I’m coming out of ‘lurker’ mode!
It’s true, I confess, there’s no getting around it: I will soon have a memoir to promote—and so here I am, writing blog posts for the first time ever (late bloomer!), setting up new social media accounts (#studentofhastags101!), and returning to Facebook (after a long hiatus in lurker mode).
Next spring, I’ll be that friend asking all her friends to spread the word to all their friends about the release of Time to Fly, the book I finally brought into the world almost eight years after the death of my first husband. In April 2020, I’ll officially become a first-time author, and it will become imperative—because of the way the publishing industry works these days—that I self-promote, an act I’m not entirely comfortable with.
In the meantime, approaching the holidays and the anniversary of Brian’s death, I’m slowly stepping back into the social media groove. I’ve been here, hitting the “Like” button on other people’s pages for so long—I love your sports, graduation, marriage, new baby, rescue dog, and food prep photos; I read the articles you share on health and wellbeing, entrepreneurship, parenting, and social justice. And I am coming to terms with why I dropped out of the social media landscape in the first place: inner-conflict.
Going Off the Grid
There are countless articles on grieving and our 21st century virtual way of keeping our deceased loved ones alive. But after Brian died in 2011, my main and immediate focus was our three children. With lightning speed, I learned that I needed to be present for them in ways I never had needed to be present before. I might have tried to keep up with social media in the early months that followed Brian’s death, thanking the countless people who were helping the kids and I process our loss, and spreading the word of fundraisers and events we were holding in Brian’s honor; but grieving and healing online was not possible for me. It works for many people in mourning, but what I needed was to cocoon with my children, and so I did.
Emerging from that cocoon, as better hours, days, and then extended weeks came, I sometimes felt the urge to publicly post something positive. I missed the magic of sharing with hundreds of people at a time, a bit of good news, or a photo showing my kids water skiing, dancing, scaling a rock wall, or smiling. Hell, if I’d had a breakthrough on the yoga mat one day, why not post a photo of my sweaty face and a few words to inspire anyone who might need them?
But the simple click of a few buttons was hard for me, and I retreated. I feared somehow stepping unknowingly on someone’s toes, so I detached. How do you begin to show you are happy again, online? What if somebody out there judges it’s too soon and posts an article on the “problem” with “skipping” a stage of grief, or even speed-grieving (a thing I once worried I was doing)?
How do you post about growth and transformation online without coming across as preachy, self-serving, or self-deceiving, especially if you (and your children) are also still in pain? And what the hell are you supposed to do when you begin to fall in love with another man? What do you do with the moments he is lighting up your children’s lives? You stay present, sure, but sharing joy has great value.
More than Selfies and Memes
I struggle to this day, as we near this eight-year mark, to balance the remembrance and eternal nature of the love I had for Brian with the undeniable power of this love I feel for Mike. I want to honor both men, without making anyone uncomfortable or upset. People unfriend loved ones on social media over offensive memes! This is not always safe territory, and when you are a compulsive fixer like I tend to be, you don’t want to go around breaking things. So much can be broken via social media, but I still believe more can be shared.
So, there comes a time to break the silence and take part in the living that is done online. There is community here, and I want to be in it. Mike and I fell in love, we married, we had a baby together, and he has adopted the children Brian and I had together. We have a big family life—as messy, as strong, and as full of adventure as any other family.
Yes, I need social media now as I prepare to launch a book, but I also need social media because the book I wrote is meant to start a dialogue and to be of service. I have four kids now, a husband, siblings and parents, and countless friends who would stand on the street corners from Chicago to Boston to Seattle, shouting about this huge (and sometimes frightening) step I’m taking to tell my story and my truth in the form of a memoir. But I can simply plop down here in the café, with my laptop and my latte; I can click a few buttons, see all of you, and be seen. Hello! I’m back. ☺