A different diet for the new year.

I’m exhausted, you guys. I’m talking, physically and emotionally, right-into-your-bones, sort of tired. Life is crazy, as it is for all of us at this particular stage in life-career, relationships, kids, adult stuff. Those are OK things, though-I can handle them, keep them in balance.

What I can no longer keep in balance, however, is the flood of negativity, vitriol, hatred, violence, horror and general terribleness that rushes into my life every time I lazily step into any sort of online environment-facebook being the number one offender, as it usually compiles all of these different avenues of media into one little neat stream. But, man…does anyone else feel like they are being crushed under the weight of all the terrible things that are happening in the world?

I’ve always been pretty tapped into world events, for better or worse. I like to know what’s going on, I want to better understand humanity. And with that, comes the unfortunate side effect of taking some of it on, personally. But lately, I don’t know-I can’t handle it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe (likely) it’s because I’m raising a tiny human to become an adult human who will be left to make his way in this world, and I’d like that world to not be burned to the proverbial ground by then. I’d like his spirit to remain intact, to not be jaded by what he sees and hears. I want MY spirit to remain intact.

This has all been accelerating for me over the past few months, thinking about the need to pull the plug for awhile on being so “connected” all the time. A poor choice of words, for sure, given that I can’t think of anything more DISconnected than looking around in a public space and seeing literally everyone’s face buried in their phones. When did we stop understanding that human interaction is necessary, that it makes us who we are?

I believe in the power of media, of social media in particular, and the rise of citizen journalism and what that means for accountability and transparency on all levels. However, what I can no longer deal with, is absent-mindedly hopping online in the same manner that people continually open their fridges even though they know nothing has changed inside, and reading that overnight,  a man has thrown his 5 year old daughter over a bridge, killing her. Or that attempts at forced censorship include a mass murder of illustrators and editors. It has officially infiltrated my heart, and it is just another thing weighing me down, that I don’t want.

So, all this to say, I’m going on a diet. A crash diet that includes no social media and very limited news exposure. I am not deleting anything (as evidenced by the fact that you guys are reading this, through a linkage between WordPress and FB or Twitter), but I removed the phone apps, and let’s face it-who the hell is on a laptop or desktop more than they ever have to be? For 30 days, I’m going to focus on remaining present, at all times, and allowing what is good to flow into my world (how’s that for some weird, new-age garbage?).

I’ll be back, at some point, if for no other reason than my son’s apparent internet celebrity. In the meantime, feel free to subscribe to my blog to get updates on new posts (because I’m going to be writing a lot more), or shoot me an email at JenniferLHurlburt@gmail.com, if you want some occasional photo updates on what the Ginger is up to. Or, be like, “Eh, whatever, who the hell cares?” Either way, see you on the other side.

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Things I’ve learned about myself in the past 48 hours.

Everyone knows I love a good list, so here it goes:

1)I have a max capacity for number of secrets shared with me in a given week.
-And that number is one. Today alone, two people shared big secrets with me. It makes me physically uncomfortable to sit on that much knowledge. It’s the psychological equivalent of needing to unbutton my pants after Thanksgiving. Since having given up my former M.O. of the assumption that “don’t tell anyone” means “tell one person; namely, your bestie or significant other”, it’s become that much more difficult. I think it’s in my best interest (and yours, if you’re telling the secret) to share before 10am. Chances are, no one else has gotten to me first, and you won’t be met with a “LALALA, I CAN’T UNHEAR THAT!!!” Good grief. Go to confession, and unpack it there. Or to an out-of-the-way bar. Don’t bait me with a “Guess what?”, let me bite, me thinking that it’ll be something innocuous, only to hit me with something big. I just can’t.

2)I texted the following words to someone tonight: “Need dinner. Want cookies. Settling for a gin & tonic and some bread.” And was only partially trying to be funny.-I’m not sure when I became a frat boy, but this latest illness, coupled with being left to my own devices, has me eating like a maniac, and paying ZERO attention to what I’m putting into my body. G&T and bread-like some sort of lowbrow communion feast. I think what shames me the most, is that I totally wasn’t kidding. But in my defense, the bread WAS whole grain. I need to get my act together.

3)Social media is giving me anxiety.-The fact that there are people in this world that are submersed in social media for a living makes me want to blow my brains out. Facebook, fine. OK. Everyone (well, mostly everyone-those 50plus-ers notwithstanding) has a decent handle on that. But, oh God, Twitter. I started actively using it yesterday, and I swear to Ted Kennedy that I have never felt so overwhelmed by something so seemingly simple. Tweets, tweets and more tweets, with slashes and HASHTAGS (don’t get me started on that) and all sorts of coded jumble I don’t even understand. There’s apparently some sort of communication occurring, but who the hell can figure it out? #Dumbass. I honestly don’t know if this is going to work out. Especially if nprnews doesn’t stop posting something every .24 seconds. It plays into two of my biggest areas of compulsion in life-a hatred of clutter (you’re clogging my feed repeatedly), and the need to perform perfectly (I want to be Twitter-proficient, and right now, I’m basically scribbling with a Crayola, while everyone else is painting a masterpiece). And the nightmare called Tumblr? That made my ears get hot. Although, it may be due to the fact that my first encounter with it was on some teenage girl’s page, where she was chronicling her “journey” to anorexia, and an 85 lb. goal weight. That’s a whole different ball of wax, though, and all I can say is that that’s what I get for clicking with wild abandon on seemingly innocent Pinterest pictures to find the origin of the content. Sidebar: SO, SO glad I’m not a high schooler in today’s world. Jesus.

4)In summation, I need a vacation. From work, from people, from technology.
-Sure, I’ll probably need a blow dart tranquilizer to enjoy myself, but I think the rest could be good for me.

Breaking up is hard to do. Unless you have facebook.

I read an article this weekend, and it honestly escapes me exactly where, about a workshop held for teenagers regarding healthy breakups. I thought this was a pretty novel concept, given that I had no idea how to handle my first breakup, at seventeen years old. I treated it as some sort of death, walking around in a haze, assured my life was over. Given, I know now that this is how most young people treat that first experience, having nothing to compare it to. But how nice it would’ve been to have peer-driven dialogue and objective facilitation on the topic. I would’ve loved to have known that it was normal for me to be reduced to snot and tears at the discovery of a left-behind t-shirt (tie dye, by the way-ew), or to feel like my stomach was going to explode at the inadvertent eye contact made in a high school hallway with the Dreaded Ex. But these feelings blindsided me. I had no idea what to expect. And let me tell you, it sucked.

However, the Dreaded Ex became less dreadful, and eventually, an acquaintance. And the stinging memory of it became sort of laughable, in that God, I was ridiculous sort of way. And, on life goes. But man, do kids now have so many more tools at their disposal, when it’s time to cut someone loose. Or, to simply torture said partner with, until they are driven to end the relationship. I would have never, EVER survived high school, if texting and facebook existed. I mean, how do kids focus on anything besides the intracacies of electronic high school relationship betrayal? One boy interviewed for the article said that when it’s time to dump a girl, he simply changes his facebook relationship status to “single”, leaving the young woman in question to discover this on her own (unless a meddling concerned third party discovers it first, during which time he/she will eagerly share the information). A number of the kids felt it was completely appropriate to end a relationship this way, or via text message. Are you kidding me? Look, I’m as non-confrontational as the next person (perhaps more so), but I feel like this is one of the times in life when you DESERVE to be uncomfortable. After all, you’re about to inflict emotional pain (and possible weight gain, depending on whether they decide to eat their feelings) on another person, so a few minutes of awkward, frank conversation is a fair trade, I’d say. People are owed that.

As I read along, I realized-kids don’t need a healthy breakups workshop, they need a healthy social skills workshop. And tech-savvy adults need a refresher course. Life is so embedded in electronics and technology that people are losing their ability to connect in real life with the people on the other side of the screen. And that extends way beyond childish breakup moves-these are practices that are becoming ingrained as normal and more or less universally acceptable. I myself am even guilty of it-I admit that I would much rather conduct a conversation via email, than telephone. It’s something I have to constantly be aware of, and move past. And don’t even get me started on the feelings I have when I misplace my iPhone. It’s shaming.

So, my thoughts are this: look away from the bright light (of a backlit screen) once in awhile. Make some eye contact, have a conversation. Read social subtleties, instead of trying to piece together someone’s tone via text. I think we’d be surprised to discover that our counterparts on this earth are (mostly )pretty amazing in real life. And kids-as hard as it is, take the time to tell your girlfriend or boyfriend that you’re making out with their best friend,face-to-face. It’ll make you feel like slightly less of a dirtball, and will provide you with the right amount of conscience-battering you deserve. Don’t make them wait to find out until they update their status feed.