Preface: I feel a need to talk about personalities, writing, and the social media extrovert. Apparently, there have been several studies about introverts, extroverts, and how the personalities take on different personas in social media. Interesting stuff, but I was clueless to them all prior to my writing this snippet. I will save that reading for another day. That might seem odd, but I am not doing a research paper here. I am not presenting anything in my blog as science or anything other than what I have found to be true in living this life. It is all just my opinion.
In real life, I am the person who relates to a lot of different people, as I discussed in my blog “Collecting Friends“. That came in extremely handy when my husband decided to do a residency at one of the local hospitals. No, he isn’t on a path to becoming a doctor, unfortunately. He is battling a disease that landed us there for over a month. If I ever at all seem ungrateful for all the love we received during that time, it is untrue. I was, and still am, extremely grateful. I am just awkward and I don’t always have the best edit feature.
Think of the introverts that you know. Think about how they would react under stress and needing to communicate information to multiple groups of people at once about the personal matters that are stressing them. Awkward! That was the situation I was in.
I tend to close off when stressed. I want to be left alone or with the few people who know me well enough to forgive me for whatever I might say. Under extreme stress, the ability to be socially kind LEAVES me and I just want to retreat into a ball. In this case, that wasn’t really an option. People needed to know how Rick was doing. They were concerned for him, for me, and, of course, our children. People needed to know how they could help and I needed them to help. I needed an outlet to communicate those things, but phone calls and talking aloud seemed to only stress me more. Copying and pasting the same lines into multiple group texts seemed insincere but I was guilty of it a lot.
The first couple of days we sat in silence from social media not really wanting the attention that a cancer diagnosis can bring until we knew more. We did not want to hear about everyone’s Great Aunt Sally who fought the battle and lost. We also weren’t quite ready for the extremely energetic crew that would blow off the diagnosis because of the good prognosis; the journey was still going to be tough. We did not want to be the entertaining subjects of people’s evening meal. Hell, we didn’t WANT cancer. But we live in a small town, and after several days, you can bet word was starting to get out to that collective group. A few people that had been by the hospital reminded me that it was up to me how much everyone else got to know. “Take care of yourself and let others handle the things.”
Having lived in a small town all my life, I know that if you do not tell people the exact truth they will make up a truth all their own. With an excellent long-term prognosis, I did not want anything other than the exact truth getting back to our kids. There was no room for gossip or fear.
That Sunday, I began posting regularly on Facebook about what was going on in our hospital lives, the coming tests, the results of the last tests, where we were asking for prayer, and where our prayers had been answered the previous week. All were summed up with #byebyehairycell because, I was feeling snarky after the first post, it added needed humor, and it just stuck. Sometimes those updates only took me a minute to write. Sometimes, ashamedly, I poured over the words for hours late at night before hitting the post button. They were never especially long but I found myself reading and rereading the words I was putting on the page and dissecting every little piece before releasing it for the rest of the world. Why? I can guarantee you that only the first pass had anything to do with grammar, punctuation, or typos. Most of those were edited and found the day after each post or still exist. I am not a great editor and it just wasn’t my top priority.
What I found was that I needed to absorb the words on the page and come to terms with what each line said before I could release them for everyone else. I needed to get comfortable with the words the doctors were throwing around before I would be able to talk openly with others. Writing them down and editing the sentences again and again and again would help me with that. Recounting the blessings of the week on paper and making sure that each post I made on Facebook had a positive ending helped me with that. Those are not the kind of things you can do in a live conversation. It doesn’t make the emotions less real. Each one of those posts were the exact truth, but they were all highly edited, because we end on the high notes with sunshine and rainbows. I did not want anyone coming to me with long faces, tears, etc.
Life outside of the hospital started becoming a little more awkward as I would run into people and the conversation always went something like this:
Sweet friend: Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you are here. How is Rick?
Me: He is doing really well, (fill in test result of the day). Today I am trying to focus on (enter child’s name). So, it is all sunshine, rainbows, and no more talk of “the disease”, okay? All smiles, see? Thanks! Hope we can catch up soon. Wine sometime when life returns to normal?
Sweet friend: Of course. You are such an inspiration. I keep up with your posts. Your positivity is always just amazing.
Me: (now feeling very awkward). Thanks. I promise I have my moments that would make you cringe.
At this point, there was always a small tear in one corner of my or their eye, the mouth would go from a smile to a weird stress signal (teeth still showing, corners down), and I would have to make my exit because if I gave into this conversation further, I would lose it in public and that couldn’t happen because sunshine and rainbows, people, sunshine and freaking rainbows.
I hear and read that social media will be society’s downfall because it presents such a false reality. Maybe. Like the picture that I attached to this post. Somewhere behind the weird lighting, the multiple filters, and the cropping is the real messy awkward me that writes in pajamas and smeared makeup. Based on that picture, you wouldn’t recognize me in public. Somewhere behind my highly-edited posts lies my real feelings about all that we have been through, but it isn’t all for public viewing, it isn’t all pretty, and even if it was, I am still a really awkward introvert. I only look like an extrovert online.