I have five dogs. One is a puppy. All are herding breeds, or predominantly herding breeds (said puppy is 60% German Shepherd, 40% kitchen sink), all high drive breeds, all needy in different ways.
I own my own business, making and selling jewelry. I do some custom work and repairs but mostly try to design and create unique earrings, bracelets and necklaces and sell them online or in person.
I just finished writing a book about my life with dogs, and my opinions about dogs and all tangential aspects of life with dogs. It took me about six years to complete. I write a blog called Yoga Pants Hiking Boots (you are here now; thank you for dropping in and reading!). I have worked as a freelance writer on and off for the past ten years mostly writing web content.
Because I have been unemployed, underemployed, or working from home all these years, I also handle all the food procurement for both humans and dogs here, a lot of the cooking of that food (Tom does breakfast every day), all the cleaning of this dog hair infested building, all the bookkeeping and light accounting (which is very simple: “we don’t have money for that.”), and all the tasks that are created in effort to not spend money. These are ever expanding and ever changing: I cut firewood from trees on our property and split that wood myself by hand. I roast coffee because unroasted beans are less than half the price of roasted beans. I make yogurt because a half gallon of milk is $2.25. A quart of yogurt is easily double that. I scrounge for the cheapest option for dog food – which will include roadkill if I feel up to it. Hunting season, while stressful and challenging in some ways, can also offer carcasses and free food… if I can time it right. Farm waste products like chicken heads or feet and other unsaleable parts of local livestock are my mainstay. This means networking and driving, and with deer carcasses, processing some bits of it myself.
Here’s where I’m going with this litany of “I do so damn much:” I often feel like it’s not enough. Almost daily, if I stop to think about it, I feel like I’m letting someone (or a group of someones) down, not giving enough attention, money, or love to someone deserving of more. Social media shows me what other people do, whether it’s how they train their dogs, or how beautifully tidy and decorated their homes are, or how fit and trim they are. I feel inadequate and … lazy. Yep, lazy. I believe I could do more, be more, sell more, buy more, and be more… but I’m just too darned lazy.
Every now and then I step back and acknowledge reality: that belief is insane. That’s irrational and not fact-based at all. But it’s insidious and seeps back in no matter how eloquently I beat it back with facts and common sense. I know if I looked at someone else who had my life, I would not judge them to be lazy at all. I wouldn’t should on them the way I should on myself: I should work out every day. I should drink more water. I should work harder at training the dogs. I should be a nicer person. And so on.
A friend recently reflected upon disengaging from social media – taking a break. Her perspective was that taking that sort of step away was self-denial. She made the analogy to addiction and likened giving up social media to deprivation. It gave me pause. What if it isn’t deprivation at all, but a gift we give ourselves? A gift of time spent doing something – anything – else that isn’t feeding this irrational narrative might be a true gift. A break from social media and a breather spent with my eyes upon the horizon instead of a screen might be a boon, a godsend, not a deprivation or a denial of anything.
Yes, I take those breaks daily. I walk for at least an hour every day without my phone. I take full day breaks, when I am able to scamper off into the forest preserve for a longer day, but those are woefully too few and far between… another thing I feel bad about, and tell myself I’m lazy or Not Good Enough because I don’t do that often enough… because lets face it, if you scroll through my newsfeed – Everyone Else is hiking every single weekend. They are hiking more and better and faster and more ethically or with more betterer gear than me. They are definitely having more fun, with adoring friends — simply the best hiking companions.
I take breaks to work-play-train my dogs every day. But everyone else is training more: more often, more commands, more methods, more complex tasks — training gooder stuff, with gooder dogs than me. I don’t bring the camera or phone (most of the time) and I don’t post photos or videos of what we do (most of the time) because what I do with my five idiotic and ridiculously varied dogs is intimate and beautiful and special. And I don’t need feedback. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. I don’t want or need help or support or criticism. Nor do my dogs. Ok… that’s not entirely true. But they don’t need social media help from strangers with a bazillion opinions and zero experience. The things that are wrong, bad, stupid and ugly about them are intensely beautiful to me… and infuriating and confounding. Working through this shit is why I chose them, and why they are here. We all have our dharma; Peeka and Brody and I are all working it out together. They are not a training exercise; they are my family.
I take breaks to cook dinner and I try hard to make a truly spectacular gourmet feast for Tom every night. Yes, that’s a rather high bar. He deserves it. He goes out into the world and slays dragons all day long, dressed as a phone guy but we all know he’s really a superhero. I couldn’t do what he does. He comes home to a filthy and disheveled wife, five insane dogs and on rare occasion a hot meal. He is a foodie and deserves a fabulous meal that makes him un-see the dog hair and mud on the floor. He often has to help untangle a dog’s knotted up emotional state before he’s tasted that hot meal or even had a sip of beer. He is always grateful. I have no idea how any human being could contain that much grace.
I’m not bashing social media and I’m not bailing out. There’s no question in my mind that for me at this point in my life, the good outweighs the bad. But I’m admitting the impact it has on me – the Not Good Enough feeling and beliefs it perpetuates. I need social media because for me the networking really works: all my dog food contacts and all my groovy freelance side gigs have come from social media connections. 100% of my income has been generated by connecting with folks on Facebook for a few years in a row now. And 100% of my dog food connections also originated as social media friends. It’s not only the mercenary “what’s in it for me” concrete gains social media has provided, but there are also real friendships that have sprung up with folks all over the country and beyond. Scores of dog people have my back and I have theirs, quite literally.
Some of these folks have grown into an incredible support network, but I am often too … lazy? busy? in denial? to admit that I actually need, appreciate, and could use support. In the aftermath of finishing the book, I’m feeling pretty down on myself, like I’m not doing enough. Not earning money, not earning my keep, not chopping enough wood or carrying enough water, to borrow a phrase from that 1980s spiritual guidebook.
For now, at least part of the solution is to engage in less scrolling and more doing. Even if that doing is just mopping my damn floor, or sitting on my damn floor getting mugged by my damn dogs, it’s time better spent. It’s not social media that’s the problem; it’s the way I let it make me feel. But a little breathing room is a good thing.
I’d love to hear about your love-hate relationship with social media.