Friday, 6 April 2012

Seaweed Ballet

Beach ballerina by ImagesByClaire
Beach ballerina, a photo by ImagesByClaire on Flickr.

I’m halfway through penance... and I couldn’t be more sorry!  My sin?  Years of unwittingly over-sharing on the Internet. I have until Easter Sunday to rectify the situation. In 2 days my Timeline will be published on facebook, visible to hundreds of “friends”, whether I’m ready or not. I doubt it will be of much interest to anyone, but the thought of so much exposure is unsettling.

There seem to be two camps: you either love Timeline or hate it.   I am of the latter.

I’ve resisted the change, partly because I haven’t had much time for social networking lately. Another reason- the most important- is that I was afraid of what I’d uncover sifting through posts dating back to 2007, the year I joined facebook. Call me clueless, but it never crossed my mind, at any point, that every single interaction on the site could readily be accessed well into the future. Nor did I realize, until I read this article about online privacy last fall, that my content is owned by facebook- not me, as I’d previously thought. I am very open by nature; sometimes I lack the foresight to protect myself from scrutiny.

Yesterday I took my children to see Mirror, Mirror. I didn’t particularly enjoy the film, which botched up the Snow White fairy tale, but aspects of it have lingered with me. I can’t forget the image of Julia Roberts’ character, staring at a younger (more acceptable) version of herself in the magical mirror. The vain queen was determined to see only what she wanted to see, ignoring the wrinkles and blemishes of time. Of course everyone has blind spots. Sometimes I wonder what mine are... and Timeline has given me a clue.

My facebook profile has reflected many aspects of myself. Trawling through nearly 5 years of posts, I’ve witnessed my most vulnerable self; at times I’d like to hug her, but at other moments I cringe. I’m struck by how much I’ve changed!

I am so grateful I can delete it all, but before that can happen, I must read each individual status report. As I relive the past, I experience emotional reactions, though it’s less intense this time around. I feel mortified as I recollect the days of being a quintessentially bored, lonely, perfectionistic housewife. Then there was the period after my husband moved out, when I was struggling with the demands of motherhood, in a foreign country to boot.  Newly single, after a decade of marriage, I found it difficult to redefine myself.  Most annoying of all, is how much I whined back then!  How many times can one woman complain about being tired?  It irritates me when people use social networking as an emotional crutch, as therapy, and yet I’m guilty of having done it in the past.

Aside from gripes I have with myself, there are other dramatic incidents which I’ve recalled, moving through my Timeline. People I’ve deleted or blocked (or vice versa), have left traces behind; the odd comment is still there, clearly visible, although the bond between us has long been broken. Ghosts litter my virtual space. I think of the harm I’ve caused, or the harm that has been done to me, and I’d like to make it all disappear forever. Memories fade, but the Internet is less forgiving.

Just when I want to put my head down, and shut the computer off to escape the past, I discover a forgotten clip. A short video, entitled “The Seaweed Ballet”, features 3 young children running along the Irish shore.

It’s a sunny day, and a hazy blue sky hangs above the water. My second son and his little sister are playing with their friend, shortly before he’s diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. For now they are carefree, flying up and down the beach together, wielding long strips of seaweed in their pudgy hands. My friend and I pause, the impromptu dance having caught our attention. We marvel at our beautiful babies, so full of life. The waves provide a musical score, as they skip, twirl, and dodge between towels, kicking up sand in the wind. Soft laughter grows louder, until we mothers are helplessly cackling into the camera. My belly cramps, a pleasant ache. It is hard to say who is having the most fun.

“It’s like a seaweed ballet,” my friend says, although it resembles a war dance now. The little girl proves ruthless; her seaweed has become a whip. She giggles as she whacks her big brother repeatedly. The smallest boy joins in, his blonde curls tangled from saltwater and sun. The video ends and one is left to wonder: Will it end in tears, the way children’s games often do?

I don’t remember what happened next. It was just another day spent with the people I love, a moment in time which could easily have been forgotten. I’m glad it has been preserved though, and that I can share it with anyone I choose.

I suppose that’s the beauty of Timeline. We can highlight those special moments, and let the others go. After all, each of us has stories we’d like to hide, and others we’re happy to share. Somewhere between all the embarrassing incidents, the heartbreaking regrets, the laughter and triumphs, or even the inane, lies our humanity. It’s our stories that make us who we are.

In closing, here are some of my favorite non personal status reports, which will remain on my Timeline, as a reminder of how I’d like to move forwards:

November 2010
Fill your heart with the creative power to accept the past, decorate the present and transform the future...” Osho

January 2011
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss

September 2011
"Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, live truly, and and forgive quickly." Paulo Coelho is always full of wise words...

New Year’s Day, Jan. 2012
"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." Ellen Goodman

March 2012
"To have a core self is to be the author of your own story." Deepak Chopra

Thank you for listening to mine. ♥



  1. As usual you have a unique ability to understand the inner depths of your being through personal refelection.
    You have allowed us in many ways to share your journey through your eyes, while being a gracious tour guide.
    I applaud your courage, wisdom and most importantly your vulnerability, because in that I come to understand that is your greastest strength.


  2. Chris, Thanks so much for you kind words! I love what you wrote; it's true that vulnerability can actually be a strength. Brené Brown gave a brilliant talk about this concept if you want to check it out.


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