Just Another Day

A Long Day!


This morning at 6:45, the phone rang. It was the transplant team at Duke – there was a heart available for Renee, and we needed to get there, ASAP.

It was a blur. There was rushed showers, shoving clean underwear and t-shirts in backpacks, calling coworkers and family members, hiding a key for whoever was going to come feed our cats and chickens, wishing we had done the laundry yesterday, trying to get out the door as soon as humanly possible. We got to Duke by 8:30 AM. I was sort of proud, to tell you the truth.

Valet parking, at $9 a day, because I am not going to drop my wife at the door while I go hunt for parking – not on a day like this. We make it to the admissions desk, where we are given incredibly complex directions that involve various elevator colors and door sizes (go through the little door, past the big doors). We get lost and go back, to find out that really, we go in the elevators in front of us, go to the 9th floor and turn right. The door (which seemed normal sized to me) was on the left.

It is pre-op, and they are pushing Renee into a gown, getting urine samples and doing verbal checks of the 15 various meds Renee takes each day, complete with dosage and when the last time she took them. People come and go, papers are explained (You understand that there is risk of death and that there are no guaranties provided…) and then signed and witnessed. The nurse leaves to get the equipment to install an IV in Renee’s arm.

We have a wide circle of friends who love us and want to help – we need to tell them and Social Media is the fastest, most efficient way. But the reality is, we have fears around sharing this information on Social Media for several reasons – one being that, as the papers we just signed stated so bluntly, there is a risk of death, and honestly, I don’t want to live tweet my wife dying on the table. So I am in the corner, on my laptop, preparing a statement to go on both our Facebook pages, telling folks what is going on, how to help us and telling them we are going silent. If all goes well, I will notify them on the other side.

Just as I finish the statement, the nurse is called to the phone at the nurse’s station. While she is gone, Renee’s cell rings. It is the transplant team – there was something wrong with the donor’s heart. We can go home and wait for another one. The nurse comes back in the room to tell us the same thing. Get dressed go home. Wait for the next call.

Better luck next time. Today isn’t the day after all. It is just another day.

We leave the hospital at 10:30 AM, just two hours after we arrive. In the last 4 hours we have felt the whole range of human emotions, from excitement to terror to fear to anticipation. There was signing of documents saying my girl might die, and my saying I won’t sue them if they kill her. We called friends who began a four hour drive to be with us, and then had to call them back to say stay home. We were exhausted and hungry and severely caffeine deprived.

We went to Whole Foods on the way home and ate at the hot bar for breakfast. I thought I would need a heart transplant myself when the woman told me the total for eggs, sausage, biscuits, and grits for two of us was $28.00. It was on a damn paper plate, for crying out loud. It is a sign of my state of mind that I didn’t even protest.

And then we went home, and unpacked the clothes and I took a shower and went to work.

After all, it was just another day.

How Can I Help, Hugh?

A helping hand

I don’t want to write this post. But if there is a question I have been asked more than, “How’s your wife, Hugh?” the last month or so, it has been, “How can we help?”

But I am assuming you know what I am talking about. Let me bring you up to date.

The Back Story

My wife Renee has a rare heart disease that runs in her family. She’s been on a pacemaker since she was 13. Two of her sisters have had heart transplants. Her mother died at age 45 of this disease. Her grandmother died at 27.

Most of the time, she’s fine, as long as she isn’t trying to majorly exert herself. Walking long distance is hard, as is stairs. But she could sit at the table with you, or next to you on the couch, and you wouldn’t know anything is wrong with her.

But lately, her health markers the cardiologists watch have been getting worse. And it has become more and more obvious that a heart transplant is in our future. And then we got the call that it was time to be evaluated for transplant.

We spent three days at Duke Hospital a few weeks ago, undergoing a battery of tests – physical, psychological, financial – to see if she was fit to be on the list. Honestly, the iffiest one was the financial qualification, as a heart transplant costs north of $750,000, and the Love Wins health insurance plan is pretty nonexistent. However, she’s on Medicare and Medicaid and together, that was enough to piece together a somewhat shaky financial plan for paying for all of this.

Two weeks ago, we received the call that we were approved for transplant – now she is officially on “the list”. This means lots of things for our family – making sure we always have a phone with us, no long-distance trips, and cleaning up healthcare messes now. They want you to have all your other health problems fixed before transplant, as surgery becomes a lot harder after transplant.

Last week, she had gallbladder surgery – which was supposed to be a simple in and out operation, but these days, nothing is easy. She spent 4 days in the hospital.

The Problem

Now, on one hand, it wasn’t a big deal. She was in the hospital just 10 minutes or so away, not the huge hospital 45 minutes away in Durham. But for a few days there, it was pretty scary, and she was pretty drugged up, and I needed to be there to find out things.

So there were lots of meals in the hospital cafeteria. And as I dashed back and forth between work and home and the hospital, there were fast food meals wolfed down in the car. And of course your mind is never on anything other than her being in the hospital, so you let things slide, like getting the car inspected so you can get new tags, or putting that bill in the mail or returning those emails.

The yard is dead and shaggy. The plants all died from neglect in the vegetable garden. I spent the equivalent to a car payment on unexpected expenses in just 4 days.

We don’t have kids, so there is that in our favor. But that also means we don’t have the support network that accompanies kids, and our obligations – cats, chickens, gardens– are less able to tend for themselves.

In the middle of it all, it occurred to me – this is nothing compared to how it is going to be when we get the call.

At least two weeks in the hospital – in Durham, nearly an hour away. Daily commutes as I deal with the house and work back here. I am fortunate to have a lot of flexibility with my job, but that will still be there too. I can’t afford to leave work for a month or two, and work can’t afford my being completely gone.

We have to scrub the house down before she comes home. For at least a month after surgery, Renee will be unable to be alone. She will only be able to drink boiled water.  Germs are the enemy, big time.

And then the trips back to Durham. Weekly checkups. Gas for those trips. Meals while we are there. Someone is going to have to buy those groceries, cut that grass, feed those chickens.


How you can help

Right now, we are doing ok. We took a financial hit last week, but we will survive it. The main thing last week did was show me just how shaky our situation really is.

That said, we are now on “the list”. In theory, we could get the call anytime, and then within a few hours, all of the drama starts. If last week taught me anything, it is that we are sooo not prepared.

When the call happens, we will be living at the hospital, for all intents and purposes, for a couple of weeks. Lots of meals in the cafeteria. Lots of coffee at the Starbucks in the lobby. Variety will come from the Subway sandwich shop in the building next door.

While we don’t “need” these things today, we don’t know when we will, so if we got any of them now, we would put them in the sock drawer for the inevitable call.

Gift cards are amazing, and don’t expire. Subway, Starbucks, McDonalds are all decent options, and easy to access for me while she is in the hospital.  After transplant, Renee will be on a low sodium diet, so at that point, more sit-down restaurant choices would be better.

Gas, with nearly two hours on the road most days, is going to be a huge expense, so gift cards to gas stations would be amazing.

The healthy options at the hospital are the ones you bring with you. Luckily, there are grocery stores nearby – both Harris Teeter and Kroger have stores just up the road from the hospital, as well as near our home for after we get back home.

And while it feels indulgent to mention it, I predict reading dozens of books while sitting on my butt in the hospital room. Amazon gift cards would be nice, because of the Kindle app, so I don’t even have to leave the building to get a book. Also, pretty much anything we might need, we could probably buy it on Amazon.

And speaking of buying – let’s get really uncomfortable for a moment. Some of you have offered to send money. Don’t do that… yet. For one thing, large amounts of cash on hand could hurt us with Medicaid and damage our ability to keep coverage. One day we will need the cash. But not today.

But the biggest fear I have right now? Losing my income. Right now, my income from Love Wins is the shaky center that holds this whole thing together. And every summer, donations dry up. And every summer for the last 8 summers, I have been terrified that this is the summer we won’t make it, that the money will stop, that I will have to lay everyone off, that we will close the doors, that I will have to go to work at Home Depot (which, as I understand it, has a great benefit package). And every year, so far, we have barely scraped by.

So, if you really want to help us economically right now? Donate money to Love Wins. It will keep me employed, it will take huge amounts of stress off of me and, oh, by the way, we will do good things with it. I am serious. This is the number one thing you can do for me right now. You think I am stressing now? Wait till you see an unemployed Hugh.

As far as local support – we are working on meal trains and have a list of people who want to feed the chickens and cats and promise to take care of the tomatoes. We will firm that up more in the coming weeks – but if you want on that list and are local, send me an email (hughlh@gmail.com) with the words “Support List” in the subject line. When we start that process, I will let you know what’s going on.

So, that is the big three right now – gift cards for gas, groceries and food; donate money to Love Wins to keep me employed and (financially) stress free; send us an email if you are local and want to be on the support team.

I appreciate all the offers of help – these are the things we need right now. As new things come up, I will post them. Thanks for your help – your love and prayers and kindness mean more than I can say.

Our mailing address is:

Hugh and Renee Hollowell
PO Box 26874
Raleigh, NC 27611

Second-Hand Memories

Day Lillies


Her name was Dorothy, and she had two sisters, Louise and Wilma. I was born on her birthday, and she loved me without reservation. My father was her youngest son, a child she had late in life, the son she raised as a single mom when her husband died way too young.

She died when I was three, and I only have two memories of her.  I have a very clear picture of us, she and I, laying on her hospital bed in the living room of the house we lived in those days – a house my dad grew up in, a house she moved into when she married my Granddad. In my memory, the bed is in front of the window, and I was looking at a book (some things do not change) and she was beside me, looking at the book with me. I remember only feeling very loved and safe.

The other memory is less  emotional, but just as clear. The house was old, and drafty. It had propane space heaters for heat, and in this memory, it was very cold, and early in the morning. She was wearing her house coat, and was squatting flat-footed in front of the space heater in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette.

It was the cigarettes that killed her. Lung cancer took her away from us far too soon.

That is really all I remember on my own. I have lots of stories filed in my head about her, but they are second-hand memories – stories dad told me, or her sisters told me when I was older. Like I know her favorite flower was the daylilly, but that is only because every summer, Dad would tell me that when the orange ditchlilies would bloom.

And she loved the music of Roy Orbison – especially Pretty Woman. But again, I know this secondhand, from hearing that fact relayed to me my entire childhood whenever it would come on the radio.

Memory is a funny thing. A random comment by a family member on Facebook about daylilys triggered this wander down memory lane. One month from today, it will be our birthday – I will be 43, and she would have been 102.

Since we moved into this house, I have planted lots of flowers. Shasta Daisy, yarrow, Asiatic lily, columbine, flags (you know them as iris) and roses. And daylilys. Lots of daylilys. But no orange ones.  Until the other day, that is. The other day, I bought some orange ditchlilys to plant by the road.

I think I will do that on our birthday this year, and listen to Roy Orbison, and sit in front of my window, and read a book and try, once again, to feel safe and loved.

I think she would want that. Hell, I know that I do.


Sharing Beautiful Things

For the last eight years, I have been aggressively hunting out beautiful things. This was the result of a late-night conversation with a mentor shortly after I made the decision to spend my life working with and among the homeless population of Raleigh. He told me, “The world you are choosing to inhabit is an ugly place. It will be easy to lose yourself in it. You have to gorge yourself with beauty, so you have a reserve, just like if you knew you were going to be in a desert, you would gorge yourself with water before you went.”

So, for eight years, I have been hoarding beauty, and it has, for the most part, worked. Eight years in, and I don’t have a drinking problem, I haven’t been suicidal, I have healthy relationships with a wide circle of friends and I have a good marriage. If that sounds like a low bar, you don’t know many people in my line of work.

But I wondered if there was more to be mined from this search for beauty. I wondered what was missing. And then I realized that what was missing was other people.

Experiences become more real when they are shared. We are, after all, social animals. I wanted to share the beauty I was finding with other people.

So, I sent a simple email to about 30 people I knew. It had five links to things I had found online that I thought were beautiful and a book I had read that stirred me.

And the next week, I did it again. And again.

Ten weeks later, hundreds of people have signed up to get this email every Monday. But that isn’t the biggest thing. The big thing that has happened is I had not realized just how little beauty I was actually letting into my life. I was intentional about it before, but it was confined to big events – outings to the museum, a trip to the park or the beach, sitting down with a novel. But if I was going to share five things a week with people, and they were expecting it, I was going to have to get better at finding beautiful things.

In order to find five beautiful things a week, I have to look at dozens. I watch many more cute videos than I once did, I have read amazing articles I would have once only glanced at, I have seen countless pictures of sunsets and beaches and flowers – I am, for the first time, truly saturating myself with beauty.

Every time I see a picture, a painting, a poem, a bird, for crying out loud, I ask myself, “Is this beautiful? Is it really beautiful? Is it share-worthy?” I have had to apply a level of mindfulness and intentionality to how I view the world. In order to find beautiful things to share, I have to be looking for them.

Don’t get me wrong – I know the world is full of ugliness and pain. I know that all too well. I see it every day. But I also know the Powers of this world are vested in making you afraid, and in making you dissatisfied. They profit from your fear.

By searching for the beauty that surrounds us, I fight the dominant narrative. I claim space that says, “The ugliness of the world is not the only way to see the world. Because while the world is full of pain, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

And by sharing the beauty I find with others, I am, in essence, evangelizing that point of view. There are beautiful things all around us – you don’t have to swim in the ugliness. You don’t have to despair. You don’t have to be afraid.

So, look for beautiful things. Actively seek them out. And share them with each other. Say to them, “This is beautiful, and I wanted you to see it too.” Do it as if your life depends on it. Because, I am more and more convinced, it actually does.

NB: You can subscribe to my weekly newsletter by going here

I Don’t Have a Plan

desk update
It was the summertime, and I was moving to Raleigh, leaving Memphis forever. I had coffee with some friends my last few weeks there, to say goodbye. One meeting was with a woman I had dated for a long time, that I once thought I might marry.

“So, you’re moving to Raleigh. What’s your plan?” she asked.

“I will find a job, I guess, and do freelance and get a roommate. It’ll be fine,” I said.

“Oh yes. Now I remember why we broke up.” She liked plans.

# # #

The other day, someone asked me what I was planning to do with my weekly newsletter. I told them I don’t know – I haven’t thought about it, really. I just know it’s fun to do, and it resonates with people and some people think it makes their week better.

Is it fair to ask something to do more than that?

My buddy Brian asked me what I was going to do next.  He knows I get bored easy, and I have done pretty much nothing but run Love Wins for the last eight years or so. And while I won’t stop running Love Wins anytime soon, the reality of my life is this:

My wife is probably going to have a heart transplant in the next two years or so. This will cost a ton of money. Not just in medical costs, much of which will be covered by insurance (Thanks, Obama!) but I will pretty much be living in Durham for at least a few months around the transplant. There will be daily commutes, countless meals in restaurants, transplant proofing our home – countless costs that will add up.

Put that on top of the fact that after more than eight years of doing this work, I earn less than a teacher’s starting pay in their first gig and I am the sole breadwinner for our family (heart transplant, remember? ) and there is no reasonable hope of a raise from Love Wins anytime soon (the funds just are not there) and you come up with one incontrovertible fact: I need to make more money.

Not rock-star money. Not even plumber money. But good, solid middle class money.

I have to admit – it isn’t easy for me to say that. I spent most of my twenties chasing money. I liked chasing it. I caught some of it. It made me miserable. It has felt good the last decade or so to not chase it at all. In fact, I have pretty much ignored it. (You can read that backstory here.)

But I have a family now, and I have responsibilities, and I can’t afford to do that any more. But I am never far from that guy in a three piece suit, swilling vodka from a flask in my car, working up my courage to go back in that office building and “dial for dollars!” and not punch my boss in the face. I hate that guy in the suit, but he is never very far away from me.

So maybe there is a third way. A way to make money by making folks happy, to do well by doing good. I hope so. Because if I have to put a suit on again to take care of my family, no one is going to like that at all. Hell, I am uncertain if I can survive it, let alone like it.

I do have a few options, it seems.

I like doing the newsletter, so I am going to keep doing it. I am not sure how it is going to make me any money, but there are people who do make money doing such things. For now, I will keep it. If nothing else, it is stress relief.

I speak to groups about how to understand homelessness, and how to engage folk experiencing homelessness. When I get to do it, it is fairly financially rewarding. But to make a significant jump in my income, I will need a couple of gigs a month, and I am unsure that many people want to know anything I have to say.

A few times, I have been asked to do consulting work with new faith communities, helping them figure out who they were. I also mentor a few college-age-ish folks, helping them figure out who they are. I love this sort of work, but figure if I start calling myself a mentor or a consultant, I am gonna end up back in that suit.

I have had several people express interest in my writing a book, but when it comes time for money to be discussed, those offers get more vague. But I am going to have to do it, which means I have to chase down someone willing to give me a contract to do it, which means I have to come up with a proposal. Suddenly, this is a lot of work.

So, all of this is to say, I don’t know how I am going to bridge the gap between what I am making and what I need to be making. But I know I am going to have to do it.

This is as close as I have to a plan right now:

I am going to create beautiful things (on the web, on stage, one on one, on paper) and show it to lots of people. Some of those people will give me money for it, and if I show it to enough people, I should be OK*.

I know that isn’t much of a plan. But right now, it is all I have.

*If about now, you are thinking, “I see why that woman he dated for a long time broke up with him”, you would not be wrong.


The State of the Newsletter

In my life, I had seen many ugly things, and it was getting to me. I had found myself getting cynical, and thought that if I intentionally looked for the beautiful things, it would help inoculate me against the ugly.

But I also knew I am horrible at keeping commitments to myself. So, my plan was to send a weekly newsletter to a few friends each week, with some beautiful things in it. But I am also easily bored, so I only committed to do it through Lent.

However, something strange happened – I ended up enjoying it. I haven’t had this much fun doing something online since I began blogging back in 2004 or so. So I am going to keep doing it.

Because it was frivolous, I didn’t bother naming it. I just called it my Newsletter Situation. But if it is going to stick around, it should probably have a name. I posted a poll in the weekly mailing and overwhelmingly, people chose The Hughsletter. A strong second choice was The Pursuit of Beauty, which I really like, but is a bit long winded for an email subject line. If a book comes out of this project, however, that would make a great title.

So, my newsletter situation is going to stick around, for now, anyway, and is being rebranded as The Hughsletter. (You can click that link to sign up).

In addition, I am playing with a Facebook page, where I will post links that perhaps didn’t make the cut, or things (like individual pictures) that don’t work as well in an email format. It would mean a lot to me if you would a) ‘like’ the page and b) share the things I post over there.


Why I Stay in the South

Orange Avenue, Floral City, Florida
I live in the Southland. I love it here. I was raised in the south – in fact, further south than I live now, in a childhood filled with honeysuckle, sweet tea, fishing, lightning bugs and church potlucks.

The earliest memories I have involve table fellowship with other folks, of lessons drummed into my head about hospitality and being told to “remember who I was”. I have vivid memories of elderly, blue haired ladies telling me they knew my grandma (who died when I was very young) and my daddy and that they knew I had been “raised right”.

In the South I grew up in, I was taught we had to take care of each other, because none of us had much. So Daddy (I am 42, and still call him that) would miss supper sometimes, because he had worked more than 10 hours that day, crawling under houses in a shirt with his name on it for barely over minimum wage and he went straight to the volunteer fire department to get trained on some new piece of firefighting equipment. Because we had a responsibility to watch out for each other.

I learned that the things that make for a good life involve other people – the people who bring you a casserole when you are sick, the rounds you make at Christmas, taking tins of divinity fudge to old ladies who would wipe the snuff off their mouth and say with amazement, ‘I’ll swan…” as they bit into the creamy goodness of that confection. The neighbor who knows your daddy is sick, and comes down and cuts the grass and stacks the firewood.

My grandmother’s sister – my great-aunt — was a fierce lady. Born in 1907, she had been divorced in the 1930’s, when that was rare. She told me her first husband was a drunk, and “damned if I was gonna do all the work and watch him drink”. She told me that she might go to hell for it, but she had been in hell for the years she had been married to him, so she knew how to live there. She refused to take the Lord’s Supper at church, because “I am lots of things, Hugh Lawson (that’s what they call me back home), but none of them are a hypocrite.” I learned to not be a hypocrite.

In that church, I learned about Jesus, who told us to love each other, and who had long hair, but that was OK, because he was God and, most important, he didn’t live in my daddy’s house. But more than learning about Jesus, I learned about church – about community, about people who would cut the articles about you out of the local paper when you won the spelling bee and put them on their refrigerator and pray for you every night.

God was the Father, and demanded obedience – which made sense to me, as my own father demanded obedience. I figured Jesus had been told, ‘Because I said so!” any number of times as a kid.

I learned other, more complicated things, too. I learned that we were “poor, but proud”, and that we were not afraid to work. But I also learned that some people would look at your black friend’s hard work and tell you he was “a credit to his race”. And that would confuse you, but not as much as trying to understand why he wasn’t allowed to spend the night at your house, or eat supper at your table.

As I grew older, I learned that complicated lesson that the very people who taught me to love can be, themselves, unloving. That the people who taught me to be hospitable can themselves be inhospitable. It means learning early on that the people who loved me into being are flawed, and fall short often of the ideals they gave me.

Being a child of the Southland means feeling things fiercely, and so I learned that you stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, and I learned that I had “responsibilities” to my community. That I learned to draw the circle of community larger than my people did is not my fault – I was taught that “red and yellow, black and white – they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” They taught me that, and I believed them.

Being in and of the South while being a progressive white straight male means your liberal educated friends from North of here will watch how your state votes and will call your friends back home “inbred” and ‘hillbillies” and “white trash” and ask you how you stay there.

And sometimes you tell them those people are some of the kindest, best people you know, but folks in power have made them afraid in order to maintain power. That your people have been played and told that their diminishing paychecks and their insecurity and their inability to keep the land their granddaddy farmed and got 49 harvests from – that all of that is the fault not of the people who are in power, but of people who have brown skin and less power than even they do. And your people believe it, because scared people will believe anything that will make them less scared.

And sometimes you tell them that you stay because you love it here, and that this is your place, and your roots run deep here, and one day you will be buried here amongst your ancestors. And that to ask why you don’t leave means that you are supposed to believe that there is a separation from the values you learned as a child and the values you believe now, when the reality is, the person you are now is just the person you were taught to be then, only writ larger.

And for them to suggest you leave is to suggest that you cannot be the person who longs for table fellowship and church meetings and cape jasmine and sweet tea and cornbread and also be the person who fights for justice for your community and who yearns for the day we can all sit at the same table and eat cornbread and sweet tea together. And that is not true.

I can be all of who I am, and also be southern. In fact, I am all of who I am because I am southern. And to suggest I move is to suggest I deny all of that. And that I cannot do.

Because those people taught me to be lots of things – but none of those things was a hypocrite.

# # #

If you liked this post, you might like my weekly newsletter about the relentless pursuit of beauty.

I’m Still Here

Last Sunday morning, I didn’t feel good.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was sick with the flu, and before the day was out, I would be running a fever of 102. I was laid out flat the rest of the day Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday. I came in to the office for a few unavoidable meetings over the next few days, but was pretty much out of service until Wednesday afternoon.

I had a meeting Wednesday night, which was hard to stay awake for, honestly. I got home around 9, and of course, my wife was already running a fever. Around 11 that night, her heart went nuts, and we ended up taking her to the emergency room. Before the night was out, we would be admitted to Intensive Care, where we would stay until Saturday afternoon, when we would come home, exhausted.

It was a hell of a week, to tell you the truth.

And I am still not 100%. But I am here, ya know?

I rarely get sick, other than the obligatory cold every year. I am not good at being sick, either. It doesn’t fit into my plan.

But there are things in this world you cannot control, and for those things, you have to focus on the only thing you can control – how you respond to them.

So, all of that is to say, I am moving slow, and it will probably be a few more days before my blogging stride returns.

Facebook Killed My Blog. This is What I’m Doing About It.


In the  summer of 2007, I joined Facebook. However, I didn’t really hit my stride with it until late 2008. and my use of it shot up dramatically in late 2010. Now, it’s my most-engaged social network. Not the one I like the most – that would be twitter – but the one I do the most things on.

Over the last nearly eight years, I have posted lots of snippets of my life on there – restaurants I have eaten at, quotes I liked, moments of snark, rants, thankfulness. And it feels so ephemeral. A week later, it ‘s gone, disappeared forever into the timeline of history.

It’s no coincidence that the frequency of my blogging is inverse to my Facebook usage. From a frequency perspective, I was never more active as a blogger than in 2007 and 2008. And as my Facebook usage increased, my blogging decreased. A big part of that is because rather than sit down and write a well developed and organized piece – something that takes me at least 45 minutes or an hour, I can post the root of the thought on Facebook, get immediate comments and validation, and move on.

The end result, however, is more noise, less signal.

Maybe I’m wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure none of us are going to be remembered for the body of work we created on Facebook. For those of us who seek to collide with the status quo, the key is a permanent, interactive repository of our content. And you won’t get that on Facebook. In fact, Facebook works against that very thing.

What also worries me is that once I post something on Facebook, I don’t think about it anymore. It’s out of my head. Which means that I no longer have to engage it. So I don’t, and any opportunity for using my thoughts, my experience, my stories to effect change are gone as soon as it gets pushed down the timeline by the “Which Power Ranger Are You‘ quiz (I’m the Red Ranger, by the way. #duh!).

Over the last eight years, countless times I have written something on Facebook and thought, “I need to flesh that out later” – but I didn’t. It was gone, forgotten.

A few weeks ago, I vaguely remembered something I had once written on Facebook, and tried scrolling back through my history. They make that very hard to do. Then I got obsessive, and learned you can download a copy of everything you have ever posted to Facebook. It isn’t a hack or a trick – it is a feature – albeit one they don’t advertise.

Here, from the Facebook help desk, is how you do it.

  • Click at the top right of any Facebook page and select Settings
  • Click Download a copy of your Facebook data below your General Account Settings
  • Click Start My Archive

It’s as easy as that. You get a download of every picture, every status, every message – the whole shebang.

I have found it interesting to go through my timeline, which presents itself in reverse date order. I spent the other night, looking through my past entries. Yes, it was nostalgia inducing, but most important, I cut and pasted posts that I think should be fleshed out into full-on blog posts. I now have more than 10 pages of those, and I am not done yet. I have at least 50 potential blog posts there, not counting spin-offs or ideas that percolate up while writing those posts.

I will still use Facebook – but more as a means of amplifying my ideas, not as a repository for them.

*   *   *

How about you? Did Facebook kill your blogging? Are you OK with that?

You Get to Decide if They Own You

Fishpool gold coins
I love this story about Diogenes, the philosopher.

One day, Diogenes was eating bread and lentils, when he was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who made a very good living by flattering the king.

Aristippus sneered at the humble meal and told Diogenes, “If you would only learn to be subservient to the king like I have, you would not have to eat lentils.”

Diogenes replied. “If you would only learn to like lentils like I have, you would never have to be subservient to the king.”

When I get emails from people who want to know how to start an independent ministry or start a business or who tell me about how frustrated they are with the powers that be and their control over their lives, the first question I ask is:

“Do you like lentils?”

Because the only power anyone has over you is the power you give them. And if you take their money, they think they own you, and it doesn’t matter how much you want to pretend they don’t. And if you need their money – really need it – then they do.

The only solution I have found is to not need their money in the first place. Which means it is good to like lentils.