth. I have fasted from social media in the past but always come back. I have consistently convinced myself that the good outweighed the bad and that I was the ideal sensible user of social media. I needed social media, I told myself.

Life as a single mom can leave you feeling isolated. If I am not working, I am doing something for my kids. Hopping onto social media gave me a real sense of connection. Social media is where I found amazing social support networks, like the one on which this blog appears, for single moms. Social media is where I connected with other women struggling with anemia. Social media is how I kept tabs on family, friends, and former students with whom I wouldn’t otherwise have much time to connect. These were all such positive additions to my life, but then it got even better.

After one of my blog posts, I noticed an uptick in my Instagram followers. I remember the day I hit 1,000 followers on Instagram. Granted, that is not a lot in this world of “influencers,” but it felt like a serious accomplishment for a single mom just sharing pictures of her kids, recipes, and “real life.” I felt good. I felt affirmed. I felt like I was finally making the friends I didn’t have time for in real life. As my followers grew over the next year, the affirmation deepened. I started talking to people in my stories, sharing my day, and, of course, sharing my grievances. The degree of validation I got from the DMs affirming my “realness” and ability to “tell it like it is” was massive, and something about which I am now pretty embarrassed.

I found myself starting to live at least partially outside of my life, constantly thinking about how my real life played into the version that I put online. I caught myself thinking in captions and hashtags. On more than one occasion, I asked my girls to repeat behaviors so that I could capture their cuteness – not for the family photo album, but for the consumption of my followers. I now realize that I said “yes” to outings, when I was exhausted, because I thought it would make a good post. I started wearing makeup to places I usually wouldn’t, like track practice, because I knew I may “need” go live.

I was doing all of this – trying to be engaged in my life as it happened, as well as playing narrator for the life I was presenting online, deeply invested in the maintenance of both my spontaneous and reflected public face – while trying to deal with the increasing frequency and intensity of my bouts with anxiety.

So many of my anxiety triggers are inherent in being a single mom: Will the kids be ok after being asked about their dad by a classmate? How am I going to afford to send them to camp with the rest of their class? What if I am swamped at work and late to pick them up?

So many of my anxiety triggers are inherent in living in Southern California, too. Driving anywhere is a time-sucking, schedule-altering, emotionally-draining, combative, unpredictable nightmare. Everything is over-priced. Nobody is young-enough, cool-enough, or fit-enough. Nothing God-given is ever enough, and everyone is always busy.

I found myself anxious more often than I was at peace, and that is not ok. I realized that part of dealing with my anxiety was working on my own reactions and coping mechanisms for that anxiety, which is induced by things that are beyond my control – like the traffic and cost of living. But part of it was that I needed to stop inviting anxiety into my life. It was that realization, in the middle of the night, as I tossed and turned, that prompted me to open my computer and search academic journals for “social media and anxiety.”

In hindsight, I think I was hoping that the research would provide some skepticism and allow me to give myself permission to continue to live my virtual life. Instead, it prompted me to grab my phone, in a state of sleepy assuredness that best resembles the love child of a zombie and a droid, and just start deleting. I thought it would be hard, but it wasn’t. It was liberating.

I woke up the next morning and felt like my life was my own for the first time in years. My brain automatically defaulted to thinking about what attempt at witty faux-humility would kick off my day on my digital story. Surely, it would be something about the mundaneness of Mondays or the unending pressures of being a working mom. Then I realized that I didn’t have to say anything to anyone about my morning. I could just get up, drink my tea, and read the news. It took a moment for this new reality to register in my brain. I didn’t need to do anything other than just exist. There was, finally, no documentation or grooming needed for anything I did that day. I could just do it.

As great as my new freedom felt, the coming days did bring some rough adjustments. I missed scrolling through to find words of encouragement from other single moms. I missed seeing the pictures of distant family. I wondered who had gotten new jobs, was in a new relationship or decided to move. I missed that feeling of community and the feeling that my every passing thought could somehow entertain, support, or provoke another person. I still miss those things. But, I don’t miss them as much as I enjoy the peace of just living.

For me, this was the right choice. I have since reactivated Facebook for work purposes and will continue to share my monthly blogs and certain major life events on that platform, but I won’t return to being a daily poster. There is too much to worry about in life already. As anyone who is anxiety-prone can attest, the brain will do its best to invent things to worry about! So I am stepping out of this virtual space that is so ripe for anxiety. I am simplifying and finding peace in the version of me that exists in only one place, at only one time – free from the worry of how to package and convey the value of that place and time to anyone else.

Thanks for the memories, but it’s time for me to move on. So long, social media.

By A. Smith

Small Accomplishments

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This summer, I was able to take my kids on their first real vacation to Kansas City, MO. It was the first vacation I paid for with my own money as a single parent. It was just a simple three-day vacation over a weekend, but for my kids and I, it was a huge deal. I never thought it could happen, because I started out a part-time job that barely covered anything and I was sure I would never see vacation ever again. As silly as it sounds, it was a significant accomplishment for me.

For me, it was a moment. I felt all the time and effort I put into something to give to my kids worked out. I scraped and saved, and I sold a few extra paintings just so I could pull in the last bit of funds to cover gas and have plenty for meals and a few souvenirs. All my hard work in the months prior had paid off, and I had something to show for it.

It is these small victories that can be a ray of hope in the challenging life of raising kids alone. These small accomplishments truly feel larger than life when you start at the place where keeping the lights on is hard enough. When the time to sleep is a luxury, it becomes so discouraging to think you will ever get to the point of seeing progress or reward for all your hard work.

Six months after my separation, I was hitting my lowest point. My part-time job was not giving me enough hours for some weeks, and too many for others. I didn't have a car. My paychecks could barely cover the bills. I was so exhausted from work and trying to keep a stable life for my children. I felt hopeless.

In my early days of being a  single parent, I found comfort in Psalms. Several verses reminded me of God's compassion and grace toward those who are broken-hearted.

"The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace." Psalm 29:11

"The LORD is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

I think God holds a special place in His heart for single mothers -- these strong women who take their roles as mothers to a whole new level. God made us courageous, resourceful, and incredibly strong. He doesn't make life easy, that is for sure. But He certainly did not make it for us to give up. He created us to thrive, and to live to the fullest. Sometimes, it will take one small victory at a time. It can be the first day you wake up full of ambition, the first paycheck you earn yourself, or even the first time you actually get a full night's sleep in a long time. It can also be when your children come home from school with smiles on their faces, excited to tell you about their day or simply getting them to eat vegetables. It's these little victories that show we are warriors, builders, and dream makers. God gives us hope and walks beside us, building a brighter future.

Closer to a year after my separation, I got a new job. The pay was not much more, but it had regular hours, and I could get home in time to get my kids off the bus. I was also crazy enough and decided to go back to school to finish my degree. I am scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2021. I still live paycheck to paycheck, but after a lot of hard work and prayer, I do see the small accomplishments of rebuilding a life for myself and my children.

NaTacia Z.

See more blogs from her at her site https://blessedsinglemom.wordpress.com

Never Give Up

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Oh wow, this month of April had been a crazy month. I decided to finish my book and I was so excited when the month started to complete it. However, the night before Easter I was so sick I couldn’t eat. Then a few days later there was a fire in my childhood home. It was crazy and surreal. Then a week later I came home from work to set my things down and head back outside. When I turned around there was a snake entering through my doorway. I haven’t been a fan of snakes ever. Then a few days later I got word someone dear to me had died. These unexpected things just kept coming one after another.

It has been hard not to give up. A few years ago when I had a broken leg and arm, had a two-year-old, and lost my job. It was hard not to give up when I really wanted to.  When I had those days, that life threw me sideways for a day, week, month, or a season I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to try anymore. I was exhausted and ready for a new start. I don’t know what you a face in this season of life that has knocked you flat on your face. We all deal with unexpected things in life. It is hard put on a smile or just to make it through the day without crying.

Sometimes we lose our job,

become homeless,

the relationship crashes,

sickness comes in,

or a loved one dies.

“Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.” Jack Ma

 

There is a time and season for everything but never give up. Don't stay in the place of loss and pain. You must keep fighting for your life even if it is moment by moment. There is only one thing that has kept me moving through all this pain and loss….it is God. When the tears are coming down my face and I am not sure how I will make it through another day, I turn to Him.

 

1.     I turn on YouTube and search for worship music lately Elevation Worship is my favorite.

2.     I sing even if I don’t know the words in my mess.

3.     I start praying about every worry and pain I have and give it to Him.

 

By the time I hit the last step I am usually not crying anymore because I believe in God’s love for me.  I change my mind about my circumstance and choose hope. I know I have a purpose and a future. I know my life will not end because of unexpected life events. I begin to stand on these words and memorize them.

 

Keep praying

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Remember God is Good

For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5

 

He will never leave you

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

 

All thing He works out for Good

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 

He still knows everything that happens and is not surprised.

9  remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10  declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, Isaiah 46:9-10

 

So, momma if life is dishing out more than you can handle know God is still ever present in your life. He stands beside you, holds you, and tells you how much He loves you.

Stay Strong,

~Esme

http://vestigespirit.com/