I have made a conscious decision to spend less time online the last two months. I was becoming more and more concerned that my online life was starting to feel more real than my brick and mortar life. My mood was starting to fluctuate in reaction to how many positive responses I was getting to my posts and visiting my blog, Facebook, and Instagram was starting to feel like a chore, not a pleasure. I had these accounts to network and connect, but was increasingly feeling lonely and isolated. It is very easy to confuse being constantly informed on social media to being truly connected.
I was also more conscious that as someone living with a chronic invisible illness, I was spending a lot more of my limited energy and cognitively sharp hours of the day managing my online life, not engaged in tasks that actually make me happy. Like hanging out with my family. Like reading. Writing. Creating.
I was reminded at the end of November how much I used to treasure receiving holiday cards from friends and family and how much joy it used to bring me to make holiday cards to send to my loved ones. When I was working three jobs right after college, I would make cards with cut-up grocery bags, a kid’s watercolor set, crayons, and my scissors. They weren’t great works of art, but I took pleasure in creating them from whatever was available; and more importantly, sending them out with my warmest wishes.
At some point, life got busy, my carefully constructed handmade cards became store-bought cards, became photo cards with pictures of my kids wearing Santa hats, became no cards. The less I sent, the fewer I received. I was caught up in the epidemic of busyness, thinking to myself: who has time to write holiday cards? And anyway, I’m friends with almost everyone I care about on Facebook.
I try very hard not to get caught up in grieving my life pre-fibromyalgia. I have my pity party days, but I have always been someone who lives in the present (with a fair amount of future anxiety) and who tries to see the glass half full. Fibromyalgia has forced me to slow way down, prioritize, simplify, and think consciously about how to best spend my time and energy. What I value most is connection and creating. Connection can be challenging when you rarely feel well enough to leave the house. Creating felt hard until I stopped worrying about creating on the scale and speed that I could before I got sick. I don’t have the energy and arm strength anymore I make a bed quilt or the hand dexterity and attention span to weave a bracelet with thousands of glass beads in 8 hours. Fine. I can still take on less ambitious projects and rock my inner elementary school art teacher.
To that end, I have single-handedly been trying to revive the tradition of exchanging holiday cards with both my real-life friends and my writer friends. It turns out that I am not the only one who misses receiving tangible reminders that someone is thinking about them and willing to take time out of their busy day to send a card.
I continue to work on creating holiday cards because it gives me pleasure both to create and to think about sending a piece of myself to someone else who might appreciate a reminder that they are thought of. That they matter. That I care. That they were worth my time.
My holiday cards probably won’t all arrive at their intended destinations by December 25th, but that’s okay. It really is the thought that counts.