Engaged yet not..my break from Facebook.

It’s been a month since I actively sought to engage with facebook.  A month in which I have been less intense, less distracted and less caught in the complex relationships, in my head anyway, that evolve with friends as a consequence of watching their online engagement around issues.

According to my husband, there is more peace in me.

My personality seeks, strives and yearns for intensity; for intense engagement.  It drives me. Facebook offers multiple ways to feed this.

It also makes me less available in moments.  It creates stress in me when not channeled appropriately.

I have had to ask myself some hard questions this last month.  I am grateful for friends who have navigated this ahead of me.

Do I like who I become as a result of my facebook engagement?

Am I able to separate the way I perceive people responding to issues & comments on facebook from the way I engage with them off facebook?

Does my perception of people result in me making judgements about them? Do I want to engage with people whose interactions on facebook leave me not liking what I am seeing in them – not necessarily only their responses, but also their terms of engagement?

What is my role as advocate, as professional person and as personal person in social media spaces?

Does my family have a responsibility to respond or share our processes around navigating things & issues that impact us or are those sacred spaces that need other questions around them?

There is much that I love about social media and facebook specifically.

I love celebrating with people.  I love the opportunities facebook gives for generosity and engagement.  I love that it does connect me to people who if we are honest, we would lose touch with in the crazy seasons of life we are all in.  I love that we get to offer support in the hard seasons too. I love that some of the people who I engage with regularly IRL – IN REAL LIFE – are people I met through social media.

I appreciate the groups, spaces and posts that challenge me to refine my own thinking and positions on things.

I have realized though that, for me, there is a cost that comes with the above.  The cost being not seeing the underlying anxiety that it was creating for me until it was no longer part of my day to day life.  The cost of the time I spent saving things to read or watch later until that list has exceeded 40 saves and to be honest, I am not sure I am ever going to read or watch them, not while I am working part time and parenting a exuberant joyful 2 year old, while helping and supporting my husband in growing his business.  Not because the topics don’t matter to me, but the previous 3 mentions are significant and matter to me.  If I don’t honour these parts of my world, then all the knowledge gained through those 40 something saves isn’t going to matter very much at all.

I have realized that I spent a huge amount of emotional energy, even if not on facebook itself, in managing my own responses to things.  I have realized I started becoming wary of posting in case it was misinterpreted, or triggering, or deemed too radical or not radical enough or not PC enough or too PC – in which case I had people publicly and privately explain why I was wrong & not always in a honouring, respectful way.  Which led to my own wrestling with how to respond.  Should I respond?  Should I leave it?

Sometimes posts that weren’t aimed at anyone in particular were taken personally by people and while that is not my responsibility, if relationships matter to me, I need to think about how this matters too in terms of impact of what we are saying, regardless of my intent.

I realized that the echo chamber of facebook was exclusionary and that people who were on journeys around some justice issues were encouraged on their journeys of discovery but others were shut down as they explored things.

Some people who were repeatedly asked not to engage in certain ways around certain topics persisted and it all became too much.  Topics regarding adoption, race, justice and regarding whether or not my son was critically ill as consequence of being vaccinated (while we were in hospital with doctors exploring every avenue & being informed that his vaccinations prevented things from being far worse than what they were a year ago).  Too much for me.  Some of my friends thrive in this space. I am not one of them.  An inability to each see our own biases in stories makes online engagement as a catalyst for communication a hotbox for judgement, self-righteousness and mess really.

So for now I am wrestling with the above questions.  Our family is a conspicuous one, formed through adoption, needing to ask questions about race, diversity, raising our children to know who they are, were they come from and how much their own stories are valued, but this is a sacred space which only needs sharing in public spaces when there is an overwhelming conviction that to do so honour’s both my family and the bigger picture.  Else my family’s story ends up being a case study in itself and that’s not what we want.

I stand by public statements already made re: adoption and the racial things we have had to address regarding our language use.  Things like not calling our children ‘monkey’ or using adoption of pets as metaphors. Things like the fact that I am raising a man who is racially different to me which means I need to ensure that we have mirrors, mentors and many moments in which we reflect and normalize what this means for our children in a South African context, so that as they grow, they grow into the fullness of themselves and can stand their ground as South Africans with their own story – the present, the past and their origins.

I am standing down though from sharing too much of our own story in this as we navigate this all. In my personal capacity.

And here the challenge is – how do I share and navigate spaces that are professional spaces for me but have a personal impact to and do this in a way that honours and protects the integrity of both.

For this next season this means, far less active engagement on facebook (twitter and Instagram have been populating my facebook for now); a decision to continue figuring our how facebook serves me, us as a family, rather than me being a slave to serving it.

Over this past month, I have read books, been less tired & tied up, written reflections, gone for long walks, played games and been a lot less irritable about being interrupted when trying to read or follow something on a screen… not that the content wasn’t important but the relationships that are around me are & I need to be honouring those.

I have started dreaming again about reading more than candy floss for my brain and asking questions about professional growth spaces.

I know that often we engage with social media and feel like we have tackled issues.

I am asking myself what tackling those issues mean within my family space. What does it look like to live a life of justice, with Jesus as my teacher, without needing facebook to be a part of it? I still want the issues I have engaged with in the past so publicly addressed and will respond when appropriate, but I am doing this while being Alexa, being a wife and a mother.  While making sure that we keep wrestling with the tension of who and what we have in terms of our privilege without becoming a social justice experiment.  My children need a mother who can mentor and be present with them in lots of areas of life.  They also need to know that not all lives are as privileged as ours.  They are one day going to be the people who wrestle hopefully with other issues – but for now, WE get to hold the tension of both spaces.

So ‘still on a break with “facebook” & checking in every so often.  For now anyway.

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Protest Deja Vu

This is the outcome of multiple conversations, with a variety of (different races & economic groups) friends over the past while.  It’s a work in progress.  The calls to protest have made me rethink what I stand for.  Who I stand for.  Not just what I stand against. 

My heart and head have been unsettled and noisy for the past year.  Which has actually led to less online engagement, more listening & more watching what is unfolding around me.  It’s been liberating to realise that I have been guilty of deifying certain voices in the social justice circles.  Of sometimes not thinking through why I think what I do, what filters do I carry with me and through which filters am I experiencing others.

It’s liberated me to start a journey of discovery towards the voices who challenge me to think about what righteousness and justice looks like in relationship and as a God-believer.  I don’t agree with everything always.  I have to sit with things often.  I am still going to be too conservative for some and too radical for others, or too enmeshed and overthinking for yet others.  I am going to cause offence somewhere on this journey.  Sometimes for the right reasons, and other times because I have gotten it wrong and need to reflect and repent of where I have done so, not just inwardly but to the people in the story too.

I have had a lot of déjà vu watching the online postings of the current #HambaZuma, #PhantsiZuma, #ZumamustFall hashtags.   On the 16th December 2015, some of us engaged with similar conversations to those which are unfolding now.  Do we go march or don’t we go?  We agree with the principle, but do we agree with the way the action is happening?

I tweeted something which in my spaces was fairly moderate along the lines of “hoping that once this march is over, we will continue to see mass mobilisation towards other issues of injustice”.  I lost facebook friends over this, frustrated people over this and was accused of being divisive in this rather than invitational which was always the intent.

It wasn’t a judgement it was a hope. A hope that issues of injustice would be acknowledged and in our numbers, in the mass of people, addressed. 

The issues of injustice that matter to me are that of sanitation (going to the toilet shouldn’t mean risking rape, murder, assault or being kidnapped); of children not being in school because of violence or because there aren’t enough support systems in place to deal with children who are struggling.

A hope that remains still, now in April 2017 as we sit in a week in which the date for the EIGHTH vote of no confidence in our president has been set.

My protest question still remains:

What happens after Friday?  After the proposed national shutdown? Where there are ‘well meant’ but offensive motivational messages being circulated about make sure your ‘helper’, ‘security’ and ‘gardener’ are with you for this march?

(Q: How do you know that they share your views?  These are adults, they can choose whether they want to join you or not.  Maybe they want to protest in their own spaces.  Maybe they don’t trust the process.  Maybe they have witnessed enough protest in their lives or lived through the previous change in government to want to choose to hand the baton on to others)

One of my mentors who is black and poor asked me:

What are people going to do afterwards”

“What will change in how people treat each other and take responsibility for things, after wearing black, after marching?”

Government can’t change our social dynamics. Zuma must go BUT what responsibility and response within our abilities are we going to explore and COMMIT to after Friday’s march.

SO, please forgive me for overthinking this if you must, but I have friends who don’t eat supper every night; friends whose children run out of nappies for economic reasons; friends who STILL can’t give their children choices like my parents could give me. Friends who lost parents because they were poor – poverty reduces life expectancy (not a liberal snowflakey vibe, this is fact).  I have lost friends who didn’t have private medical resources & didn’t share how they were struggling health wise and so were on repeated waiting lists in the public health system and ended up having heart related issues on their death certificate but had it been me, would have been placed on medication and under observation.

I want to protest against these realities. These injustices.

I want to protest against power dynamics that aren’t right.

I want to protest against things that take away choices from people.

Yes, I want Zuma to go as I believe that he makes choices that removes choices from other people in order to continue expanding his own world.

I want to protest against the fact that in 2015, there was mass mobilisation for a week towards a march in the community and then it seemed that people went quiet.  That the invitation (again) and call (again) to share responsibility for addressing the daily injustices in our nation wasn’t taken up by the broader white community and THIS has added to the sense of mistrust and questioning of intent and motive.  The impact of our lack of action has led to some of the responses now.  As a white person, I recognise this to be a recurring theme in the social media debates in 2017.  I recognise and own that this is aimed at the white community.  Not because we don’t have a role in this country, but because we are either reluctant or reticent, or not sure how to engage with these things.

I want to protest that people in my friendship circles live like they do, with life being about survival far too often – whether from bullets, hunger or a lack of resources.

I want to protest that our fear of what restitution is stops us from exploring what it could look like in our spaces.

I want to protest for ongoing, as has been emerging in the social media debates, dialogues around what unity really means, about what making good could look like and what seeing each other means.

I want to protest at the fact that too often despite declaring that we are called to HOLY RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE, we get caught up in our own self-righteousness and own vision of what we believe justice to be.  I have had to repent of this.  It’s uncomfortable and necessary.

I want to protest at the exclusivity of some of the spaces I have inadvertently helped create and protest for figuring out how to help keep people going on this journey of reconciliation and restitution so that it’s not just buzz words from the ‘rainbow nation’ illusion but that we keep on doing the hard work we need to in ourselves in order to see the others in the story too.

We are in the midst of a revolution.

It can happen while we pay dignified wages & explore what it means to cap maximum wages so that dignified wages are a possibility.  I am challenged by this every time I think about it.  Dare I think that this could be a reality?  Dare I believe that this is possible and doesn’t stop interest and investment in our economic markets and so importantly into people’s lives?

It can happen while we create relationships and figure out what generosity in this space looks like; it can happen when I choose to share with you because I know I have more than you based on my birth status and not because I am worth more.  And that the way in which I share doesn’t communicate power, but sharing of resources.  That there is dignity and acknowledgement that we are both givers and receivers in this process.

It can happen when I choose less eating out, less shopping, less what feels like essentials but are actually choices and choose to invest or pour that into other spaces.

Not just because you make me feel okay about myself, but because I choose to. And in choosing to, maybe I will find my sense of belonging with you.  In the midst of our differences.

Choosing Children. Or Not.

Adoption as a choice.
Not a default. Not because of. A choice.

This is a vent post.
I am currently frustrated. Intensely, immensely frustrated by a post I just read on a friend’s facebook wall where someone stated that to actively choose to adopt or stay “sterile” for the sake of not having children, and so that you could have sex without procreating, he didn’t believe was biblical.

Song of Songs seems to suggest otherwise.

He also believed that women are saved through childbirth – a little out of context as the Word clearly states that women and men – both are only saved in the Christian faith through the Cross. In other words through Jesus.
That aside.
When did we become the police of people’s choices to have children, or not to, or how to?

I selfishly love the spaces & freedom my friends who choose not to have children invite me into. Not because I don’t want to be a mother. But because it speaks to other parts of who I am and who they are.
Before we got married my guy and I spoke about how we were going to grow our family. My vision was ALWAYS adoption. It was just a matter of when we were going to adopt.

Not because I want someone else’s child, but because the reality is that there are children who need to be in families and I wanted to be a mother and actually, I still continue to want to be a mother.

I don’t have strong need to be pregnant. The only time I did have strong need for this was after 6 months of considering this as a possibility and knowing that it mattered to my husband AT THE TIME and wanting to honour him in this – the perfectionist in me felt the need to get this right. Sadly, we had a miscarriage, but even so, according to the Gynae, there was absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t fall pregnant should we CHOOSE too. See that word? It’s been a loud one in my head and heart.

We did adopt. We have a gorgeous one year old son.
We want him to have siblings. We have recently wrestled and worked through which way we want to grow our family next. We have prayed about this. We have spoken at length to each other. We have sat with the options individually. We have had to take a long hard look at our motives and ourintentions and selves (the good and the ugly) and come to a decision.
A decision based on CHOICE.
A decision based on who we are, where we are, who our son is and what we believe about parenthood.

Regardless of whether people come to the point of adoption through the initial plan A or a journey with the grief of infertility or a journey of life not working out quiet the way they envisioned with a partner – It’s a CHOICE. It’s a choice to love another. (Like you choose to love your partner who wasn’t born to you). It’s a choice to do midnight nappy changes, feeding, teething, hospital visits, interrupted sleep, reallocating budget. It’s a choice to be a parent – regardless of whether we get there through sex, adoption or marrying someone who already has children.

It’s a choice to not be a parent too.

Our lives exist outside of our children, we are people apart from our children and they are people apart from us.

We have the freedom to choose. Most of us reading this anyway.
Maybe we need to honour other’s freedom in this too.

Before the Birthday Candles

I lit a candle tonight and reflected on the fact that we get to celebrate my son’s first birthday soon.

We get to celebrate the laughter, the giggles, the mischief and snuggles that is fully him.

We get to reflect on the joy of the last 6 months of being his parents. The joy in seeing him sit up, cut teeth, crawl, walk and speak his first basic words to us.

Before we celebrate the sweetness of adoption though, the bitter part of the grief of adoption has shown itself.

I told him his basic adoption story again this evening – he has heard it before.  It is his story after all, as much we are a part of it and he is a part of ours.

His story, the details of which are his to hold onto or tell as he grows.

Tonight on reflecting on our beautiful son and how awe inspiring it is to see him growing before our eyes, I was reminded of the fact that he is going to have things to deal with that we can’t pretend he isn’t.

I was reminded that  for 9 months, he grew under his birth mom’s heart – and as much as people say that adoption is when a baby grows in your heart instead of your womb, this baby grew under a heart in another’s womb and that is a part of his story.

It is a part of her story and now it is a part of our story too.

A friend recently reminded me that the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 139 of being knit together in a mother’s womb and not being hidden from the start.  She reminded me that my son was known from the start as much as we didn’t know him from the start.  I was reminded this evening that as much as adoption was always part of how I planned to grow my family one day, of the conversations my guy and I had prior to marriage that, this plan brings with it a story of loss for two others – but that they are known too.

Tonight I want to make sure that he knows that we will stand next to him in responding to the things that are going to be his to deal with as he matures into manhood.

More than that, before we think about candles on cakes, tonight I lit a candle and want to honour a birthmother, who a year ago was preparing for labour and to relinquish (the details of this are hers and his) the baby who became our son.

I want to honour her simply for being his other mother.  We don’t know her and she doesn’t know us and yet our life stories are intertwined.

So before the candles celebrating a year of life are lit, there is another life I want to honour tonight and have no idea how do that.

Other than to pray.

To hold the space with my son and to say to this other mother that you are a part of our story always.

In a respectful way.

In a way which honours a decision you made.

In a way which honours our son.

In a way that honours the unknown between us and yet shares a life.

Tonight I simply want to honour you.

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Enlarging hearts

Enlarging hearts

For the past 3 weeks I have struggled to sit down and focus on writing a blog for someone on practical attachment strategies.  I am excited about this field.  I am passionate about this field.  Yet, I struggled.

It was only when journaling that I realised I didn’t want to be writing this for people, I wanted to be doing this with our own child.

A friend asked me recently how the wait was going.

I told her it was getting longer.

I had said that some mornings I wake up and think ‘it’s one day closer to THE day’, but my heart is wanting to start counting hours and not the days anymore.

The nappies are waiting for a body to be wrapped around.

The bottles are waiting to be used.

Our community is waiting for an excited & (I am anticipating!) overwhelmed, this is it message.

We are sitting with an increased awareness of the absence of the next person who is going to be a part of our family.

‘Your heart is enlarging and it’s a stretch and it’s a sweet pain’ was her response.

Oh.

I want to stamp my feet and ask how long will this continue.

Me – the planner, who for the last 5 years had been able to vision for the year ahead – even if the details weren’t fully known, there was some sense of this is where I was headed.

Now, we know that we will be parents to a small person.

We just have no concrete timelines.

Yesterday, a friend said to me you are in a long labour.

It’s not just about being pregnant anymore.

It’s about waiting to see that face for the first time.

In person.

It’s about meeting this small person who we are going to be honoured to parent.

I sighed a deep breath out.

Our hearts are enlarging.

Our hearts are enlarging and as much as we are relishing the late lie-ins and the spontaneous meals in the park, or walks, or doing what we feel like when we feel like, there is an increasing awareness that someone is not with us.

Our hearts are enlarging and we appreciate the well-meant ‘enjoy the season’, ‘make the most of each other’ and all the other comments, but I am struggling with the challenge in this season without any fixed timelines.

There is a real tension of being fully aware of the joy in the present (and there is much!) but the longing for what we are waiting for too.

Sometimes this longing is painful.

I knew that this would be a waiting thing.  I don’t enjoy waiting things generally.  I am someone who gets up and makes things happen.

And in this I can’t.

I can pray.

I can cry when it gets too much.

It helps – I guess like it has for many mothers whose pregnancies or labours have felt indefinite at times!

I can share this with safe people.

I can respond with ease when people ask how the wait is going.  It was liberating this past week to say to a friend who is on her own adoption journey, that the ‘enjoy just the two of you’ are getting frustrating. We really do enjoy just the two of us, but we are ready for it to be three of us too.

We have been dreaming of parenting through adoption since before we got married.

In December we decided to start our process in the first part of this year.

In April we had our first adoption screening interview.

Our hearts are being enlarged.

We wait.

[p.s. I  finally did finish the other blog – Head over to the heartmamablog.co.za for more info :)] 

Our mirrors. Our freedom.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”
-Albert Schweitzer

The last 10 days have seen some hard curve balls in our family of 2. The details don’t matter for this reflection, but the outcomes and realisations do
Things we were hoping we weren’t going to have to deal with and yet we did. More than did- we came out knowing that we are okay and there is hope, and in fact in the midst of the heartache and sadness there was joy.
Not because we were in denial but because we had ‘mirrors’ reminding us of who we are and what we are about and what our hearts have always known about what we believe our family to be about.

Regardless of what the situation was, I have realised that in any other hard time my default thinking was always: ‘Some people get the easier end, I am not one of them’ or ‘my story involves zig-zag hair pin, up and down paths rather than a controlled, steady climb to the top’. In fact last year when we fell pregnant, my exact words to a few close friends were – this happened too quickly, it can’t be that easy & sadly it was a blighted ovum – but that had nothing to do with my thinking – other than at the time really challenging me to change it but wondering why I should!

I had been wrestling with my perspective on life and what it said about my belief in God (which I didn’t really like at all) before we even knew we were pregnant so it wasn’t linked to the pregnancy itself. And (bad grammar I know, but the emphasis is needed) AND this is important – because my thinking had nothing to do with things that happen ultimately BUT everything to do with how I respond to things. Some things like a blighted ovum just are, but end up feeling like a (can you say rationalising excuse?) self-fulfilling prophecy and in other contexts mean that I don’t live in the moment but mistrust the joy in front of me.

See in this past week I have witnessed someone share their amazing testimony of how their thinking changed (read and follow her journey here: https://adoptaconvict.wordpress.com ) & had a conversation with someone whose life is in a transition and choices need to be made space, but it’s hard to know that there is permission and blessing to do so, and it hit me again.

We all need mirrors.
We need mirrors to remind us of who we are and who were aren’t.
We need mirrors to tell us truth, to encourage and to reflect back to us when we can’t see clearly.
We need mirrors to give us courage.

My mirror this last week diffused what previously would have felt like ‘here we go again – it’s that hard path’ and turned it into WHAT, WHO ARE YOU? REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE?

I realised 5 days after my mirror in our current context (a friend who knows who she is) did this, that there was no time to focus on the hard path, to get stuck in the default thinking simply as once she reminded me of the bigger picture…the rest no longer mattered as much.

It was an incredibly liberating and joyful celebration in the midst of what could have and previously only would have been an angry and tired place.

More than what and who I discovered myself to be in this, again, I celebrate that in the last 6 months, my thinking has changed, that to quote henri nouwen ‘I have lived into a new way of thinking’.

I know that life isn’t fair.

I know God is there regardless.

I know that ‘bad things happen to good people’ and that good things happen to ‘bad people’. That we don’t always get what we or others think we deserve – sometimes it’s much more, sometimes it’s much less. *see below*

I know that when my sense of shame, sorrow, anger, sadness or ‘it’s not fair’ kicks in that sometimes I don’t see clearly in the mirror.

I know that it’s thanks to the faithfulness of community, of people walking down the valleys and up the mountains and onto the peaks with me to celebrate that things have shifted into a new way of living.

I am grateful for friends and family being willing to be my mirror. Mirrors who can reflect the broken bit but also the whole bits – which allows for freedom & confesssion & healing.

I am grateful for God holding up the ultimate mirror of the paradoxes of life and knowing that in this uncertainty about much, that there is certainty.

I know this because I have witnessed it time and again over the last few months and really across the last 41 years &1 day of my life.

To sit in a car en route to work and want to do a happy dance of joy, knowing that the pathways in my heart and mind have changed is more than just about work I have done.

It’s about grace.
It’s about healing and joy.
It’s really been about mirrors: seeing and being seen.

We need mirrors.

*good and bad people used loosely in this context simply and by no means imply that people are not worth anything or that any of us are better or worse than others…