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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Faith vs Hopelessness. My wrestle with my country.

PRE-READ DISCLAIMER: This is my wrestling space thinking & I know that I am not alone in it, hence my sharing. This isn’t an answer. This isn’t I have it all figured it out. This is I am hurting for friends whose stories are slowly being revealed to me. This is I am sore for my country at the moment. This is I wish I knew how to engage in this space better. This is I wish that collectively we had more sway in influencing healthy change and new ways of doing things. This isn’t party politics as much as it is about where does the power sit. This is about my wrestling. This is the context of my wrestle. If you want to wrestle with me in faith and hope and love. Grateful for grace to cover where I get it wrong.

‘Faith makes hopelessness forbidden’ – part of a WhatsApp that a friend sent me last night. I have been wrestling with what it means to have relentless, unfailing HOPE and what that looks like for us as South Africans. Beyond just for us as South Africans – what does us it mean for me as a believer in Jesus – the giver of hope and a different way? How do I live hope? How do I speak hope? How do I encourage hope?

So I started thinking about what is taking up energy – not just in terms of my focus but also of taking away hope.

• I realised it’s the lack of engagement – the lack of skills being imparted to people to know how to engage in this space, to be invited into this space at times by people already in it and also skills to know that saying sorry for something doesn’t mean I maliciously hurt you or are carrying shame. It’s about saying I am sorry that you are hurting, were hurt and have been hurting still despite the fact that things are said to be changing.

• I realised it’s the lack of listening from all of us – especially those of us with a history of speaking first and loudest. Yes, we also have feelings and opinions about what is going on, but I am so used to speaking up and out that sometimes I forget that others might be quiet simply because of what was my normal rather than what I would prefer to be OUR normal way of engaging where we both get a chance to be heard and understood.

• I realised it’s the slowness of change, but not being sure how to see practical change implemented as MANY people who have power to ensure these changes in our country are more concerned with their own positions of power and gain than they are with ensuring that people move from absolute poverty to a place of opportunity because the basics are being met (as a simple starting point)

• I realised it’s the language that is being permitted without looking at what do these words mean – my focus and energy and hope gets drained when I hear calls for revolution without looking at what revolution has done in other communities – without asking what will this mean for the children and vulnerable in all our communities. It gets drained when the language we all use from ‘get over it already, its 20 plus years’ to ‘ revolution is now and the white oppressors must realise this’ to a nation whose leader orchestrated exploitation, violent revolution and murder and mayhem and political intimidation being honoured in our own country without recognising that under his leadership people lost everything, feel still live in the knowledge that you can’t speak out against him and that despite his language use publicly, the exploitative nature of his regime continues.

I get tired and struggle when the word revolution is seen as interchangeable with resurrection.

Revolution is about one world system replacing another world system.

Resurrection is about overcoming a world system with a new way of life system. It’s about hope.

Sitting with these realisations makes me want to weep. It makes me want to wail and lament and cry out loud ‘Can’t you see we are simply repeating a system from the past which on the surface looks to benefit the many but experience not just here, but elsewhere has shown us that it simply serves to repeat a cycle’?

I know I sit in a position of privilege. Not only am I historically advantaged, I am protected financially by virtue of being married.
I know that I sit in a faith community that is striving to engage in this space.
I know that I sit in the midst of people working this out. Where we can talk and speak and make mistakes and listen and say ‘’ I am sorry’’ on a micro inter-personal level. Not just where things went wrong in the past, but also where we get it wrong in the present. When I get it wrong with you.

In faith what do I wish and pray for?
• I pray that we will become comfortable with being uncomfortable so that we can have the discussions and engagement as individuals and collectively that we need to have.
• I pray that we will start looking at what we are inviting or engaging people to be a part of through how we speak and what we do: whether we are imparting life giving hope or simply providing a space where energy and a lack of hope finds a space to be expressed.
• I am more and more convicted that within our faith circles as in the pre-90’s faith circles when the church as a body was part of calling to account, that not only do we need to be calling to account our leaders, but also each other as we respond from places of passion, purpose, but also places of fear and hurt. We need to be mirrors to each other in this else the bigger image of what we are wanting to see happen is never going to happen.
• I pray that each and every person who is passionate about this country will see that they have a role in it, beyond simply being nice to people – but actually to ask questions and invite understanding through listening.
• I pray that we will actively choose hope and that this hope will determine our actions, our engagements and our responses.

Are there more white people like you?

In the past few weeks I have been faced with my ‘privilege’.
My white privilege.
Yes mine.

I have been faced with the fact that as much as I am surrounded by amazing people, doing things to see communities shift and healed, that there is not enough contact between different (colour)people happening to make people realise that actually there are many(white)who are seeking this change. Who think that justice matters, who think that restitution matters.

How do I know this?

Simply because too often, it’s the same people in contact with the same circles –regardless of what the circles look like. I know this because a friend boldly told me this. He heard me say that my heart was sore because in 2 days I had two friends of colour (from different contexts) voice this sentiment:

Are there more? Maybe there are more but we don’t see or hear them?

Then I got thinking about how do we make these circles bigger? How do we mix them up more?

The next challenge then got thrown at me by someone whose dreams I respect and support, whose voice is loud, whose passion for community, for people and for South Africa is being refined and yet I know that these dreams seem to belong to someone else at times for this friend, as he has other responsibilities in life that stop the pursuit of these dreams.

Why do I think that his dreams matters?
• I believe that we need more young leaders and men like my friend in communities speaking, advocating and encouraging people.

• I believe that we need to relook at how we understand supporting education in this country – for some of us it is about equipping teachers, advocating for bursaries – but I was recently challenged to think beyond that to what does it mean for someone whose very BASIC income is needed to support their family (with basics – regardless of the nature of their work) to how do we support big hearts and brilliant minds out of relationship to be able to study further. We all know that education matters, in this instance though – relationship matters too.

• I was privileged in having parents, who still had to sacrifice, but were able to put me through Varsity with no study debt. My friend’s starting point is not this but it could be if we stood next to him in this. If we acknowledged our privilege – our connections, our contexts, our means – and used it to support him. Then maybe there would be more – more people with privilege being seen as people who are there, who truly are committed to seeing things change.

I want to stand beside a friend to see his dreams come true while his family still live and eat and can celebrate his dreams too. So I am talking with others (yes more of us & mixed racial circles), and praying and seeking other people to stand alongside him. Not out of charity. Out of relationship. This is what family does. This is what we do when we are in relationship and see and hear and acknowledge each other’s dreams.

We help find ways of seeing them happen. I have had people doing this with me. And still do. I want to be a part of someone else’s story too.

This was written with the knowledge of my friend whose story challenged mine – I am grateful that he shared his story with me. In doing so it made me a part of his story as much as he became a part of mine.

Justice vs Selfishness

Is SOCIAL JUSTICE in some ways THE STRUGGLE AGAINST SELFISHNESS?

I recently had the privilege of attending a conference with various leaders seeking change in the area of poverty, inequality & unemployment. At this conference were leaders who had been involved in the struggle against apartheid as well as young leaders whose voices are loud in the current struggles that our country faces as a whole – by whole I mean people of all groups and (racial) backgrounds.
There were many reflections on things that worked, ideals that were and weren’t achieved and stories told of the political struggle that ensued to bring SA into a democracy. Rev Frank Chikane said the following which has sat with me and I have no concrete answers to this – other than we need to find this path through restitution and peace: ‘In the build up to 1994 the country was taken across a bridge in such a way that bought the country to a new place without destroying it; however the economic system wasn’t taken across the bridge’.

I sat listening to people speaking about their experience of growing up poor, of the struggle to escape an economic system that is responsible for much of the structural violence and neglect many people still suffer under and realised that this was the bigger narrative against which the smaller, personal narrative needs to unfold. As a South African who is white how do I find my space in the midst of this when I see what are emotional, angry and ‘you can’t possibly understand the other’ type responses on social media and news comments?

How do i listen to what needs to be said, but still ask or challenge or engage people to find an alternate way to that of bitterness driven responses? This morning I again saw a person of colour being allowed to respond to an emotional statement (which is allowed too) and yet when a ‘white’ person affirmed the initial response and asked the questions which I too wanted to ask was immediately shot down. It made me think that while we talk a big talk about creating a land of equal opportunity that in the midst of that we need to find ways of seeing each other – and that means looking beyond our own assumptions and stereotypes –regardless of who they are about.

Sivuyile Kotela said ‘that we need to find a way of talking about poverty and it’s link to race without being racist; that the church has a responsibility to talk about poverty differently to those who do so for political reasons and that as much as don’t want to talk about race often, in the context of poverty it’s a needed discussion’. This might not be radical enough for some of my more left wing friends. It might infuriate some of my more right wing friends that the race word has once more been used.

So in this context how does this broader narrative and story that is currently unfolding as a nation impact my personal narrative around justice? I have had FOMO watching friends engage in dialogues around this until I felt convicted that actually, justice needs to be about the way we live our lives – and yes the dialogues matter, but what matters too is actioning the things that we see and hear.

How do I acknowledge and what do I do re: my white privilege? No – that doesn’t mean I have a trust fund, it simply means that inherently if I listen to some of my best friends (who happen to have grown up differently based on their skin) tell stories of their childhood, do I acknowledge & respond to the wrongs or simply nod and move on?

Justice in my day to day life is about how I:
– Engage my community
– Engage my neighbours
– Engage those employed by me: whether at work or at home. Do I respect and value the person & her work, helping in my home enough to pay her a generous and living wage or do I worry that this will impact my disposable income too adversely?
– What do I do with disposable income and time?
– What do my friendship circles look like? Do I intentionally befriend people whose stories differ to my own so that there are bridges being built or do I surround myself with people who are like me and allow to not have to think/ talk or be the other?
– Is my faith & it’s actions private or is there a social aspect to it in terms of how I live it out?

I don’t have answers for all of the above – but when I start to ponder them the selfishness of aspects of my world are bought to light and it brings me back to consider where I need to shift again.