I’m Sorry Boys, It’s Not On.

An open letter to every adolescent with a Y chromosome who is in, or even on the periphery of my son’s life … and of course my son himself.

The world has gotten a lot bigger for you all in the past six months. A lot bigger physically in new schools that span from one end of the Valley to the other – but also a lot bigger online. There are more of you. More people you are getting to know, and more people you may not really know, but sure pretend to know through social media. You are all trying to find your way. I can feel it everywhere I turn. And I can see it no where more clearly than online.

And I’m sorry boys, some of this behaviour that I’m seeing … it’s not on.

It’s simply not.

I know I will earn no respect saying it or revealing it, but I’m not here for your adoration. I’m here to raise a young man. And I’m here to care about other young men who are in his life, or even on the outside circle as classmates, teammates neighbours or old friends.

I understand you are all growing up in a world of social media. I understand you are “digital pioneers”, and that we have to raise you to learn to manage living in this new world.

I understand you have all heard, ad nauseum, about the dangers and pitfalls of the ‘evil online world’ of people looking to prey on you, of bullying, pornography and safety.

But today we are not talking about any of that. We are talking about the young men you want to be in this world.

I feel as of late, somewhere, somehow, an incredibly pathetic low bar is being set in your personal online world. And whether you admit it or not each of you are playing a role in keeping it there. Each of you.

The group chats that happen in the guise of team bonding, the snap chats that come and go so quickly you are lulled into complacency, the memes – some specific memes – that some of you think are hilarious because they only step “one” foot over the line in your opinion but not “two” … and the others that are clearly well over any line.

So here are some things I want to make perfectly clear:

Saying “But it’s not pornography” doesn’t cut it.

Do not set the bar that low for yourself or for your friends. Expect better of them. Or get better friends. Choose respect. Expect respect. Accept nothing less.

Saying “But I’m not participating in the chat” doesn’t cut it.

Even if you never post anything derogatory yourself … ever … just being a part of demeaning conversations normalizes them. The undertones are all too often sexist, homophobic, or at the very least elitist. It creates a sense of normalcy that is false and against the values you should aspire to. Just because you aren’t the ones saying the words or posting the posts, you are still choosing to view the conversation. And I know it’s because you are part of a team or a certain group at school. And I understand “staying” comes from a fear of speaking up and being ostracized. I do.

But remember – you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Online, at school, on the sports team. Remember that. REMEMBER THAT.

Saying “I didn’t understand what that meant” doesn’t cut it.

I get it. There are things out there that “I” don’t even understand online! But ask if you’re unsure about something. Ask an adult in your life. Be grown up enough to find out from people you can trust. We are your safe place. They are your safe place.

Saying “He’s not really like that in real life” doesn’t cut it.

This is real life. It’s ALL real life. And choosing who you are online is choosing who you are in the world. If he’s like that online, he’s like that period.

Saying “I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble” doesn’t cut it.

I adore loyalty in my son and his friends. But if you feel that you have to keep covering for people, or if you think our families expectations are too high, maybe you need to reevaluate some things.

I completely understand you all will make mistakes. I completely understand that in the most literal sense your brains are not fully developed yet and you will have an imegdula-hijack from time to time.

I understand. I do. There are no expectations of perfect. But everyone still has to be responsible for their actions. Both on a screen and in person.

To those of you who I have seen with my own eyes post degrading photos and memes about women … who swear in a way that is not expressive but degrading … who make jokes about being gay … who think you are so much better than people who may be struggling academically or those who may not be good at sports … some of you really caught me off guard. I am ashamed and disappointed in you. I am. And guess what – maybe we need to say that more often. Maybe someone needs to be disappointed in you. I’ll be that person if you don’t have one in your life or if their heads are in the sand.

And once again, to those who don’t post these things but are seeing them and not saying something … who are not standing up … I do know it’s hard … I do know that … I do know decisions to remove yourself from conversations and stand up will affect you for years at school. I do know it may mean not sitting at the cool table.

But make the hard decision.

CHOOSE the young man you want to be.

To those who care so very very VERY much about the numbers of followers you have and who don’t know everyone following you (but only know “of” them …) please be careful not to get caught up in that … you are better than that.

Popularity does not equal kindness. As a matter a fact it requires a sneaky exclusivity and disrespect toward others that is most often the opposite of kind.

Popularity is a slippery slope and you can find yourself at the bottom feeling alone all too quickly. Or you can hurt feelings and relationships that become irreparable. You are not better than anyone. Let me say that again. You are not better than anyone. Even if friends and even parents and teachers and coaches and all kinds of peers and even adults are silently telling you you are. You aren’t.

CHOOSE to be the respected young man – not the popular one.

And finally – I know many of you are revered in the sporting circles. I know you think you are on top of the pack ~ or want to be.

But ask yourself “what pack?”

Are the actions you portray on the court matching your actions on social media? At your round tables at lunchtime? Or in the locker room?

Really ask yourself this.

Are they?

I can tell you they are often not. I’m so disappointed in some of you. I truly am.

I’m sorry boys. I’m sorry Mark. I’m sorry parents, coaches and teachers, who may or may not have knowledge of this specific behaviour. I’m sorry world.

But I’m not raising the popular kid, or a kid to “just get through four years of high school”. I want to raise a confident, strong, empathetic, caring young man and I want him to be surrounded by other confident, strong, empathetic, caring young men. Young men who can be proud of themselves and who consciously choose who to be in the world … and that includes the online world people! There is no distinction or definition there.

Please. Please. CHOOSE the men you want to be. And not just in the easy circumstances and not just around the popular kids.

And adults, it isn’t enough to just let these things pass by or not be aware of them because they are online and you may not see them because they are on Snapchat or have been deleted from Instagram or you aren’t looking.

Boys will NOT be boys.

I’m raising a young man.

It’s not on.

And I’m actually not the least bit sorry.


Post Script:

I wrote this about a year ago. Instead of posting it I used it as a jumping point to begin conversations with my son about behaviour I was seeing start to plant itself in and around his grade. They weren’t easy conversations to have and they happened over time. But I am so glad I started them.

Some won’t agree that I choose to randomly look at my children’s phones. Some won’t agree with this post overall. And that’s ok.

Within myself I am personally so happy with the conversations we have had that came from these actions. It opened my eyes. It stopped me from thinking “this person or that person would never do that”. Including my own kids. It reminded me of so many things I knew but needed reminding of.

Even more so I am incredibly proud of my son and the choices he has chosen to make over the last year. They were not easy choices sometimes. But I believe this kid had dug deep into choosing who he wants to be, which has sometimes meant stepping away from some old friends, some new friends, teammates or classmates and deciding what was more important.

I’m incredibly proud of him this past year. I tell him all the time. (And each time he rolls his eyes at me).

Finally, I wrote this as if I was talking to Mark and his peers. In retrospect I would like to add a note to each adult that touches these boys lives. And it’s this:

Popularity, privilege and being overly adored by adults and peers (including parents, teachers, coaches, mentors etc) is all too often where behaviour and thought patterns begin, that can later end in appalling behaviours (such as those by some Dalhousie Dentistry males a number of years ago.) Don’t have your head in the sand or be fooled by outwardly polite behaviour on the surface.

Remember not to equate popularity with positive behaviour.

It begins here. It begins now. And it begins not with “other kids”. But with our own.

What is this Feeling?

It’s the first few moments of morning. Those moments where your eyes are still closed, your body is perfectly still and you are just becoming aware of your surroundings.

Simultaneously I experience three senses at once. Touch, sound and smell.

That normally isn’t so when I wake up in the morning, but it is when I’m here.

I feel the breeze on my skin coming through the open window right next to my bed. I always sleep with the window open here.

In the same moment I hear the waves. God do I love waking up to the waves literally outside my window.

And then there’s the smell. The salt air that fills your senses when you wake up only a hundred yards from the beach.

My eyes aren’t even open. My body hasn’t even moved an inch. I’m in that state of mind between awake and asleep. But I know exactly where I am.

I am camping.

As I roll over (quietly so Ginger won’t hear me) I’m aware of my kiddos sleeping in the bunk beds at the back of the trailer.

 
The four of us have been doing this for so long together ~ for seventeen years to be exact ~ and for all the things that we do … the travel and the sports games and the music concerts and the board games and card games … it’s been this that has in so many ways defined who we are as a family.

So here I am. Waking up once again in our trailer like so many mornings. I’m waking up and I’m trying to identify this feeling. It’s so easy to say it’s happiness. And I am. Happy that is. But it’s something more. We over use that word, happy. So I close my eyes again, breathe in that air, exhale slowly, and it’s then I realize without a doubt what the feeling is. It’s contentment.

I’m never more content then when I am camping.

It doesn’t matter where we are – at our beloved Rissers Beach, or Keji. Fundy or The Islands. Thomas Radall or Murray Beach. 

It’s where we take hundreds of walks on the beach together, hike and bike endless trails, laugh over campfires, egg each other on over washer toss tournaments and bocci ball, play intense games of crib and queens. It’s where the smell of campfires become the most beloved smell in the world and where dusk can’t come quick enough for all of us to gather around one every night.

It’s where my kids learned to ride their bikes and then took off on afternoon adventures to lakes and brooks and playgrounds, coming back with their friends having had contests of who could get the muddiest on the trails.

It’s where parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren all enjoy each other’s company equally. It’s where the four of us sit in our camp chairs, put our feet up and are completely silent … each reading our own books … where not a word is spoken sometimes but my heart swells because we are all engrossed in our own novels – but outside and together.

It’s where the best games of football and kite flying have happened. Where catching a wave on the boogie boards was the most important thing for a few summers and searching for sandollars becomes a sport.

It’s where we huddle, in our camper in the rain – a time that is my favourite – listening to that incomparable sound on the trailer roof and playing Skip Bo and drinking hot chocolate together.

 
And as always, Craig is beside me.

The two of us have been doing this together for 25 years now.

  
We started in a two man tent. Packing all we needed in the trunk of his little red Acura or my Z24. Cooking over the open fire, waking up to dampness and sleeping on air mattresses that deflate. And good heavens don’t touch the side of that tent!!

We then graduated to a four man tent. (Oh the life!) And then Megan arrived and along came the used tent trailer, then the used hybrid (man we loved that one. That lasted us 10 years). And then another hybrid and finally this Ultralight which now has a real bed for Craig and I.

Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Haha. Tents and trailers with no fridges and beds that fold up. Well you know what? It was. It was amazing. Our family has been doing this since Megan was seven months old. We consciously chose to raise campers. And I know that sounds funny – but we did. Somewhere along the way we consciously chose to raise our children to be campers. (Or maybe actually it was unconsciously because it’s so much a part of who we are).

Either way it doesn’t matter. Because now it just is. For all of us. And here we are so many years later. Still camping. All together.

So yes – as I roll over – I always know exactly where I am and what I’m feeling. And I know I will open my eyes and see my husband lying beside me. And soon we will get up and he will make me percolated coffee in my favourite stainless steel camping mug. We will go outside and take Ginger for a quick walk and sit together in our favourite chairs listening to the waves and watching them roll in over the sand. And soon the kids will get up and we will have another morning and another afternoon and another evening here together in whatever campground we happen to be in at the time.

And the memories – while we are here in this campground – the memories, well they will somehow, so clearly and effortlessly, simply make themselves.
  

Bicycles

Today, my 15 year old son grabbed two of his friends, hopped on his bicycle and they all rode 20 km into Wolfville together. They went to their old middle school and visited all their old teachers (one of whom he was sad to have missed). Later they met up with two other friends and played basketball, ate at his favourite pizza place, and tried out the hot new ice cream spot.

That is what they did. That was his day.

And in case you missed the important part of this very boring story let me say it again. Today. June 20th. My 15 year old son, who is now taller than I am, got on his bicycle – with a beating heart, lungs full of air, and healthy blood pumping it’s way through his healthy body to drive to Wolfville. Today. June 20th. He came back exhausted and sweaty and beaming from ear to ear having hung out with his friends. Having driven 20 km together. On a bicycle. On June 20th.

And let me say … bicycle ….well …. bicycle quite simply trumps ambulance.

I Do Know

I do know.

I do know I’m abnormally attached to your boys.

No really. I am.

I very much see this for what it is and feel a little sorry for your kiddos who have to endure yet another adult who is so invested in their presence on this earth. Particularly during a time of teenage hood where they would be happy if a giant hole swallowed everyone over the age of 30.

But there I am – always in the wings.

I cheer just a little bit louder when “they” have their time in the spotlight either on the court or walking across a stage accepting achievements.

I tease ‘them’ just a little bit more than their counterparts.

I wave a little bigger and my heart melts a little bit more when I see ‘them’.

I do know my love for them is one that is usually reserved for family members.

I do know I’m a little too thankful for them.

I do know I’m a little too invested in their lives. That I ask about them a little too often.

I do know that when Mark is having groups of friends over I always hope to hear their name in the list of attendees (which is pretty much always true).

And I do know sometimes I even expect a little too much of them – as I do from people I truly care about. I do know the unfairness of that to them – and to you.

And I do know they aren’t my children.

I do know all of these things.

But what YOU don’t know is this:

There was a time in my life I didn’t know my son would have these friendships. At all. With anyone. I didn’t know that he would be blessed enough to have these relationships. That he would know the camaraderie of being one of the gang. Something that has now come to mean everything to him.

And here’s the other thing:

I bet you always took for granted that your children would form these bonds. Maybe you didn’t know who they would be with, or when they would happen – but I bet in life you pictured they would have close friends who would have their back.

There was a time I didn’t.

There was a time I didn’t believe he would have the privilege of fist bumps and shared laughter. I didn’t believe he would be on a court working with others. I didn’t believe he would have that feeling that comes from close knit friends.

So yes. I do know I care a little too much. I even know I care much too much.

But this was a future I never knew he would have, and so the hard truth for you and your boys is this: I don’t know how to be any other way.

The White Spaces

Merry Christmas 2017

“Open Your Heart and Look Around

Listen. Listen.

Hear the Song within the Silence

See the Beauty When There’s Nothing There”

~Idina Menzel~

This quote is of course from the incomparable Idina Menzel and her song December Prayer.  It has been the song that I find myself looking most forward to this Christmas – the one I relate to this year – the one that gives me pause and reflection.

As I was driving the other day I kept repeating the above verse in my head. I thought about how busy Christmas can be and I thought of our old fashioned calendar that hangs on fridge at home.

It probably surprises none of you that our entire lives are on that calendar.  The kids have been well trained (haha) over the years to put all their happenings there (Craig is less trained, but we laugh and forgive him as we sigh and go mark in his appointments and activities for him).  We have different color sharpies for each of us and we have become a well-oiled family machine of organization. (Albeit a machine that is maybe a little ancient because it still uses paper and pen – but alas it works for us).

At this time of year I often use that calendar to help me write our Christmas newsletter.  I pour over it and it helps me remember all the things that the past year held for us.  Looking at it I’m reminded of amazing trips and camping adventures, new jobs and new schools, sad endings and exciting beginnings.  This little calendar holds so much of our wonderful history over the past year.

But also, especially in months like December, the calendar can seem overwhelming. At first glance it is a sea of green, red, blue and black.  A constant reminder of all the things that need to be done, that we need to drive to, that we need to make time for.   There are times it’s easy to get anxious about the December page and how many boxes are filled in – not only with one color but with all four.  And yes – they are full of fun things we all look forward to – but still they are commitments that come with preparation and that often take us in four separate directions.

But then I take a deep breath and I look again.  And it is there I see my favorite thing and I smile.  All throughout this colorful, marked-over, tattered piece of paper there actually are some blank spots.  Beautiful blocks of emptiness. White space I have become fierce about protecting.

It is this white space that I have learned is sacred. These are not boxes ‘to be filled up’. It is here – in the space where “there is nothing there” – it is here where there is everything. Because it’s here where we are all together and unscheduled.  Sure there are lots of times we are together with green pen – times when we have family events & dinners at friends.  But these white spaces – this unplanned openness – those become the most beautiful days and evenings at Christmas. Times for us as a family.  Days and nights filled with ease – when we don’t have to get out of our pajamas, where we sit around the tree, watch movies, read, eat chicken bbq nachos and play games. Together. Those times are the most precious to me.  Those times don’t get penned into a calendar. Those times are found in the white spaces.

So when someone calls and asks if I am free on a certain date this holiday season, and my answer is no, it may not be because the box is filled with pen – but instead because its empty and I’ve learned to “Hear the Song within the Silence. See the Beauty When There’s Nothing There.”

So here’s to 2018 ~ I wish you all a year filled with health, happiness … and many white spaces on your calendars!

Merry Christmas,

Karrie-Ann

Our Passion and Priority

I’m writing this on the Marine Atlantic Ferry from Newfoundland to Cape Breton, having just spent an eighteen day vacation with my family.

Soon I will return home and I will post an album (or two or three) on Facebook sharing our adventures. These photographs will be incredible memories of our time together – they will be filled with breathtaking scenery, smiling faces and new adventures. They will be many and they will be irreplaceable. Our family’s history, I often say, will not be written – it will be viewed.

But these photographs will not depict any of the “reasons” I purposefully choose to travel with my family as much as I do.  

In fact I can’t think of one of these photographs, from any of our 17 trips (wow!) that will show you why Craig and I work so hard to put travel near the top of our family’s priority list.

The following is a list of 15 reasons we are so dedicated to travelling both near and far with these human beings we happen to share some chromosomes with:

(1) So they can feel what it’s like to be a minority – even if it’s just for the shortest of moments.

Whether it’s a visible minority, a language minority, a cultural minority, or other examples, they each have had opportunities to experience both – if not for long periods of time, at least in situations in which they would not have had the chance to experience at home.

(2) For them to learn and practice compassion and confidence.

I remember being in Montreal when a gentleman with a probable mental health illness approached Mark and started talking to him. Often when we travel they are also learning how to confidently and compassionately interact with everyone in life.

(3) To understand how blessed they are.

Whether it’s travelling the villages in Cuba or the outskirts of Los Angeles, they have seen, walked through, and learned how lucky they are. No lectures or words needed.

(4) To learn new skills and foster strategic thinking.

While in New York City, after a few days, we made them each find our way back to our hotel by themselves – once with a map and once without, just learning how the city is laid out, learning to navigate, learning to think in a spatial manner. Learning to not rely on lazy digital fixes.

(5) To sit in the uncomfortable for awhile … and finally, maybe, become a little more comfortable there.

Period.

(6) To see, touch, and stand in history. 

They will learn so much from books as they go through school. But nothing can replace being there – digging for dinosaur fossils in Drumheller, standing where the Beothuk stood in Newfoundland, touring the many museums of the Smithsonian, sitting in the House of Commons while in session and watching the Prime Minister and opposition leaders debate. These experiences trump the written word for them.

(7) To make the world seem both small, and big, at the same time.

I want both for them. Equally. For the world to be grandiose but at the same time for them to feel its accessibility. 

(8) To experience wonder.  

“Wonder” is a funny thing. It’s not joy or happiness. It’s different for everyone, but you know it when you feel it. For me it’s that feeling when I stand at the peak of a mountain top and see the clouds below me. For my kids it will be something different. But chances are they have/or will come across it in their journeys.

(9) To build their relationship as siblings.

It’s difficult to describe the way in which they bond when they travel. The way they interact and count on each other when they’re together 24 hours a day, 18 days in a row, with no one else their age around. You would think they would fight. A lot. They don’t. It’s so much the opposite.  

(10) To spend true uninhibited time as a family.

There is nothing, NOTHING, for me, that compares to the conversations, experiences and laughter we share while on the road for an extended period of time. It is magical. It was part of the reason we upped the ante on the number of trips we make a priority to take.

(11) To laugh. 

The laughter that comes from their cottage bedroom. Because they always have to share a bedroom. The things they find hilarious. The things we all experience and then laugh for days about until they become “part of the trip”. That is the soundtrack to my life I love most.

(12) To create memories. New unforgettable memories.

Life is short. You are always guaranteed one thing when you choose to make travel a priority for your family – the memories will last forever.

(13) Trial runs for life.

Someday they will spread their wings and be off on their own. Hopefully these adventures will take them far and wide. Learning to read a subway map, or getting yourself from the airport doors through the logistical hoops until you board a plane, or managing the security at a sporting event in the largest arena in North America … all of these are trial runs for when they are doing these things on their own in the world.

(14) Nurturing passion.

There is a theory that ‘desire’ is goal orientated and controlled, while passion is wild at heart and free. Travel as a passion is a gift – one I want to nurture as their mother.

(15) To open their minds, and their hearts, just a little bit more.

Their lives can be so narrow as teenagers – the next soccer practice, the next performance, the next party, the next test. Travel shows them there is more in this life than the over scheduled days in a week. There is much more. And it can be never-ending. Near or far. As long as its a priority.

Sometimes I look at the money we spend on these adventures (as hard as we work to keep them reasonable) and I think – wow – we could have had the house paid off by now. Or that brand name wardrobe. Or that cottage. But no. Instead this is our family’s priority. And I’ve never regretted one moment of it. Nor do I think do they.

Where My Gratitude and Optimism Fail Me

My daughter Megan started her first real job this past Spring. You know – the kind where she has paperwork to fill out and the Canadian Government is aware of her pennies earned.

She was hired as a Swimming Teacher and Lifeguard for a local University, and as I dropped her off for this new stage in her life, like so many moments lately it seems, I thought to myself “How did we get here?”

But I didn’t lament this to her, instead I smiled, waved goodbye and headed back home.

She taught for five and a half hours and every minute that went by I thought about how she was doing. I couldn’t wait to hear all about it (note the artful use of “I” in that sentence. “I, I, I, me, me, me. Sigh …..)

The hours crept by and soon it was time to pick her up. There I sat in the Acadia parking lot waiting with eager anticipation.

Now keep in mind this isn’t my first time to the rodeo. Meg is 16 years old, quiet in many ways, and like many teenagers is used to being somewhat guarded with her feelings around her Mother (who only in the last year or so has started to gain some credibility as a real human being in her mind!)

And hey – I’m a 44 year old educated professional – I know all the ins and outs of effective communication – ask open ended questions – don’t assume – probe -but only gently.

Yup. I had it going on. One skilled communicator. Check.

Until I opened my mouth.

And the following sentence came out:

“So how was it?”

Now I know. I know what you are thinking. 

It’s a pretty damn good sentence. 

Honestly. It is.

Short, unassuming, conscience and open ended.

Sure it is.

On paper.

But it’s me. Have you MET me?

Those four words in print are an entirely different beast when spoken out loud by Mamma Wilkie. Because they are, in my world, spoken with a vocal enthusiasm, optimism, assumption and gratitude that is unparalleled.

Always.

And let me tell you – it’s not always helpful.

So there I am with my high-pitched sing-song eager voice spouting those four words. 

So how was it?

Cue the completely unintended (but none the less present) expectation that the correct answer is “incredible!”

If dancing unicorns wearing rose coloured glasses could have flown out of my mouth they would have.

Oh my. OH MY!!!

I truly don’t mean to do this. And I so much don’t want it to be how I come across. But I have realized I often do. I have also realized that somewhere, somehow, the following happens:

Instantly the air is filled with an unspoken expectation. The bar is set. And we as a family are going to clear it. We are going to be the most thankful, optimistic, positive family this world has ever seen. Because we have been given everything. Everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

We get to be the lucky ones. And so we give back 100 fold. We are grateful 1000 fold. We have perspective. We know what the most important things are in life. Period.

Wow. 

Hold on there Miss Karrie-Ann. 

That’s a bit of an unreasonable bar there isn’t it? Let’s take a minute.

It IS a pretty tall bar – and written all over that bar says: We are over privelaged people who are so lucky to live, work and play in this incredible life. It says positive energy attracts positive energy. If you smile the world smiles with you. The more thankful you are the more you have to be thankful for.

Yup.

That’s me.

Blah. Blah blah blah blah

As we would have said in the late 1980’s “gag me with a spoon”.

But you see … the truth is … my unbridled raw truth is this … i believe in it whole heartedly … almost as a religion. That positive thought, gratitude and energy. It’s real for me – not trite or disingenuous. It’s not trendy or “just a quote”. 

It’s me.

But the other truth is this:

It’s not fair. 

It’s not fair to my family – especially those teenage ones filled with a myriad of emotions so close to the surface.

We all need to be allowed to feel what we feel when we feel it. We are all allowed really bad days. We are all allowed to not be brimming with gratitude every moment of the day.

So I’m learning. I’m learning and I’m admitting to my biases.

I’m learning that even if I’m thoughtful about what words I say or what questions I ask – I also need to be thoughtful about my tone, my eagerness, my anticipation and my unconscious expectations.

Because while gratitude, positive energy and optimism are among my closest companions, they can’t possibly serve me or my family in every situation all the time.  

Otherwise I’m little more than a cartoon character named Joy in a certain Disney movie. (A movie which by the way, gets 5 stars in my books … she says with no irony what so ever.)

Posing the Questions

It’s been a week full of sadness in so many ways. A week of sudden loss, of impending unfathomable news, of waiting to see if there is plan to fight, and yet another relapse.

I came home from a road trip with my family and saw all of these separate events in a matter of 24 hours on Facebook. I don’t check Facebook when I’m away, and now I’m left numb with much so much sadness and reality.

As I’ve written about in previous posts, I don’t always function well with Social Media. And I guess today is one of those days.

Is my world better for knowing this news and being able to respond to my friends? Of course. Is it better for them to be able to post such news once instead repeating it 100 times? I believe it is.

But what does a world look like where you are processing a terminal diagnosis alongside a family’s fun day at the beach, alongside a relapse, alongside what someone ate for supper, along side a suicide, alongside a dancing cat? 



All with the quick scroll of a thumb. 



How can we process this as human beings without becoming somehow detached?

How does this medium we all are using ~ all of the time ~ affect how we place value, on what we place value, and how we react?

How are our brains functioning – I mean physically functioning – discovering all these things – all at once – in the same space – on the inside of a few moments?

I don’t have the answer. Not for me. Not for my kids. I don’t. 

But I’m posing the question. I’m posing the question because it worries me that we don’t seem to ever sit back and reflect on this and take any action.

So for now I’m taking a break. 

This summer – and consciously moving forward – I’m choosing how – and if – social media will be a part of my life. Not how I will be a part of its life. 

I’ll be back – probably soon – but I know myself well enough that every once in awhile I need to step away. I need to step away and pose the question about this social media phenomenon ~ even if no one understands why I do.

And even if I never have the answer.

Sometimes Self Care is Hiding the Last Bagel

I woke up this morning at 5:15 am. Some of you may be thinking “if this post is about self-care this is not a good start”.  

But as a morning person, this actually is one of the best things I do for myself. And it’s nothing I really “do” it’s more who I am – how my internal clock is just built into me.

I’m usually always awake by 5:30 am. In good weather I come downstairs and cuddle up in my Papasan Chair on the deck and read or take photos. It’s alone time. 

But don’t get “alone time” confused with self care. It’s true there is sometimes about half an hour of self care in there – but the rest is this: my mind running non stop with the list of to dos and schedules for the day for all the people in my life (of which I am last on the list).

Today I had a busy day ahead of me – like most of us do ofcourse. It’s June – and in my house that bookends September with a ferociousness that spans the kids, their school, their activities, my work, Craig’s work, and nearly each and every aspect of our life. Time is a precious commodity at the best of times – but it’s a different beast in June and September.

It just is.

So the notion of self care kind of makes me laugh. Like out-loud laugh.

Especially the way our society “sells” the notion of self care. Our culture screams at us from every magazine cover and talk show and best selling book that self care is of utmost importance. But at the same time it is also saying “and THIS is what self care must look like”:

It’s adventures to find yourself – to places none of us can afford (unless you are the author of the book these adventures are written about and just sold 1 million copies).

It’s massages and pedicures and mountain top retreats. 

It’s going to the funky little shop where you can “be seen” buying the “right” candles or oils which are over priced because they are the flavour of the month.

It’s running half marathons and making leisurely suppers from the organic vegetable you have tended to in your own vegetable garden that you take time to weed daily as you practice the simplicity of life.

And finally it’s taking the perfect picture of the perfect simplistic day with our lululemon yoga pants on while drinking our Starbucks Coffee. 

(Please follow the instructions above in order to meet the expectations our culture has around self care.)

Isn’t there enough expectations out there in the world we are bombarded with every day?

Ugh.

Ok ok. I get it.

Taking care of yourself is good.

I believe in it. 

But my self care doesn’t come close to these visions that are planted in our society.

My self care mostly looks mostly like this:

Phone a friend at 7:30 am – the worst possible time when both sets of our kids are getting ready for school and we are getting ready for work. But need to connect if only for a few minutes. Talk about “nothing really” but “everything real” … time allotted – 4 minutes.

At lunch grab a friend or go for a walk on my own. No jogging, no taking pics and posting them. Just walking. Pretty much the same place every time. 20 minutes. Race back to work.

In the mornings give my husband a peck on the cheek before we leave for work – try to spend the rest of the day trying to remember which Province he is working in that day, and if he can help out with “kid pick ups” later that evening.

And then there are times when my self care takes a deceitful but hilarious turn like this morning. This morning as I got up, came downstairs to the quiet kitchen and saw that there was only one bagel left – in a household of 4 people.

It was 5:30 am. I wasn’t hungry for the bagel yet. Everyone was asleep. But I knew in two hours I would be. And I also knew that by then that round beautiful bagel would be gobbled up by someone in my loving little family.

So this morning my self care looked something like this: I went over to my kitchen Island, I picked up that last bagel, and I deftly hid it from my children and husband so I could defiantly enjoy having it later in the day. 

Yup. I hid the bagel. What am I? Four years old?

But really, that’s it. Self care a la Karrie-Ann. Not fancy. Not trendy. Not expensive. Sometimes deceitful. 

Whatever works I say!

I guess my point is this: Don’t get caught up in what you think self care is supposed to look like. 

Find the moments. Even if they are fleeting and imperfect and nothing you would ever take a photograph of. Even if they are things you may be embarrassed about! 

Self care isn’t about what others are doing. We do enough comparing don’t we?

It’s about what you are doing – in a way that works for you – when you can do it. 

And yes – maybe sometimes it is the perfect mornings on my verandah taking sunrise photos that I post on Facebook as I get ready to read that self help book I’ve been waiting to dive into.

That’s not wrong. I did that just a few weeks ago.

But it’s also really important to acknowledge that sometimes … sometimes … it’s simply hiding the last bagel. 

And that’s ok too.

Finding My Balance

For years now I have struggled with my relationship to social media. That fine line of enjoying it in so many ways but sometimes feeling uneasy with its use in my life.  

I have taken those feelings to the extremes of both using it too often and “searching” for something I wasn’t even sure of, and also to the other extreme of walking away from it all completely and logging off for months at a time.

Back around November I decided to take stock again with this phenomenon I’ve allowed into my life, and do a little soul searching about how I was feeling about its place in my world. What I found was that I had surprisingly come to a place of feeling more balanced than I ever had in the past about its role.

The following are some thoughts of where I have found my own personal balance and comfort level. 

I should preface this of course by saying that this is my balance. We all have different comfort levels, and your balance will be different from mine. And mine will be different itself in one months time, or one years time. I have interestingly learned that mine is fluid and changes based on a whole slew of things in my life. 

But I do strongly feel that the world can be a better place if we are all conscious of where we are on that spectrum of use and that we are choosing to be where we are.

So for me, for now, here are some things that have helped me find my balance in what I feel is an over-connected world.  

No Data

I don’t carry data on my phone. (Insert gasp here). So unless I have wiifii I cannot connect to the broader world. I made this a conscious decision when first getting a smart phone. It simply limits my ability to connect. Plus my phone bill is $15.00 per month. Literally. So, you know, I kind of love that.

WiiFii Turned Off

When I do have access to wii fii (which let’s face it is almost everywhere now except my vehicle) I don’t leave it turned on. When I want to go search something – whether it’s Facebook, E-mail, Google or Instagram, I go into my settings, turn it on, and when I finish I turn it off. Sounds archaic right? I know!!! But I swear it’s where I have found my comfort zone. 

It makes me very purposeful about being connected and not passive. I find that instead of “reacting constantly” to beeps and notifications I instead “act when I choose to”.

Not Bedside 

This started as a rule when my kiddos became connected. We felt strongly it shouldn’t be the last thing they look at before bed and not the first thing they reach for in the morning. 

At first I didn’t apply this new rule to me. My phone was right there on my night table. But after awhile I realized how important it was for me to “sit in my own thoughts before I start the day.” To be quiet with myself or to actually talk to my husband before reaching for my phone to find out what everyone else is doing. Why would I want to start MY day all about someone else? Even the news is about someone else. 

It was a bit of a struggle at first. Scratch that. It was a huge struggle. Try it for a couple of days. It isn’t easy. It had become habit, reaching for that phone in the morning. But I’m glad I did it. It’s how I want to choose to start my day.  

Craig still chooses to keep his on his nighttable. That’s his choice and I’m absolutely ok with that. My choice is the right one for me.

The Share Button

I have an entire other blog post in my head about sharing in today’s world, so I won’t go into this in depth right now. Suffice to say that I love to have fun and share lots of different things – some serious and some silly – often I’ve found with no rhyme nor reason. 

But the one thing I know for sure – sharing something does not make that experience, or my life, better. At all. And when I do share I am very conscious of who else is a part of that share – especially if it involves other people.

Using FB Messenger

I didn’t understand the FB Messenger App for a long time. Why not just use the message button on FB? It’s like right there!! But now it’s one of my favourite apps. It allows me to converse with people, and often groups of people, I want to without having to be on Facebook itself and hear and see the endless posts and notifications. With Messenger I’m making a choice about who to engage with and I don’t have to deal with the white noise. 

Addressing FOMO

This is a rough one for me. I am social by nature and enjoy being out and about in the world. But I’ve learned that having these caveats in place for myself will inevitably lead to missing out on things – since I don’t carry data my iMessage group chat is very rarely on, I don’t see general posts as quickly as others do, and I’ve realized sometimes miss them entirely. That took some getting used to, but I’ve become pretty ok with it.

Modelling 

There are so many things I do a poor job modelling with my kids. But I want screen time and social media to be one I atleast TRY to walk the talk with. It is the largest influence in their world. Period. 

When they look at me I don’t want them to see a phone in my hand all the time, or hear beeps all the time, or see my face in a screen. It’s very important to me. Because I’m asking – no – I’m insisting – the same from them. So when I come home I make sure my phone is not on me or beside me all the time. It’s important what they see (or don’t see) and it’s what I want.

One Screen at a Time

This is another rule we have with the kiddos. (Yes – we are “these parents”). Not all kiddo rules apply to parents on the Bluff Road but this one makes sense to us as well. So if I am watching TV I won’t be on my phone (or tablet or laptop). Besides, my pea size brain can only process so much stimulation! 

Talking is the Priority

I love talking on the old fashioned phone. I have a friend who rarely a week goes by when we don’t call each other. Sometimes they are long deep conversations. Often they are silly 5 minute touch-bases. She will never know how much those mean to me and how connected they make me feel. And texting. Well if I can’t have the old fashioned phone I will take texting over social media. I know texting is still a screen but it’s me engaging with someone in a purposeful way. One on one. Which brings me to …

I am Not Interchangeable.  (And I will not make you interchangeable)

There seems to be a growing trend of just putting something out there in the social media world, where your 325 friends see it on your wall, with a broad leading question attached to it, about an informal or formal social gathering. From these posts come numerous responses. It seems that we are valuing “any” interaction over interaction with people of our conscious choosing. It makes for a feeling of interchangeability. “It doesn’t really matter “who” I do that activity with … the first few random people who see my post are good enough for me.  

Addiction

I left this to the last because I think it’s the one we need to talk about most in our society right now.

Addiction is real and I do believe some people may be more prone to it than others. I also believe in this social media world that that number is growing – and growing fast. 

 
If we all made a pact to be without our phones and social media for just one day a week could we do it? I think we would all say YES!!! Yes ofcourse we could!!! What a silly question! It’s only one day! 

But let’s ask ourselves … how many times – in just ONE DAY – do we check social media? How many times? How many times do we scroll and refresh that feed? How many times are we just searching for … what? 

Really. Think of a number. Say it out loud. I think the number is scary and I think it’s why I have tried to put these caveats in place for myself ….

Because I guess the bottom line for me is this:

I’ve realized that “being on my phone” isn’t “who I want to be” in the world.