From Words to Deeds – A Guest Post from Sheridan Voysey

Sheridan Voysey 2015 (Blake Wisz)

Today I’m giving space to Sheridan Voysey. I met Sheridan a few years ago when I was working in publishing. He was presenting his upcoming book, Resurrection Year, and I remember when he stepped off the stage the entire room was completely silent. Sheridan had shared one of the most beautiful talks I’d ever heard about loss and moving on. The entire audience was captivated.

Now, I am honored and privileged to get to share a part of his new book with you, Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life. Resilient launches this Wednesday (don’t miss the free giveaways here). It is a book of 90 readings tracing the theme of resilience through the Sermon on the Mount and beyond. Here is an excerpt…

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“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”
Matthew 7:24

In recent years researchers have begun exploring the factors that lead to human resilience. After physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma, what helps someone bounce back rather than collapse? Findings suggest there are four main factors.

The first factor is emotional fitness, the ability to amplify positive emotions like peace, gratitude, hope, or love, while managing negative ones like bitterness, sadness, or anger. The second is family fitness, having strong marriages and relationships by building trust, managing conflict, and extending forgiveness. The third is social fitness, having good friendships and work relations by developing empathy and emotional intelligence. And the fourth is spiritual fitness, defined as a sense of meaning and purpose from serving something greater than ourselves.

It doesn’t take much to see that Jesus’ Sermon strengthens us in all four of these areas. We’re strengthened emotionally by being the “blessed” ones comforted in our mourning, cared for by the Father, given hope for the future, and equipped to manage anger and worry. We’re strengthened relationally by living lives of faithfulness, forgiveness, honesty, and grace. We’re strengthened socially by living out the Golden Rule, the finest way to develop empathy. And we’re strengthened spiritually by serving One who is greater than all, who gives us a mission to be salt, light, and love in the world.

But here’s the thing: we don’t develop resilience only by hearing or reading about it. We develop resilience through action. Having discovered the factors that lead to it, we put them into practice and develop our fitness. Now Jesus says the same:

It’s not enough to listen to his teaching, or even to believe that it’s true.

We must put it into practice (7:24–27).

Most Christians today have unprecedented opportunity to hear Jesus’ words. We can walk down the street and find a church, or download hours and hours of our favorite preacher’s sermons. We can read the Bible in our own language, in several different versions; buy it in softcover, red-letter, or slimline editions; hear it recorded or view it dramatized. We can watch Christian TV, listen to Christian radio, read Christian blogs, download Christian music, and buy calendars, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and fridge magnets adorned with Bible verses so we can be immersed in the Word. But Jesus says it all amounts to nothing unless we act on what we’ve heard.

Resilience is proven in a time of trial. When the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against us, do we bounce back or collapse? The rains will surely come—storms of loss, betrayal, illness, tragedy, assaults on our faith, or just plain difficulty—and the time to develop strength is before the first drops fall. Jesus says those who listen but don’t act on his words build their lives on sand. Failing to dig a proper foundation, they’ll ultimately find trouble. But those who get to work living out Jesus’ words build a base for their lives that withstands the fiercest winds (7:26–27).

For many of us, listening to another sermon or reading another Christian book is the last thing we need to do. Pause the podcast. Close the book (even this one). Go. Act. Turn Jesus’ words into deeds. Do what the Sermon is calling you to do.

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Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His sixth book Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life launches this Wednesday October 21, with a bunch of free giveaways to celebrate. Follow Sheridan on Facebook, Twitter, and subscribe to his newsletter for free articles, podcasts, and ebooks.

What Empathy Is and What It Is Not

photo-1418225043143-90858d2301b4 I went hiking with a friend a few weeks ago and learned a lot about empathy. I learned a lot about it from myself, who was not being very empathetic. My friend was sharing a really hard thing with me and I kept chiming in with examples from my own life. Something deep down inside of me was saying, “Stop doing that. You’re not helping.” But I couldn’t. I just kept sharing my own stories, diminishing and quieting hers.

I really was trying to be a good friend. I was trying to be an empathetic friend, but what my friend really needed from me that day was to shut up and listen.

Empathy is a tricky thing. I used to think I was really good at it, but over the years I’ve realized I’m lacking in this area quite a bit. I’ve come across some incredibly empathetic people in the last few years who have taught me a lot about what empathy is and what it is not:

Empathy is not… Sharing you own experiences. I am notoriously terrible about this, like that time on the hike I mentioned. When a friend is sharing something with you and you interrupt with a “yeah, that happened to me too and here’s what I did” type of statement, it can seem empathetic, but really, its kind of interruptive. It’s almost like saying, “Your struggle is not unique. It happens to all of us.” We think we are making our friend feel better and less alone, when really, we are diminishing her experience.

Empathy is… Listening. Lots and lots of listening. When someone listens to me, like really listens and isn’t just waiting for her turn to talk, I feel cared for. I feel like my words are landing on a soft pillow and will be held with care, rather than landing in an unsafe place.

Empathy is not… Fixing someone’s problem. I also like to do this but am trying to make myself be comfortable with listening and hearing rather than rattling off a list of things they can do to improve their situation. I used to think I was a really good friend for doing this. Now I realize I’m being a better friend when I say things like, “That’s hard.” And then remain completely silent. It’s uncomfortable, but when someone does this for me, I can feel them feel my pain and that is better for my pain in that moment than fixing it is. Pain can’t really be “fixed” anyways.

Empathy is… Relating to others no matter how different their struggles are from your own. My friend who worked with a prison ministry for several years said he worried about empathizing with the men there because his life was so different from theirs. After spending time with them though, he realized they were much more similar than he thought, because we are all human, we are all broken and we all need help.

Empathy is not… “Silverlining” it, as Brene Brown says. “At least” is the worst thing you can say to someone when she shares something difficult with you. If I am grieving something or someone in my life, and I share that with a friend who then tries to point out all of the positive things I still have, my grieving is put on pause. It transports me out of that place. It’s jarring, in a way, and forces me to agree and put on a smile I’m not ready to put on yet. I think learning the art of empathy is one of those lifelong journey things, but I’m so grateful to those who are showing it to me so that I can learn better how to show it back.

Being the Type of Woman the World Needs

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I’m about to tell you something you’ve heard from just about everyone in your life 100 different times. You heard it from your mom first, then your dad, then your friends and youth group leaders, then your grandmother and the preacher and your camp counselor. It comes from the Bible and is paraphrased and repeated often, especially to young women. It’s this: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart ” (1 Sam. 16:7).

It’s telling how often I’ve blogged about beauty this year. A topic I avoided for a long time, I think because I was in denial about my shallow views of it. But the reality about me and my thoughts on beauty is that I turned 28 on Saturday and that 1 Samuel verse is just starting to sink in. That’s 28 years of outward appearance-focused living, folks. And let me tell you, if you don’t already know, it’s exhausting.

I had lunch last week with a wise friend and mentor. Among several other things, she mentioned this simple phrase, that God looks at the heart. And I walked away from lunch repeating those words to myself as if I had never heard them before. What does this mean for me, I thought, if God looks at the heart?

Beauty is incredibly subjective. What’s beautiful today was not beautiful in the 19th century and what will be beautiful 20 years from now is not beautiful today. And since God exists outside of time and He only looks at the heart anyways, this makes cultural beauty standards so very irrelevant. Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful piece to her daughter about beauty that reminded me of so many important things:

“The world will say they will love you if you are beautiful —- but the truth is you are beautiful because you are loved.”

“The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.”

“The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”

Hard and holy things. I guess this would not include panicking when my jeans are a tad tighter than they were last week or examining my “love handles” for an incredible amount of time in the mirror or sizing up every other girl in the restaurant, thinking of what’s better about me than her and better about her than me. The world doesn’t need women like that, the woman I am most days.

The hard and holy things? Sure, they are acts of service and loving others and restraining judgment. But I think the hardest holy thing is within us. It’s how we speak to ourselves and how we view ourselves. It’s choosing to pay more attention to your own heart and deciding that beauty isn’t something you’re attaining but rather, that it is innate. That it is already in you and your job while here is to decide which beauty you will project on this earth, your own or His.

And you will choose your own often. You will choose it when the guy passes you up and you say it is because–the worst phrase humans ever made up–“he is out your league.” You will choose it when you go to the pool this summer and spend more time looking at your reflection in the water than actually enjoying the water. You will choose it when you beat yourself up for never being able to lose those last ten pounds. It is a process and it is a journey and this why everyone in your life has told you at least 100 times that “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  And this is why we won’t stop reminding each other of it.

What the Imam Taught Me About Prayer

The New Mosque - Istanbul, Turkey
The New Mosque – Istanbul, Turkey

What I will remember most about my brief visit to Istanbul are the minarets. Minarets are tall towers that grow out of enormous mosques below, reaching toward the sky, reaching toward God. Some of these minarets have speakers attached at the top and five times a day you hear from them the call to prayer. It is the imam calling the Muslim people to stop and pray to Allah.

The majority of Istanbul’s population is Muslim and the imam’s voice does not startle them like it did me and my sister and brother-in-law—my travel companions. The sound is powerful and they use musical notes that we wouldn’t consider musical where I come from. They are minor and dissident, but to those who were raised near the minarets, they are simply a voice in their heads. Like the train by my home that used to wake me up at night and now I don’t hear anymore, the calls to prayer rattle the earth with their volume but everyday life progresses without pause. Pedestrians continue to walk where they were going and children keep crying or laughing. The salesmen continue to hurl overpriced souvenirs in your face and offer you, relentlessly, to the take the boat cruise on the Bosphorus strait.

Just when I have the world figured out, I visit a place like Istanbul. The city knows so much and has seen so much more than any city I’ve traveled to. I felt ignorant just standing on its streets. I didn’t belong there. I had no clue as to what feet had already walked the uneven grounds. I was so curious there and had so many questions about how the women pinned their scarves, how much PDA was allowed between couples so conservatively dressed, how to dip the bread—was it even bread—in which spread laid out on the table. I stared unknowingly at families and at fishermen and the boys selling clams. The masses of people on every corner and the cars that heeded none of us. Enormous and oddly healthy looking stray dogs and so so many cats. Under your feet at dinner, pawing at the sea, emerging from under rocks and places you didn’t know cats would fit.

I stared mostly up, at the minarets. I liked to pretend I could see the imam through a tiny window at the top. Of course I couldn’t, because they don’t actually climb the towers for prayer anymore, but if they did, I imagine it is a cozy place with a really great sea view.

I would catch myself staring and feel ashamed. In a way, I resented my own curiosity. I’ve done my share of tourism. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I was surprised at my surprise in Istanbul.

Part of this shame was due to an underlying sense that I was not so different from the Muslim people of Istanbul. The minarets and the voices booming out of them were what made me see this.

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At first I was afraid of the calls to prayer and eventually I grew annoyed. They interrupted our navigating and our group huddles to discuss what to do and see next. We would stop in our tracks or walk in silence and wait for the loud five minutes to end. I pulled out my phone trying to capture the strange sounds for friends back home. But on the last day, I put my phone away. Maybe the Christian’s prayer sounds no less strange or sad to the non-believer.

Do we not also climb our towers and recite the Holy Scriptures? The difference is our prayer is not marked by times of day but circumstances of life. We all cry out at the same time in the end: during trouble. The good things in our lives take a turn and we take a step up the minaret. It is a familiar call when we ask God for help or our friends ask for us to intercede because they are too weak to climb. So we do it for them. We put on our robes and take up the staircase. We reach the top and look out over a sea that we have grown so familiar with. Grace and mercy and forgiveness and love. We don’t notice its deep blue hue nor stand with mouths agape at the miracles that they are.

The stones we use to build our minarets are despair, fear and worry. The sounds we make through the speakers grate the onlookers’ ears and senses, but we close our eyes anyways and utter the same words we’ve uttered for years. Maybe we believe them that morning or afternoon or evening or maybe we depend on the hope that we will believe them tomorrow because we believed them yesterday.

I can’t decide if I like what Istanbul did to my view of God and of my faith. It shook it up, and it settled it in at the same time. When you look down from the top of the tower, everyone is the same height and the people you thought you were so different from look exactly the same.

 

Ate A Lot Over the Holidays? That’s OK.

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This New Year, I’m trying something different: I’m not going to beat myself up over eating too many sweets during the holidays. You shouldn’t either.

Usually on January 1 I think about all I indulged in over the last several weeks with remorse. Even when it was happening, I anticipated the remorse. I drank eggnog with gnawing unease, knowing I would regret it later. Each holiday treat was consumed with some guilt and anxiety that my pants wouldn’t fit by the end of whatever Christmas party I was attending. A cookie could steal my joy a little. The second cookie ran off with it completely.

Not all women are like this, I know. Some of you eat dessert and you’re all, “Whatever, it’s a cookie.” But if you’re like me, food has not been simple for you in a long time. You have a calorie calculator in your head and you keep a running tab on how many days you’ve exercised that week. You think twice about everything you put in your mouth. Food is emotional, it’s either comforting to indulge in followed by regret and guilt later, or it’s too terrifying to taste and you skip it altogether.

I remember my skinniest year. I had a ridiculous amount of control over what I ate. It’s what I thought about most of the day. I fell asleep at night hoping I hadn’t consumed too much and thinking about what I would eat the next day and how I would avoid all the unhealthy stuff.

When I look back on it, Christmas during that year o’ skinny was so sad. I was home in Texas at my parents’ house, which is always overloaded with edible gifts by the time I arrive. I assessed everything in sight and decided that each night I would allow myself one or two pieces of chocolate after dinner.  It was a hungry Christmas. And although I looked “great” and hadn’t gained an ounce by January 1, I would rather my head and heart never be in a place like that again. It was dark. I lived under the deception of my own control.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar, or you’re experiencing it now. Recent memories of the holiday dessert table haunt you. You are mad at yourself, you don’t like what you see in the mirror and above all, you feel shame. In attempt to rectify, you are now trying to set a really drastic resolution to make up for the damage you did. But you are already afraid you won’t follow through with it.

If this sounds familiar, you’re in bondage. You’re a slave to your appetite and body. It seems healthy from the outside, but the reality is it’s not normal or freeing to care so much about a few Christmas cookies. I know this because a counselor, close friends and smart books have told me so over the past few years.

Anxiety and guilt are strong emotions, so associating them with food gives something that was meant to fuel us, that was meant for us to delight in, much more power than was ever intended for it.

Many articles and blog posts about the “New Year-New You” are simply adding to this overwhelming feeling of body shame. I want this post to be different. I want you feel absolved of the guilt and regret you feel now after having eaten everything in front of you over the past couple of months. And if you’ve been constricting and restraining from the good stuff, I want to give you permission to indulge in the leftovers. It’s ok. Really, it is. You’re not going to die. You’re not going to gain 40 pounds overnight. ‘Twas a season of celebration, and it’s not too late to attend the party.

Going Home and the Hills that Greet Me

A weekend spent in the city I grew up in is always a string of hours spent remembering the things I had forgotten about home. This time it was the weather so characteristic of a south Texas summer. The dry heat and triple digit temperatures were something I took for granted until recently. I say took for granted because blistering hot and desert dry summers are truly a unique gift, only realized once you move somewhere like Tennessee that seems to have endless rainy summer days and a humidity that actually makes my body swell when I leave the house. Suddenly the jeans that fit perfectly four seconds ago, are snug and my skin is sticky in a way that makes me avoid brushing shoulders with others.

Texas heat and sun framed my whirlwind of a weekend trip this time. Despite the lack of human activity outdoors, I wanted to spend as much time as possible dripping in the air that’s mere feel transported me to summers of childhood and adolescence.

With loyal and understanding family, I trekked to a trail typically buzzing with runners and cyclists and walkers. We were the only car parked at the trailhead, of course.

Trailhead
Yes, that is an eliptigo, in case you were wondering.

It was noon and pushing 100 degrees. Any sane San Antonioan was inside protected by their air conditioning units. Not us, we were walking the dry trail, cut out by dry trees and dry grass every step of the dry way. And I did not feel tired, nor overheated, nor desperate to be back inside once I re-discovered the heat of that noon sun. No, the thing I felt most was comforted and comfortable. I began to remember things I had forgotten. Things that had happened in similar temperatures during Augusts from years ago:

-floating on tubes in the Guadalupe River, the water line so low in places we had to stand up and walk half the way, carrying our tubes over our heads and rocks cutting the bottoms of our feet

-self-inflicted sunburns, deep red due to my reluctance to get out of the water and reapply, and due to my Irish ancestry that blessed me with fair skin

-waking up early for the first day of volleyball two-a-days, preparing to be in pain for the next two weeks before school and season started

Visiting home in the summertime again after so many summers away, made my once normal, regular south Texas upbringing a well of memories in a place suddenly magical with its steam rising off the asphalt in the afternoon after a surprise rain attack that lasted approximately 14 minutes. Fourteen minutes of rain is a most welcome surprise for a city that sees it and feels its relief far too sporadically. My mom and a few others in the restaurant even applauded when it started.

Water and everything it is for us and does for us can only be truly appreciated in a city like San Antonio, in an area like south Texas. The hill country, we call it. Though the hills are low compared to many others and on them the grass is a light brown and the trees struggle, these hills are my favorite. That trail carved by the dryness might even be my favorite type of beauty, not for its aesthetic qualities but for the backdrop that it provided a childhood of more joy than is typical for many children, with its share of confusions and mess-ups and heartaches of course.

Growing up I would look at those hills from my rooftop on nights I was thrilled to be alone with time to think, on nights with friends when we “discovered” a new constellation and named our secret club after it, on another night when we spied on my sister and her boyfriend and I wandered for a long time what it be like to have one. And on a night when I finally did have one and we sat on the rooftop together and I somehow knew that would probably be the first and last time we did.

Those dry hills surviving the summer in such a triumphant way greeted me as I returned just a few days ago, as the old and mature adult that I am now. But those hills know, they know more than anyone or anything that I’m still Andrea, the 13-year-old spending too much time alone on the roof thinking about things she didn’t understand then and still, for the most part, doesn’t. And the real beauty in those hills is not a plethora cedars but their steadiness. That they don’t leave. And that they are always there when I come back.

The Church that Raised Me

Maybe it’s the onset of the holiday season and Thanksgiving rapidly approaching that has brought on this much-needed wave of gratitude. Not sure what it is. Don’t care. I’m keeping it for as long as my selfish, needy flesh will let me. So while it is in me, allow me to express gratitude to the institution that rarely gets it: the church. My church, in particular. My as in the church I grew up in in San Antonio, Texas.

My church experience is similar and different from anyone’s who can not remember not going to church. A preacher’s daughter, I was at church on Sunday morning. And Sunday night. And Wednesday night and other times during the week to visit dad at his office and on weekends for retreats and over spring break with the youth group, at camp in the summer. My family was the last to leave after service let out. I knew where the communion cups were hidden and the communion crackers were stored and sometimes snacked on them with my friends while we waited for our parents to stop talking to “EVERYbody.”

When you’re like me and my sisters, you know every back hallway and sunday school classroom. Which one has the closet with the felt boards and felt people. The rough, light blue fabric on the pew may as well be the floral fabric on the couch in your living room–both as familiar as the other. Church, for me, was not a place of worship; it was my second home. Everyone knew who I was, it seemed, and I knew who most of them were too.

And I am deeply and forever grateful for all of it. For all of the hours spent with all of those church people. I hear a lot from my generation about how the church has messed with our thinking, how it may have presented us with faulty theology in our formative years. We are recovering from the churches that raised us. Trying to re-learn and re-do the right way. I have felt this before, but I’m beginning to see things differently.

In all of this complaining we do about our church history, it’s like we are awaiting some big apology. An apology from the people and place that taught us the only lesson worth teaching, the only story worth retelling again and again and again as many times as is physically possible: the gospel. Well, I don’t want the people that taught me the lesson of my life to apologize for anything.

No, instead I want to thank them and, even though this sounds strange, I almost want to thank the building and place itself. For it was within those walls that I met Jesus. And it was within those walls that I got to know him. That is no small gift.

How to Make Friends

I recently returned from a weekend at the seaside. I am a beach gal, though my fair skin hates me for it. And this weekend at the beach not only reminded me of my love for lying on a mound of sand and doing absolutely nothing for hours; it also reminded me of my love for lying on a mound of sand and doing absolutely nothing with friends I have come to know and who have come to know me. Friends I can be me around no matter how stinky me happens to be at the moment.

I was not expecting to make friends like this when I moved to Nashville two and a half years ago. I had just come off a year abroad where I had met some amazing people and some true friends but they were what I like to call “one-offs.” People I spent time with individually moreso than in a consistent group setting. This was ok, for a year. But I was thirsty at the end of it. Thirsty for what I had had in college: a group. You know, a group.

Groups, I think, become harder and harder to come by as you distance yourself from the pre-set community culture of school. In real life, you go to work, you go to happy hour with one or two pals and the occasional party where you may recognize a handful of faces. Then you go home and pretend you don’t care you are lacking a group. That you are very grateful for the people you have met and have become friends with. That you don’t miss sitting around a living room and laughing hard at not funny things that seem hilarious simply because you love the people so much who are saying the not funny things. In the real world, you pretend you don’t miss this. But you don’t mean it. You do miss it. You ache for it.

So I was surprised and relieved when a few weeks ago I found myself sitting in a friend’s living room with seven other girls I had come to know and who had come to know me and laughing at I don’t even remember what until two in the morning. Those types of nights feed my soul like nothing else can.

And the girls in that living room are the same soul-feeders I shared a weekend with at the sea. I thank God for them. I don’t know how I made these friends. I don’t know the formula for making friends, and I don’t believe there is one. What happens is God plops beautiful people onto your path exactly when you need them. And you like them and they like you and you have friends. They’re like miracles, really.

My soul-feeders. My friends.

My Favorite Word

I like to keep a Bible study going at all times. Not because I am so very holy but because I have scripture ADD and am 100% incapable of not jumping all around the Bible when I don’t have a study  keeping me on task. I finished a study recently (called Gospel Transformation, in case you’re wondering), so I’ve been doing my scripture hopping as expected. But this time I keep hopping back to Isaiah. I’ll flip to John or Psalms or something, but my fingers keep flipping the thin pages back to that prophet. And I think I know why. One word: SHALL.

It has become my favorite, that word. As I’ve been reading Isaiah, specifically chapters 61, 62 and 63, I’ve come across that word a lot. I guess because he is prophesying so he is speaking in future tense, saying what God will do, shall do. I realize I am stating the obvious, but that future tense is doing something to me. That word “shall” is doing something to me. Whenever I read it, I want to breathe it in. The shall. The what God will do. What he has promised will be done. How he will remain the God of his people even when they don’t deserve him. Try it. Read this, and each time your eyes go over the word, feel the certainty of it:

“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah [My Delight Is in Her], and thy land Beulah [Married]: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee” (Is. 62:4-5, KJV).

That’s a lot of shalls. That’s some intense promising just in those two verses. God must know how much affirmation we need. At each corner and intersection and change and obstacle, we need shall to be breathed into us. We need to feel that promise into our feet so that we can walk as people who know that He shall.

He shall.

And He shall.

My Year Off Facebook

About this time last year I wrote about one of two New Year’s resolutions for 2011: To deactivate my Facebook account for one year.

Below are THE GOALS I HAD HOPED TO ACHIEVE AFTER MY FACEBOOK-LESS EXPERIMENT / the actual result:

-FREE UP TIME TO DO THINGS LIKE READ BOOKS THAT HAVE BEEN STARING AT ME FROM MY BOOKSHELF FOR MONTHS / I did finally read a few of those : Everything Is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer), The Feast of the Goat (Mario Vargas Llosa) and started Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)–all novels that I’ve owned for years and finally picked up because my nightly Facebook visit was no longer allowed.

-KEEP ME LESS INFORMED ABOUT PEOPLE I DON’T EVEN KNOW / And people I do know, for that matter. I could no longer participate in the I-saw-on-Facebook-that conversations, and I was always the last to know who was engaged, who was married and who was pregnant. It was nice. It was like the olden days, before college, when I discovered that type of news by word-of-mouth or a save-the-date or shower invitation. I felt like I no longer knew things I wasn’t supposed to and only knew things people wanted me to know. I was respecting others’ privacy and mine was in turn being respected.

-FORCE ME TO COMMUNICATE WITH FRIENDS VIA MORE DIRECT AND INTENTIONAL MODES OF COMMUNICATION LIKE EMAIL AND PHONE CALLS / I wish I could say I became really awesome at calling my long-distance friends regularly and having actual conversation with them, but I didn’t. I did text them more and follow them more closely on Twitter. Are either of those any more personal than Facebook? Probably not.

Overall, I did not feel socially deprived while off Facebook. What I missed most was seeing friends’ wedding pictures, which was my first order of business when I signed back on on January 1 (around 3am). But other than that, I realized I’m not meant to keep up with 1,100+ people’s lives. Being back on, I’m overwhelmed by all I missed: pregnancies, babies born, new relationships–I can’t handle absorbing all of that information like I used to and I don’t crave that information like I used to. That craving, I’m really glad it’s gone. And it took a full year of purging for it to go away.

Ok, let’s get real, it’s not COMPLETELY gone, but I have a much healthier dose of it. And I’m more inclined to keep up with my friends outside their Facebook walls and inside their real lives.