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LIVING outside of the box

The temptations, doubts, and fears rolled in within three minutes of posting my "goodbye" on Instagram.

First, it was the facetime call from my daughter. "But mom! You can't! I thought you were giving it up for Lent, not forever!" She was genuinely sad. "But you have almost 2,000 followers, and you only follow 66! That's such a good ratio!" I explained the discernment process that preceded my decision, but she went on. "Now you can't "like" my stories! Mom! The comments are so sad! You can't do this."

Trust me. I thought about this and prayed for a long while. I struggled with every one of her reasons.

I will miss "liking" her stories. She's at college and far from home. The quick glimpses of her daily life (albeit posed, curated, and veiled with a filter) were comforting. "You can text me your photos," I offered.

Then, there were the comments. And she was right. They were sad. Not all, but one from a "digital friend" I met in my mommy blogging days in the early 2000s. Those were the days; when moms were the original influencer, and the sole purpose for showing up on the internet was to find community - not vain glory. We were a digital village of housewives across the country, sharing parenting hacks, the highs and lows of motherhood, and everything in between. This goodbye to worldwide sharing suddenly felt bigger than mortification; it was the end of an era.

I assured my daughter it was the right decision and hung up the phone while thinking...Did I make a mistake?

And as if the outside voices weren't hard enough, there were the inner voices to battle:

you will be forgotten

your books won't sell

you'll lose jobs, speaking and writing

you'll lose touch with your kids

you'll miss important information

you'll let people down

Okay, Satan. I see you.

The problem with these inner voices is that they are not true. I mean, sure, I am going to miss some things. But who, exactly, will forget me? The 1500 people I have never met in real life? That's okay. They could probably use the mental rental real estate I occupied for 30 seconds each day and offer it to someone standing in front of them. Someone they married. Someone they keep saying, "I'll be there in a minute" to.

And yes, book sales might take a dip, but correct me if I am wrong, but...books have been sold long before Instagram, right? Besides, word of mouth is always the best promotion. The books will be fine.

As for my "job," Jesus Christ is my Boss, and the Holy Spirit is my booking agent. I trust that they will continue to do their job. My job is to write about what Jesus has done for me, not promote what I do for Jesus. That's backward and, at times, feels icky. When I do that, it is impossible for the work not to become about me. And honestly, I see this as a total win/win for both myself and the Kingdom of God.

As for letting people . That's a lot of pressure. I'm already burdened with the lie that I'm letting my family down. Too much pressure, if you ask me. Also, I'm not leaving my ministry work or the Catholic church. I'm still Catholic. I am still writing. In fact, I write this as I sit in the John Wayne airport as I head home from speaking at a Lenten Retreat and Walking With Purpose parish program event. I'm still doing my thing. The only one I am letting down is Meta . One less brain to control.

And God forbid I actually lose touch with my own flesh and blood because I gave up social media; well, then, my friends...we have a much bigger issue on our hands. The only thing I will lose, when it comes to my kids, is the false sense of control I have over them as I frantically track their every move. And so yeah... another win.

All that said, I am not naive. I know it will be difficult. Checking the app on my phone is a pathway deeply embedded in my brain. Filling quiet oments with mindless scrolling is as easy and thoughtless as breathing. When life is lonely, looking at your life is a glorious distraction. When I am bored, I can pop in on my "friends" and feel entertained. Checking Instagram is a well-developed habit, and habits are not easy to break.

But I have a plan.

When these temptations arise, I will think of how I feel when I see someone who looks better than me, is more successful than me, loves Jesus better than me, whose life is better than mine, whose kids are holier, whose dog has better manners, who has more followers, whose husband makes a ton of money but is also really hands-on with the kids and works part-time as a JC Crew model and is super Catholic, who cooks better dinners, who writes better books, who go on vacations, and I I need to go on?

And don't get me started on how I feel when I ....wait for it...lose a follower.

I don't think I am the only woman who gets off of Instagram feeling worse than she did when she logged on.

Oh, And there's one more thing. Instagram leads me to sin.

I shop more.

Covet more.

Compare more.

Judge more.

Criticize more.

Complain more.

Feel jealousy and envy more.

I also fall into pride more when the praise rolls in and the likes go up, and I get all the hearts.

When I was Direct Messaging through Instagram with a friend (who, yes, I met on Instagram.) about our decision to delete our digital lives in perfect boxes, the concept of the hidden life intrigued us both. As I seek deeper holiness, the more attractive the hiddenness; the more I crave a life that is simple, devout, and sacred. I don't want to post my life. I just want to live it.

And yet, there remains the quiet fear that has driven me- and maybe, you too- all these years:

If nobody sees what I am doing, does what I do matter?

To that, we look to the Blessed Mother.

"Mary's awareness that she was carrying out a task entrusted to her by God gave a higher meaning to her daily life. The simple, humble chores of everyday life took on special value in her eyes, since she performed them as a service to Christ's mission.

Mary's example enlightens and encourages the experience of so many women who carry out their daily tasks exclusively in the home. It is a question of a humble, hidden, repetitive effort, and is often not sufficiently appreciated. Nonetheless, the long years Mary spent in the house of Nazareth reveal the enormous potential of genuine love and thus of salvation. In fact, the simplicity of the lives of so many housewives, seen as a mission of service and love, is of extraordinary value in the Lord's eyes." (EWTN)

The simplicity of the lives...The Lord's eyes. Can we just rest in this for a moment?

I recognize the power of social media and how it can be such a great tool for evangelism. I have even made a couple of connections that have turned into real-life friendships. I am grateful for that. But I also recognize the unrest it kicks up in my heart and the obstacle it has become to my spiritual progress. As much as I love the visual beauty of it all, perhaps my vocation is not meant to be in these perfect squares. Perhaps there is beauty to be found in living imperfectly, outside of the box.

Time will tell.

And who knows? Maybe all that I need is a break. Maybe I will wake up one morning and feel differently. But as for today, I am at peace. I am eager to record this journey in writing- here in this space-without ads, reels, or political rants. It feels light and free. Funny, when I told my daughter that giving up Instagram meant I could get back to blogging more, she told me that blogs are old news and Instagram is where it is at!

Well...I am old. So I think this is going to be a much better fit for everyone.

Here's to life outside of the box!


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