A dear friend reflected on my writing as we Skyped. “You can really hear your voice come through loud and strong when you are writing from your heart. When you aren't, your blog posts are so different.” This isn't the first time I've heard this recently. I commented that the past week had been so hard for so many reasons and that my writing had been off.
“You need to write about all of that, Julie.”
“I can't write about THAT. I'm not ready.”
“Julie, that's precisely what you should be writing about. In those places where you are hiding from writing are the stories people need to hear.”
I went to sleep and woke up at 2:28 hearing the following words forming. I laid awake writing this post in my head and waiting for sleep to find me again. Here I am coming out of hiding from the emotional stuff I'd prefer to keep to myself. I am grateful for my friends who keep encouraging me as I write and to be brave in doing so.
This weekend I received two unsolicited comments about the frequency of my selfie posts on Facebook and Instagram. I was taken aback the first time. I laughed it off. This person is always teasing me about something. I had a ready defense, “When you spend most of your time alone, selfies are the only way you can document yourself in whatever activity or place you're in.” Later the person who commented on the selfies admitted that he hadn't thought about my explanation and that it made sense.
The second comment came and this time I was embarrassed and mad. Other people who post selfies with greater frequency came to mind. I had never imagined that I might be put into the same category. I don't want to be lumped into that group.
I could have gotten defensive and mad and blown off the comment, but since two comments came within days of each other, I decided it was time to examine my selfie practice. I stopped the chatter in my head. I got quiet and began reflecting on what these comments had to teach me.
The era of selfies has been linked to a rise in narcissism. I have become aware of the fact that I am a magnet for narcissistic personalities. I am doing the hard work of setting boundaries with people whose narcissistic tendencies so easily crush my confidence and my energy. The idea that I might have fallen into the trap of a narcissistic behavior by posting too many selfies made me sick to my stomach.
As I continued to reflect on the heart of the matter, I recognized that deep-seated loneliness is also at play. With each selfie I post, I try to convey self-expression, thoughtful reflection, and deeper contexts than the typical, “Look at me!” post. This approach to my selfies led me to believe that mine were not attention seeking.
I was wrong.
I am processing a lot of difficult emotions right now. I spent thirteen years in a marriage where I was invisible. I burned myself on a match one time and yelled out in pain. My partner was in the other room and didn't say a word. I didn't hear an, “Are you okay?” Another time, I dropped a bowl and it shattered on the kitchen floor. Again, I was met with silence. It's hard to understand what it feels like to be ignored in such basic ways until you're the one running a finger under cold water. Alone. Or picking up the broken ceramic pieces. Alone.
I see now that posting selfies has been a way of asserting that I am, in fact, here. Visible. It feels good to have a photo get “liked,” but more than anything posting them has been my way of saying I'm here. I'm in the world. I am experiencing life and I want to document myself in my space.
Mothers often are the ones behind the camera. They are most often the planners of the activity and then the archivists of said activities. They wind up in fewer photos than the rest of the family. It makes me sad when I don't see my friends in their own family photos. My selfie posts were trying to tip the balance of that equation. And when you become a single parent, selfies are the only way to create a family photo.
I've worked through the embarrassment and shame of these comments. I've decided to take a break from posting selfies for awhile. I'll keep taking them to document my experiences, but I'm going to keep them to myself. My blog is the only place that I feel it's reasonable to lift the ban of the selfie. I am the subject of my blog and so including photos of myself there seems appropriate.
Fasting from posting selfies will be a deepening of the process I'm already engaged in. I know that I am the only one (with the help of God) who can heal and repair these deep wells of loneliness and sadness I am experiencing. I read a quote that said, “Love when you are ready, not because you are lonely.” That resonates for me right now. I want to embrace my loneliness as a truthful marker for where I am right now, but I do not want it to be a driving force in the decisions I make and the photos I post.