Farewell to Facebook

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

I don’t know about you, dear friends, but this year hasn’t looked anything like I imagined it would on January one. Back then, I’d been optimistic and full of purpose, with the confident swagger of someone who knew where she was headed and how she was going to get there.

After months and months of hard work—turning struggles into strengths and inconsistent habits into persistent practices—I had a complete novel manuscript in my possession, along with a solid strategy for getting it published. For the first time in years, I had momentum on my side, and—embracing the memes about 20/20 vision—I had focus.

Yes, this was going to be my year. The year I found the clarity and courage I needed to let go of distractions and excuses and finally, FINALLY, experience tangible progress on some big goals.

But then came the great plot twist. The wrench in the plan, the unexpected obstacle on the highway. As if I’d been cruising along in a driver’s ed car, oblivious to the instructor’s presence until he slammed on the passenger-side brakes reminding me that I am not in control.

The jolt was a wakeup call, and in the midst of grieving what has seemed like an immeasurable number of losses, I have also begun to see this time as an opportunity for growth. A chance to reflect, reevaluate, and refocus. A gift through which my 2020 mission—to create space for stillness in order to hear God’s guidance—might become a reality.

With a suddenly cleared schedule and the unknown fate of the publishing industry at the forefront of my mind, I have found myself stuck in a holding pattern with some newly available empty hours. Although many times I’ve turned to mind-numbing activities in order to quiet the anxiety and fear and doubt, there have been moments—beautiful, blessed moments—when an immersion in silent prayer has produced an undeniable nudge to adjust my attention.

In all honestly, I don’t know yet exactly what that means or what it looks like, but in my heart, I feel that it starts with less time in the digital sphere and more in the physical realm. That said, after much deliberation, I have decided that this will be my last Facebook post.

With that in mind, I wanted to thank all of you for following my page, reading my posts, and just being an overall source of encouragement for the last couple of years. I truly believe I wouldn’t have made it to “The End” without your support and accountability, and more than that, I wouldn’t have made it to this new beginning (whatever it may be).

I’m not sure where my journey goes from here, but as long as I have something to write about, I will be keeping my blog active, so if you’re interested in continuing to read, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

I wish you all health and happiness in the second half of this crazy year.

Peace and love,

Sandy

A Connection Recollection

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

One of my stepdaughters recently got engaged and amid all the excitement, all the talk of dates and venues and guest lists, I felt a compulsion to dig out my old wedding planning binder.

Your guess is probably as good as mine for why I’ve kept it. Like the wedding photos themselves, it could be that it simply serves as a reminder of a precious moment in time. Or it could be that some part of me is convinced that someday someone may find it useful. (I do have a vague recollection of loaning it to a friend of mine.) But more likely, it is just one of those things that, by virtue of nostalgia, never quite makes it into the purge pile.

Regardless of the reason for its continued presence on my storage shelf, as I randomly rifled through its contents, I was hit with fond memories of my own experience with dresses and décor and DJs. There was the contract for the reception hall. There were our song selections for the first few dances. There was a thank you note from the bridal consultant who sold me my wedding gown.

It was that last one that stopped me in my tracks. I took in the woman’s words, realizing that although my memory of that day and her presence in it had become fuzzy, her penmanship and signature had since become familiar. For it was about fifteen years later when the woman who helped me find my dress would become the very same one who, as my life/business coach, helped me to find myself.

I took a picture of the note, sent it to her immediately, and proceeded to ponder the numerous things that had to transpire in order for us to meet again. The conversations, the decisions, the life-altering events. I wondered how many others I might have crossed paths with at some earlier point in time who are now important fixtures in my life. I thought about the purpose and why this happens.

The answers to such questions are, of course, beyond the scope of our human understanding, but it seems we are given these little snippets of knowledge for a reason. Maybe as examples of how big the world is, yet how very, very small. Maybe as evidence of God’s timing. Or perhaps they are simply reminders that we are all connected.

So let’s remember to embrace the gift of these precious connections. Let’s remember that each seemingly random encounter—whether virtual or in person—has the potential to someday become more meaningful, more significant, and more profoundly impactful than we could have ever imagined.

Blogger’s Remorse

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

There have been a few times over the last year+ of blogging and writing social media posts when I suffered from near immediate regret after clicking that “publish” button. A little blogger’s remorse, if you will. As soon as my words were released into the public sphere, I wished for the power to reach my hand into my computer and retrieve them.

Sometimes it was because I had shared something a little personal—a fear, a dream, a story of rejection. Other times it was simply a feeling of uncertainty—will my perspective be offensive, judged, ignored? Did my tone and style appropriately convey the point I was trying to make?

Regardless of the reasons surrounding my self-doubt, in almost every case, the more discomfort I felt after sharing these posts, the more they seemed to resonate with others.

Why? The only common denominator I could come up with is vulnerability. These posts showed flaws and insecurities and challenges—things we all struggle with but don’t always admit to for fear of appearing foolish or weak or somehow inferior. And no one wants to wear those labels. Especially not when everybody else seems to have it all together.

But I’m learning that although vulnerability and weakness are listed as synonyms in the dictionary, that isn’t always true in real life. In fact, the ability to be vulnerable is more of a strength. An act of courage that can lead to connection. And genuine connection is the very thing for which we humans were designed.

Unfortunately, knowing and even truly believing this doesn’t make it any easier. It is likely I will still finish writing this and future posts and send them off into cyberspace with bated breath.

The difference is that in the place of that automatic reflex of regret, there is hope. Hope that these words will reach and empower and encourage. The remorse part is now reserved for other, more questionable choices. Like the perm I got a few years ago.

Phone Deprivation

Photo by Sarah Gualtieri on Unsplash

Last month I had the opportunity to experience what I’m calling phone deprivation—a period of time spent without using my phone. (Have your hands started to shake at the mere thought?)

Yep, ten whole days without a single glance at email, texts, apps, or alerts of any kind. (What about now? Any nervous twitches? Heart palpitations?)

Truthfully, I’d known in advance about this break, had planned for it—supplying family with an alternate avenue of communication and scheduling blog/social media posts ahead of time—and was actually looking forward to it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things about our digital world that I do enjoy. For one, the ease of staying in touch with family and friends. For another, the convenience of connecting with readers and other writers from all across the globe.

But sometimes the constant distraction of the rings, tones, and notifications is just that. Distracting. If we let them, all of our available screens can steal our focus away from other important things. Real things. Like the people we encounter on a daily basis. Or progress on our goals, rare opportunities, and just experiencing life.

That ten-day timeout reminded me how much I miss uninterrupted interaction and meaningful conversation and looking into other people’s eyes. It reminded me that I need to pay attention to my own screen time habits and that I have the power to limit them. I have the power to set (and stick to) office hours, to embrace the benefits of social media without sacrificing my sanity, and to take daily and intentional screen breaks to breathe, listen, and wholeheartedly notice the world around me.

What about you . . . do you already take or have you ever considered taking routine breaks from your phone?

An Unconventional Love Story

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated nineteen years together. Nineteen. That may seem like a drop in the bucket to some of you, but it is significant to me for a number of reasons. First, nineteen years is nearly half my lifetime.

Second, the tendency toward wishy-washiness that I’ve discussed many times in regard to writing didn’t just appear along with my novel-publishing dreams. It was alive and well during that initial dating period, which as you can imagine, made for a bumpy start.

And third, the fact that our romance was (and still is) viewed by some as unconventional created an additional layer of difficulty. I was twenty; he was thirty-four. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life; he’d been gainfully employed with the same company for a decade-plus. I’d only been in one serious but very short-term relationship; he’d been married and had two young daughters.

Plenty of people told me I was too young/immature/short-sighted to understand the consequences of such a decision. They told me I shouldn’t be with him. I wouldn’t be happy. It couldn’t work. My ever-present hesitant side was inclined to agree. This didn’t look like any kind of love story I’d ever seen. It certainly didn’t align with the one I’d imagined for myself. And yet . . .

There was something about him. Something that got ahold of me and wouldn’t let go. Something that kept drawing me back to him again and again even after the whispers and opinions and speculation started flowing from the mouths of both those who knew us and those who didn’t. Those judgments hurt. They caused tension and discomfort. But still we persevered.

And now, nineteen years later, I can honestly say I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again. Has it been all candlelight and roses? Of course not. Many of the premonitions from those early naysayers have turned out to be spot on—step parenting is indeed tough (in fact, next to “wife,” it may be the most difficult role I’ve ever taken on) and our untraditional circumstances have absolutely presented some challenges and obstacles that go beyond typical marital woes.

But having grown some and experienced a little more of the world, I’ve learned two things: 1) whether conventional or not, all relationships come with their own special set of trials, and 2) discovering a deep connection with another human being is a gift to be treasured regardless of what it looks like.

So, as Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, I’d like to recognize all the love birds out there who have found that special something. Whether or not it looks like what you thought it would or like society says it should, I encourage you to embrace it, fight for it, and celebrate it every chance you get.