OK Ms. Grumpy pants!! Nobody wants to hear about your opposition to my Facebook look back video!!

images (1)For my sweet son, Ian.  Thank you for the title Eeener-Neener!

Recently, (okay, not recently, for some time), I have grown increasingly disenchanted with Facebook.  First it was the timeline format unceremoniously forced upon its users; then all the targeted adverts (my own generally pertaining to ‘mature dating’, ‘wrinkle remedies’, and ‘fashion); and now, to mark Facebook’s tenth anniversary, we have ‘a look back’, an unsolicited and indeed, intrusive, tour through our Facebook photos, posts, likes and whatnot, accompanied by an annoyingly shite soundtrack.  Where’s that ‘dislike’ button when I need it most?

And yet, and yet… as I scan through my increasingly bloated news feed, I note so many on my friends list have opted to share (thankfully there is an option) their little ‘Facebook movie’ for all to see and celebrate.

Curiosity got the better of me.  I clicked the link to view mine.  Behold!  A captivating mosaic of non-contextual posts and photos, thoughtfully chosen by whatever computer generated programme Facebook used to piece this masterpiece together.  In one minute and two seconds, seven years of my life was tidily compressed into banal highlights, excluding, of course, anything remotely ‘real’ that happened.  My seven years on Facebook, as represented by Facebook, pretty much sucked.  And so has the (insert number of years) of my friends and family – if the highlights are to be trusted.

So, what is the common denominator here?  Facebook makes our lives suck, or at least makes them seem to suck, by sucking away at our time, compressing our communication with others to soundbites and tagged photos and cluttering our news feeds with so much shit that we don’t care to know, that we tune out and miss out on important moments that are ‘real’ and that did happen to ourselves and to our friends; the bits about our lives, post Facebook, that may have sucked, but didn’t suck in that hackneyed way our Facebook amalgamated lives suck.

That’s my Grumpy pants rant over.

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I have no photos of Leslie…

I cannot recall a time she did not torment me.  When we were children she tortured me; tore the heads from my dolls, took sides against me with our playmates, tattled on me and hit me so hard, to this day, I believe I saw tiny birds flying around my head, like the ones in cartoons.  Once she even knocked the wind out of me.  It was terrifying.

My sister was a weightlifting, bare knuckle punching, tomboy and I was a baby doll clutching priss.  But there are always so many stories behind stories.  Leslie is no stock character.  She suffered from an almost crippling guilty conscience and confessed to all her imagined sins, so earnestly and tearfully… how could I not want to lift here back up — tell her she was normal, that she was clean, that she was a good girl; even if she did torment me.

The way I see it, despite her propensity for bullying me, all her life Leslie strove to be a good girl.  Good girls are clean, thin, straight and traditional. They are a curious mix of conservative in theory, yet apolitical in practice.  Good girls don’t make waves, and for all that sublimation and self-effacement, they are rewarded with approval, acceptance, security and love.  But it didn’t work that way. Instead she just struggled. She struggled through and out of a violent marriage, through and out of a terrible addiction to amphetamines (all in a quest for slimness..), and more recently, through isolation, agoraphobia, depression and her old friend, guilt, who’s always nearby to kick the living shit out of her over her past drug use, her first marriage, her childhood, and the everyday navigational problems of modern life.  Good girls have it hard.

We are middle aged women with years and an ocean separating us.  We talk on the phone, mutually disapproving of each other, nitpicking, arguing, but in the course of the same conversation, we turn to jokes, reminiscences, and laugh til our sides hurt. We always say ‘I love you’ before we hang up.  We fall out, we come back, fall out again and the cycle continues on and on, like it has for decades.  She’s my sister.  I love her and she loves me.

Just over two weeks ago Leslie contracted the H1N1 flu virus.  That virus rampaged through her body like Conquistadors on crack. Within days she was giddy with fever, as the infection seized her lungs and morphed into viral pneumonia.  January 24th was the last time Leslie was conscious.  That night they moved her to the intensive care unit, where, for two weeks, she has been heavily sedated, on a ventilator, a catheter, an IV drip, a feeding tube and assorted other devices inside and upon her body.  I cannot see her.  I can only imagine her, still as a stone under white sheets, with the sounds of blips and beeps and the in and out pumping of the vent.  I can only imagine the terror in her eyes, on those occasions, when the bliss of sedation weakens, and just for a moment, she swims up from wherever that place is that the Leslie in Leslie is currently deferred.  And in that moment, I wish so badly that I could be there to hold her hand and tell her it’ll be ok, I love her, and she’s a good girl.

I am four thousand miles, give or take, away from my sister.  Lack of money, lack of a dog sitter, a cat sitter and all that ordinary everyday shit of living, keeps me tethered here in Ireland, as she lies tethered to tubes and gadgets in Nebraska.  The distance is painful.  This evening I realized that I have no photographs of Leslie, even though I saw her only two years ago, at a time when it was our father lying in ICU.  She would not allow me to photograph her.  She is self conscious about her weight and does not want to see it duplicated in a digital image.  I do not know if having a photo would make the worry and sense of helplessness I feel tonight any better. Probably not.

She and her husband had planned to visit me here in March.  The last time we spoke on the phone she told me how she had been looking up places of interest in Wexford.  We talked about all the places she wanted to see, about the pubs, the seafood … perhaps a day trip into Dublin.  I would have taken her picture.

Start at the Beginning

Indeed, let’s start at the beginning.  This is my first entry to this blog and I’ve yet to begin to envisage what I want it to look like, or what I want it to be.

This is a new blog, and I am in the midst of a new beginning in so many ways that it makes my head spin.  Beginnings and returns, to be more accurate.  I’ll start with the returnings… in bullet form no less

  • I have returned for the third time, to Wexford (the southeast of Ireland for those not ‘in the know)  I arrive.  I flee in the night (well, early morning, really).  Go North.  Lick my wounds.  Then the gravitational pull gets me again, and I return.  I’m here three months now.
  • I am returning to writing.  This is not the first return.  I wrote prolifically for years.  Then illness, bereavement, poverty, stress, fear and all that nasty inner head speak that accompanies those types of journeys, rendered me silent. Re-reading Tillie Olson did little to inspire me to reacquaint myself with my writing voice — my silences continued to abide (My dog is named for Tillie Olson; my blog is named for the Tillie the dog, and me, the Tillie Mom).  Will this be my breakthrough?  I cannot say, but it’s a beginning.
  • I am returning to seek out the company/support of other writers.  At the start of this month I attended a poetry reading/slam in a local coffee shop.  It’s a well established group.  I was a blind stranger.  So in that regard, it was a return and beginning rolled into one.  Anyway, I went. I read (shaking like a leaf, my social anxiety putting me through my paces), to a surprisingly responsive group of folks, and it felt beautiful.  I’ll go again at the start of February.

Beginning are another story.  They are still so tentative and fragile and I feel too overwhelmed to convey them in such a way that gives them any meaningful shape.  Trusty bullet points again…

  • I’m beginning to see loss, grief, poor choices and the subsequent silence as not something I can just wait out until it doesn’t feel so shitty anymore.  These things happened.  They are real.  The impact was and is real.  But the only way I can imagine finding the strength and the intelligence (those things seriously zap a girl’s intelligence) is to fake it.  Push myself forward and pretend that I’m doing what I don’t feel I know how to do until I’m doing it, learning how to do it, and don’t have to fake it anymore.  Anyway, I am beginning to give faking a try.
  • I am beginning to grant myself permission to live imperfectly and to accept that about myself in a kind and loving way. I’m beginning to see myself as worthy of being my own friend.  I didn’t kill anyone.  I didn’t hurt anyone.  I just didn’t quite set the world on fire with my unsurfaced, latent awesomeness.  I’ll simply have to do.

So, that’s it for my bullet points, and that’s it for my first blog post.  May it quickly descend to the bottom of my blog role.

I bid you and me goodnight.