A Long Overdue Post About Life.

Hi GUYYYYS.

(Occasionally I think I might like to film a video instead of writing a blog post, but then I come to my senses, so the closest I’ve come so far is starting my blog posts like a vlogger would.)

So again:

Hi GUYYYYS!

This is going to be massively self-indulgent and that’s coming from a woman whose blog title is her own name and nothing else. I make no apologies. Click away if you like. I thought I’d do a little life update because it’s been so long since I’ve blogged about anything other than books (and more about that below…)

So.

KIDS

Suddenly I’ve got a toddler boy and a girl on the cusp of starting school, which is strange. On the one hand I feel like I normally feel, which is that life is happening at twice the speed it should be and I’m watching my children unfurl into the adults they’re going to be like a sped-up film of a flower in bloom.

On the other hand, it feels like a very long time ago that my life revolved around Baby Things. In fact, we’ve just had a big clear out and I have very little Baby Things around nowadays.  The baby bath was replaced with a bath seat. The Moses basket and Next2Me cot (which, in the end, became little more than an appallingly expensive bedguard) were replaced by, you know, just a cot.  The muslin cloths got replaced by me not breastfeeding in public (or, occasionally, breastfeeding in public and just popping my boob out and hoping no-one noticed or cared).

(Also quitting breastfeeding didn’t really happen. I’m now doing what I never imagined doing, which is breastfeeding a child that has a) teeth and b) the ability to ask for milk. So that’s interesting.)

The sick stains on my tops were replaced by snot trails. (I wore a black top to toddler group the other day with my snotty child in tow. HUGE HUGE MISTAKE.) The mushy food was replaced with, well, mostly potatoes and pasta and cake (my toddler son’s top three foods.)

And so on. You get the picture. My little boy is growing up. He can say all of our names, and he can say ‘ball’ and ‘car’ and ‘shoes’ and ‘hair’ and ‘nose’ and ‘poo’ and ‘cake’. He can sing the Go Jetters theme tune and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. (Not with entirely recognisable words, but still.)

I love him more than I could possibly tell you.

Meanwhile, my daughter is determined to do everything herself, because she now sees her whole life as training for Going To Big School. I can now have proper conversations with her and she has genuinely interesting opinions (mostly strong opinions about food she likes or dislikes, or the amount of My Little Ponies she owns, which is apparently not enough and will never be enough.)

She spends her days setting up elaborate make-believe games, pretending to be a very bossy teacher, making up jokes, asking to watch YouTube and getting stroppy when I tell her no, dancing, trying to make everyone breakfast, lunch, and dinner, being pestered by her brother and being pretty gracious about it, and drawing people that look a bit like potatoes with arms and legs. (Also she likes to draw ticks. As in ‘correct’ ticks, not ‘horrible parasite’ ticks. She learned to do them properly recently and now she’s constantly marking her own ‘work’ as correct.)

I find out tomorrow which school she’s going to and I’m a jumble of nervous energy about the whole thing.

I love her more than I could possibly tell you.

So that’s day to day life with the kids …

BOOKS

I recently signed up to NetGalley, which essentially means I get to read new or not-yet-released books for free in exchange for a review. YAY! This is basically my dream.

However, I wasn’t sure I would be accepted to review so many nice new books, so I decided to apply for LOADS of them, just in case. Again, massive mistake. I’ve got a backlog of books so big that I actually feel stressed about it which is a nonsensical problem to have. One day I got eight ‘we’re-pleased-to-accept-your-application-to-read-our-book’ emails. EIGHT.

So that explains why I’ve posted about twenty book reviews recently and nothing else.

And when I’m not reading, I’m …

STUDYING

I post about this sometimes on Instagram, but I’ve started doing an access course with the Open University, which is cool. In October (fingers crossed) I will start my degree. So far I’m loving it and for the first time in my life I’m glad my teenage self was a total goon with no idea of what she wanted to do and no feelings of gratitude towards education. Nearly-thirty me has been waiting for a LONG time to do this, so I feel very very very grateful for the opportunity. Everyone is being really supportive (even though I’m technically spending thousands of pounds on an arts degree and not something useful and practical). Chris is being particularly excellent by proof-reading my assignments and putting up with me being really neurotic and stressy about it.

LIFE

Let’s see, what else has happened? My TN has been happening. Too much, actually. It sucks. I’ve been spending a lot of evenings either crying or clutching my cheek and dramatically shouting ‘I HATE MY FACE!’ whilst eating a lot of cake, which sums up my feelings towards it.

(I’ve just realised if you don’t know what TN is that’s a really strange image that I’ve painted. Oh well.)

I took a break from social media for Lent, which was interesting because I didn’t realise how addicted I was to it until I stepped away from it, but that’s for another post. I now see my phone as a kind of enemy to my happiness that somehow keeps appearing in my hand as if by magic.

We went on holiday with friends which was awesome. Also snow happened. The kids got to experience it for the first time (the verdict: exciting but far too cold.)

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Also we got a new rug and the novelty factor was so strong that we spent a few days just lying on it as much as possible.

Generally, though, apart from TN my life is really, really good and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude tonight now that I sit down to think about it.

Anyway. I’m so sorry, that was just stupidly long.

How have you been?

Disconnected: on stepping away from social media (at least for a while)

A few months ago I watched The Circle on Netflix, which, if you didn’t know, is a movie starring Emma Watson as a new employee at the latest sci-fi dystopian social media network, called, well, The Circle.

The Circle are obsessed with knowing everything about everyone. Privacy Is Dead. And so on.

I mean, it wasn’t terrible. (I’ve watched my fair share of terrible movies, so I feel qualified to talk about these things.) But it wasn’t great. Besides, the idea of social-media-is-evil already feels overdone. It was a bit like a long episode of Black Mirror, only lighter, and without the excruciatingly painful bits.

It just didn’t seem to tell us anything we didn’t already know.

Social media is addictive – yes, we know this.

Social media takes us away from real relationships with real people – yeah, I know.

Social media is just a glorified excuse to find out masses of information about people and then sell them products – well, I don’t mind, so what’s the problem?

People are becoming so obsessed with sharing their lives that they actually go out of their way to do things that they know will look good on Instagram – yeah, yeah.

There are a lot of good things about social media. Or so I say. Creativity! Connections! Community! And to an extent I do believe that. I’ve met good people online. I’ve found my direction through blogging which, as an activity, is intrinsically linked to social media.

In fact, this is where I’m having an issue.

A while back, I had a revelation – that I just didn’t care about social media anymore. So I started to worry about it less. I’d bombarded myself with information – tweet between 7-10 times a day. Instagram twice a day. Facebook twice a day. I knew when, strategically, was the best time to post on social media. I understood hashtags and and networking and ‘branding’ and content and creating a consistent image so people would know it was me.

I suddenly became sick of it.

So I stepped back. I launched my new blog. I only posted on social media when I genuinely felt like it, not sticking to a schedule, not following ‘the rules’. And for a while I felt better.

But now I’m questioning it again.


There was a moment a few months ago where I nearly decided to give up completely. To shut down my accounts; to stop blogging; to quit online life. I felt fed up with myself. I didn’t want to add to the endless stream of noise, the constant communication of opinions. I felt completely jaded by how we interact on social media. The black-and-white thinking drives me insane. It’s like we’re losing the ability to actually listen to discourse. We’re all so busy shouting our feelings and opinions into the void. Instead of increasing connection, it seems to be dividing us, sectioning us into angry little tribes.

I was fed up with publicly displaying my life. I tried to be the Pinterest-perfect blogger a while ago. It didn’t last, so now I try to post things that feel real, to me. I do try to be real. And yes, a blog is essentially a megaphone for shouting opinions, and I do accept that, but blogging for me is integral to increasing my confidence in writing. Besides which, there are some incredibly talented Instagrammers, bloggers, and YouTubers out there who really do pour their heart and soul into their work, to create something they share with the world for free. There is value in that.

I’m still putting up with the consequences, though:

I still feel validated when people ‘like’ my stuff and I do feel a little bit dependent on those likes.

I still have the urge to check my phone compulsively in case I’ve missed something.

I can feel, when I’ve had a social-media-heavy few days, how it is shaping my brain, how the use of the internet trains my mind to read things in short bursts, and how it impedes my ability to concentrate.

I still feel anxious a lot. How do you get more followers? How do I ensure that people come to my blog? How can I start seeing my numbers go up?  Because since I’ve decided to post less frequently online, my blog readers have stayed the same. Obviously. I mean, I’m not advertising it as much.

I still feel that I spend far, far too much time in my life staring at a phone screen.

I still feel that I give away my information to advertisers far too easily.

I still feel that I, like everyone else, have become entirely dependent upon Google to the point where I am just not patient enough to wait for information anymore.

And does it impact my life? Well, yes. Is it impacting my relationships? Probably. Is it impacting my relationship with God? Definitely.


So the conclusion I’ve come to is this:

I have an unhealthy relationship with the internet in general and it needs to change.

The problem is, I really enjoy blogging. You can’t have blogging without social media in some form or another, not in the long term. But I’m hoping a nice clean break will help me to figure that out. And Lent is coming, so why not?

I will be blogging, as I’ve got a few books to review, and WordPress will auto-share those blogs onto social media. So if you comment, I’m not being rude, I just haven’t seen them.

I will possibly pop onto Facebook if one of my Motherload blog posts are published, because I will need to share that on the group.

Other than that – no social media.

Which means:

No Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter (let’s face it – I suck at Twitter anyway) between the 14th of February and the 31st of March, and, generally, I’ll be trying to stay away from the internet. I’ve already given up some major time-sucking websites this year, so I’ll continue that. I will also try not to watch YouTube unless my husband wants to show me a video.

I will probably keep track of how it’s going and what Offline Life is like, if you fancy reading it afterwards.

You can still email me: meganbidmead@gmail.com. Email is fun, right?

If you feel any kind of pull of conviction somewhere in your heart while you’re reading this, then maybe you could join me? Let me know if you do.

There’s nothing to lose. And I really think there might be a lot to gain.

Anyway. I’ll guess I’ll see you in the spring.

*Credit for the photograph goes to Jellybean. Good job girl.*


 

 

 

 

Hey. Are you still reading?

Do you need further persuasion?

If so, read these:

Does quitting social media make you happier? Yes, say young people doing it – The Guardian

Do a Social Media Detox – Jason Does Stuff

The age of social media – could you give it up? – The Independent

8 Things That Will Happen If You Break Up With Social Media – Lifehack

Your Brain on Cell Phones – Mayim Bialik (YouTube)

How social media affects us – your brain on Facebook, Twitter and more – Bustle

For the ruined ones.

There’s a village near to us that is notoriously bad for traffic jams. It gets ridiculously congested thanks to narrow roads and way too many cars. It’s only a small village, so the traffic tends to back right up through the high street.

There’s a church there. They usually have some kind of quote on an information board outside, in big letters so you can read it from your car. They’re kind of cheesy but in a self-referential way. I always look out for it if we ever drive through there.

Today, we drove through the village. It said, against a neon background:

‘Found yourself in a jam (again)? Come to Jesus – He allows U-Turns!’

It made me smile. The bare-faced audacity of the cheesiness.

But it got me thinking.

***

There are Christians reading this that have drifted away from God.

This post is for you. Because I have been you, many times.

(Of course it goes without saying that if this isn’t you, you can still read it.)

When I first became a Christian I kind of drowned myself in the culture. It was a whole new world. A lot of my friends grew up in that culture. They knew what things were. ‘Soul Survivor’ and ‘WYWAM’ and ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ and ‘The Case for Christ’ and … so on and so forth. They had a lifetime’s worth of knowledge that I was completely baffled by. They had songs entrenched in their memories from week after week of Sunday School. They had a catalogue of worship songs that were attached to various years of their childhood. They actually remembered names and rough timelines of incomprehensible kingdoms that felt so overwhelming and huge and difficult to me.

I didn’t care because I had a fiery passion for God.

Anyway, people talked a lot about ‘drifting’. (There were a lot of new words I had to start using too. Like ‘seasons’ and ‘blessed’ and ‘journey’ and ‘interceding’ and things like that.) People warned me, even. ‘At some point you’ll feel yourself drifting.’

Drifting? From God? The God that just turned my life around? The God that I kept crying about randomly because I felt so relieved, like I’d been a stranger in a foreign land for a long time and finally returned home? That God? You’re telling me I’m going to drift away from that God?

Yeah. Right.

Anyway, it turns out you shouldn’t ignore wisdom from people who know a lot more than you do.

At some point I drifted. And then came back again. And it startled me, the drift, because of it’s insideousness. It just kind of … happened. Right under my nose. Without me even realising.

And then I came back.

And then, at some point, I drifted again.

And then I came back.

I’m aware that some people’s spiritual journeys are not actually that interesting to read about, because some people don’t have glamorous, exciting stories to tell. Some people just kind of muddle along as best they can. Spiritual stuff is all tangled up in … life stuff. Periods of darkness, periods of light. Periods of grey. Moments of brilliance that occasionally peep through the clouds. That sort of thing.

What am I even talking about right now?

Oh yes. Drifting.

Sometimes, you drift so impossibly far away from God that you feel almost like an astronaut who has been launched out into space. You’re just floating gradually away from earth, powerless to stop yourself.

Sometimes our actions and thoughts and words build upon each other, layer after layer, until they start to cement together. A thick brick wall between you and God.

You become a bit hardened. You become a bit bitter. You become a bit hopeless. You become a bit fragile. And so you cocoon yourself in something, anything, to help you feel a bit safer out in the world. Jesus was your safety net, and now you’re going it alone. So you layer yourself in stuff. Noise. Just anything to distract you from the impossibly horrible problem that has happened, somehow, over time.

You’re alone, and you’ve floated so far, that your perspective on Home has changed.

You start to forget who He is.


Christians sometimes get this confused, but we’re not good because we belong to a religion. We’re good because we’ve suddenly become aware of our own weakness and utterly dependent on the strength of someone else. And while that sounds terrifyingly vulnerable, it’s actually freeing. Suddenly, obstacles that were insurmountable before don’t seem quite as awful to contemplate.

Because we’re not hanging onto any old thing here. We’re hanging onto God.

The same God that can craft an infinitely complex universe. That can create man from dust.

The same God that listens when we talk to Him.

We have an identity crisis when we drift, not because we need to discover our true selves, but because we’ve forgotten how brilliant God is. We’ve forgotten that we belong to Him. We start to question His character. Because when you say things like:

‘I’ve gone too far from God now.’

Or

‘I’ve done too many awful things.’

Or

‘I think too many awful thoughts.’

Or

‘I’m a terrible person. No, seriously, a terrible person, you don’t know. If you knew, you’d understand. I’m messed up. I’m too messed up for God. I’m not worth it.’

You are not just doubting your own worth (and, for the record, you are worth a lot). You are doubting God’s ability to love you. You are assessing what ‘forgiveness’ really means and you have decided that His ability to forgive and forget is pretty extensive, but not quite enough to forgive you.

You think, ‘I have ruined it. I have ruined myself.’

You’re wrong.

I do this myself, mind. Sometimes. I convince myself that I am so not worth bothering with that I must be the one exception to the (‘God so loved the world …’) thing. I start thinking that, my attitude is so awful and my bad habits are so ridiculous and I have turned away from Him so many times, that surely at some point God said ‘meh, I’ve tried. I’m not going to take her back this time.’

That’s not true though, and somewhere deep down, you know it’s not.


There’s no sin greater than the other. Sadly, Christian culture has a reputation for organising sins into categories according to their severity and then punishing people accordingly. (I just read that back. Ouch. True though.)

When I first decided Jesus might actually be real I was a hot. mess.

Seriously, I can’t even tell you. (Maybe I will sometime, but not now.) I’d done some bad things, and I’d had some bad things done to me. And I had a very low view of myself.

Yet, still – I was forgiven.

I knew love in a way I hadn’t known before.

And it turned my life upside down.


God doesn’t change. He’s the same now as He was then. So it stands to reason that  He feels the same way about me as He did back then.

I know this, right now. But when I’m drifting, I don’t always remember it.

Cast your mind back. Remember. Remember your life pre-God. For some people, this will be harder because you were raised a Christian. You learned the Lord’s Prayer before you learned your times tables. I don’t understand what this is like. To try and think through a lifetime’s worth of faith that you’ve had for as long as your memories stretch back.

But there will have been a time when you felt unforgiveable and then, suddenly, you were. Forgiven.

There will be times when you thought, ‘oh no, that’s it, I’ve blown it forever.’ and Jesus has just said, with the patience of well, Jesus, ‘Er, nope.’

Remember it.

Cast off the noise and distraction. Take off your security blanket. It doesn’t matter how busy you are. I know how it is. I’ve only got two children, and I often feel like I’m constantly playing catch-up, my mind darting from one thing to the next without a break. (Parents of three or more children: I seriously don’t know how you do it.) But even without the distraction of children, life is just so chaotic and relentless nowadays.

I understand how loud it all is.

I understand how cosy it is in there. In your comfortable nest of distractions.

Still. You need to step out. Not because God needs you. He doesn’t. He is perfectly capable of coping without us.

He wants us.

Can you just switch off the noise and sound and concentrate on that for a moment?

Sit down and read the story of the prodigal son. Sit down and read your own past. Remember it. Remember Him.

Remember who He actually is.

I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care how cynical you’ve become. I don’t care how stubborn you are. I don’t care how old and past it you think you might be. I don’t care how worthless you feel (oh gosh that sounds heartless. But you understand what I mean!). I don’t care how badly you’ve treated anyone else or yourself or even God.

Go and sit with Him.

Take an evening, be alone for a while, and pray.

It’s not easy. It’s painful, stepping out of that blanket. It’s vulnerable and it hurts to be vulnerable. It hurts to look at yourself and the things you have done. It hurts.

But with God is where you belong.

So go to Him.