WHY INSTAGRAM & I WERE ON A BREAK ROSS & RACHEL STYLE
Rachel Held Evans had died. Thirty eight year old wife to her college sweetheart, mom to two babies, & author. Her books have been on my amazon list for years (planning to have a RHE month later this fall), & I’ve loved hearing her talk on podcasts. She was hospitalized in April for a bad case of the flu and then put in a medically induced coma because of a bad reaction to medication. She died May 4th. Her last tweet was about being bummed about missing the Game of Thrones finale because of going to the hospital.
Her funeral was live streamed the day my family flew to Florida for a week at the beach with our supper club. I watched it in spurts while we unpacked. It was a divine picture of the Church straight from heaven. People of all sorts gathered & spoke about their love for Rachel & the way they felt Jesus when they were near her. When her sister spoke, she joked about how terrible Rachel was at Instagram. She said it was because she was so focused on loving people around her.
It was a small comment & not meant to be the focal point of her speech (she later sang a song she had written about Rachel but never shared with her during her life, & that did me in), but that little comment about Instagram stuck with me.
I often think about what songs will play & what people might say at my funeral (which I would prefer to be more of a gathering outside than a funeral, by the way).
And as I thought about her Instagram comment, I realized that’s not something that could honestly be said about me in that moment. It was like eating a big slice of reality check cake covered in first world problem shame frosting. I did not like this realization, not one little bit.
I didn’t say anything to anyone. I mean, good gravy, we were at the beach! It was time to run around in the sand & eat all the pimento cheese! I would chill out & figure out Instagram later.
And then I woke up on our second full day with a headache. Sometimes my allergies act up when I travel so I chalked it up to that & sunscreen the kids. Sunscreening the kids is Blake’s literal worst nightmare. When we came back up for lunch, I felt funny– cold (even thought I’d changed into sweats & a sweat shirt) & had some chills. I fell asleep in a chair, & if you know me, you know I don’t do naps unless it’s urgent. And this was our first day that everyone was together. Not the time for napping. I moved to our room & crawled under all the covers with a cup of hot tea. But I couldn’t get warm & everything ached. The headache got worse. I had a mild fever. I kept popping Ibuprofen. Why didn’t I go to the doctor that day, you guys? I don’t know. #stubbornasamother
The next day the chills, fever, & aching were all gone, & I was left with nausea. I laid on the bathroom floor for a while & then back to bed. Around lunchtime, Blake came back from the beach with Jude while the girls stayed with the group & we went to an urgent care. When I couldn’t move my eyes without wincing, the doctor stamped migraine as the problem. My first. Two shots– one for pain and one for nausea. They recommended going to the ER for a scan to make sure there wasn’t a bigger problem (you know, like the tumor everyone fears when they get a weird headache). Scan done. No tumor. Thank you, Jesus. The shots did their work, & I was able to spend the next three days with everyone. The headache lasted for another ten-ish days but was manageable with iBuprofen. Y’all, I took more ibuprofen in those two weeks than I did after delivering babies.
Believe it or not, my point of writing this isn’t to whine to you about having a migraine at the beach. My point is to tell you what was going through my brain while I had the migraine. I know, you guys, it’s a long post. Stick with me, marathoners.
When I was in bed, I couldn’t watch tv or read. Those are the only good things about sick days! All I was left with were my thoughts. Oh snap. There was a time when I was so busy in baby land that there wasn’t enough oxygen left in the room to think my own thoughts. And then when time on my own started to emerge over that sleepy little hill, I was so focused on everything I’d been craving to do since there was no time. So basically for a few years there, my brain was filled with babies, dreams, & new found freedom. So when this migraine hit & I was far from thinking about dreams, new thoughts found me & they dug their heels in. Not only are you not successful, you aren’t even likable– nobody likes you. That may sound like a low blow middle school comment, but it linked back to my thoughts on Instagram during Rachel’s funeral, & it burned. The loop played & it was like I was paralyzed, completely unable to fight back, & I just let the words wash over me. Thinking back, I could have asked my friends to come sit on the bed with me. I didn’t have to force everything out in the moment– it hurt to talk– but I could have said enough to let them know. They would have prayed with me. They might have broken the loop with their truth. But I didn’t want to bother anyone. Remember? We’re at the beach! It’s all sunshine & rainbows here, & I was just waiting for someone else to sunscreen my kids & make them sandwiches so I could catch up on my sleep!
I thought about the past year– we had hired a nanny so I could have some time to myself– Blake said it was time to do whatever I wanted, & I said it was time to put every dream I’d been harboring about writing into action. So I took an online course on the road to becoming published, created a website, & watched tutorials on all things Instagram. Numbers were the common denominator here. You need numbers to get published. You need numbers on your e-mail subscriber list. You need numbers for people to find you on Instagram. You need people who aren’t your dad to read your blog. And while I loved the learning & the work, it was also weird doing it alone. Nobody was telling me if I was doing it right or needed to shift anything. I had no idea if I was on the path to success or wasting one of my precious days I was taking away from my kids. I felt a lot of pressure not to waste a second, but I feared that every day. Blake would say, Why don’t you go get a manicure today? And I would scoff & say, That’s not what this time is for! I am here to achieve! But my days slowly became less about finding joy in the work & more about trying not to waste time & see success through numbers. And the numbers weren’t there. I had friends apologizing for not reading my blog. Not only are you not successful, you aren’t even likable– nobody likes you.
The loop played, & I was mad at myself. Everyone else was taking care of my kids because I had a headache, & I’m just laying here having a pity party. My life is such a gift, I told myself. You get two days a week to do whatever you want, & you’re distraught over not having enough Instagram likes? What the hell is wrong with you? I cried some hot, angry tears. Still, not telling anybody. Not even over the three days I was with everyone. Kids are great distractors, & I can reign in emotion like nobody’s business. Everyone said I would cry when I dropped Collins off at her first day of Kindergarten. You don’t know me, I would think. I don’t cry in front of people.
I couldn’t exactly shake everything I was feeling, but I did think of my girls right away. I didn’t want them to ever think about themselves how I was thinking about myself at that moment. I wanted them to be confident in who they were & love themselves– & I needed to show them what that looks like. So I came up with a plan. I got off Instagram. I wanted to teach myself that my identity could not be diminished if Instagram disappeared off the face of the Earth. I wanted to remind myself what it looked like to live in the present moment & only take pictures for myself– not to post. It only took two or three days before this felt incredibly freeing.
I focused on my health. I went to my doctor to have blood work done to see how I needed to balance my supplements to prevent future migraines. I started going to a chiropractor (I’m convinced that’s what made my headache finally hit the road), & I started going to counseling. I’ve always been fan of counseling, but it’s also time consuming, & that didn’t fit in my use-every-minute-well mode last year. But this summer, I committed to taking care of myself. And to be real, I hated a lot of it– it felt like a lot of time wasted driving to appointments & waiting. Efficiency felt lost. But I knew it wouldn’t be forever, & this was the hard work my heart needed to prepare for whatever was next. The Joy in the work would return, I knew. I wouldn’t worry about being likable or finding success through numbers. I was learning how to love myself.
We started practicing last week to get Collins ready for kindergarten. So now every morning, we say it together:
I am smart. I am kind. I am brave. I can do anything. And I love myself.