I have had this experience before. Many times before. And yet, this time was different, and not because the panic and sense of crushing weight and emotional freefalling. What was different about this time was what I decided to do in the moment - on second thought, decided might be too strong a word, as it gives the impression of strength, control, and a sense of being able to press the stop button on the panic at will, which I truly believe isn't possible. Somehow, because of something I can't fully explain, or perhaps simply because of the way the wind was blowing through the universe that evening, I took advantage of the technology I had with me on the train and reached out. Usually in the midst of panic, I lock down. I convince myself that I need to go it alone, sit still, and mentally will the panic to pass through, and quickly. But on the train, instead of sit there alone (at least emotionally), refusing to reach out for help, I found myself connecting with many people I know and love.
I opened my phone and responded to kind New Year's text messages from dear friends in other states, letting their good wishes and thoughtfulness of thinking to reach out to me in the midst of the holidays permeate my raw emotional skin. I opened my email and found myself delighted at reading loving messages of gratitude from loved ones I had sent holiday cards to, reading the messages two or three times, really reading the words, believing them when they typed that they jumped for joy when they got to their mailbox to see some snail mail from me. And going against my instinct not to sign onto social media when I feel panicked or depressed, I opened Instagram and began commenting on some festive posts of folks I follow on Instagram.
Then, without consciously really deciding to, I opened my journal and began composing a poem to help me express what I was feeling and also offer some hope to myself. Writing poetry has always felt second nature to me and inherently soothes my spirit when it's feeling anguish or uncertainty. There's something incredibly empowering about transforming feelings of suffering into something that is beautiful, something that if shared, just might gift something meaningful to someone else who is also suffering. The act of writing this poem for myself on the train was meaningful in a stand-alone way. AND, as a creative human being (is anyone actually not a creative human being?), I felt a pull to share it. On Facebook, of all places.
In the past year or two, Facebook has become even more of an incessant wall of noise for me than it has ever felt like before, and even when I have felt I had something I wanted to broadcast with the friends I have on the platform, I have decided not to. After all, if the platform brings me so much mental fuzziness, frustration, and general feeling of having wasted so much time, why would I contribute to that overload of too much information, especially for people I know and love in the real life? I care about my own reclaiming of attention, of course. And I care about that reclamation for those I connect with in real life as well.
In the past year, I have become so focused on limiting the number of posts I share on Facebook (in my experience, something that has helped my mental health and focus IMMENSELY) that in many ways, I think I have also lost sight of how helpful and supportive it can feel to reach out when you are feeling wobbly and feel that big net of community catch you, or at the very least say, "I see you."
While I am not advocating for oversharing on social media, or frankly, for sharing on social media period, on this really difficult New Year's Eve train ride, I sat in my seat and broke my own rules about posting on Facebook. After a brief debate in my head and heart, I surrendered to my desire to share the poem on my Facebook wall. Over the next ten minutes, hour, three hours, two days, people liked and loved and "cared" about the post, which was lovely. But even more meaningful were the comments. Several people replied that they "really needed" the words I shared, which were purposefully crafted for those of us who were feeling anything but "Happy!" on New Year's Eve. In the ocean of sparkly, dressed up shares on Facebook on a holiday eve, I found myself gutted at how lacking my own pain felt compared to the shiny sentiments, and wanted to broadcast a beacon to others who might feel like I happened to feel, letting them know they weren't alone. Some people just left heart emojis, which again, without words, implied that something I shared resonated with them. Resonance, even on social media, can be real.
In a sea of filtered photos and updates that act as positivity propaganda, wherein the viewer is meant to believe that the social media poster is full of gratitude and joy all of the time (which isn't possible for human beings), I keep finding myself wishing - at least in the fewer and fewer moments I do spend on social media - that I would more often see things that feel real: images of unremarkable but incredibly courageous maintenance (as opposed to glow-ups), words that express what it feels like to be a human being with soft edges in a sharp cornered world, and admission of not knowing, of wrestling with, of improvising our way through the mess. Perhaps what I really mean is that when I do decide, on a rare occasion, to share something on Facebook, I have the willingness to share the rusty, ordinary, somewhat shabby, downright hideous feeling experiences - experiences that in the end, don't belong to me alone, but to all of us, whether we choose to face these hard truths of being alive or not. And in sharing, not only give myself a gift of feeling supported by others, but weave a sort of digital web, even if temporarily, of others who might feel a little bit misfit for the moment as well.
Take care this New Year's season, Friends. We're all going to be ok, ok? (a short poem to help light the night a little if you are feeling a bit dim)
A Prayer for the New Year
If all you can do
the broken bits of what you hoped would be,
(or the unformed pieces of what you wish would wend their way to you)
open, trembling palms -
Release your knotted jaw
to let a strained lullaby escape
your cracked lips,
a wisp of a prayer
released into the dark,
like a song thrush finding its way through the snow to the sky -
perhaps (just perhaps),
you might greet the coming of the moon
like a friend
who might carry with her in her pockets
a slice of hope.