It was the weirdest thing. Facebook never forgets.
But it did.
It forgot my birthday.
Which meant everyone else did, too. I mean, everyone*. All day long. Not even one birthday wish. I mean, not even one.
I kept checking back throughout the morning. Zero. Afternoon: Zero. By the time evening hit I got to hoping it would remain zero – Zero would be better than one. Or two. At least if it remained zero I could assume that something went wrong and facebook didn’t send out a reminder. If I got one or two, well … yeah. That would just be worse.
I hate to admit it, but by the time I went to bed that night I was sad. I was disappointed. I was confused and hurt. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced zero birthday wishes on facebook – without intentionally arranging your settings so you get none – but it’s not a grand feeling. It’s rather unsettling, actually. I felt forgotten.
So, naturally, I started blaming everyone else: Has the meaning and value of real time, important life events all but died? Do people rely so heavily on technology that they don’t retain anything in their own brains anymore?
But then I was suddenly reminded by that subconscious, authentic voice of mine that reminds me of my own stuff at the most inopportune times that I’m the worst offender when it comes to forgetting birthdays and anniversaries. And not only that, but if I was held at gunpoint and required to recall my husband’s or any of my kids’ cell phone numbers, I’d be a goner.
So then I turned the blame on me and started chastising myself: How shallow am I? Do I really require facebook birthday wishes to feel significant? To feel valued? To feel loved and celebrated? Who needs stupid facebook to feel important, anyway?
Um, actually, if I’m painfully honest, it appears I do.
That subconscious, authentic voice of mine wasn’t about to shut up any time soon. And knowing how persistent she is, I relented and surrendered myself to her. Only to find myself in the middle of a giant conundrum:
I discovered that I needed something that was entirely not in my control to receive.
That is, not without a blatant Hey everybody! Don’t you all know it’s my birthday today?? But even if I did that, it wouldn’t have settled the inner struggle and uneasiness I felt regarding the painful discovery that, yes, I NEED this. I have reached a point where not getting facebook birthday greetings has a heavy effect on my psyche. Wat? Ouch.
So naturally this lead to more self-chastisement and asking myself: Why has facebook become so important to my self-worth? Why was I not satisfied to simply be loved and celebrated by my family, close friends, and co-workers on my birthday (just like in the good old days)? Why do I monitor the “happy birthday” count on my wall throughout the day, just like … Just like I monitor the “likes” on my posts any other day?
Why? Because it’s addictive. Because it’s affirming. Because it feeds my ego, makes me feel heard/respected/liked/important. And when I begin to feel these things, I want more. So I say, do, and be more. But experience tells me that more has no ceiling; more will never be enough. Ever. How do I know? Because I keep monitoring. I keep checking back. I keep count. I wish I didn’t. But I do.
Another conundrum. Or perhaps the same one as above: Discovering I need something that’s entirely not in my control to receive, but if by chance I get some, some is never enough.
Sure, I can try manipulating situations and people to get the desired result, (which, since we’re batting a hundred with being painfully honest, is what I’m basically doing whenever I try to think of something clever/funny/smart/controversial/inspiring/interesting to say on facebook), but ultimately manipulation is not sustainable because once I don’t say or do or be the “right” thing, the “likes” stop coming in and it all crumbles.
(By the way, all this does not only apply to my facebook life.)
So, what am I to do?
There are two immediately apparent options: Either I become resigned to the fact that all of the above is just life and it’s just the way things are and I should just keep calm and carry on, or, I become inhuman and turn off the careabout switch on any of the above in any of its capacities or consequences.
That’s eet? That’s all you got? Only two options? Are you keeding me?
Or … Perhaps there is a third option.
The option that acknowledges the needs I expressed above are legitimate, and that everyone shares them and tries to fill them in one way or another. The option that acknowledges that, in fact, everyone (who resists the urge to become inhuman and turn off their careabout switch) has six basic core needs,** and that we operate primarily with a leaning toward the need that is most dominant in our lives. That third option also says not to beat myself (or others) up for having these needs, but whatever I do, I musn’t depend on others to fulfill them, either.
But if not others, then who?
Myself. But not in the way I might think, or have tried. Maybe more in the way of one of my favourite quotes:
The meaning of life is to find your gift / The purpose of life is to give it away. – original author unknown
What if the way I’m wired – the legitimate, human, primal core needs I have that must be filled in order for me to be a whole, content, healthy and happy person – what if those things are a gift? What if the very core needs of my being are first to be unearthed and discovered … And then given away? (!!) What if instead of discovering what I need and seeking fulfillment of those things for myself, I discover what I need and intentionally aim to give those things to others because I know they, too, need the same things?
They say to give is better than to receive. But what if giving IS receiving? What if that’s why it’s better; because receiving is the free gift you get with your buy one get one giving voucher?
What if for me to receive fulfillment of my core need of significance, I must give it? Not grasp at it. Not devise ways to get it. But give it.
What if I operated primarily with a leaning toward giving from out of my greatest need? After all, I’m the most qualified to do so because I feel its value and power so deeply.
What if everyone did that?
Imagine if the needs we thought we had to fill and hold tightly for ourselves are the very things we’ve been created and gifted with to give away.
Imagine the freedom and power in realizing that the things that are not within our control to receive, are entirely within our control to give.
That’s a shift in perspective. A shift that that might seem backwards, but totally opens up a whole new – and attainable! – philosophy on the meaning and purpose of life.
Happy Birthday to everyone! Now go see to whom you can give your gifts away.
*Not my immediate family, mind you. (Whew!) We’re not exactly in the habit of always wishing each other happy birthday on social media. Because, well, we do it in person. With real cake.
**Certainty, Variety, Significance, Connection/Love, Growth, and Contribution – My top core need being significance (ahhhh … it’s all starting to make sense)