This week, I had a birthday. A milestone birthday. It wasn't something I would promote via social media (the milestone part, that is, not the birthday). Regardless of the various friendships I've had over the past, there's something a bit embarrassing about it...especially since at this age, I never thought I would be caregiving for my mother.
But this is also a milestone in another way...I am less than ten years from the age when my father passed away, three weeks after a triple bypass.
My father was never tech savvy (he left that to my mother), but like me, he was driven by work. His schedule was filled with all sorts of appointments (he was an attorney who specialized in tax law, as well as an accountant). Although he had acquaintances, none of them seemed deep enough to count even as "drinking buddies". But he worked - twelve hour days. Several jobs at once. His life was filled with finding work, doing the work, and delivering the work. Like other men of a certain age, my father held onto the antiquated notions of his 1950s-era upbringing, compounded with the Eastern European attitudes of my grandparents.
In short, my father was the very definition of "toxic masculinity"...and I was falling into the same patterns. Letting my search for freelance work, my current freelance assignments, and my caregiving for Mom take precedence over self-care. And my friends weren't really friends - they were those occasional people I talked to on social media. I was feeling isolated, disconnected and...well, lonely. After all, I never really tell my friends how I feel: living with a sick parent blunts many emotions, and the resulting stress colors my compassion fatigue with streaks of depression and anguish. Efforts to escape underemployment in the gig economy felt useless...
In short, like my father, I was turning "hustling" into "hiding". This year, I decided to do something different - I decided to be more emotionally available to my friends.
And social media will play a role. I've written about how life under Trump has improved my friendships...and I can start using my social media channels as a way to stay connected (So far, it's been mostly used for snark). My Facebook and Twitter feed are now organized into lists to keep track of certain groups of people. I've also been budgeting my social media time accordingly so that I have time for meditation, freelance work/searching, and personal projects like my Doctor Who panel for C2E2.
On my birthday, I even took the bold step of a tweetstorm focusing on several of my friends. Here it is:
Thread - because today, 3/6, is my birthday. And as a way of celebrating, I want to thank various friends and colleagues publicly.
Because I tend to be more of the "I'm Sorry" guy than the "Thank you" guy /1 https://t.co/1mjuhtY7Kv
— Gordon D (@gordondym) March 6, 2018
Perhaps this first step may be embarrassing or short-sighted, but I need to move beyond the limited range of my current engagement with the outside world. Many people in my life often dismiss the things I strive for: "Why would you want to move into your own place - you have to take care of your mother?" "Your mother is your job - why bother looking for work". (And yes, there are some...personal relationship goals I would like to pursue as well. But this is a family blog). I am not a saint and have never claimed to be one. (Or as the Twelfth Doctor says to Clara, "I'm not your boyfriend...I never said it was your mistake".)
Like J. Alfred Prufrock, I am afraid that I am measuring my life in coffee spoons. Caregiving is not what I do, it's who I am, and friendships are important to me. Social media can play a limited role in reconnecting, and although I have no intention of using social media as a narcotic...at the very least, I can use it to stay part of the community.
Because right now, community and connection are sorely needed.
And thanks for reading!