Thursday, January 29, 2009


Does anyone, ever again, feel real joy?

I joined Facebook yesterday, and I am already having regrets. It is, so far, a place of almost unmitigated optimism and perkiness. And why not? Within a matter of hours I had 45 "friends," many of them from my high school years, and a membership in my high school graduating class's group. It's a lot of fun to see those faces and engage in a bit of conversation. A gigantic online reunion, at one's own pace.

But this morning I see that a woman I know ~ and like very much ~ has commented that "a week-end away at a friend's wedding always makes any couple overjoyed."

Well, no. It doesn't. We went to our niece's wedding a month after Chicago Son died. I'm glad we went; our presence meant a great deal to my brother, and the evening gave our other two children a break in the relentlessness of the first month's oppressive grief. (They stayed at the reception until the bitter end and went back to their uncle's house for the rest of the night. The Quiet Husband and I were long gone.) But for me? Close to unendurable. And now we are at an age where the weddings of children promise to be a regular feature in our lives. Our niece's was the third in as many months.

There is, I suppose, virtually no public event at which some of the attendees are not burdened by the demand to conceal pain, the expression of which at that time would at best be inappropriate, and at worst completely ruin the day for everyone else. Church is close to one of those. Last year I preached a sermon in my home church and, as I looked out at the congregation, saw Musical Friend, whose husband had died three weeks earlier; another friend who had just buried the father for whom she had cared tenderly for years; a couple whose 22-year-old son had suddenly died, and a man whose wife of 70 years was also recently gone from his life. Musical Friend tells me that she weeps through church every Sunday, but I know that she doesn't wail and keen the way she wants to. I seldom go, because my experience is similar.

When I read that woman's quote on Facebook, I was reminded of a day in church a few years ago ~ the occasion of her third son's baptism. After the service, she said happily to a group of us that she so looked forward to the years ahead, and to her three boys growing up in the church: there would be confirmation, and youth group, and so many other wonderful things
in which they would participate.

My own children having all opted out of church by middle school, I thought quietly to myself that her outspoken pleasure reflected the experience of a parent who had not yet encountered the adolescence of her children. I, too, had at one time imagined the delight that I would take in our family's church experience as our children grew up. Didn't happen.

And now, there she is on Facebook, bubbling over with joy at the wedding of friends. As she should, of course.

Maybe I am just jealous, since I cannot envision for myself what she takes for granted. Maybe I am just resentful at her casual assumption that "everyone" shares her outlook, since I imagine it to arise from an experience of life that has, so far, been uninterrupted by sudden tragedy. And maybe I am just wrong, and her gifts for overcoming sorrow are far greater than mine.

I don't know. But I do see that the world of Facebook presents the same challenges as the rest of the world.


Carol said...

Sadly, your last line is true. If we could create a world filled with empathy and understanding there would be no wars and far less pain. Sadly, it's not possible. Until then, continue to live your life to the best of your abilities. And you do that at least as well as anyone I know. You are filled with compassion, grace, dignity, keen intellect, and so many other attributes. While you don't want to be "Debbie Downer", Facebook gives you the opportunity to send a private message.
I'm sorry, GG.

Magdalene6127 said...

I think in a way Facebook makes you work harder to create safe zones for yourself, because everything is so in your face, and no one can read your body language or facial expressions to begin to get a clue.


Lisa :-] said...

It is...a place of almost unmitigated optimism and perkiness...

Maybe that's why I hate Facebook...

Gannet Girl said...



Kathryn J said...

Facebook is sound bites. Blogging is where real journaling happens with in-depth insights. Of course, almost nobody reads my blog but I get comments all the time on FB.

Mostly I like it because the 20yos in my life - nieces and nephews - will respond to a message or wall post on FB and almost never to e-mail or phone messages.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I have avoided Facebook so far.

Our culture seems to have some sort of social imperative to be relentlessly perky and cheerful. I prefer honesty of emotion.

bean said...

just say no to facebook.

Hope said...

I joined FB to have another avenue of communication with my adult kids. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I've said to my daughter - could you pick up the phone and tell me your news so I don't have to read it on FB? It never occured to her, although she has never been a phone person.
But my kids do read my blog. And then sometimes I wonder if that is another barrier to face to face communication.
Thank you, as always, for your honesty.

Purple said...

To me, FB is a superficial interaction. Many people who friended me I think are just curious. What does it mean when someone friends you and then then never comments etc? Just plain weird.

Maybe it is an escape mechanism for some?

Katherine E. said...

Yeah. It's kind of a popularity thing. I mean, many of my younger friends and family members have over 400, a few even 1,000 "friends." Definitely a diluting of the term!

But I find myself now, from 3 months on FB, with over 100 "friends." They aren't really. My best friends aren't even on it. These are just folks I know from various avenues of my life.

My husband's on FB and he started a "group" for people who were members of his home church--a church he hasn't visited for 40 years. He's finding it really fun to connect with these folks.

Truth to tell, while I thought it was fun at first, it's really kind of boring--the newsfeeds re what people are "doing right now" just isn't very interesting. I do enjoy seeing all the pictures of my new little granddaughter, though, and FB is where they get posted.

Stratoz said...

two amazing things have happened on facebook in a very brief amount of time. My best friend who I left behind 15 years ago said hello, and I had a new life experience with you. For most of my life I did not express joy or sadness... but I do not strive for perkiness. however, I have been called sassy in the last year, and silly too