When You Have FOMO, Even Though You Were There

 

FOMO

A few years ago, I was introduced to a little four-letter acronym that put a name to a feeling I was all too familiar with: FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out.

Turned out, it wasn’t just me who felt a stab of sadness when there was a dinner I wasn’t invited to… even if it was a dinner I didn’t particularly want to attend, I still felt sad to not be invited. FOMO hits when friends I like hang out with each other without me. FOMO strikes when I see pictures on instagram of happy groups at the theater, at the park, on vacation. Finding out that FOMO had a name—that it was a thing‑made me take a harder look at this phenomenon, and why it is that I compare my messiest self with others’ glossiest online presence. The twin beasts of comparison and envy lurk close by, and as one friend recently said: Social Media is like Miracle-Gro for envy.

I recently got to attend a writers’ conference: a FEAST of a festival, with speakers and professionals and an abundance of online friends there in person. More than a few of my writer friends expressed their great sadness that they couldn’t go: “I’m going to have to stay off the internet for a week to keep the FOMO at bay,” wrote one. Wanting to be sensitive to those same feelings of loss that I experienced, I kept fairly quiet about the fact that I’d be attending. I didn’t live tweet each session. I didn’t post pictures of all the wonderful people I saw. FOMO is a thing, and I didn’t want to kindle it.

I got to go. I didn’t miss out. But here’s the thing: at the end of the first day I had a creeping sense of loss and sadness, and it took me a couple of hours to figure out what it was: my old nemesis FOMO, right there with me. After fifteen hours of constant interaction and input on that first day, I found myself strangely sad about all the conversations I hadn’t been able to finish, the people I hadn’t manage to connect with, the sessions I couldn’t attend because I was in a brilliant parallel session.

“How ungrateful you are”, I chided myself. “How ridiculous to have your whole day tainted by what you didn’t experience, rather than be amazed at what you did?” I spent some time before the second day began mentally preparing for the day ahead and taking my FOMO—now that I’d identified it—by the horns. I would aim to be present with the person right in front of me in conversation, to keep my eyes from flitting to the stream of people walking past behind them. I would take good notes in each session, and keep a record of the gems in front of me. I would keep my hands open, ready to receive every good gift that came my way, and ready to give generously if I had opportunity.

The second day was so much better, and the third better yet. The practice of being present and attentive to the graces before me is something my FOMO-bent heart needs all the time, for I am strangely capable of missing out on the good thing right in front of me just because I’m scared of missing out somewhere else.

I come home from the conference a little wiser about myself. I’m learning that the cure to FOMO is not to be found in being invited to all the things and attending all the events. It’s making sure I attend—with present, mindful, attention—to the place I am at. It’s not cured by physically showing up; for me it’s about emotionally and spiritually showing up in the conversation I’m having and the situation I’m in right now, without letting my heart and attention flit elsewhere.

Our Fear of Missing Out will not be cured by receiving more invitations. Rather, God is inviting me—and you—to attend to the good gifts right in front of us, for He Fears we’ll be Missing Out if we don’t.

 

Photo credit: Lilong Dolrani/ Lonely (Flickr Creative Commons), edited by Bronwyn Lea using Canva.

 

 

 

 

God, Thou Art Love (Robert Browning)

God thou art love

God Thou Art Love

If I forget,
Yet God remembers! If these hands of mine
Cease from their clinging, yet the hands divine
Hold me so firmly that I cannot fall;
And if sometimes I am too tired to call
For Him to help me, then He reads the prayer
Unspoken in my heart, and lifts my care.

I dare not fear, since certainly I know
That I am in God’s keeping, shielded so
From all that else would harm, and in the hour
Of stern temptation strengthened by His power;
I tread no path in life to Him unknown;
I lift no burden, bear no pain, alone:
My soul a calm, sure hiding-place has found:
The everlasting arms my life surround.

God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that.
I know Thee who has kept my path, and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy;
It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love.

by Robert Browning
illustrated by Corrie Haffly

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It’s Thanksgiving in the USA today: my favorite of the American holidays. Today, as on thanksgivings past, this day is attended by worries, but in the midst of it: we breathe our thanks.

Above all, I am thankful to be held in the hands of a good and faithful God. I don’t know how I would cope with the fear, injustice, uncertainty and evil in the world. To know that “I tread no path in life to Him unknown” makes all the difference.

I am more thankful for God sending Jesus than anything else this Thanksgiving, and every other day, too. He makes all the difference: I have known his light to “find me in the darkness, tempering sorrow so that it reached me like a solemn joy”. I hope you have, too.

 

Minutiae

This morning we ran out of Nutella. This may technically classify as a “#firstworldproblem”, but in our house it is still a problem.

Adding to my child’s misery, I also would not let her chew gum before breakfast. Nor would I let them watch Netflix under the covers instead of going to school. Nor was there any bacon. Cue foot stomping and a lot of pouting from children.

Cue firm words of rebuke from mom, accompanied by a clipped rehearsal of the “let’s be grateful for what we have rather than complain about what we don’t have” speech. I make that speech several times a day.

It is amazing to me how the little things that go right or wrong on any given morning set the tone for the day. And so, in the spirit of setting a good example, I took a deep breath and counted blessings.

This morning, it rained. We prayed for weeks and weeks through this drought-stricken winter for relief – and this March, it came. I am so grateful.

More than that, our garden is springing to life. I now understand why hope is said to “spring”. There is almost nothing as hopeful as seeing life sprout from what seemed to be dead-dry branches. Hope springs. And spring brings hope. We have hope blossoms all over our apple, lemon and cherry trees. So grateful.

We have roses. Oh glory, we have roses.

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Notice the raindrops. Oh thank you, God.

After a weekend of whining about “never getting what she wants” (specifically, the movie “Frozen”), my eldest read a magazine article about a 9 year old who used her allowance to make “feel better baskets” for sick kids in the hospital. She declared that instead of saving her allowance to buy the DVD, she’d like to make “feel better baskets” too. I’m so grateful: not only for this mercy springing up in my daughter’s soul, but also that our house will be spared a few more weeks of not having to “let it go”, on repeat, every hour.

I talked to my Mom. Skype is wonderful. So grateful.

My husband kissed me goodbye this morning. My daughter ran back for a “last chance” hug. So grateful.

My toddler gave me a kiss this morning. It was full of buttered toast crumbs and milk. It was perfect.

It’s the little things.

And so, I declare that today is a beautiful day, even though we ran out of Nutella.

Sliding in socks

I have fond childhood memories of sock-sliding competitions. With feet clad in our slipperiest socks, we would launch ourselves at one end of the long, wooden passage way, and run furiously down the length of the passage. About two-thirds of the way came the tricky part: stopping running, throwing your balance slightly backwards, and skid-sliding the rest of the way into the kitchen.

sock_sliding_by_eollica

This Christmas feels a little like I’m sliding in socks. There was frenetic activity, bursts of bustling behavior, but now I feel I’ve stopped running, I’m leaning slightly backwards, and I’m sliding into Christmas-base. I’m not moving, but I’m in motion. It feels like cheating. But there was enough momentum in the weeks past that now I get to “slide” into Christmas with relatively little effort the day before.

Also, I’m wearing socks.

Tonight is Christmas eve and we will eat ham. We have three desserts and one vegetable planned (because, priorities). Tomorrow, there will be sugar, carbs, and gifts. Most of those are joyfully given to and joyfully received by our children. There are a few gifts for the adults. My husband, noticing the dearth of gifts for me, stole off with our eldest on Sunday to add a few Mommy-treats to the pile.

I love that he did that, but truth be told, he didn’t need to. As I’m enjoying the final wheeeeeeeeee slide-int0-Christmas, I’m aware of so many (unwrapped) (invisible) (precious) gifts under my proverbial tree. I’m thankful for my family, my friends, for home and hearth, for ice-cream and laughter.

But this year I spy some new gifts under my blessing tree: a new community of friends and writers through Redbud, whose wisdom and encouragement mean so very much. I have readers (!!! this still amazes me!!), whose generosity and comments keep me writing. I have new followers friends on Twitter, whose insight and humor enrich my days. This year, I count an online community of thinking, laughing, challenging friends among my gifts.

And for all these, I thank my God, who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May this Christmas rock your socks.

Photo credit: Eollica

What I Love About Public School

I spent three full years anxious about school for our children. We live in a city with excellent public schools, a nearby excellent private Christian school, and we have a complement of truly awesome friends who are homeschooling their truly awesome kids.

Which would we choose? And Why?

The decision seemed almost impossible to make. Each of the parents I spoke to had such good reasons for the choices they had made. We prayed and weighed the options.  In the end we eliminated the Christian school option (too expensive), and opted against homeschooling (I can harness kindergarten-awesomeness for about 24 hours, and after that – I’m done. We figured our daughter needed more than 24 hours of awesome in a school year.)

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So public school it was.

We are now in our second year of public schooling, and we are LOVING it. Not because it was the “only one left” after the other options had been ruled out (although that is true). Not because it’s free (although that is awesome). Not because it is perfect (no education ever is).

We are loving public school for one main reason: it has allowed us to participate in and belong to our community like never before.

After more than 9 years in the same city, we have made wonderful friends. Most of these have been through church, or through people we know from church. It’s been through activities sponsored by church, service projects run by church, moms groups springing out of church friendships. You get the picture. Quite churchy.

Yes, I have met people at the park or at play group, but without regular, sustained contact it is hard for deeper relationships to develop. One needs proximity AND regular contact to make friends, especially when you are in the “I can only talk for 90 seconds before someone asks me for juice” phase of life.

How wonderful, then, it has been to be in a public school filled with diverse and fabulous families from EVERY demographic in the community. My daughter loved her first week of public school for all the wondrous things that happened in the classroom, but I loved public school because of the wondrous parents I met waiting OUTSIDE the classroom at pick-up time. Interesting, educated, kind, marvelous, NOT-church people.

We LOVE it. Our family is meeting other families, and we are experiencing a feeling of community belonging in a totally new way.

We are loving birthday parties and play dates with new families. We love being able to trade kindnesses, to learn about different cultures. I love that, after more than a decade of feeling like “I wanted to make friendships outside of church, but not wanting anyone to feel that they were my “project””, that these friendships are organic and fun. And it DOES feel like they are organic and fun, because they ARE organic: we have something in common. We are parents-of-school-kids together.

This does not mean that I think public schools are superior to any other type of schools. This post is not a rejection of or judgment on different educational choices.

This is just me saying I’m grateful. Grateful for my children getting the instruction and care of a very experienced teacher. Grateful for a variety of excellent options, all locally available. And today, grateful for the community of families that public school has introduced us to. We’re ALL IN. And (just one more time, let me say), we LOVE it.

This is day 3 of 31 Days of Belonging.

Photo Credit: www.ncpubliccharters.org

 

Thank you for loving my children

Thank You For Loving My Children

Dear friend,

In case I haven’t said so before, I wanted to thank you for loving my children. Maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal, but I want you to know it means the world.

Thank you for looking them in the eye and greeting them by name. You are teaching them they are valuable.

Thank you for asking them questions about their lives and waiting patiently for their stumbled replies. You are teaching them the currency of conversation.

Thank you for entering their imaginary worlds and helping find the pet unicorn a snack. Thank you for reading to them, even though they were sticky and stinky. Thank you for for pretending you couldn’t see them under the kitchen table when they hid in the same place for the tenth time playing hide-and-go-seek. You are teaching them that that they are wanted. You are showing them the value of play.

Thank you for that time you played rough-and-tumble T-ball with them. Thank you for asking about their first day of school. Thank you for reminding them to say thank you when I’m too weary to remind them again. Thank you for telling them your own childhood story to distract them from their tears.

Thank you for being a safe adult, another role model in their “village”. Your presence in their life is more valuable than you know. They soak up your laughter, your kindness, your pleases-and-thank-yous.

We take our children to church, but you are the church to our children. You are one of the teaching aides God has put into their life, and they love you.

Thank you for loving my children, and in doing so, for loving me.